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Storage Inspiration for Small Spaces
Use these smart storage ideas for small spaces to end up with a home that’s stylish, serene, and clutter-free
Small-Room Storage Strategies
Your goal? To keep small spaces uncluttered and your belongings easy to retrieve. That’s why you need to check out these practical ideas for storage and organization. The next 6 slides present big ideas that work for any small room. Subsequent slides present a room-by-room look at creative storage solutions that may work in your home.
Interior designer: Palmer Weiss
Edit your possessions.
It’s amazing, isn’t it? The fewer things you need to store, the easier it is to make do with your existing closets, cabinets, drawers, and shelves. So do what you need to do. Start by purging the items you don’t need or you don’t absolutely love. Store your most often-used items within arm’s reach. Display your favorite collectibles in clear view. Put everything else in deep storage in your attic, basement, garage, or self-storage unit.
Note: When redecorating the home shown here, the homeowners and interior designer walked around the house with a roll of blue tape, tagged anything tired or dated, and shipped it all off to auction or donated it to a charity. They swept away a lifetime of tchotchkes, oversized furniture and outdated accessories in the process.
Interior designer: Kelie Grosso
Assign storage space based on use.
When rooms are small, their most accessible storage spaces needs to be reserved for the dishes, clothes, or linens you use nearly every day. That century-old china you inherited from Great Granny—and only use once a decade—should probably be stored some place other than in your too-small kitchen or dining room. Everyday dishes, bed sheets, and other necessities need to be where you can get at them without bending, twisting, or wrenching your back.
Shown: A pegged drawer (used instead of a base cabinet) offers an ergonomic solution to storing dishes for everyday use.
Transform dead space into storage.
Think creatively when it comes to finding storage options that don’t gobble up floor space. Recessed storage (between the studs) is often the answer to putting storage exactly where you need it.
Shown: This towel niche is part of a tub alcove that’s barely wide enough to hold the clawfoot tub. Now fresh towels are only an arm’s length away from the bather.
Invest in customized solutions.
Another solution to dead space? Bespoke built-ins (such as cabinetry or shelving) that are designed to fulfill your exact storage needs and fit into the exact amount of space you have available to use. Think of slim drawers that slide into the toe-kick area beneath kitchen cabinets, a stack of narrow cubbies that nestles between base cabinets, or wall-mounted shelves that can fit where ordinary cabinets would be difficult to install. All these examples help you turn slivers of space into viable storage solutions.
Shown: What looks like a typical armoire is actually a custom piece that is built into the wall to save valuable floor space in this diminutive guest room.
Choose multi-functional furniture.
Trying to cram too many furnishings into too-small rooms? Choose furniture that can do multiple jobs and you can get by with fewer pieces. Shop for a tiered kitchen island, a coffee table with shelves, nightstands with drawers, storage ottomans with removable tops, and beds with bookcase-style headboards. Imagine the breathing room you’ll gain when storage-smart furniture replaces pieces that don’t earn their keep.
Shown: This family-room coffee table holds drawers that are perfect for stowing board games—freeing other cabinetry in the room for media equipment, books, and favorite collectibles.
If standard cabinets, armoires, and book shelves don’t solve your storage problems, make the walls and ceilings work harder. Take cabinets and bookcases all the way to the ceiling; you can always install a rolling library ladder to access them. Hang a ceiling-mounted pot-rack to store cookware up high, which frees up cabinets for stowing other stuff. Attach open rail storage systems to your kitchen backsplash to keep utensils and other supplies within easy reach.
Stockpile specific ideas.
Check out our favorite ideas for bumping up the storage potential in kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms, bedrooms, and more.
KITCHENS: Take cabinets to the ceiling.
When it comes to thinking vertically, kitchens stand to reap the most benefit. Take cabinetry all the way up to the ceiling, but be smart about what you stow where. Store what you use most often within arm’s reach. Reserve the highest cabinets for seldom-used items such as turkey roasters or seasonal dishes.
Interior designer: Gerald Pomeroy
Add a multi-functional island.
Whether topped with stone, quartz surfacing, or wood, islands offer handy work surfaces for kitchen helpers. But why stop there? Choose an island with one or more shelves and gain space for storing cookware and dishes. Use baskets or bins to corral smaller items such as utensils.
Invest in custom cabinetry.
Custom cabinetry is designed and built to fit your kitchen and all its quirks. Not being limited to standard cabinet heights and widths means you can use every possible square inch of space for storage. Add a shallow drawer beneath stacked wall ovens to hold cookie sheets or trays (shown). Use the toe-kick space beneath base cabinets for drawers that hold dishtowels or trays. Squeeze in a slim cabinet with pullout shelves to store condiments and seasonings for easy retrieval. Or add asymmetrical cabinetry that accommodates the kitchen’s sloped ceiling. All the bits and pieces add up to big storage benefits.
