Renovating with effective storage solutions

Space Savvy Renovations: Ingenious Storage to Maximize Your Home

Renovating your home presents an exciting opportunity for you to sit down with your renovation designer or design-build contractor and reimagine its layout and functionality. For most of us, life expands as our families grow and we acquire more of the things we need and want in life. For many who aren’t looking to buy a larger house, maximizing their existing space becomes a top priority, particularly with older homes or smaller houses where the square footage may be limited.

If you’ve seen one of the tiny house brochures, where they lay out all of the clothing and items stored in the house on the lawn, then show how uncluttered the space looks when everything has been put away in a space 37 sq m (400 sq ft) or less, you’ll get a picture of just how much you can stow in your home with careful planning.

Assessing your space, and considering paring back your stuff

Before embarking on your renovation project, it’s important to evaluate your current storage situation carefully. Take a close look at your space and identify any items you no longer need; clutter that can be eliminated rather than finding a way to store it more efficiently. Next, determine areas where clutter tends to accumulate, and identify items that are being left lying about, that could be neatly put away.

Prioritizing functionality

If you need to maximize the space you have, as you plan your renovation, it’s important to prioritize functionality and consider how each space will be used daily. Think about the specific storage needs of each room and/or open-plan space and then meet with your renovation designer.

Storage and space-saving options

Utilizing vertical space: One of the first things professional organizers notice as they enter a space is the amount of vertical space still available, a consideration often missed when planning floor layouts based on the horizontal square footage. Organizers will immediately begin to think of ways to integrate wall units, wall-mounted shelves, cabinets and alcoves.

  • Floating shelves take up minimal space and maximize vertical storage. Custom wall-mounted shelves at different heights offer a visually exciting way to store books, decor items and rattan bins.
  • Over-the-door feature hooks, mesh baskets, or adjustable shelves and organizers are designed to hang over the top of a door, providing extra storage for various items such as clothing, accessories like shoes, or pantry items.
  • Ceiling-mounted storage, such as bicycles hung vertically from cradle racks or wall hangers, can significantly reduce their footprint.
  • Tall, slim bookcases that extend to the ceiling can be crafted for storing books, bins, and some of your display items.
  • Hanging racks can help you get pots, pans, and utensils out of the way in the kitchen, and a plate rack can be a great organizer in a pantry closet. In the bedroom closet, they provide a convenient solution for storing hats and scarves, and pull-out pant racks are a useful addition to a closet or freestanding wardrobe. In the utility closet, brackets keep the brooms, mops and cordless stick vacuum tidy.
  • A lofted bed can create extra storage or living space underneath, separating your sleeping and storage areas vertically.

Built-in wall units and bespoke wardrobes: Wall units are perhaps the most efficient way to capitalize on under-utilized vertical space, storing items from floor to ceiling, and maximizing every inch of available wall area. Most storage walls offer flexibility in their configuration, so they can be reconfigured along the way to adapt to your changing needs.

In the living area, many wall units will incorporate spaces for media components like your big screen TV, cable modem and router, and the surround audio system. In bedrooms with limited closet space, a built-in wall unit can deliver plenty of storage space for clothes, linens, and accessories, while providing a stylish focal point.

Alcoves in bedrooms make convenient spots to add extra storage with a built-in wardrobe. Blending the cabinetry with the existing wall colour, or natural wood can create an elegant focal point.

Flex spaces and multifunctional areas: During the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, families were forced to spend nearly all of their time within the confines of four walls, and homes quickly became the “everything space”. Remote work arrangements and school closures made it necessary for many families to scramble to set up home offices and homeschooling areas.

As families found themselves cut off from their elderly, two new trends emerged: aging in place and multigenerational living arrangements. In response to the isolation aging loved ones felt during pandemic lockdowns, and newly realized concerns for their own declining years, many homeowners began renovations that included flexible open spaces that could be configured to support aging in place and multigenerational living suites if or when they would be required.

Flex spaces or multifunctional areas are open areas designed to serve multiple purposes and adapt to your family’s changing needs over time. You’re typically able to reconfigure the space by moving furniture or partitions, stowing some items out of sight, while bringing others out, to transition seamlessly between roles.

