How To Make the Most of your Storage

I have been thinking about storage. This may not be the most arresting first line you have ever read, but it follows that if I have been thinking about it then you might have less thinking to do as I will have, hopefully, come up with some ideas that can help.

tylko storage
tylko storage

Storage is, it seems to me, one of the biggest problems in all our houses. There is never enough. This is partly because we expand our possessions to fill the available space and partly because there is a lot of bad storage around.

So, firstly, some thoughts. If you are starting from scratch designing a kitchen or a wardrobe – remember that you, probably, haven’t stopped buying clothes or shoes. That you may well buy (another) juicer, or some more pans and so you need to create storage that allows space for the things you haven’t bought yet. Or, at the very least, take a solemn vow to adhere to the one-in-one-out principle. Which also doesn’t account for the “I saw it, I loved it, I bought it even thought I didn’t strictly need it” scenario which takes a hard, black heart to avoid.

tylko storage
tylko storage

Extra space accounted for, you also need to know that bespoke storage is more efficient than ready made. This is because you can build it to go up to the ceiling, to fit flush into an awkward space – essentially to hold more stuff.

Of course, if you are renting, or not planning to stay for long, then you have to balance the potential inconvenience of less storage against a piece of furniture you can take with you when you go. This is where modular furniture like Tylko (see below) or USM might be best as you can take it with you and then rebuild or add more pieces to it for a new space.

tylko storage
tylko storage

A word here about vintage. We all know it’s more sustainable and, in my opinion, often looks nicer, but there’s a good chance it won’t hold as much as something new. I have bought several vintage wardrobes some of which weren’t deep enough for a modern hanger so had to be filled with shelves, others which I had to add a hanging rail to. They look great but they may cost you more money to adapt to so think about what you will be using it for and if it will be fit for your purpose in your home.

Once that is decided you can start to plan. Once place I have heard very good things of is Tylko. They have just added wardrobes to their range of sideboards, bookcases, tv stands and wall storage. There are lots of to cover the plywood frame and you decided if you want drawers or doors or open spaces.

ikea pax wardrobes can be adjusted for your needs

Ikea now has a build your own wardrobe tool which allows you to play with various combinations of hanging and shelf space, sliding or traditional doors and pull out rails and drawers. You can even add lights – both internal and external to fully customise your storage. If that feels too scary you can pick one of their wardrobes and simply customise it to suit your needs.

Storage beds can also be a good solution although I found when I had one that I simply shoved all the stuff I wasn’t ready to quite dispose of, but never actually used, into it and ignored it for three years. If you are more disciplined than me then it’s a great space to store suitcases and spare bedlinen and towels. The key is actually that it needs to be somewhere you open on a weekly-ish basis so the light gets in and the moths don’t set up residence which can happen in dark, little used spaces.

shoe storage ladder from a place for everything
shoe storage ladder from a place for everything

When it comes to bookshelves think about your books. If you have mainly paperbacks then they can be narrow and don’t need to take up too much room. If you are using open shelves in the kitchen then 25cm is probably enough for a dinner plate – mine are 30 – installed 11 years ago – and they could be narrower without losing any vital storage space.

Once you’ve dealt with the room design, you need to start thinking about how you will organise things inside your cupboards. One thing I have fallen for several times and urge you not to do the same is the “set”. This invariably means you will use two of them, grumpily find something for the third and two of them are probably not right for your needs so it’s a false economy.

hay colour crates are recyclable
hay colour crates are recyclable can be folded flat when not in use, I have several in my office

Better to buy the number of of boxes/baskets in the size you need and, if possible, choose square or rectangle so you can stack them.

Another trick I once saw on the tv presenter Stacey Solomon’s stories is that she fixes a bit of net curtain wire high up in her cupboards with clips on and then she hangs her packets on them so she can flick through looking for soups or sauces or whatever else she needs. I saw the same trick done with a tension rod where someone had hung their cleaning sprays. All this uses the top part of the cupboard and saves crowding the floor.

This is where Lakeland can be handy as it’s full of staggered shelves that means you can store tins and see the ones at the back – it’s like tiered seating at a gig. Or what about a lazy Susan in the fridge so you can see all those sauces that are mouldering at the back.

undershelf drawer storage by joseph joseph
undershelf drawer storage by joseph joseph 

Finally, while baskets are pretty you can’t see what’s in them. Clear acrylic (try Muji or Not A Boring Box) isn’t the cheapest but you can see what’s going on or wire baskets can be good for the same reasons.