Store more with organizational inserts.
Help your cabinetry work harder by including cabinet organizers and drawer inserts. Pullout racks (shown), tall pantry pullouts, tray dividers, Lazy Susan turntables, pull-down spice racks, cutlery organizers, knife blocks with dividers, tilt-out trays, wine cubbies, and more turn your cabinets and drawers into storage superstars.
Tip: Some organizational inserts need to be added by your cabinet-maker, but there are many options that can be purchased aftermarket.
Squeeze in wall-mounted shelves.
Open shelves keep priority items visible and accessible. But here’s what makes them especially useful for small rooms: They can be installed in spaces that are too small or awkwardly placed to hold cabinets. Adding cup hooks to the bottom of a wall-mounted shelf can boost its functionality.
DINING ROOMS: Reach for the Ceiling.
What’s good for the kitchen is good for the dining room. If you’re going to add built-in cabinetry or a free-standing storage unit, make it tall. Store your pretty serving pieces or best china and glassware behind glass-front doors; tuck everyday pieces, cookware, and mixing bowls down low behind closed doors. Your dining room stays organized, and your kitchen benefits from the help.
Built in discreet storage.
You already know that a banquette handles dining duties with ease. Include a hinged lid on top of the bench, or multiple drawers underneath the seat, and you’ve got a place to store table linens and seasonal décor.
Tip: Banquette drawers that open into the room are easier to access than drawers that open toward the table base.
Roll storage where it’s needed.
Invest in a bar cart and watch it become the focal point of every gathering. Stock the cart with liquor bottles, glassware, and napkins to create a mobile dry bar. Or use the cart to serve tea or coffee. Either way, you gain the benefits of a drink station without needing to give up floor space for cabinetry.
Add storage behind doors.
Keep your table linens in tip-top shape by draping them on an over-the-door towel rack. Not only do you free up bureau drawers for other items, you keep tablecloths and napkins wrinkle-free and ready for company.
Invest in custom built-ins.
Make every square inch of wall space work on your behalf by installing bespoke built-ins sized to hold your treasures. (Take the built-ins all the way to the ceiling if you can.) This example features a sofa placed in front of a mirror—which makes the room look and feel larger. But by pulling the sofa forward a foot or two, the entire wall can be converted into storage for books, collectibles, and art. Use the top shelves for decorative pieces you’re likely to leave on display for a long time. Lower shelves are more suitable for reading material and/or ever-changing displays.
Tip: You can get a similar look with tall freestanding bookcases.
Interior designer: Samantha Todhunter
Choose multi-functional furnishings.
Don’t let your furniture get by with only doing one thing at a time. Storage ottomans (designed with hinged or removable lids) provide extra seating—as well as discreet storage for blankets and games. Flat lids let ottomans work even harder by functioning as coffee tables.
Make your coffee table work harder.
Don’t waste floor space with a coffee table that can’t do anything more than hold up a vase of flowers. Instead, choose a model with multiple shelves for holding books, magazines, and decorative art—and a smart little basket for your remotes.
Use the back of your sofa.
You may be out of luck if your sofa is pushed up against the wall. But in an open floor plan, there may be room behind the sofa for a console table that helps fight the war on clutter. Choose a model with shelves or drawers for stowing books, magazines, and mail. Incorporate baskets at ground level—or on top—to hold hats, gloves, dog-walking gear, and other household essentials.
Save everything to the cloud.
Streamline your living room or family room by storing your movies and music in the cloud (or streaming them) instead of adding a bulky entertainment center. Such a plan frees up valuable floor space for a pleasing furniture arrangement. Plus, you’ll never step on an errant plastic case or disk again.
BEDROOMS: Put the walls to work.
Don’t stay awake worrying about all the clutter. Surround your headboard with built-in shelves and cabinets that organize reading materials and other night-time necessities. By installing wall- or cabinetry-mounted lights, you can also eliminate the need for nightstands—which frees up floor space and makes a small bedroom feel larger and more serene.
Expect more from your nightstand.
Choose a bedside table that can do more than hold a lamp and your phone. Multiple shelves keep books, magazines, and e-tablet within arm’s reach. Use a small dish to hold your jewelry, and baskets to corral medications and toiletries. Drawers are better at providing discreet storage than shelves, of course—even if you just want to hide chocolate from prying eyes.
Stow down low.
Keep your cramped closet available for the clothes you wear most often. How? By stowing out-of-season clothing and accessories below your bed in acrylic or canvas storage bins, rolling carts, zippered storage bags, or boxes on wheels. Choose models with reinforced handles to make them easy to grab and pull clear of the bed frame. If needed, add several more inches of storage space by putting your bed on risers.
Tip: Disguise under-bed storage behind a long bed skirt.
