Loving LPs Is Easy, Storing Them Hard

When it comes to my music library, sometimes I'm like a little kid. Buy now, think about the consequences later. My apartment was already groaning under the load of LPs, CDs, other media, and gear a year or two back when I suddenly went on an accelerated vinyl-collecting binge. When my workday was over, I'd sit in my armchair with a tablet, making one Ebay buy after another. On weekends I was off to Academy Records on West 18th Street in Manhattan to look for classical treasures (because classical vinyl is still cheap and cheap is what it's all about). Vinyl started overflowing from the shelves to the floor. Those LP-size BD/DVD-A/CD box sets made matters worse. Soon, and not for the first time in my life, I was in the throes of a full-blown LP storage crisis.

These were my options: Cheap temporary furniture. Well-made wood furniture. Self-made wood furniture. Custom-made wood furniture. Or get rid of some vinyl.

That last option was the first to be crossed off the list. Not that it wasn't a good idea the last time I tried it, when I actually reduced my collection by roughly 10 percent and managed to get everything living on the floor onto a shelf. But the last purge was just a few years ago and it was too soon for a new one. Maybe in five or ten years I'll think about it again.

The custom-made option beckoned. It's something I've always wanted to do: Hire a cabinetmaker to build an unimpeachably sound and very tall LP shelf in my bedroom. It would have to allow for an electrical outlet (the only one in that room) in the middle of the bottom shelf. But I have a neighbor who does this kind of thing for a living, I'm sure he'd be equal to the task, and we've already discussed the job while he was reinforcing a collapsed bookshelf in the livingroom/office. Two things stopped me. One, the bedroom is overdue for a paint job, and I was leery of adding something enormous and heavy, knowing that I would have to move it soon. Two, I'm not sure if the apartment I live in is the one I want to die in. My next apartment (if there is one) might call for an even bigger, better LP shelf. I have this dream about having a livingroom—or better yet, a library—with a long wall accommodating a huge floor-to-ceiling shelf with all my treasures in one place. I put aside the dream, for now.

Self-made LP shelving is an option I've tried exactly once. I took thick pine boards and knocked together a couple of cubes, placing them on either side of that pesky power outlet in the bedroom. Then I put a plank on top of them, and put a shallow bookshelf built by my father on top of that. Together, the cubes, the plank, and the open bottom of the bookshelf accommodate two levels of LPs. Books fill the rest of the bookshelf. However, having learned my lesson with the abovementioned collapsing bookshelf in the livingroom, I was reluctant to try my limited carpentry skills with tall, potentially hazardous LP shelving in the bedroom. Front-page headline: Collapsing LP Shelf Kills Audio Critic. No, not a good idea.

The other wood-furniture option was Gothic Cabinet Craft, a New York based, family operated store that sells very sturdy LP shelves that are one, two, or three levels high. They are made of birch veneer on top of birch plywood. You can buy them unfinished and finish them yourself or choose from a wide selection of finishes at higher cost. The starting price for an unfinished cube is $79; an unfinished three-level LP shelf is $249. The two Gothic Cabinet Craft LP shelves I bought and finished in the early '80s, both double deckers, are still going strong and looking good. They are the toughest furniture I own. My only regret is that I didn't buy the triple decker. I pondered various ways of augmenting or replacing the bedroom setup with GCC cubes, but couldn't quite figure out how to make it work in the available space, snuggled between a pillar and a separate freestanding bookcase and leaving space for that darned outlet.

The one remaining solution, admittedly a quick fix, was to augment the two-story Gothic Cabinet Craft shelves in the livingroom and hallway with a third level of cubes. It wouldn't look as good as upgrading them from the GCC doubledecker to the tripledecker, but the existing cabinets are like old friends and I was loath to throw them out. Also, the longterm plan is to consolidate the collection in the bedroom (or in my dream home) with the custom job. I needed a cheap and cheerful solution, something disposable, something I wouldn't become as attached to as I am to the GCC furniture. That turned out to be Foremost cubes. They're sold by Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Target, and other stores. Available finishes are black, white, a dark brown called espresso, and a light brown called honey. LP-relevant configurations include single cube, double cube, and double cube with divider. You can also buy them with cabinet doors or drawers and construct the modular wall unit of your dreams.

I bought a single cube and a dual divided cube from Amazon for $12.29 and $28.35 respectively, plus tax, free shipping. I had misgivings about them. They are made of lightweight particleboard with plastic laminate. No one in their right mind would expect hardwood or wood veneer at these prices, but the manufacturer's description of their "hollowcore construction" worried me. The shelf that collapsed in the office was veneered particleboard—the sides bowed out and the shelves accordioned down. But I had no intention of tempting fate by making a tall pile of these Foremost cubes and loading them with a ton of LPs. I just wanted to pop a couple of cheap cubes onto the sturdier GCC cabinets and put knickknacks on top of them.

They came. Putting them together wasn't hard. The thin back panel fit into channels carved into the top, bottom, and sides. The side panels attached to the top and bottom with both dowels and wood screws. This made assembly easier because the dowels held the parts in place while I worked on the screws. The holes were drilled accurately and in the right places. The recessed screw holes on the top surface could be filled with plastic caps that roughly matched the honey finish. I decided to skip the right-angled hardware that reinforced the back panel because it involved puncturing the panel. Screws jutting into the LP-storage space might have nicked some jackets.

The beauty of these things is that they solved my LP storage problem for less than 50 bucks and 20 minutes of work with a screwdriver. If my collection expands again, I might go for one more level of Foremost cubes, or I might just throw out the existing ones and explore one of the higher-quality options. Unlike the Gothic Cabinet Craft shelves, these cheap laminated cubes don't inspire love or loyalty, but they did the job and got a whole bunch of LPs and box sets off the floor, making my life just a little happier and more orderly. Storage crisis over. For now. Man, I've got to stay away from Ebay.

Audio Editor Mark Fleischmann is the author of Practical Home Theater: A Guide to Video and Audio Systems, now available in both print and Kindle editions.

funambulistic's picture

Ikea Kallax. Used to be the Expedit series, but a little smaller on the exterior dimension (I now because I bought a set to match my Expedit shelves and they were about an inch or so too short - darn you Ikea!!!). the interior dimensions have not changed and are perfect for LPs. They are nigh indestructible and a cheaper than the product listed. Yes they are of a "foil" finish over MDF, but look great.

brenro's picture

Another vote for Kallax

Brown Sound's picture

I just setup a 5 x 5 unit and love it.

Tanuja's picture

Kinda bored with IKEA. I really like Wax Stacks, LP Bin, Boltz (LP Record Storage Rack). Little expensive but really awesome.