Smart Storage
photography by Ted Dayton
April, 2014 - Issue #114
I'm not usually one to brag, but this tale is both quick and applicable, so bear with me... As a high-school honors student with a cute figure and long locks, I was often told I was a "double threat" because I was both pretty and smart. I always appreciated the complement because it placed equal value on two of my many fine qualities. (High self confidence is another one, obviously.). Now that I'm (much) older, I care much less about my own smart-pretty ratio and apply it instead to what I choose to use in my home.

Because I fell in love with a house that was high on retro style but very low on storage space, finding attractive ways to stash my stuff has become a priority. (My husband would replace the word "priority" with "obsession," but he knew what he was getting into when he married a "double threat," so he has little to complain about, as far as I'm concerned!).

Here are some of my most clever tricks and finds. I've put most of these to work in my own home and others are waiting to be implemented.

Seating as Storage
My husband is an artist. And a pack rat. And really bad about cleaning up after himself. Open shelving was just not an option in my world. I knew he'd junk it up, stack it up and all that would be left for me to do was dust it up more often than I wanted. The solution: changing the seating in his client-consultation space from a couch to a custom-made bench seat that looks and operates very similar to an old-fashioned toy trunk. I top the five-foot long piece with a deliciously-funky handmade crochet blanket that I scored at the Goodwill for $8. Now all his extra supplies are stored in this space, staying clean and fresh until he needs 'em.

Before we moved to this house, my version of the correction above was using an old steamer trunk as seating/storage. I bought that gorgeous piece of sturdy history from an old sailor in San Pedro for $50. It was worth every penny. For those of you with homes that wouldn't coordinate well with Craigslist treasures, new ottomans with removable tops serve the same purpose, hold a copious amount of linens or toys and look ultra stylish.

Take Advantage of Every Nook and Cranny
This home's builder thought it would be very lovely to bump out the walls in the downstairs every five feet or so to add dimension. It does, but these pretty columns leave a four-inch recess that is nearly useless, or was, until I decided that I was going to put them to good use. In the craft room, we DIYed a very easy metal bar install that holds two huge rolls of craft paper, plus all my ribbon. The downside is that from now until infinity, friends and family will receive presents wrapped in either brown craft paper or white (For the fancy occasions, of course.). The upside is that I will never again have to figure out what to do with extra bits of holiday-specific wrapping paper.

Part of being smart at storage is figuring out what shouldn't really be stored, anyway. I once nearly purchased a very pricy wrapping paper organizer that was made to be stored under the bed. I did a little math and realized that I could buy wrapping paper rolls for every occasion for two years straight and throw the rest away when I was done before I could come close to covering the cost of this fancy "storage solution." Now I just start with basic paper and "festive it up" with celebration-appropriate ribbon.

Look around your home like Nancy Drew with eyes peeled, searching for clues as to where you could sneak in some extra storage. Under the stairs - or along them - is a top storage spot, but if you can't find one, make one! A great friend of mine reminded me that most medicine cabinets are recessed into very narrow walls, yet seem to hold a ton of stuff. My short-on-storage sisterfriend took the hint and opened up three rectangles of space between the studs in her daughter's room. She cut and removed the drywall herself, then hired a handyman to finish the space with plain-old wood scraps for shelving. After a quick DIY paint job, her daughter now stores all her girly stuff - perfumes and the like - in her custom-cut shelves that cost less than a bottle of Chanel Number 5.

ABOVE: A little-used closet can become a home office, while locker cast offs can add team spirit to kids' spaces. And, if you're already going "custom," like in the case of this boat-inspired bed, ask your builder to cleverly include hideaway storage.

Repurpose Awesome Finds
About a month ago I fell in love with a super-old water heater being sold on one of the local vintage "for sale" Facebook pages I frequent. I knew I wanted this cast-iron and bronze beauty in my life, but I just couldn't justify dragging in a several-hundred-pound hunk of metal into my house where its primary contribution would be collecting dust and taking up space. On a whim I asked the seller if the piece could be gutted and its interior workings removed. Guess what? It already was. Guess what else? It now resides in my home and, with a super quick shelf installation, it holds (And hides!) a ton of previously-homeless stuff.

I once carefully cut out about 200 pages from an old encyclopedia in the shape of our DVD player's remote control. I like looking at books but hate looking at electronic anything, so it was worth the time invested (And the few nicks from the Exacto knife.). The encyclopedia was a mismatch garage sale find, so I didn't feel too bad about rendering it unreadable, though more than one guest got a surprise after finding it on the coffee table next to the magazines.
Not sure what to repurpose? You know how those home-improvement TV-show hosts always say, "Shop your home! You probably already have what you need!" Well, I used to think, "Um... have you seen my home?" - but then I looked in my backyard and garage. Cast-off toys (Like the proverbial red wagons that make for adorable book storage.), old metal canisters, Grandma's box of Mason jars... All of it can be used for storage - and the price is awesome!

Curious to see how an antique water heater can store more than H2O? Log onto our Facebook page and find pictures of some of Therese's most clever storage solutions.
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