Invest in a closet system.
Whether wood, wire, or MDF, a customized closet system can help you store more stuff in the same amount of space. That’s because the system is designed with components that are sized to store your clothing and accessories—not those of the “average consumer” (whomever she might be). Plus, awkward spaces near the ceiling, on the floor, and in the corners of your closet are magically transformed into useful storage. Your clothes will thank you.
Interior designer: Tobi Fairley
Choose double-duty furniture.
You know you’re going to need a place to sit and put on your shoes or admire your pedicure. Instead of a one-use-only chair, choose a flip-top bench that cushions your tush while storing extra bedding or seasonal accessories.
BATHROOMS: Take storage up high.
Put the walls to work by installing wall-mounted shelves for bath supplies and towels above the tub. (But keep them narrow enough to minimize the danger of collisions when getting in or out.) Note that this tub also boasts a generous deck for storing sundries close to the action.
Interior designer: Susan Marinello
Install a recessed medicine cabinet.
Want to maintain a sleek profile while storing sundries close to the sink? Install a recessed medicine cabinet between the studs—instead of mounting to the wall—and gain discreet storage space for medicine and make-up.
Make your vanity do more.
Don’t settle for setting your sink in a pretty surface. Install it in a furniture-style vanity with cabinets and/or drawers for storing cosmetics, hair products, and other grooming gear. Keep in mind that the deeper the deck around the sink, the more room you have on top for priority products.
Tip: If your goal is to go glam, choose a vanity with mirror-covered drawers. Their reflectivity will make your bathroom look larger.
Slide in a slim storage unit.
The reality of pedestal sinks is that they’re prettier than they are practical. Where do you put your make-up? Your medicine? Your blow dryer? Recessed medicine cabinets help, but a tall storage tower can do lots more to relieve storage stress in just a few square feet of floor space.
KIDS’ ROOMS: Share furniture.
Sometimes there’s just not enough room for two beds, two nightstands, and all the other paraphernalia that comes with siblings sharing a room. Positioning a dresser-as-nightstand between twin beds solves the storage problem by providing multiple drawers for night-time essentials.
Build in a captain’s bed.
Want your kids’ small bedroom to stay shipshape? Include a built-in berth (aka captain’s bed) with drawers beneath the platform for storing toys, out-of-season clothes, and extra bedding. This captain’s bed anchors a bunk-bed set-up; captain’s beds can also double as window seats or stand-alone sleeping zones.
Add display storage up high.
Safely mounted above the headboard, these shelves keep toys safely stowed without requiring cabinetry that steals floor space needed for play.
Interior designer: Trudy Dujardin
Include a storage tower.
When a storage unit reaches for the ceiling, it offers a ton of storage space within a very small footprint. That approach works well when siblings share the same small bedroom. Display fragile or precious objects on the upper shelves (unreachable unless kids try to climb). Use lower shelves for the toys, books, or art supplies they’ll want to pull out and use every day.
HOME OFFICE: Install wall-mounted shelves.
So many office supplies, so little room. Don’t panic. Keep your office a clutter-free zone by installing wall-to-wall shelves sized to hold stylish file boxes for magazines and folders. Coordinating lidded containers are perfect for pens, markers, stickies, ink cartridges, and other office basics.
This clever office stretches its storage capacity even more by hiding pull-out shelving for office equipment and copy paper beneath a skirted table. A storage ottoman provides a great space to stash snacks or other odds and ends when clients or friends pay a visit.
LAUNDRY ROOM: Install over-the-fridge cabinets.
Also known as upper bridge cabinets, these 12- or 15-inch-tall boxes can provide valuable storage above your washer and dryer. Just like in the kitchen, though, they’ll be tough to reach; keep a footstool handy so you can get to your detergent, fabric softener, and spot cleaners. In this particular laundry room, adding a skirt below the sink softens the room while hiding accessible storage for pet supplies.
Interior designer: Berkley Vallone
HALLWAY: Display your faves.
Free up closet space by using a hallway to display collectibles with slim profiles. As you may have guessed, this home belongs to a songwriter whose guitar collection lines the wall that leads to his home office. You may not play guitar for a living, but your hallway display could feature collectible clocks, antique mirrors, lithographs, paintings, or even ceramic wall pockets. Enjoy your collections every day, and use the now-empty closet space for storing something else.
Interior designer: Jeff Andrews
The Sidecar, price available upon request from Moore & Giles [1-800-737-0169]
This beautifully crafted bar cart, The Sidecar by Moore and Giles, is a great way to store liquor, glassware, bar tools, and anything else needed to complete your own miniature bar. The cart, made of Virginia black walnut, birch, leather, aluminum, and brass, is wheeled to make sure the party can travel with you. Perfect for drink-lovers without the space for a full bar.