Mad About . . .

How To Get The Storage Right

6th October 2020
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It’s the one thing we all want more of. And yet it’s also true that the more storage we have the more we expand to fill the space. I can think of at least three large cupboards in my house which are filled with junk and stuff I/we no longer need (children’s books, old cuddly toys and mismatched bedding) that somehow six months of staying indoors with everyone crying out for more space hasn’t managed to solve.

the shepton cabinet from neptune is tall and thin and comes in a variety of colours

the shepton cabinet from neptune is tall and thin and comes in a variety of colours

There are others who say that there’s no such thing as a house that’s too small just a family with too much stuff and while I wouldn’t agree with that wholeheartedly there’s certainly an element of truth. So how do you get the storage right?

the shepton cabinet from neptune is tall and thin and works in bathrooms, kitchens and offices

the shepton cabinet from neptune is tall and thin and works in bathrooms, kitchens and offices

First up, own your foibles. Are you a declutterer safe in the knowledge that their house contains only what they need  or a hoarder? I’m a hoarder. No getting away from that. I have nearly all of my old newspaper cuttings curled and yellowing in a box. I did have my history A level banda sheets (remember those? ) until The Mad Husband intervened (while still vociferously denying all knowledge of their disappearance and accusing me of secretly disposing of a favourite cardigan of his, something I strongly deny). And while I have recycled and passed onto charity many of the boys’ old clothes there are some jumpers and drawings that are too filled with memories to dispose of.

the haze vitrine from ferm living

the haze vitrine from ferm living

That said we could all declutter more than we do. So that’s the first job. And I really do intend to go through those three cupboards just as soon as …. well maybe after I’ve had another cup of coffee, glass of wine, washed my hair, stared into the middle distance for a little while longer.

antique black console from graham & green

antique black console from graham & green

Once you have done that and we all also know that we are going to feel so much better for doing so, you need to sort what is left. There is the deep archive stuff which you don’t want to get rid of but you don’t need to see it either. Put that in vacuum storage bags or folders and pack away in attic or cupboard under the stairs. It doesn’t need to be visible so its storage can be practical rather than pretty.

tall cabinet from graham & green

tall cabinet from graham & green

You want to be left with two piles. The stuff you need to see and the stuff you don’t. The latter needs to go behind closed doors whether it’s kitchen cupboards, wardrobes or storage boxes. This is where built-in storage comes into its own. Yes it’s expensive but you get so much more for your money than with freestanding – at least 30 per cent and some (mostly wardrobe manufacturers) claim that it’s even more than that.

interior by faye toogood via the modern house

built in storage by faye toogood via the modern house

That’s because you can take it up to the ceiling and create storage in awkward spaces that would otherwise be left empty. This is why I always say you should take kitchen cupboards to the top – it looks much less messy than having a dusty collection of hard to reach stuff on the top between the cupboard and the ceiling. It’s not less hard to reach but this is for the stuff that you don’t need very often.

And talking of kitchen cupboards when was the last time you adjusted the shelves inside to make sure you were using all the space? Or bought one of those shelf risers to sit inside a large cupboard to create more space?

grey walls and fitted wardrobes via savills

fitted wardrobes via savills

If you are having built-in storage then consider sliding doors where possible as you can still open them even when there is a chair in front. Push close doors that don’t need handles will also create a more streamlined look as will flat fronts. Work out what you are storing on shelves to make sure you don’t take up precious space by making them too wide: most magazines come in at 22cm or less so 25cm is more than adequate and if it’s paperbacks only you can reduce to 20cm.

wardrobe pink and green image by Paul Craig

wardrobe pink and green image by Paul Craig

Sometimes a mix of closed cupboards and open shelves is the best option which is why this is a traditional look in alcoves – keep the board games behind doors and put the pretty books and objects on show.

If built-in storage isn’t an option – for budget or rental reasons then it’s about shopping for a piece of furniture that will fit the space available, look good and do its job. And, in some cases, this won’t feel much cheaper than building in but, of course, it can move if you do.

Points To Consider When Buying Storage:

f-shelf wall shelf via nordic nest comes left and right and would be handy in a small office area as well

f-shelf wall shelf via nordic nest comes left and right and would be handy in a small office area as well

Tall and thin takes up less floor space than short and wide – yes I know that’s obvious but in a room with a large low bed/sofa/bath something that adds height can be a good decorative choice. You can always put two or three next to each other.

Reeded glass may be currently fashionable but it also masks what’s inside while giving the appearance of lightness so your cupboard won’t dominate the room.

While vintage is great, check inside wardrobes as they often have a series of hooks not rails and might be too narrow for a modern hanger. That said if you add shelves they make attractive kitchen storage.

Consider also replacing wooden doors with glass.

Wooden furniture fits everywhere but you can also paint it to co-ordinate with different rooms as well as wallpapering the inside.

Think laterally: the shelf above is styled as a bedside table but it would work well by a desk in a bedroom or shared living space to tuck a laptop out of side or even rest a phone while charging.







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  • Ursula in Cádiz 14th October 2020 at 11:35 am

    I appreciate that that bedside shelf is facing that way to create its titular F, however ,sheer practicality would mean I would have to put it up on the other side so as to not to be reaching around a blank face to use the smaller shelf! Function over form: does this mean I’m hopeless on the design front? 🙁

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 14th October 2020 at 11:40 am

      Not at all – it comes facing in both directions! So it’s called an F shelf but you can have it facing left or right depending on which side of the bed it needs to be. So hopefully form matches function!

  • Bonnie Foster Abel 6th October 2020 at 12:55 pm

    Your selection of storage solutions makes me wish I had not just contracted out for a wood shelving unit for my dining area.
    I live in a modern industrial loft housed inside an 1840’s limestone former woollen mill in Canada. I requested no upper cabinets in the galley kitchen as a long floating shelf was to be installed above the quartz back splash. Alas the height of the back splash, for safety reasons I am told, was raised. I cannot reach anything at this height without a stool to lift me up. The shelving unit is my solution.

    I brought a tall (2.7m) wood shelving unit made by my late husband with me which stands in the dining area, an alcove of the kitchen prep area. The new unit at 1.2m will nestle in beside her big sister to house two boxes of china that I can root out from the too full bedroom closet.

    A great deal of clutter was removed prior to downsizing for this move.

  • Longdenlife 6th October 2020 at 11:35 am

    I would recommend contacting your local cabinet maker/carpenter to quote for built in storage as its often a similar price or less than the high street companies offering ‘made to measure’ storage (which isnt made to measure, its standard sized carcasses with mouldings built out to fill the space). You can also then design the shelving, hanging space etc exactly how you want it in a finish you want too.

    And on the subject of storing children’s toys etc, my mum asked me to take my childhood toys out of her loft the last time I went to stay with her – I’m 48! 🙂

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