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Designing your home with storage in mind
Storage Design
This bedroom remodel added built-in storage at the headboard to create much needed storage and a focal point for the room.

As we start another year, it is time to get your life and your home in order. Of course, decluttering and purging is a big part of the organization process. However, once you know what you want to keep, you need a place to put it.

Lack of storage is one of the most common complaints we hear in our architectural firm. The homeowners that come to us know their house isn’t working for them anymore. For one reason or another, they have decided it is time to remodel. Almost always, regardless of the motivations behind the remodel, clients explain to us that as part of the new design they want added storage.

Incorporating smart storage into home design is an important and crucial part of residential architecture. The functionality of a home is as important as its style. How residents live in the space from day to day is key for making design decisions. The design must enable the space to work well for the people who live there.

One of the “rules” of organization states that if you use an item every day, it should be accessible in the area where you use it. An example is placing the silverware in a top drawer in the kitchen.

If you use something on a weekly basis, it can be located in a lower cupboard in the kitchen -- slightly less accessible, but still there when you need it. For example, the cheese grater should be handy but not stored in front of the plates, which are an item you use every day.

The next group of items are things you use monthly. These can be placed on the top shelf of the pantry or kitchen cupboards. These items can be stored fairly out of the way, yet placed so they don’t take a great amount of effort to get to when you need them.

Finally, there are seasonal items that you only use only occasionally. These are things such as your Christmas decorations and seasonal sports equipment which can be stored “off site.” Good places for items in this category are the basement, the garage or the attic. These items should never be stored in an everyday place because you would just have to move around them to get what you need more often.

Such theories of organizing work well and, if applied, would help any home function better. However, the older the home, the greater the likelihood that storage space is at a premium. On the other hand, some homes have plenty of storage space, though not necessarily placed where it is needed for daily life. It is logical that towels, toilet paper and bathroom cleaning supplies should be stored in the bathroom where they are used. But if you don’t have storage cabinets built into the bathroom design, it will not happen. If there isn’t room in the bathroom to add such cabinets, then the problem is even more challenging.

Creative design can use nooks, corners and even the area under the stairs to add built-in storage to help make each room more functional. Storage issues can be addressed when the home is designed with smart, useful storage areas and the homeowner is able to balance “stuff” and storage space.

Some clients think they need a large room dedicated to storage to make their home more functional. While this is a luxury that few would turn down, creative storage can actually better meet their needs and can even make a space more interesting and beautiful. We recently designed a bedroom with beautiful built-in cabinetry around the headboard of the bed. It added much-needed storage space to the area where the items were being used, and also created a nice focal point for the room.

Storage doesn’t have to be thought of as a spare room in the basement. Instead, consider designing the whole house around how you actually use it. Add storage space to the rooms where you find you need it. We design a lot of kitchens with lots of storage space beyond the typical cabinetry for kitchen gadgets and food. For instance, if you are the type of family who uses the kitchen for much more than preparing meals (like to pay bills, wrap presents, do school projects and entertain guests, to name a few possible activities), then make sure that space has the storage capacity to support those activities.

Think about how you use your space and what items you truly need on a daily and weekly basis in each particular area. Sort through your storage items and readjust your storage space or your general layout to make your space work for you. The right storage space in the right place can make a world of difference when it comes to organizing your life and functioning better in your home.

(Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.)