In a small house, looking for maximum storage in minimum space

The Baltimore Sun

Our small, new home is quite cozy, but it lacks adequate storage space for books, CDs and DVDs. We'd prefer something stylistically and functionally different from the standard storage unit, so can you suggest some possibilities for a custom-made piece? And can you tell us how to get started on such a project?

"Houses are for living."

I'm putting that simple saying in quotes because I'm sure someone must have coined it before me. If not, I'm pleased to claim authorship because it makes an important point.

The purpose of any interior design should be to ensure the comfort and convenience of those who use a particular space. No matter how beautiful a room may appear, its design will fail if it doesn't accommodate everyday needs. In other words, houses are for living - not just for looking.

You're smart to consider alternatives to the storage units found in furniture shops because many of those units aren't appropriately designed for small spaces. In addition, the exciting project you're about to undertake does offer lots of creative possibilities.

Call me self-promoting, but I recommend you start by consulting an interior designer. And as you think through all the suggestions, let function be your guide. For example, while a set of shelves built right up to the ceiling may make sense in a small space, consider whether you'll want to stand on a chair or a ladder to pull down books and discs from the top of such a unit.

Here's a model you can use as a starting point in the creative process. It comes from The House to Ourselves, a Taunton Press book by Todd Lawson and Tom Connor. Even though this photo clearly was not taken in a small house, the concept behind the divider would be applicable to other settings. Perhaps you could rework the furniture layout in your own home to accommodate a unit like this one, or another type of self-standing storage piece that affords not only easy access to its contents, but can hold closed storage as well as open book shelving.

The advantage of what you see here is that it leaves wall space available for artworks or other decorative displays as well as countertop and work space. The disadvantage, of course, is that it occupies floor space you might want to use for a different purpose. As I said, though, it's just an opening gambit - one that will perhaps generate other and more functional ideas that will fit your personal needs.

Rita St. Clair is a Baltimore-based interior designer. Readers with general interior-design questions can e-mail her at the above address.

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