Storage is a massive issue I could probably write a whole book on it (… I won’t) but here are some initial thoughts for you to ponder and perhaps some places or ideas you didn’t know about.




Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Having downsized significantly this year as we near retirement, we’ve gleaned from a lot of mistakes over the years (ditto on your vintage wardrobe experience). We own our home, so these won’t work for renters. (Been there, too). A couple of things have made a big difference: Custom pull-out shelves in the kitchen and bath make deep shelves/cabinets organized and items visible. Expensive, yes. Worth it, yes. Another place we spent was hiring a carpenter to build out our closet. Again not cheap, but it was built for our heights and clothes, with hooks for my robe and jewelry and what I’ll wear tomorrow, a nook for the clothes hamper, and high shelves for suitcases – organizational things that matter to us. Having made the mistakes proved that saving for the spend can actually be less expensive in the end. Since we downsized, it goes without saying that we are all about getting rid of things we don’t need; I still think it’s lovely to keep the things we truly enjoy and use.

  2. I think that there is a tilting point. I shopped a lot. And then I thought I should stop buying clothes for myself for a year. Did that. Now I actually enjoy to try to reuse what I already have and that goes for stuff and things as well as clothes. I make sure to give what I don’t need to people that will use them (friends, family or charity) and not to buy if there isn’t a real need. Buy vintage and pre-loved first and new as the last option. I think that the no shopping year made me sober up to my own behavior, that was not the behavior that I want to give to my kids.

    Oh, I still want new clothes so now I have this service “Hack Your Closet” (might be only in Sweden?) which sends five items of clothes every month for me to use as I want and in the end of the month it is sent back to be reused by someone else. Like a try out/renting service for clothes. Perfect option for me.

    And for stuff and thing we all know that vintage has the best options 🙂

  3. We fall into the less is more camp now. In my 20’s it was hard to walk away from something “I loved”, now going into my 60’s I think of the environment – my own and the world. Having less helps me think more clearly, so I read Elaine’s comment with interest. Even though I sew I watch carefully how many clothes we use vs have. Under bed storage for off season works for me.
    I suggest watching the online used goods sites for your area. A very nice tv armoire for free became the closet at the front door, paid 1/8 of new for an IKEA wardrobe that holds all my sewing supplies. I take the view that the hunt is entertainment which helps my patience waiting for the right piece to show up.
    In the late fall we are scheduled to have a bespoke pantry with roll out shelves. We used Ikea in a previous bigger kitchen with the same, what a sanity saver.

  4. I like Elaine Fraser’s comment hugely. Living with dementia, as I and many others do, simple and thoughtful day-to-day home re-design becomes a boon annnd a life-saver! Living with memory loss and not a little confusion, what you can easily see, therefore access, is the most helpful of all prompts. That in itself then takes enormous pressure off of the energy reserves/resources needed to negotiate dementia. Thank you again, Elaine. So very much.

    1. An occupational therapist assisting a friend of mine also suggested hanging pants and tops together for day to day wear, which has worked very well for my friend. Fortunately she has a walk in closet, so she can see the possibilities. I’ll suggest replacing the dressers with shelves and clear boxes. Thanks all!

  5. Buying less is really the key. I personally have to be able to see stuff otherwise I forget I’ve even got it so hiding things away behind doors & under beds doesn’t really work for me . I don’t know the average age group on here but worth mentioning that some thought is now being given to memory problems in later life where design can be very important and as I understand it clearly visible ( glass fronts) or open shelving hugely assists independent living and I read one expert in field had her kitchen future proofed by her joiner husband in this way … so if making a long term investment worth thinking about design from this angle too … designers now looking at this and doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful too

  6. Thank you for this very useful post. i have a whole renovation in progress house to fill with storage. And Tylko not only looks nice, they deliver free to Europe.

  7. Will certainly check out the Lakeland shelf inserts, as there is a lot of wasted space inside my kitchen cupboards. Tylko looked promising, but turned out not to be suitable for a recent storage requirement – their minimum width is 70cm, so not narrow enough for what I needed. Found a skinny wardrobe from Tikkamoon instead. I’m also on the hunt for kitchen drawer inserts for a non-standard Howden drawer size, so my large cooking utensils don’t rattle around irritatingly.

    There isn’t a substitute strategy for not having too much stuff though. Tara Button’s book A Life Less Throwaway is good, as is of course Marie Kondo. But the best intentions can be sabotaged by life, so storage will always be needed. And a ruthless streak.

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