Solution to storage problem may be right down hallway

When the topic is storage, most people will tell you they’d like to have more of it. That’s especially true for those living in urban housing, which typically has fewer and smaller closets.

There are ways to get around the cramped closets and the clutter. One solution is to take storage beyond the closet and bring it into the room.

Years ago builders incorporated lots of built-in storage space in homes. Bookcases, china cabinets and entertainment units were standard features in custom and semi-custom homes. As these homes were remodeled and updated, these features were viewed as old-fashioned and dated. Many homeowners had them eliminated.

Too bad. They were excellent for all types of storage.

Even today’s furniture choices tend to reduce our storage options. The large armoires that once graced everyone’s bedrooms became obsolete. Dining room sets with matching china cabinets fell out of vogue. Many had their entertainment units hauled away once the wall-mounted televisions were hung. Laptops and tablets pretty much eliminated the need for a standard desk in many homes.

What we gave up for fashion and progress was storage space.

Cabinet manufacturers looking to expand their markets are designing and selling storage units decorative enough to be used outside the closet. Designs by Plain &Fancy Custom Cabinetry, for example, are elegant and practical. Sleek glass doors, ornate molding, custom-fluted pullouts and decorative crown molding provide the appearance of the finely crafted built-ins of years before.

These cabinets become more useful when combined with creative storage solutions such as pullout drawers for storing shoes, cabinets fitted with hardware to hang ties and belts, and even a valet for hanging a suit or dress. Those features make it easier to stay organized while keeping everything accessible.

Liz Lowery used standard, unfinished wooden cabinets to create a dining room storage unit in her arts and crafts bungalow in Elizabeth, N.C. Recently married, Lowery and her husband, Lee Lowery, needed storage space for wedding gifts. They painted the cabinets to match their decor, and the look is stunning.

Another approach is to turn a spare room into a giant closet. You will enjoy a well-designed “closet room” far more than the convenience of a guest room that may be used once or twice a year. I’d much rather pick up the cost of a night’s hotel bill for my once-in-a-while guests than suffer from too little closet space every day of the year.

Take your room measurements to a local closet specialty store, or hire a certified storage/organization consultant to help you set up your new space. If the room is large enough, consider adding an island for folding, storing and organizing your clothing. A full-length mirror and a bench for putting on your shoes also would be nice touches, if you have the space.

Allow yourself to live in your house the way you need to live. Make the most of unused space by turning it into a closet or adding built-ins to one or more rooms.

Designer and home improvement expert Vicki Payne is host and producer of “For Your Home,” available on PBS, Create TV and in national and international syndication.

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