Keeping organized and minimizing clutter can be an ongoing battle. Acknowledging they can’t go it alone, many homeowners turn to a designer, architect or organization expert to create order out of chaos. From closets and home offices to pantries and mudrooms, the built-in solutions these pros provide accommodate their clients’ belongings while adding aesthetic appeal.
Planning the perfect storage unit often requires thinking outside the box. “We look at normally unused spaces for additional storage and functionality,” says Greg Wiedemann of Wiedemann Architects. “Clients will realize during the framing stage that areas hidden behind walls present opportunities to design a recessed piece of millwork.”
Mary Frazer of Closets by Design agrees that the best solutions are not always the most obvious. “That ‘light-bulb’ moment occurs when we come upon an unexpected idea that works,” she says. “I’ve fit workspaces under stairways and made the oddest-shaped pantry into a more usable space.”
When designing custom millwork, take a careful inventory of the objects it will contain. “It gets down to how many inches are needed for things to maximize [the millwork’s] usefulness,” explains Wiedemann.
Frazer notes that popular trends in custom-storage design include unobtrusive LED rods and LED-strip lights that brighten shelves and display areas; glass doors to showcase and protect special belongings; and light, textured materials.
However, even the most effective storage system can’t solve poor organizing habits. “Don’t confuse organizing with de-cluttering,” Frazer warns. “It’s important to edit your stuff before designing your solution.”
She adds, “I once heard that for every hour spent organizing, we save three to four hours in looking for something over time. I’m a believer!”
Storage solutions below illustrate some of the possibilities.
A rendering shows how designers at California Closets transformed a cluttered, unfinished attic into a cheerful—and organized—playroom where every toy has a home. Their plan combines a workstation and an integrated bench complete with cubbies to accommodate a host of activities. The company’s Lago Bellissima cabinets in a white finish are offset by high-gloss drawer and door fronts in Stone Grey and Parapan Mint. Push-to-open hardware offers ease of use, while floating shelves provide extra storage. Design & Images: California Closet Company, Inc., area locations.
The parents of a baby girl approached experts at The Container Store to help maximize space and functionality in the nursery’s modest closet. After taking stock of the tot’s current clothing and linen collection as well as items in storage for her future needs, in-house designers created a detailed plan using the company’s modular elfa system. The scheme combined transparent hanging drawers for storage of blankets and sheets plus socks, tights and accessories; a closet rod that displays clothes in easy view; and plenty of shelving, with color-coded boxes and baskets to protect yet-to-be worn items in pristine shape. As the room’s young resident grows up, the elfa system can easily be adapted, evolving with her storage requirements. Design: The Container Store, area locations.
Preserving views of a surrounding meadow was a high priority for the owners of a modern, open-plan home designed by Wiedemann Architects in Leesburg, Virginia. So after installing windows instead of upper cabinets around the perimeter of the kitchen, architect Greg Wiedemann needed to create additional storage to augment base cabinetry. “We came up with the idea of having a built-in incorporated in the center island,” he says. The custom mahogany unit houses a wall oven on the kitchen side; an appliance garage opening onto the island; and—facing the living space—a zone for a computer, a liquor cabinet and storage for glassware. Says Wiedemann, “This free-standing unit solves multiple storage issues all in one.” Architecture & Millwork Design: Gregory Wiedemann, AIA, Wiedemann Architects, Bethesda, Maryland. Millwork Fabrication: The Master’s Woodshop, Hagerstown, Maryland. Photography: Anice Hoachlander.
A fashion blogger tapped Closet Factory to transform an unused bedroom in her DC row house into a dressing room that would maximize storage space and convey a stylish, “glam” look. Studying her client’s extensive wardrobe, designer Deborah Broockerd utilized every inch of vertical space from floor to ceiling, creating zones for clothing and accessories. Deep cabinets with mirrored doors house formalwear while flat shelves display 42 pairs of shoes. Boots are hung on vertical rods and handbags and hats stow away on open shelves for easily access. A narrow island with a waterfall granite top contains drawers of various sizes to store lingerie and jewelry, the latter protected in custom velvet trays. Design: Deborah Broockerd, Closet Factory, Tysons Corner, Virginia. Photography: Chicville USA.
Starting with a cramped and disorganized craft room, Mary Frazer set out to create a highly functional and inviting sewing room for a Warrenton, Virginia, client. Her plan organized the long, narrow area as a work space on the right side with dual-height installations. A lower L-shaped countertop features a sewing area that accommodates her client’s two high-tech machines and a computer for intricate embroidery synchronization. The higher surface, used for laying out fabrics and pinning patterns, features storage below. The left side is reserved for more storage, along with a wrapping station. Frazer also addressed lighting, wire management and workspace heights to create optimal ergonomics. Now that the homeowner can easily find the materials she needs, she can focus on work and creativity. Design: Mary Frazer, Closets by Design, Manassas, Virginia. Photography: Bob Narod.