Past & Present: Uten.Silo & DIY Wall Organizer

This month, we’ve been all about organizing, and we’re practicing what we preach here at the Design*Sponge office in Greenpoint. This week, we’ve embarked on “The Great Office Clean of 2013.” We’ve barely been in this space a year, but craft supplies are like Tribbles, and they have a way of multiplying when you’re not looking. We’re currently at that stage where you spread out everything you own, and it looks like someone ransacked your space.  So I’m averting my eyes from the mess and taking a break from IKEA trips and organizing to look a bit closer at one of my favorite organizers — the Uten.Silo by Dorothee Becker. This item has a semi-permanent position on my design wish list (due to the difference between its price tag and my home decor budget!). If you’re in the same boat, we made a simple DIY version. — Amy Azzarito

Image above: Si Mazouz was given an Uten.Silo organizer as a birthday gift. She uses it in her office to help keep her desktop clear. See Si’s North Carolina home tour here.

Our DIY wall organizer pays homage to Dorothee Becker’s original inspiration and can be completed in just a few hours. (We’ve also experimented with creating a cardboard version and if you’re looking for more organization ideas, here’s our DIY: Best of Organization)

See more Uten.Silo history and the DIY project after the jump . . .

Image above: Diva of Linea Carta uses an Uten.Silo to keep her art supplies organized. See Diva’s Berkeley bungalow here.

When the Uten.Silo was introduced in 1969, it became an immediate bestseller. Made of the favorite material of the time, molded plastic, it was sold in bright, shiny colors and offered a playful way to display home necessities or favorite items in its 32 pockets. Dorothee Becker initially had the idea to create a wooden toy with geometrically shaped notches, but when her own children were uninterested in the toy, she scrapped the idea. The final Uten.Silo was inspired by her own childhood and the time she spent in her father’s drugstore and photo shop in Aschaffenburg, Germany. Dorothee remembered her sense of wonder at the countless drawers filled with fascinating things waiting to be discovered. There was also a toiletry bag made of waxed cotton cloth filled with pockets. Dorothee used that idea for the Uten.Silo.

Image above: Sara Hicks Malone is a self-described “organization freak.” She found her Uten.Silo on sale at a high-end furniture showroom. (See her Nashville, Tennessee, home here.)

Uten.Silo was initially called “Wall-All” and was put into production by Becker’s husband, Ingo Maurer, who had a design company. Maurer so believed in the Uten.Silo that he invested $200,000 of the company’s money to get the production off the ground. The majority of the investment went toward producing a metal injection mold that weighed over three tons. It was a huge amount of money for a small company, and initially, the investment paid off, until plastics fell out of favor as a result of the oil crisis in the early ’70s. The Uten.Silo was discontinued until 2002, when the Vitra Design Museum reissued both the original 1969 version and a smaller one dating from 1970. (Fun D*S connection: Grace was working for Vitra’s PR firm when the Uten.Silo was reissued!)

Image above: A red Uten.Silo was Diane Stafford’s 40th birthday present to herself. (See Diane’s South London home here.)

For such an iconic object, I found very little written about the Uten.Silo or Dorothee Becker. It was a little surprising to learn that the Uten.Silo hasn’t made its way into the collection at the Museum of Modern Art or other design museums. The best source I found was the amazing Phaidon Design Classics, Volume 3. (Seriously, one of my favorite resources.)

Our DIY wall organizer took a page from Dorothee Becker’s original inspiration: the fabric toiletry bag in her father’s drugstore. We used simple canvas and colored felt to create pockets for some of our many craft supplies.

photos by Max Tielman




1. Cut the canvas (ours is 34″ x 23″), leaving a 1/2″ seam allowance on the sides.

2. Hem the canvas (or use a fabric glue) to create a finished edge and attach the grommets (using the kit) at the top.

3. Gather all the supplies you’d like to store in the wall organizer. The benefit of DIY is that you can make the pockets to size.

4. Cut your pockets, lay them out on the canvas and pin them in place.

5. Attach the felt pockets to the canvas using a simple whipstitch. If the pocket is intended for a heavier object, you’ll need the stitches to be a little closer together, and you may want to partially stitch the top of the pocket. (This step should be completed while watching a full season of a mindless comedy. Your choice. Mine was Happy Endings.)

  1. Lauren says:

    SO RAD. i’m glad you ladies thought of this.

  2. Lauren says:

    Love it! I think I may just have to make one of these. Or more than one – I could see it as a great cat-safe jewelry organizer too.

  3. Kristin says:

    I have one of these – in black – but we managed to get a floor model for a drastic discount years ago – I’m thinking we paid $50 or $60. I love it. It held all my drafting tools when I was in architecture school (back when we still did actual drawings!) and now I use to corral all my desk tools. I love the white the best, but have never regretted purchasing the black one for such a great deal.

    Love the DIY inspiration – I much prefer that to purchasing a knock off of the original.

  4. Shelley says:

    I have actually had the red Uten.Silo since birth! It was bought to keep all the little diaper changing supplies my mother used in my nursery in the 1970s. Unfortunately, when I was about 12, I covered it in glitter glue (to make it pretty of course). It took me quite a few days of delicate scraping to clean it up a few years ago but today it holds all my miscellaneous bathroom supplies, like combs, lotion etc. Best organizer ever!

  5. Debra Matlock says:

    I applaud your use of the canvas drop cloth. I just discovered these at the hardware store. They are cheap and have finished edges. As an experiment I bought one. It washed up great (soft and kind of pleasantly wrinkled) and is our $20 shabby chic sofa cover until we can buy a new one.

  6. Caitlin says:

    This is so cool! And canvas is an awesome medium! It’s artistic and practical! What could be better! Time to get organized! :)

  7. I recently made a version of this using old vintage tins. It’s terrific, and a great DIY…see photos at

  8. Hilary says:

    What clever storage! I love this idea.

  9. Ali Manning says:

    Love, love, love the DIY version – it’s a really stylish solution.

  10. I love utensilo! when I moved to a new apartment it was always the first step to find the best place for my utensilo. I got a white one, but still fancy with a red one as well…

  11. ri gal says:

    Ha! Soo doing this!

  12. Christina says:

    Please tell me where that black task light came from, thank you!

  13. suzi says:


  14. Tia says:

    Ever since I came across Urbio on Kickstarter I’ve been wanting to make the purchase—same concept as Uten.Silo it looks like but was based around vertical gardens. It seems more affordable than the Uten.Silo! Does anyone own a set of these? I’m wondering how strong the magnets are.

  15. ElainaMF says:

    In the DIY version, how did you get the “rivet” hangers at the top (or did the drop cloth come that way?)

  16. ElainaMF says:

    Fantastic, thank you Grace! It really gives it that “finishing touch.” :)


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