House-hunters always have “enough storage” near the top of their “want-to-have” lists, along with energy efficiency, a fireplace, a laundry room, and a garage. In fact, having good storage options is a positive selling point for any dwelling.
There are two kinds of storage, of course, and it’s good to have options for both. First is storage in view, such as shelves of books or displays of collectibles. For plain-sight storage, a combination of closed and open shelving is ideal. Open shelves can spotlight treasured items. They can also hold baskets or bins in colors to compliment your décor.
This type of storage can be built-in or be a combination of freestanding shelves and cupboards that can be rearranged as your needs change. Shallow shelves installed a foot below the ceiling around the top of a room can provide a remarkable amount of storage for books, souvenirs, collections, or other seldom-used items.
Enclosed, but visible storage, such as a glass case, glass-topped coffee table, or china cabinet protects items and cuts dusting duties for special items on display.
In many places, however, you’ll want out-of-sight storage. This often can be more economical since containers, such as baskets or bins, can be more basic and less expensive than when they are in plain sight.
Closet organizing systems are another excellent way to increase storage space. These systems can include drawers; short hanging space for blouses, shirts, and pants; long space for dresses; shelves for shoes and folded garments; and decorative hooks for belts, ties, purses, or scarves.
Such a set-up can be custom built or be a DIY project that can be rearranged as your needs change. Several companies including ClosetMaid, Rubbermaid, and Martha Stewart have customizable systems with various configurations and prices. Consumer Reports magazine especially recommends the Elfa System as the easiest to install.
There are similar systems for kitchen or laundry storage. An especially useful storage strategy is a lazy susan installation. Corner cupboards in kitchens are notorious for being less than useful, but a large lazy susan makes all that space accessible. Some are available for under $100, depending on the depth of your corner.
Smaller lazy susans—especially in higher cupboards where it’s difficult to see the back of the shelf—can hold everything from spices to canned goods. Sturdy two-tiered models with raised lips and non-slip surfaces cost less than $15. TIP: If you are storing things on high shelves, have a sturdy step stool to retrieve them safely.
Dual-purpose furniture is another excellent storage option. Examples: a coffee table with drawers, an ottoman with a lift-off top, or a bedstead with drawers underneath. Other options might be a narrow table that fits behind a sofa, but can open with wide leaves to seat 10-12 or the clever chair that opens into a handy little stepladder.
A trendy new storage idea involves staircases and the spaces underneath them. A system of narrow shelves can climb the wall beside the stairs. The area beneath can be fitted with open shelving or a system of rollout shelving or drawers that can often be as deep as the stairs are wide. In some cases, stair risers can be replaced with drawers or shallow shelves holding books.
Always remember that purchasing containers in similar sizes is far more practical than a miscellaneous collection of odd-sized units. In fact, it would probably make your life simpler to convert to matching containers. This is true for everything from kitchen food storage (instead of that muddle of plastic containers with a drawer full of unmatched lids) to large units specifically designed to be stackable. TIP: See-through containers are always preferable so you can easily tell what’s inside without having to open them. If your containers aren’t transparent, it’s important to label clearly on the top and two sides.
If you will be using the bins, baskets, or other containers on shelves, be sure to check the dimensions. If the containers will be behind closed doors, inexpensive ones will do, but if you are storing them where they can be seen, make careful selections of colors and materials to enhance your décor.
For cellars, attics, garages, or outdoor sheds, opt for completely airtight containers to keep out both critters and humidity. They come in a great variety of sizes and shapes.
Finally, a well-kept list of where items are stored is key, especially for seasonal items such as holiday ornaments and ice skates or the badminton set and long-handled barbecue tools. Many people employ a white board or bulletin board where listings and locations can easily be changed. Others prefer a box of index cards.
However you do it, maximizing your home’s storage space will keep your life less cluttered and crowded.
Marilyn Pribus and her husband live in Albemarle County near Charlottesville. She’s a great fan of lazy susans.