Not every home is sprawling with seemingly limitless space and storage. In fact, in many modern cities, an urban lifestyle often means a smaller footprint with a high price tag. Regardless of size, it’s smart to make every square foot count in your home. Pamela Hope Designs is always up for the challenge of seeking ways to take advantage of every storage opportunity as well as designing your space to uniquely address all your needs. In this article, we examine clever uses of limited space and home furnishings that can work double-duty. As you’ll see, you don’t have to compromise good looks for smart design.
1). Bookshelves are a must have. Store items that are used seldom on bookshelves hung high, including above the normal line of sight high on walls and even around the perimeter of a bedroom. For living rooms and kitchens, mix open shelving with cabinets to add visual interest. In the photo above from Dwell, mahogany shelves and cabinets supply extra storage space and serve as art in their own right with several eye-catching pieces. You can see, despite being a “glamour shot”, there are some books, a stack of magazines and even a speaker housed on these otherwise very curated shelves. The wall behind the shelves is painted in Messenger Bag by Sherwin Williams to give the appearance of more depth. We pay special attention to what’s behind the shelves. That can be a game changer in your décor. Paint and wallpaper can completely transform your shelves.
Also, take advantage of the vertical space you find in less obvious areas such as the inside of closet doors. Those areas aren’t just for shoe racks in your bedroom closet! You may be amazed at the options available that can get you organized and use space effectively. If you need more space near the front door, add hooks on either side of the door (especially behind the door if there’s an empty wall there) to hang jackets, bags and more.
2) Don’t let furniture space go unused. Ottomans and benches with hidden storage are smart options. I love the above sit-and-store ottoman at the foot of a bed. Its clean lines emphasize good looks and smart use. After years in the interior design industry, I’ve learned that many people use their master bedrooms to store items they haven’t yet put away, rather than have those items out in the public rooms. Storage ottomans like this one help clear the clutter with ample space for blankets, school or work supplies, extra linens, purses and shoes. Yes, if you need to put away items in a rush, this would be an easy hiding place, too.
Similarly, a two-tiered coffee table like this one from Wayfair, featured in Elle Décor, serves double-duty with additional storage space. This example uses a moveable serving tray on the bottom shelf to hold books that can easily be picked up and placed elsewhere. Designer Tip: Not only does a tray make it easy to move items around the house, it also helps corral whatever you are storing or displaying and keeps surfaces looking neat and organized.
3). Take advantage of often overlooked spaces like under the stairs or in “dead” corners. . Rather than having a traditional wall that you could likely hang art on, this option from Case Design/Remodeling transforms the area into truly useable space with a reading nook, cabinet drawers, hooks and shelves.
In another example for one of our clients, Pamela Hope Designs created a home office under the stairs that serves a busy family of four. Since the client likes Mid-Century Modern design, we carried that design style throughout the house and into the office. The primarily white looks lends itself to a clean and open feel.
We love the layered shelving from Happy DIY Home shown below. Instead of a traditional frame art piece, this environment places these shelves at varying heights for visual interest and a bit of energy. Live plants and other curated items are then added to the shelves for an environmentally friendly feel.
Don’t let those awkward corners go untapped. Maximize the space with corner-style sofas or benches to extend your seating. Corner benches are especially useful in kitchens and game rooms where families with young children can stow away board games, inclement weather clothing and other miscellaneous items. The bench shown here from El Mueble magazine not only has a lid that gives access to the interior for storage, but has been equipped with invisible wheels to allow moving, if needed.
A window seat is another example of furniture that can work double duty in spaces typically overlooked. Enjoy the natural light while resting in the cozy seat or reading a book. Maximize storage either by using shelves and baskets below the seat like this example from Elle Décor or by using a lift-top seat that hides items inconspicuously.
4). Moveable furniture such as a kitchen island on wheels allows you to move the counter to your meal preparation area and then move it elsewhere when it’s time to dine. Don’t be fooled into thinking these moveable kitchen islands can’t be substantial or feature designer looks. I especially like the ones that put key tools at your fingertips (a butcher’s block and counter combination, cabinets for pots and pans, and a hook or drawer for hand towels). Check out this slender butcher’s block island that was featured in Architectural Digest. It’s gorgeous!
A bar cart is another wheeled option that is great for presenting beverage options during a social gathering and can easily be moved to another area of the home to display a treasured collection or even serve as a side table. The bar cart that I inherited from my grandmother is just such a piece. It is actually the perfect size for holding a floral arrangement and appetizers on our patio when friends join us for a summer evening. In cooler months, I could easily bring the bar cart indoors to hold appetizers strategically placed throughout a party. (Remember the days of entertaining large groups?) Alternatively, this bar cart could act as an interesting guest room table, holding items that make visitors feel welcome in your home.
5). Use pull-out trays for desks with a slender design. Tight spaces present opportunities to rethink how a room is used. With pull-out trays like this one from House Beautiful, simply pull out the tray when you need a desk for work or bill paying. Slide the tray back into the cabinetry when you no longer need it. Note the hardware on the sides of the pull-out tray that strengthen the writing surface and prevent it from sagging — another smart move.
6). Save space with a Murphy bed. While these “wall beds” are frequently considered for small apartments and condos and aren’t a new idea, they are good investments for rooms that serve as a home office and a bedroom, which many have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. A Murphy bed allows you to extend a full bed (in traditional mattress size options) when it’s time to sleep. Other times, the Murphy bed can simply be raised into the wall unit so you can use the room more fully for other purposes. The example below shows the bed extended as well as the home office set up.
7). Another option for space-saving storage in a bedroom is trading a traditional headboard for a bookcase or shelving. This can be especially advantageous when a bedroom really only has one primary wall where the bed typically would be placed. This next image shows an example of the storage headboard for books and collectibles. Shelving eliminates the need for a nightstand and the wall-mounted lights prevent the need for a floor lamp. If you’re looking for more bedroom storage ideas, check out these ideas from Happy DIY Home.
Don’t sacrifice style and good design for the space you need. I hope this article helps you get creative about maximizing the space you have and loving the place you call home. If you enjoyed this article, you may also find of interest the following posts about space-saving ideas for small spaces.