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The Best Custom Bookshelf Makers in New York

Photo-Illustration: Curbed; Photos: Getty

For an Inexpensive Job

Abderazzak A.,

General contractors capable of custom builds are available on Taskrabbit for a low hourly rate. One such tasker — Abderazzak A., who goes by Zak — comes highly recommended by clients, who praise his speed, efficiency, and artistry. Content creator Brigette Muller hired him to create custom wall-to-wall wood shelves for her Greenpoint apartment. “I had a vision of turning a blank wall into an eye-catching spot where I could display beautiful pieces,” she says. Muller paid around $3,000 for her project — $2,000 for 18 hours of labor (including a tip) and $1,000 in materials, which Abderazzak bought after an initial consultation. The entire project ended up being a collaboration, according to Muller, which she appreciated as she says it was Abderazzak’s innovation that helped her achieve the final look. “I don’t think I can express how happy I am,” she says. “These shelves have become my favorite spot in the entire apartment. Zak executed my vision perfectly.” Abderazzak’s hourly rate starts at $72 with shelves having an estimated lead time of four weeks.

For Unusual Materials

KLN Studio,;

The team at KLN Studios — a Bushwick-based design and fabrication studio — has a special machine to create unique shapes out of just about any material, so when Ellen Van Dusen, the founder of Dusen Dusen, wanted a colorful bookshelf for her Bed-Stuy apartment with circular- and square-shaped nooks that could also conceal her 55-inch TV, it was no problem. KLN tracked down a device that allows the TV to rise or lower among the shelves and built nooks from moldable plywood and MDF, then sealed it all with bright-yellow polyurethane to make it look like one solid piece. Van Dusen was thrilled. “It’s aesthetically a joy,” she says. Isaac Esterman of BZJ Construction, a general-contracting firm, says it’s this enthusiasm about working with new materials and techniques that keeps him returning to KLN. Last year, he brought KLN in to help on a renovation in Park Slope — the owners, two academics, needed a desk-bookshelf hybrid that would fit seamlessly into an awkward nook. KLN built a white-oak combo that was both handsome and utilitarian — it nestles snugly in the space without swallowing the room, and the simple-but-well-made shelves are stacked almost to the ceiling. Esterman says the clients were so pleased with the result that they ended up hiring KLN to make a custom table when the renovation was finished. Shelves start at $8,000 with an estimated lead
time of ten to 14 weeks.

For Eva Chen’s Go-To

Habiterra, 201-876-0101;

Kenny Lee, the general contractor behind Habiterra, has done renovations for Sam Ben-Avraham of Kith, and Eva Chen hired him when she was renovating her Union Square apartment and wanted a bookcase inspired by the library in Beauty and the Beast. Habiterra needed to accommodate her already sprawling and growing book collection. “The memo was a confluence of frankly quite contradictory things: chic and streamlined, ability to store books for a family of book hoarders, and child-friendly,” she says. “He delivered and then some with the most stylish and luxurious eye to boot.” The resulting shelves are a floor-to-ceiling grid of white boxes spread neatly across the room. Part of what makes Habiterra unique is its use of computerized manufacturing equipment, says Michael Licht, the principal architect at Office of Objects Architecture. That technology allows for bookshelves that fit spaces with total precision — like one Habiterra is making now for a client with an unusual number of cookbooks. Shelves start at $60,000 with an estimated lead time of eight to ten weeks.

For Tight Spaces

Ethan Abramson,

Those in need of highly specific shelf dimensions for, say, storing hundreds of 12-inch records should call Ethan Abramson. The furniture-maker was recently tapped by renovation duo Barry Bordelon and Jordan Slocum (a.k.a. the Brownstone Boys) to create custom record storage for Wyatt Cenac. They say the comedian wanted a curved walnut shelving unit to accommodate his continuously expanding collection that would match the ornate trim in his Brooklyn brownstone. Abramson built a nearly floor-to-ceiling unit with 16 spacious nooks, plus a library ladder so Cenac could easily climb to the top. The top three rows are just large enough for records, and the bottom row is slightly taller to accommodate speakers and a turntable. Making the most of a space is one of Abramson’s specialties. Interior designer Liz Lipkin says they worked together on a condo on the Lower East Side where there was a “sort of accidental niche” between two doors in a small hallway. Abramson zeroed in on it, then made a floating cabinet and a shelf to slot right in. Shelves start at $3,000 with an estimated lead time of four to eight weeks.

For Storing 3,000 Books

Stephen Carr,; 201-681-4128

Working from a converted barn in Walnutport, Pennsylvania, woodworker Stephen Carr mostly makes custom furniture for longtime clients like architect-designer Giancarlo Valle. But he also creates built-in shelves for homes throughout the tristate area. In 2016, he worked with Thakoon Panichgul on his fashion line’s Soho store, and the designer was so pleased that when he and his husband purchased a Tribeca condo, they immediately called him back. They needed a custom solution for their large number of books — somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000, Panichgul guesses. He wanted the final product to hide the TV, a record player, and a tangled mess of cables. And, of course, to be beautiful. “We wanted it to feel like it was part of the apartment, so he brought the molding all the way up to the ceiling,” Panichgul says. It turned out exactly as they had hoped — as if it had always been there. A year later, the couple had Carr create another built-in bookshelf for their bedroom that cleverly conceals Panichgul’s piano, which pops out for lessons. Shelves start at $5,000 with an estimated lead time of five to eight weeks.

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