Interiors: Space exploration - clever storage solutions
Creating storage solutions from out of nowhere.
The day had finally come
When everything there
Seemed misplaced or out of place
As an ex's box of things
Brent Pallas' poem, Cleaning An Attic, describes an attic where there are "enough old tools to restart a world" and every drawer is "filled with the other half of things". Chaotic attics can be nostalgic, but the one in the poem isn't. It's full of broken, useless, irrelevant stuff.
This sounds only too familiar. Our own attic is a head-bumping horror with the apparent power to swallow and digest fairly large items. Every time I stash something up there, I wonder if I'll ever find it again. That's what happens when storage spaces are poorly organised.
"The main mistake people make is not actually considering what they want their storage to do," says Aoife Rhattigan, interior designer and owner of Restless Design. "So take your cue from what's not working, look at what you want to accommodate within the space and then design the storage around it."
If you're revising your storage on a large scale, the best (although not the cheapest) option is to ask an interior designer to design a system that takes your needs and the limitations of the space into account, and then hire a skilled joiner to build it.
"Bespoke storage is probably the best solution if you want to get the entire space working for you," says Rhattigan.
The trouble is that not everyone can afford it. As with clothes, it's usually cheaper to buy something 'off the peg'.
For attic spaces like mine, with crawl spaces on either side of a conversion, one obvious storage solution is to insert deep drawers into the wall of the attic. The Irish company Smart Storage has a product that fits into an existing attic. Once fitted, the drawers are flush with the wall and can be stacked up to three deep. The units don't offer as much flexibility as an open space, but they're a lot easier to keep organised. They start at €399, including fitting.
One of the most abused storage spaces in Irish homes is the cupboard under the stairs. "It ends up in a mumbo-jumbo mess," says Rhattigan. She suggests rationalising the space into a tall cupboard for coats and the vacuum cleaner, and a separate space for shoes. Smart Storage also stocks and fits drawers for under-stair storage. The most popular is the three drawer unit for €549.
Rhattigan is also a big fan of locating space that you didn't know you had, and then converting it into storage. Most people, she finds, don't utilise the potential storage space under the bed.
"What I've done in our apartment is to build a platform so the bed is on a raised dais with drawers for clothes in the side."
She's also invested in a bed with gas-lift hinges. The mattress lifts up easily to reveal storage space below. "We call it the garden shed - it's where we store everything from shoes to the tool box!"
Until recently, gas-lift storage beds were only available in high-end luxury ranges, but the technology is beginning to filter down into the mainstream. The gas-lift Franklyn storage bed currently costs €339 from Mattress Mick for a standard double. If you want a bed with extra storage, the 4You4Poster king-size bed is loads of fun. It's designed by a Polish company called Vox and costs €1,039 from Cuckooland. Visually, it's an angular modern rendition of the historic four poster bed, with storage in every conceivable place.
There are storage units under the bed (a gas-lift mattress is an optional extra) but there's also an enclosed space behind the headboard and a shelving unit above it. Other extras include a side ladder, from which to drape clothes or hanging plants, and an infant hammock. That's so you can dangle your sleeping baby above the bed (maybe it's a Polish thing).
Some people install a projector above the headboard and a pull-down projection screen at the end of the canopy frame. If you like to watch movies in bed, this is a lot more space-efficient than installing a television.
The question is - could you sleep in such an exciting bed? Feng Shui experts generally advise against storing things under the bed. Sleeping above your walking boots, for example, could give you restless dreams. But Feng Shui isn't for everyone and Rhattigan doesn't buy into the philosophy. "I sleep a lot better in a tidy bedroom!" she says firmly.
Similarly, it's easier to operate in a bathroom with adequate shelving, and the space behind the mirror has good storage potential. A two-door mirrored wall cabinet from Ikea's Godmorgon range costs €200, and for an extra €50, you can install an LED strip light over it. The ensemble is an efficient and very unobtrusive way of creating storage where there would otherwise be none.
The space between kitchen cupboards and the ceiling is another under-utilised area. It's often used informally, but when objects are shoved on top of cabinets, they tend to look untidy.
"I don't like to look at things gathering dust," says Rhattigan. "We're living with a kitchen that was in the apartment already, so we had doors fitted above the existing units."
Now, the previously wasted space between the cabinets and the ceiling is used to stash infrequently used-items, like champagne flutes and the blender.
"I had to buy a set of steps in Ikea so I could reach the upper cupboards," Rhattigan admits.
And where do the steps live? Under the bed in the "garden shed".
See restless.design, smartstorage.ie, mattressmick.ie, cuckooland.com.
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