Updated: May 15
In an ideal world we’d all be terribly tidy and organised, but in the real world we’re just not.
In an ideal world every square inch of our dining room table wouldn’t be covered with junk mail, non-junk mail, things that don’t have a home, things that do have a home - but that’s full too!
In an ideal world we’d be able to vacuum underneath the bed – if we felt so inclined – without all the obstacles that we’ve created in that secret double-bed sized space. Boxes of student files belonging to long-gone, grown-up student offspring, boxes of trinkets with emotional value but you can’t remember what, boxes of things that might be useful one day but that have no hope of a renaissance. We hope, no – convince ourselves – that the edge of a velvet throw, and the hand-knotted tassels of an artisan blanket, a la world of interiors, that hide the gap under the bed, will catch the eye rather than the Life on the Veg boxes stuffed with the produce of our clutter. In our heart of hearts, we’ve just created a rather luxurious trip-hazard for negotiating around the end of the bed in the night!
So, back to the topic of storage, and we’ve all been there, and done that. We’ve lined our hallways with colour co-ordinated baskets from craft markets for a family’s worth of footwear.
We've all come home with battered trunks from antiques markets that 'have the look' and that double-up as quirky coffee tables. Great ideas but when the novelty wears off, you're left with someone's squashed shoes, and a vintage storage box that you can't access without first removing everything that has appeared on top of it - and you can bet that's not just the tea tray!
Small is beautiful, especially when the whole point of storage is to make the most of a space. So, on a very small scale, a hallway shelf could have a set of little shallow drawers integrated beneath it as part of the design. No more hunting for your keys or using a bowl on the kitchen table that quickly gets filled up with everything else. One little draw for keys. One little drawer for car parking small change. One little drawer for a torch, or for biros and a notepad for shopping lists. No more cluttered shelf to greet you when you open your front door. That precious shelf space can be reserved exclusively for a scented candle, a vase of flowers, a favourite objet d’art to welcome you home.
Under stairs cupboards. The bane of our lives. Whatever gets pushed to the back stays at the back until you forget what’s there, you always bang your head when reversing out on all fours after a frantic search, something is always in the way of something else however carefully you started out stacking and packing. It’s time for a pull-out storage carousel – just the same concept as in a corner kitchen cupboard – or for pull-out storage drawers instead of a single cupboard door that means you have to wriggle your way to the impossible space at the far end beneath the first stairway step. For a quick and easy, maybe temporary, solution, wire storage racks on wheels that can be pulled out one at a time, will save you time and hassle. Each one can have a dedicated function whether it be cleaning materials, shoes, or games.
Maybe there’s a little wasted space between an existing fitted cupboard and an end wall in your kitchen, or a free-standing piece of furniture with space at each side that can be turned to your advantage, completing a fully fitted effect.
Alcoves and irregular walls are the ideal candidates for slim shelves and cupboard doors that bring them flush with the adjoining walls. Of course, it’s all a balance, and nothing is lovelier than seeing your favourite books lined up colourfully on a shelf. It’s not about sanitising and neutralising the look of a room, its about recognising when you’ve strayed over the clutter line and need to restore a sense of tranquillity to a room.
A great compromise is to have some open shelves at the top of a recess, but to give the lower shelves cupboard doors. It’s a great way to rationalise what you want on display and what you don’t – and you’ll cut the dusting time in half!
The popularity of wall panelling, in new as well as in period homes, has been a growing movement. It doesn’t have to be just for good looks. Instead of attaching the panels against the wall, pinch a few inches, and set it out from the wall a little way. The Georgians were the masters of creating a faux façade on the exterior of a much older house. Why not do the same inside, a faux front to a set of slim shelves hidden behind. It’ll be aesthetic as well as functional. You’ll shave a little off the size of a room but even just the depth of a DVD or your best wine glasses will be worth it. With a simple design, hidden hinges, and press-release catches rather than handles – though beautiful handles can of course be part of the design – you will have created your very own bespoke slimline storage solution. Shallow shelves are great when it comes to finding things as there’s nowhere for them to go – how much time have we spent on our hands and knees or balancing on a chair, rummaging crossly at the back of a deep cupboard? We delight in our fitted cupboards in our bedrooms and kitchens, so why not in our living rooms too?
Bring on the MDF. It’s got its place, and with bespoke cupboards, created in unlikely spaces, no-one will know what goes on behind their closed doors.
And if none of these ideas appeal, head in the opposite direction and camouflage your shelves so that your eye sees the things you place on them, rather than the structure of the storage.
It may be an optical illusion, but that’s what it’s all about, and your sense of space will be intact.