A Buyers Guide to Ladderax Wall Systems

In this blog about buying vintage Ladderax we’re trying to be as dispassionate as possible, particularly bearing in mind that we do buy and sell quite a lot of it through our www.vintageretro.co.uk website.

Designed by Christopher Heal and made for a number of years by a company called Staples who were a very well established British bed manufacturer rather than a furniture. It’s a great design , and it would be really interesting to know why and how a bed company started to produce what soon became a very successful series that would be made for many years . Maybe they already were making unlabelled furniture for other manufacturers . Please let me know of any information you may have or have come across .

Vintage Ladderax has become increasingly popular in the last 10 years , and prices have risen as a result . It is a very flexible and practical design , but there are some downsides that potential buyers should look at . Unlike all the main Danish wall systems it doesn’t need to be fixed to a wall , and rarely is , so there is no problem about having a solid wall to put it on . Even the Swedish String system has to be physically attached to a wall . This makes it ideal for houses and apartments of all ages and types of construction .

There were various options available , mostly involving the standard teak units . The first choice is  whether to go for metal or wood ladders . The metal ones come in either black , gold or white , and in various heights , the standard one being 201cms high . It also came in 2 depths , but most people chose the standard depth . Some ladders have 4 legs , but others have only 2 feet with angled sides , which are designed for people in older houses with skirting boards . The wood ladders are nice but not as invisable and as sleek as the metal ones , they’re usually found in a teak colouring to suit the teak veneered units , but there are some very rare dark wood ladders for those who went for rosewood finished units .

If you like metal ladders  , they’re usually found in good condition apart from the odd paint splash , but now and again they may be a little rusty ( usually if they have been relegated to a garage or other damp areas ) . They can be re-finished , and sprayed in the colour of your choice . The wood ladders I suppose could also be  painted carefully if perhaps you want to personalise them or make them  less visually obvious by matching them to the colour of your wall .

The units themselves came in various finishes , but mainly teak . However you will also see a mix of white and teak , rosewood and even more traditional style mahogany . The construction of the cabinets is good , but teak that was used was not as nice as that used by companies such as G Plan , and was finished with quite a high gloss varnish . The nature of the design itself means that when pieces are moved without taking a lot of care it’s easy to knock edges so veneer chips and damage , particularly at the back have to be looked out for . Also remember that a lot of Ladderax was bought for use by teenagers and younger children’s rooms , so can have been subjected to more wear and tear than those systems bought for living rooms . We find that it’s prone to getting scratched and marked , and we also find quite a number of systems where the units have been given a darker stain , possibly when they’ve been marked in some way . The spray varnish that was used on Ladderax is not the easiest to remove , and it takes a lot of time to re-polish , which means potential restoration costs are quite high . You have expect some wear and minor damage when buying Ladderax , or be prepared to pay a premium price for pieces that have been re-finished properly .

The idea behind the system was great at the time , as you could come up with combinations to suit your needs , and then if you moved to a larger house , you could adapt and add to an existing system . This can also be done with vintage systems , but when adding pieces you may have to accept that they won’t be exactly the same colour as some will have faded or had more use than others . Some elements were particularly popular back in the 70s , but may be less so today , and vice versa ! We find there tends to be less demand for office and bar cupboards , and more demand for chests of drawers . A lot of people bought the shallower shelves back in the day , so the deeper shelves now command a premium over the shallow ones . We’ve even come across home-made shelves of varying quality that people have had made at a later date , so you always check to make sure that you’re getting the original ones , this will be fairly obvious if you look carefully .