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Kevin Bunnell, Renovation Design Group
A friend of ours, Bill Mead, has done a great job displaying his collection of Civil War memorabilia.

More storage space is one of the top needs on our clients’ lists. What we help clients realize is that storage doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of a closet. There are many ways to creatively add storage space to your homes.

The first priority is to carefully look at your existing storage. You must begin by organizing and decluttering your current storage spaces. Williams Morris, one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts movement, said: “Don’t keep anything in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” We have been in hundreds — probably thousands — of homes, and the few that were clutter-free and totally organized stand out because of their rarity.

It is not an overstatement to report that the vast majority of us have too much stuff! I would dare say that you can increase your storage this very day by 50 percent if you will seriously throw out and donate anything that you have not used or worn in the last year. (Note to self: I mean you, too!)

That being said, you may still need additional storage. It is impossible for the average family to have a neat and organized home if storage opportunities are seriously lacking. Location is the first thing to consider when planning additional storage space. You want to store items where they will be used — or as close as possible.

Extra rolls of toilet paper are a perfect example. The best place for this very important item is storage in the bathroom adjacent to the toilet. (However, you don’t necessarily need to store the two cases of toilet paper you just hauled home from Costco immediately adjacent to the toilet.)

Storage space should be designed to support the daily tasks that will take place in that area, as well as with your personal style and habits in mind. For instance, when designing a new pantry for the kitchen, consider how often and how you will use it. For a gourmet cook, the pantry may be designed integral to the kitchen layout and should be scaled to accommodate specialty items and equipment.

Other pantries are designed to hold cans of last summer’s peaches and long-term food storage supply. If this is the case, this pantry doesn’t have to be part of the kitchen, but may be located more remotely (even in the basement) as a room or closet with plenty of heavy duty shelving units.

Some families only need shallow pantries. Walls at the edge of circulation space in a kitchen can possibly be redesigned as new pantries with the addition of floor-to-ceiling cabinetry of only 10 inches in depth. Ten inches is all you may need considering that a typical cereal box, cake mix or several cans will fit nicely on such a shelf. Adjustable shelving is an important tool in any pantry, as customizing the height of a shelf to the items that will be stored on it will save vertical space. Having six inches of unused space above those cereal boxes is a waste of valuable storage territory.

Bedroom closets are another storage zone that never quite live up to our storage expectations. However, today's built-in shelves and custom closet design can guarantee that every square foot in the closet will have a purpose. Such an efficient closet takes planning, organizing and discipline. Once you know what you want to keep in your closet, you can plan accordingly and use the space to its best advantage.

When you are working with a smaller home, think of every inch as potential storage. Try to use space that is already "claimed" by another function. For example, storage drawers under beds are a good way to use that space more efficiently. Such storage can be permanent and built-in, or simple bins designed for this purpose can be quickly and easily added to your storage repertoire.

Another technique is to think vertically. Look around your house to see if storage can be added above something that already exists. This would include permanent solutions such as adding cabinets or shelving above existing countertops, or something as whimsical as storing quilts or blankets on an old wood ladder you lifted from your neighbor’s trash pile.

Most of the storage options we have been talking about accommodate items that fall into the useful but not beautiful category, meaning that you want these items hidden from view. However, we are sure you have some lovely items and collections that you want to store where they can be seen. For these items, consider storage on open shelves or behind glass cabinet doors. Ideally, these will be items that you actually use but which can also be showcased when they are not in use.

For those items that are too precious to risk using, find a way not just to store them but to display them so they can be part of your daily life. If you have collections, they say something about you. Displaying collections and showcasing your passions are a good way to give your house personality. In architecture, our goal is not only to give you a well-designed, organized and comfortable home, but also a home that is uniquely yours and says something about you and your family.

Comment on this story

“They” say you can never have too much storage, but we say you can surely have too much stuff. It is not a wise investment to spend money on creating storage to hold things you may need "someday." Cull, pare down, sort, redistribute and throw away. Once you get started, it feels great. It also feels great to have adequate, accessible and practical storage to help you keep your life and family organized and efficient. You do your part and we’ll do ours, and your life will change for the better.

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