  • Built-in fold-out desks and tables are one way to switch a space from one role to another. During the day, your living room may serve as your home office. A partition can divide the couch and end tables from your working area, creating an inviting waiting area for clients. A fold-out desktop in a built-in wall unit or armoire pulls out to provide a comfortably spacious surface on which to work. A fold-out table can accommodate small team meetings and the wall-mounted television displays the morning Zoom call.
  • Hideaway closets to transition between roles are another handy way to utilize flex spaces. It may be important to keep a guest room available for extended family members who visit. But that unused guest room can be converted in minutes to a home gym or exercise studio during the week. The bed can fold into the wall as a Murphy bed or sofabed. From the hideaway closet, you then roll out the treadmills, dumbbell rack, all-in-one Smith machine and yoga mats, replacing them in the closet with the nightstands. Hideaway closets can also be customized to suit any space, providing ample storage for your clothing, shoes, and accessories, without encroaching on precious floor space.
  • Pocket doors, sliding doors and slide-out walls are innovative solutions that can help you transform multifunctional spaces from one role to another. A pocket door can separate the living room from a home office during work hours, then disappear into the wall to create an open entertaining area in the evenings. Sliding barn doors mounted on rails can partition off areas like a guest room or exercise studio from the main living flex space. A sliding panel can section off a bedroom from a living area during the day, then be pushed aside at night for an open studio apartment feel.

Repurposing neighbouring rooms: Knocking down a wall to combine two smaller rooms into one larger, open-plan space is another way to maximize your square footage. If one of the children has moved out, combining that spare bedroom with an adjacent bathroom could create a large master suite with a walk-in closet and en-suite bathroom. If you have an under-utilized room next to a bedroom, consider expanding the closet space by moving the adjoining wall.

Custom window seats and ottomans with storage: Recessed windows can provide additional seating space, and they make a brilliant alcove idea. A fitted window bench, with an upholstered top and hidden storage below, is a very practical way to hide a row of deep roll-out shelves.

Freestanding storage ottomans come in various shapes, sizes and colours. Their internal storage compartments offer a way to stash items like blankets, pillows, toys, DVDs or books while serving as extra seating or a footrest. They can be rolled around easily or tucked under tables when not in use.

Pull-out pantry and cabinet organizers: Pull-out pantries on rollers can be a real lifesaver for small kitchens, revealing far more shelf space than is apparent by the cabinet door faces and handle pulls. Pull-out cabinet shelves and organizers can also make use of otherwise wasted back spaces inside lower cabinets and upright pantries. Pull-outs create additional useable shelving and compartments, which allows you to store more items in the same footprint.

A compartmentalized cabinet design with additional shelves spaced closer together, racks and dividers help keep your items organized and separated, making items easier to find, while preventing clutter.

Recessed niches and shelves: When maximizing your storage space, it’s important to never overlook any unused nook, underestimating how even the tiniest of nooks and alcoves in walls and perhaps a desk in the hallway – those pockets of extra space – can help you stow or perhaps feature your treasures while you declutter. Your designer can come up with bespoke shelving and fitted storage solutions that can help you maximize your space, and perhaps showcase a piece to create a focal point in the room.

Your alcoves, shelving and desks should be proportional to the space, so they blend into the room’s decor. If you want to feature an alcove, it can be highlighted with an accent light or contrasting splash of colour.

Utilizing the backs of doors: Often overlooked, the backs of cabinet and closet doors offer prime storage space, with the added benefit of being able to hide your stuff simply by closing the doors. Shallow and narrow shelving units and mounting racks can be hung in almost every room, and are particularly useful for organizing kitchen and bathroom cabinets. If you can’t find exactly what you need to fit your doors, the cabinet company, finish carpenter or custom millworker should be able to craft shelves and racks to maximize what was once unusable space.

Under-stair storage: The space under a staircase is often under-utilized or hasn’t even been considered. Installing custom shelving, drawers, nooks or recessed niches and wall cabinets under the stairs can turn the space beneath them into a gold mine of creative possibilities. A few of the possibilities include a day bed or reading nook with pullout drawers below, bookshelves, a child’s playspace with a tiny access door, wine storage, and an office or study desk.

Overhead storage: Many garages can benefit from overhead storage solutions such as heavy-duty racks, lifts, or pulley systems mounted to the ceiling. These allow you to store large, bulky items like bicycles, sporting equipment, tires, or storage bins up and out of the way.

For rooms and spaces with high ceilings, ceiling shelves, racks, lofts and pulley systems can help you maximize your floor space when you renovate.

The takeaway

Renovating your home to maximize its existing space will require careful planning, creative thinking and perhaps some innovative storage solutions. By assessing the space you have to work with, prioritizing functionality, and incorporating effective storage solutions, you can transform your living environment into a more organized, efficient, and aesthetically pleasing space.

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