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    Hidden Spaces

    One of the most overlooked elements of a house is also one of the most important. When you have it in abundance, it makes everyday living much easier, but you hardly notice it. When it isn’t there, it’s the one thing you realize you need more of: storage space.

    If you were to test drive a new automobile, you would certainly take note of space versatility and storage areas such as a third row of seats that fold down flat to accommodate moving large objects or that extra holding compartment on the side of your door for maps, but when you’re looking at a two-dimensional house plan in a magazine, it’s a little harder to determine space versatility and the amount of available storage. Unless you live in an area where basements and attics are not feasible or usable, you might even fail to notice not only the amount but also the quality of storage space that’s marked on the home plan, and not paying close attention to storage can create problems from day one. “When you’re looking for a home,” said Jan Schlesinger, Director of Brand Communications at California Closets, “look with your mind’s eye about what is going to go in it.”

    You can look at a home plan and count the number of reach-in or walk-in closets and pantries. You can appreciate built-in cabinetry that flanks a fireplace and that additional shelf in a utility/mudroom. However a home plan might have hidden storage areas that aren’t as apparent. Here are a number of tips to help you optimize minimal space for extra storage room.

    CLOSET SPECS First of all, count the number of closets on the plan in which you are interested. How do they compare to what you currently have in number, shape and size? Don’t be afraid to call a design or architectural firm to ask them the dimensions of a particular closet if they are not included in the plan specifications or noted on the home plan. Also consider where and what type of closets they are; that is, are they indoor or outdoor, conveniently located for everyday use or out-of-the-way closets suited for seasonal items?

    HIDDEN SPACE After choosing both your home plan and builder, carefully review your home plan with your builder, looking for hidden space that can be utilized. Some of the most common places you’ll find hidden space are under staircases, among unusual curves or angled walls, and inside walls that hold recessed fireplaces or cabinetry. If you can’t find enough hidden space to create a shallow closet, there might be just enough space for a niche to display a favorite collectible, artwork or mirror.

    CABINETRY Next, borrow from the retail industry. Talk to your builder about building shelves or cabinets all the way up to the ceiling; stepping stools or cabinet systems that pull down-and-forward will allow you to access every inch of cabinet space. In addition, ask your builder to think inside the box; cubby hole --also called compartment -- wall systems and library ladders are becoming increasingly popular in walk-in pantries and laundry rooms.

    DECORATIVE CEILINGS Two important lessons have been learned from pot, pan and wine racks. Number one: things can be stored right out in the open, and number two: items can be hung from ceilings. Incorporating the same basic methodology; use decorative ceilings and their tall walls much like hanging racks; you’ll work down from the top of the ceiling, cleverly disguising storage as display space. Working above furniture, architecturally contoured ledges can make the most of walls that highlight cathedral, vaulted and two-story ceilings, and on those ledges, decorative boxes, baskets and decanters can hold items such as holiday ornaments.

    MULTIFUNCTIONAL FURNITURE Studio apartments have revolutionized the furniture industry, because their occupants have asked for furniture that performs dual roles. Think about the extra storage space you’ll too create by using furniture that multitasks. Some of the obvious choices might be daybeds with roll-out trundles and trunks as coffee tables. A window seat can be converted into a toy box in a kid’s room or linen storage in a dining room. Topping a kitchen island with a butcher block counter might make an additional cutting board unnecessary, and you can turn a built-in ironing board into a workstation for scrap booking.

    GARAGE Some garages include closets and storage areas for tools, hobby supplies and sports equipment, but in others, you’ll have to get creative with your storage, which means maximizing the use of vertical space and wall-mounted units. Also, is your garage just for storage, or do you need a work area too? You might want to consider an organizational system with drawers, pegboard, shelving and cabinets. Modular components are available in many home improvement centers, and there’s always customized systems, which tailor storage and work space to your specific requirements and wishes. Just make sure you always plan for future needs.

    ATTIC During summer months in some areas of the country, attic temperatures can reach 140 degrees or more, so it’s almost impossible to utilize attic space all year long. With excellent R-values, sprayed-in-place polyurethane foam insulation can form an air-tight seal around your home, stopping air leakage and infiltration. By reducing -- and in some cases abolishing -- convection looping, attic space can be converted into safe loft storage. Current testing is experimenting with a closed attic approach that eliminates attics in some areas. You should check your local building codes when considering sprayed-in-place polyurethane foam insulation, because with an air-tight, thermal envelope, you‘ll need to learn how to create and maintain air-quality.

