Small House, Happy Home
Storage for Small Spaces
Studio apartment living has its advantages (there is less area to clean!), but it also has its downside when it comes to storage. Studio apartments (and many college dorms) pose a particular problem due to the fact that all household functions are limited to one room (i.e., eating, entertaining, sleeping, studying). This article is the first of two that will deal with unique solutions for studio apartment living.
Weeding out unnecessary belongings is essential, especially in a studio apartment where space is at a premium. Again, an inventory of the quantity and sizes of your items will also be useful to help tackle your storage needs. Next, decide on a storage option. For studio apartments, I propose the following for your things: hide them, move them, or store them in plain sight. This article will focus on hiding your belongings.
Hiding your stuff is a good idea and generally means putting your things inside other stored objects. For this, any hollow item is a potential storage space. For example, we all have suitcases or luggage stored away for vacations and travel. Why store them empty? Inside stored luggage is a great place to save out-of-season clothing or holiday decorations. If you travel a lot, this may be a hassle, but if you are like me, you will only have to empty your suitcases once or twice per year for a trip.
Baskets are a decorative way to hide your storage items. Utilize baskets and fill them with sewing supplies, art or office supplies, canned or dry goods, etc. Use baskets with lids so they can be stacked and placed on shelves or on the floor. Baskets are very inexpensive and readily available at garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores.
Wicker chests and steamer trunks are useful for storage of blankets, table linens, and out-of-season clothing and can be used as coffee- or end-tables. Place them up against a wall near a window, add some cushions, and you have a nice window seat. These chests can also be found inexpensively at resale shops or if you are handy, you could make a storage box or window seat out of 2x4 lumber and press board.
If you are just starting out and looking to furnish a studio apartment, consider multi-function furniture as a way to manage your space. Futons or sofa-sleepers are good options, but they are often expensive (although less expensive than buying both a bed and a couch). An inexpensive alternative is to make a daybed out of your existing bed by placing its long side near a wall and adding cushions up against the wall and bolster pillows on each end. This eliminates the need for a couch.
There are also products on the market that allow for built-in drawers under the bed. If you are handy, you can make your own platform bed, but the really inexpensive alternative is to use cardboard or plastic under-bed boxes.
Catalogs such as Hold Everything and Lillian Vernon offer many items for storage, but they can be expensive. Using a little creativity, these catalogs can be great inspiration for more thrifty solutions. For example, either buy an inexpensive metal shelving unit or make one out of 2x4 lumber and press board, then purchase inexpensive muslin fabric (approx. $2 @ yard) or better yet, bed sheets from a garage sale, and create a slipcover for your ugly shelves making them useful and decorative. If one sheet is not big enough, sew several together until you get the right fit. (Don't forget to cut slits up the corners of the cover to make your belongings accessible and add ties so they will close.)
Almost anything can be slip covered to add more decorative storage. I use a long, rectangular card table to hold my computer, monitor, and printer and by throwing a floor-length clean sheet over it, I am able to store extra office supplies, old client files, and all the computer wiring under the table very neatly.
For really large items that can't be slip covered, put somewhere else, or hidden any other way, there is always the solution of placing a large object in front of it so it won't be seen. I recommend a folding Japanese screen or a cluster of large plants. Screens can be made with inexpensive lumber and covered with paper, fabric, photographs, or lightweight art (this could also be the answer to not having enough wall space for art or photos). Screens are great because they not only hide clutter, but they also offer privacy (especially for one-room living) and add personality to your living space.
Next month we will continue studio apartment solutions by looking at other creative ways to manage one-room living. See you then!
Michael Allen is a part-time planning consultant and professional organizer in Cleveland, Ohio. He offers workshops and organization services to homes and businesses to help people get, and stay organized and maximize their personal satisfaction and professional productivity. For more information, contact him at michaelallen @juno.com.
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