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Finding Hidden Storage

Every house has potential storage space that goes to waste -- you just need a strategy for putting that space to work. These ideas will get you started.

Toe-kick cabinets stretch storage space; see #2.

1. Use narrow, and shallow, recesses of blank wall for storage. A tall, skinny, slide-out pantry is one example of putting this space to good use.

2. Build shallow drawers into the toe-kick spaces (those 3- or 4-inch spaces below base cabinets) in your kitchen or bath. Platters, cookie sheets, and towels store nicely there. Outfit each drawer with a touch-latch release so you can easily open it with a light tap of your toe.

3. Extend upper cabinets all the way to the ceiling. In many kitchens, the space topping the upper cabinets is left open or filled in with soffits. Instead, install cabinets in this area to store items you rarely use. Use a step stool to access the space.

4. Annex the back of a closet to create built-in storage for an adjacent room. A shallow cabinet wedged between the wall studs can serve as an extra kitchen cupboard or a family-room bookcase.

Customize cabinet interiors for the contents; see #5.

5. Equip your cabinets with features that maximize storage. For deep cabinets, install pull-out shelves or baskets that use up all of the space; for tall shelf spaces, use stacking platforms. Corner cabinets -- classic space wasters -- should be fitted with lazy Susans or with what cabinet manufacturers call "three-fourths circle-shape" shelves.

6. Turn the space beneath a banister into a bookcase. Many partially open staircases feature banisters you could easily replace with modular storage units.

7. Rethink the way you use space. Do you really need a snack bar at your kitchen island if it's next to your breakfast area? That space could be used to hold additional cabinets or even a glass-front mini hutch.

8. Make closets more accessible. Low closet doors complicate access to the top shelf of a closet. Oversize doors -- even ceiling-height models -- make it easier to store bulky items on high shelves.

Garage ideas: #9 and #10.

9. Go to the garage. Even in garages where parking is a tight fit, there is room in the space above the parked car's hood for wall-mounted cabinets to store little-used items. (Closed cabinets are preferable to open shelves that could allow contents to roll onto your car.)

10. Hit the roof. Attic areas over garages can be used for storage with the simple addition of a ladder attached to one wall with a hatch above. Unlike attic areas above living spaces, there is no interference with insulation between or on top of joists. A built-in ladder allows access without moving cars or repositioning garage door openers to accommodate drop-down attic stairs.

11. Incorporate storage into the furniture you buy. A front hallway bench can hold gloves, scarves, and hats. Coffee tables with storage compartments can hide back issues of magazines, and kids' rooms gain the equivalent of an additional dresser when a captain's bed is substituted for the usual box spring and mattress.


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