If you dream about the perfect home, what do you see? A big front porch, tall windows, high ceilings?
If your thoughts run to practical matters, you may see a kitchen with room for all the pots and pans you need to cook everything from soup to nuts; one pantry with shelves full of your homemade jams, jellies and pickles and another containing your silver and crystal; and a closet for all your fine linen.
If this is your vision of the perfect home, you may have been frustrated trying to realize it. The cook's pantry for the foods, the butler's pantry for the silver and crystal, the linen closet for the napery, all went the way of the walk-in attic in most American homes built after 1940. But good ideas die hard.
The pantry and the linen closet are making a comeback, though they've been streamlined, upscaled and downsized for today's home. Designers are coming up with all kinds of ingenious ideas to deal with our need to put things away, and makers of both custom and ready-made cabinets are standing by to turn those ideas into reality.
So what if you have a 10-foot-by-14-foot, circa 1965, no-room-to-move-in kitchen? The solution to your storage-challenged space could lie in your walls. Some designers are taking the facing right off the kitchen walls, exposing the support studs, and building shallow shelves for canned goods right into the formerly wasted space. Other ingenious uses of space include taking off the soffit above the typical sink-counter-cupboard combination and turning it into exposed shelving for pretty, but bulky, items like pudding molds and pitchers.
Whether your home is fairly new or pretty old, you most likely wish you had more places to put things.
A little homework
So where do you begin in your quest for extra storage space? All good solutions to home-improvement problems start with a little homework on your part. By asking yourself some questions about what you need to store, and where you want those items, and how much space they will take up, you can gain an idea of what you need to do put your house in order.
In your mind's eye, visualize where you'd like to put all the things you use every day, once a week, once a month. Now, walk around the house, looking at all the wasted and partially used spaces. Do you have a hall closet with nothing but coats in it? Are there spaces under the stairs, or up near the ceiling, or along the corridor walls that are not pulling their weight by being useful? Measure them. Keep all your ideas in a handy little notebook.
Once you have a list of dimensions, an idea of what you want to put away, and what you want to spend to get extra storage space, you're ready to do a some serious shopping.
Start by looking at some of the ready-made units available. Ikea, in White Marsh, is a magnet for people looking for streamlined storage they can carry home and install themselves. The store features a wide variety of solutions to the problem of too much stuff, from drawer and shelf units to cabinets and chests of all sizes, displayed in room settings.
By browsing through the products, you should be able to figure out what you need. But if you feel you need expert advice, check out Ikea's design service. Talk to the staff about your desires and give them your dimensions; they can help you figure out what will work in your home, based on your budget and your available space.
Ikea, and many other home stores offer a wide variety of storage products that are easy to take home and easy to assemble. But if the idea of putting a pantry together yourself doesn't appeal to you, consider having one built to order and installed for you.
Cabinets and more
Kraftmaid Cabinetry is well-known for its cabinets, which are available faced in either wood or sleek, modern-looking melamine. But the company doesn't just leave you with empty doors and drawers. You can order all kinds of functional interior features, from built-in spice drawers to rotating racks that put your pantry at your fingertips.
The base pantry is available in both wire and wood versions, with 75 door styles, six wood species and a large selection of quality finishes, says Marcia Harris, director of special projects for Kraftmaid. "Our dealers maintain a design service to help you select the storage options that are right for you."
If your home is of a particular era, you may think that inserting a linen closet or a pantry would spoil its architectural integrity. Think again. There are companies out there that can make new additions fit into any historical period.
Russ Kahn is president of the Kahn-Struction Co. Ltd., a local firm that specializes in restorations and renovations that match existing architectural elements. Kahn's work has been featured in Victorian Homes magazine, and the company recently completed a superb addition of built-in book cabinets in the Maryland State House in Annapolis.
"I love period work," says Kahn. "Anything before 1935 is of vast interest to me."
To solve the problem of putting a linen closet into a home that had no space for one, Kahn, working from designs by Alex Clymer Interiors, built a monumental bedstead that is a veritable Chinese box of storage. Everything in the bedstead is useful, from the headboard, which contains night-table storage and a lighted curio display, to the footboard, which has a television elevator flanked by two cedar-lined linen storage chests.
In another renovation, Kahn replaced a wall with storage units and covered the units with paneled doors, creating a wonderfully versatile place to stow away things.
Kahn, who works with interior designers and directly with residential clients, is used to accepting everything from a napkin sketch and a vague idea to full specifications. "I try to encourage the client to peruse magazines and books to find details that interest them," he says. "Then I combine the needs, wishes and wants of the client into a conceptual idea, followed by preliminary plans, and a contract.
"I also encourage my clients first to dream, without concern for costs, and then I attempt to develop the means that allows the client to meet this dream concept at the budget price."
Another company, Rutt Custom Cabinetry, boasts that "If you can imagine it, we can create it." Rutt's designers are adept at creating contemporary storage with beautifully rendered architectural details. And they can squeeze things into the tiniest space imaginable.
Consider Rutt's clever use of sliding doors behind pilasters. The firm's Empire-styled group features slide-away, hideaway floor-to-ceiling panels that conceal storage for everything from muffin pans to vacuum cleaner nozzles. Rutt's kitchens are often seen in the pages of upscale home magazines.
In designer George Rallis' American Renaissance kitchen, created for Rutt, storage becomes high art, with architectural columns and frieze work showing up on many pieces.
Obviously, this kind of high design is a major investment. Rutt's designers interview clients and then present them with a cabinetwork concept within their budget.
If you're in the habit of looking through home-design magazines, you've inevitably come upon the little worlds created by Smallbone, the English company that seems to evoke the kind of kitchen where no souffles ever fall and there's always bread baking in the oven.
"Most of our clients are very savvy, and have seen our ads for years," says Robert Hughes, president of Smallbone. "They come to us directly. We have trained designers who will take the architect's plans and design from them. Once a budget is established and people can live with that, we suggest they drive to our showroom in Manhattan to see the range of cabinetry we can offer. ...
"Once we've agreed on a plan ... we [suggest] a number of installation services in Maryland -- people we've worked with for years."
Like all the people interviewed for this article, Hughes said the price of custom storage depends on many variables. Size, finish, fittings and materials all affect the final price.
Whether you're in the market for custom storage or ready-made products, remember that planning pays off. Gather together a rough floor plan, your list of priorities and your notebook of measurements. And then start shopping around. Your reward will be a pantry, kitchen cabinets, a linen closet -- whatever storage you desire -- tailored for both your taste and your budget.
Ikea's catalog and information on design services are available from the White Marsh store. Call 410-931-5400, Ext. 1925, for kitchen-planning services, and Ext. 1935 for interior-design help.
Kahn-Struction Co. Ltd., 2206 E. Pratt St., Baltimore, 410-563-2754.
Kraftmaid Cabinetry's selection of under-the-counter and in-the-closet contrivances are described in a free brochure from the company. Call 800-654-3008 or visit the company's Web site at http: //www.kraftmaid.com. Dealers in the area include Just Cabinets, 1403 Merritt Blvd., Dundalk, 410-284-5525, and Bray and Scarff, 11950 Baltimore Ave., Beltsville, 301-470-3555.
Rutt Custom Cabinetry has a folio of cabinetwork ideas, available for $15, from Rutt, P.O. Box 129, 1564 Main St., Goodville, Pa. 17528. Stuart Kitchens, 1858 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, 410-486-0500, also can provide information on Rutt products.
Smallbone's showroom is located on the ninth floor of the A&D; Building, 150 E. 58th St., New York City, 212-838-4884.
Pub Date: 4/20/97