I don't often have emotional reactions to shelving units, but cripes—these pics from Design is a State of Mind, a new exhibition at London's Serpentine Sackler Gallery, are just about perfect. Storage systems are often stuck in the shadow of the stuff they're displaying, but, here, a handful of perfect specimens get the spotlight they deserve.

The show is curated by Martino Gamper, who knows a thing or two about playing with furniture typologies; a few years back, the Italian designer completed his (fantastic) 100 Chairs in 100 Days project, which saw him transforming seats collected from the streets of London into brand new places to sit in all kinds of styles.

Here, he's sourced existing shelves from the past century, ranging from high-end one-offs to common IKEA goods. Taken together, they form a fascinating landscape of functional design.

Maybe what makes the whole thing so appealing, though, are the little trinkets, tchotchkes, and treasures that have been carefully laid out on each of the surfaces. I desperately want someone to walk me through and tell me a story about each and every single bit and bob: where they came from, and why they're special.

We all have stuff at home that makes our collective hearts sing—a souvenir from a favorite vacation, a line-up of favorite books, a massive flatscreen TV—and placing these things out for all the world to see personalizes shelving in a way that other big-ticket home-goods like sofas and beds just can't compete with. So here's to these lovely unsung heroes of our houses that we entrust to hold our precious things and, by extension, a good little chunk of our lives. [designboom]