When homeowners decide to remodel their existing home, or build a new one, they often complain that their current house lacks adequate storage space. Most people find that the inevitable clutter that comes with hectic living can quickly take over a home, whether they live in a small apartment or a sprawling mansion. However, you don’t need to move out and start from scratch to solve this problem. When you maximize your space with storage pieces, shelves, cabinets and gadgets, you’ll soon find that creating a neat and organized home is not an impossible dream.
With the invention of the “great room,” the kitchen is quickly becoming the most popular area for friends and family to congregate. Even without an open floor plan, this area is no longer a hidden part of the home, where food is prepared and magically appears through the dining room door. This space is now highly visible and very public, which means that no one can get away with having a messy kitchen anymore!
If you have a large pantry closet, make the most of the space with an efficient shelving system and racks. If there’s room, install an island, or keep a movable kitchen cart in the center of the room for additional storage and workspace. A hanging pot rack above an island leave pots and pans within easy reach and provides an eye-catching display for nice-looking copper and iron pieces. In small kitchens, a cart can be moved to a corner when not in use. Some carts are made with a tall shelf meant to serve as a breakfast bar for quick meals. In a small eat-in kitchen, you can forgo a kitchen table without giving up a space to eat and enjoy all the additional storage provided by these functional carts.
For a more eclectic look, Kent Brasloff, interior designer at Ask Kent and Co. in New York City, loves the look that furniture gives a kitchen. Kent uses a chest of drawers to give his own kitchen a “country-kitchen-in-the-city” look. With a large number of drawers, the piece traditionally reserved for the bedroom offers “much needed drawer space for tablecloths and dishtowels,” Kent says. “It’s convenient for harder-to-hide items like phone books as well.” Outfitted with a marble top, the piece also provides extra counter space.
Kent also uses an oblong planter to store cleaning supplies. Keep one under your sink for organized storage of detergent, sponges and soap. Or paint a terra cotta pot to match your decor and keep the piece on the countertop near your sink. Find unusual glass containers for your cleaning solutions and display them in the planter where they’ll be within easy reach. Kent uses round flower pots for storing silverware. “It keeps it neat and handy,” he says.
Kent likes to use flower pots in other areas of his home as well. “Smaller pots are good for pens and pencils,” he notes, “larger ones for mail, potpourri, garden tools, barrettes, hair clips, brushes, and yes, even plants!” Keep pots or other open containers on tables and bookcases in your foyer or living room where you can drop various objects and still keep things looking tidy.
In a traditional-style home, technology can detract from the charm of your living space. A folding screen can instantly hide a television or stereo, and be moved aside with ease when the objects are in use. Kent offers another innovative way for tackling this decor dilemma: “I don’t have room for one of those big wall units or an armoire, and I don’t like them much either. Instead, I bought a mantel, built it out a little and laid down a faux marble, painted surround.” He keeps his television inside the mantel. Kent adds, “When I entertain, a pierced, 19th-century firescreen or a couple of large plants hide the obvious. For a chuckle, I sometimes run a video of burning logs!” Fire screens (even if you don’t have a fireplace) and folding screens can also hide other storage areas, such as unattractive expanses of shelves or crates. If you don’t have the space for a freestanding screen, find some attractive cloth to drape over unsightly storage units. Experiment with draping and gathering the cloth.
And, of course, baskets provide a great way to store magazines, newspapers, blankets, toys-nearly anything imaginable. Find baskets of varying shapes, sizes, colors and weaves and keep them handy to store anything that you use frequently or that you only want to keep around temporarily. Another great option are collapsible canvas or mesh containers. You can keep them compactly folded in a drawer when they’re not in use.
The bathroom, like the kitchen, is a fun place to experiment with unconventional storage options. Don’t be afraid to place a bookcase in a corner, and use it to store folded towels and display pretty toiletry containers. New lavatory designs house bathroom sinks in cabinets that look more like bedroom dressers, offering more drawer and shelf space than traditional pieces.
More people are working out of their homes than ever before, and the growing need for home-office storage solutions has resulted in a bevy of desks, file cabinets and shelves with a more personal feel than furniture typically found in a public office. If you conduct business at home, you probably have an entire room devoted to an office. Look for shelving units and office suites that have plenty of cubbies for papers and accessories. A disorganized space can lead to wasted time searching for things, and will discourage most telecommuters from getting work done.
Make sure that your desk still provides plenty of open surface space. Kent’s number one recommendation incorporates one of the latest technological feats: “If you run a business from tight quarters, I cannot extol the virtues of the flat-screen computer! You’d be amazed at what you can do with that one cubic foot of space you saved.” To maximize even more space, consider using a laptop computer. These compact versions of their larger, desktop counterparts can fold up and be put aside when not in use.
If you only have a corner of a room to devote to your home office, or if you simply want a designated spot for paying bills, keeping records and conducting correspondance, a compact secretary desk can suffice. These small pieces often feature spots for mail and writing accessories, as well as room to file important bills and priority papers. The kitchen, family room or foyer can be the ideal places for a small workspace.
The bedroom is the most important area of the home to keep neat and clutter-free. Even if you’re not a proclaimed “neat freak,” falling asleep amidst a room of messy piles can be difficult. Visit your local home improvement center or browse through catalogs to find a closet organizing system that will make the most of hidden storage space behind closed doors. If your closet is very small, or if you don’t have one at all, find a wardrobe or armoir that can store both hanging and folded clothing. Keep containers on nightstands and dressers that can hold jewelry, keys and loose change that is discarded at the end of the day.
In childrens’ rooms, there are plenty of bin storage systems and shelves. (If you use a tall unit, make sure that it is properly anchored to the wall so it’s safe for small children who may climb the shelves.) Designate specific bins or crates for groups of items so cleanup time will be fast and easy. Under-the-bed storage bags and boxes are great for extra sheets, blankets and even out-of-season clothes. Filling the space below beds also prevents toys and shoes from getting lost there.
With a little planning and some well-placed storage pieces, you and your family will appreciate a neat room at the end of the day, and in the morning, everyone can awaken to a tidy space and an organized home.