    FOUNDATION It may be obvious, but it is still worth a mention; anything other than a slab foundation will grant you storage space. A crawlspace foundation might provide adequate storage for potting or garden supplies, but check with your building code to find out what’s needed to control moisture levels in your area. Whether finished or unfinished, a basement offers plenty of storage, but it might only be suitable for items that wouldn’t be affected by the conditions.

    ADD-ONS AND OUT BUILDINGS Don’t forget about modifications. To create auxiliary storage space, you can always make adjustments to the floor plan or add an attached shed structure on the exterior, and if you’re considering an out building, check to see if you’ll need to pay additional property taxes on a separate building.

    VERSATILE SPACE Storage space may come from simply redefining rooms. If you need to use your bedroom/study as a bedroom, but also need a study area, a breakfast nook can be transformed into a computer area complete with an organized office system. If you still need a place for quick meals, add stools to a serving counter and turn it into a breakfast bar. Use rooms for more than one purpose like a utility/hobby room or study/guest room, and incorporate self-storing objects like an ironing board or Murphy bed.

    ORGANIZATION The key to storage is organization. Jan Schlesinger suggests you find out how to best use space by purging, organizing and maintaining. To help you do that she and the folks at California Closets offer a list of suggestions to “manage the stuff in your life.”

    Step 1. Sort Get rid of clothing you haven’t worn in a year as well as removing an old item when you purchase something new. As an added incentive, they even point out that in donating items to charity, someone can get some real use out of them, and you can receive a small tax break. You can cut your losses and feel good at the same time.

    Step 2. Take Inventory. Count and Measure. Divide your clothing by garment types. Put shirts with shirts, etc. Measure the space each grouping takes up. They point out this is extremely helpful for odd-sized boots.

    Step 3. Measure your closet from top to bottom. Sketch and mark its interior and dimensions. You’ll discover your actual cubic feet.

    Step 4. Consider How You Want To Store Things. Do you want to hang or fold certain items? Evaluate past storage methods and learn how to be more efficient. They recommend the following: sweater, sweatshirts and casual shirts should be folded and displayed on a shelf That way you won’t forget about clothing, being more likely to wear it all, and hangers won‘t distort their appearances. Jewelry and accessories should be kept in a drawer, so you can coordinate pieces with your attire -- right where you dress. Ties and belts should be located near their shirts and pants on space saving racks. Shoes should be on eye-level shelves or in a rack hung on the door. Luggage should be conveniently stored next to the clothes you most frequently pack on trips, simplifying packing, but if you travel infrequently, they propose storing your luggage in the attic or garage to free up closet space.

    Step 5. Draw a plan. Use the previous steps to organize and sketch a plan. Allow 21 inches for depth of hanging garments. Depending on your closet (a walk-in or reach-in), you may be able to build along more than one wall. Position items you use most at eye-level and within easy reach. Put out-of-season and infrequently worn items in less accessible areas. Having nothing on the floor is an ideal goal. Sketch in poles where you want hanging space, allowing room for garments and hangers. Sketch in where you want to display folded articles, purses, bags and shoes. Think about whether you want laundry bags, baskets for t-shirts and drawers to conceal lingerie and underwear. Remember closet systems may take the place of bulky furniture, giving you additional floor space.

    Step 6. Choose a closet suitable for your needs. Numerous options exist for material, depending on budget. They remind you to be flexible, your wardrobe will change. Wire products, melamine wall-mounted systems and furniture-like systems are available. They welcome your inquiries, offering knowledgeable information and helpful suggestions on storage that suits your needs. Visit www.caclosets.com for more information on their products and services.

    Don’t forget that organizational systems are available for pantries, laundry rooms and garages as well. More often than not, the best time to enlist the help of a professional space designer is in the beginning, and remember one of the best times to purge your wardrobe is before you move into your new home. At this very moment, you have just joined the ranks of those who know the inside scoop about storage space. Using a variety of factors, you can now look at your two-dimensional home plan in a new way. Hopefully, you’ll be able to incorporate a few of these tips in your home, and remember that adequate storage increases resale value.

    So now you know Star Trek had it wrong. Space isn’t the final frontier, or at least you know it shouldn’t be.


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