Proper storage helps make a room grow

March 07, 2009|By CHRISTINE BRUN / Creators Services

One of the best ways to achieve more function out of your small home is to make sure that there is a proper place to put everything. And while that sounds simple, for folks living in tight corners there is no more common complaint than what to do about limited storage space.

So how do you go about solving this aggravation short of a complete remodel? I'll outline a few ideas for consideration.

Rooms that quickly get out of control are bathrooms and kitchens. One returnable pie tin stretches into a collection of 10. Folded paper bags and plastic produce bags multiply like rabbits in the cupboards, and the idea of saving a wine cork or two explodes into 20 crammed into a shallow drawer meant for cooking utensils.

The same is true under the bathroom sink: Half-empty lotion bottles, travel-size toiletries from hotel stays and old medications pile up.


Let's face it, some of us aren't much disciplined about handling an item only once, either to put it away in a proper place or throw it away. It is all to easy to stuff small items into junk drawers to stash bigger things behind closet doors.

In a wonderful new book, "Kitchens: A Sunset Design Guide" by Karen Templer, we are warned: "Your handsome new kitchen won't make you happy unless there's a proper place to put everything, so take time to inventory your current kitchen while planning the new one."

Dissatisfaction will exist for any room that gets a makeover if the white elephant in the room isn't dealt with adequately. Too many possessions hanging around can ruin the ambiance of any room no matter how much money is spent on the design.

"Make note of the things you don't have enough room for. Specify what you want behind closed doors, on display, or particularly close at hand. ... The options go well beyond just cabinets or drawers," Templar writes.

After you have a handle on what you need to store, think about those things in an out-of-the-box way. The example in the photo shows what we call a thickened wall that has become a slender pantry.

As you know, a typical wall thickness is about 5 inches. If you build a section of wall that is about 1 foot deep, there will be nearly 11 inches available for a shallow shelf. What I like about this particular solution, is that one could add it in a kitchen without embarking on a total remodel.

Admittedly, when most people think of a pantry, they envision either a walk-in type of a grand pullout on rolling hardware. If you analyze some of the articles that could be stored in the narrow pantry in the photo, it does function well. We see cooking oils and bottled waters. There are glass jars with dried beans, nuts, and spices. One could easily store canned goods and small boxes or foodstuffs as well.

The point is that if you spend time thinking about what you really need to store and then analyzing what your space might be able to accomplish with a little help, you might come up with something unusual yet practical.

According to Michelle Rein, one of the design panelist included in "Kitchens: A Sunset Design Guide," published in October 2008, the key to successful storage of any kind is being organized.

"A pantry isn't an area to just stuff in as much as you can," Rein said. "A bigger pantry can be a problem for some people."

This Sunset book also examines the use of open shelving as another way to maximize storage and gives numerous examples of shelves going up and over doorways.

It is wisely suggested that you avoid storing more than you can see. If you have a wide hallway in your home, this concept of the thickened wall could be adapted as a shallow linen closet too. You can get by with about 1 foot in depth if you fold your linens to fit onto a narrow shelf. There is no rule that demands a linen closet be 24 inches deep. Think of the space storage it will add to your home, with just a foot of space. You'll never miss it.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces."

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