Nooks & Crannies: Using Spaces Many Homes Waste

 corner shelf kitchen

Do you really need more space, or can you just use your space better? Here are some ideas to get you thinking!


nook storageI’ve been looking at a lot of European homes for a long time now and I find it fascinating how well they use all the space they have.

Over there, they don’t have the American luxury of Building Bigger. So many urban buildings date back a century or more, some even as old as a thousand years, that owners and residents are generally not allowed to modify exteriors. Instead, they’re forced to get innovative with using interior space better.

In fact, many of the old buildings don’t even have built-in closets, meaning furniture needs to be the storage solution. That’s where the big old wardrobes come in. And it’s also where creativity comes into play with using things like steps in their staircases as camouflaged drawers for added storage.

Using what your home gives ya

While I’m a big fan of downsizing so you don’t need storage, the reality is that the average life does require some storage. No getting around things like spare blankets for cold months, Christmas decorations, family documents, select childhood keepsakes, and other stuff worth hanging onto. It’s got to go somewhere.

Stairways, then, are a perfect place to put them. In my home right now, my storage is under the stairs. That’s great, but what about the actual steps themselves? They’re not used for anything. And they could be! The risers could have drawers. Perfect spots, indeed, for those blankets and Christmas trinkets, and much more. It’s possibly an expensive install, but there are so many sites with DIY hacks for stairways that I’m surprised I don’t hear of more people using them.

Eclectic Laundry Room by Montreal Architects & Building Designers John Hannah Architectural Design & Rendering

A pull-out drawer in each riser provides extra utility space within the confines of what you already have. With so many stairs descending into front foyers and entryways at home, I love how some folks use the “stair drawer” as a place to store shoes. Another great thing about ’em is anything stored there means no need to climb up on a chair and haul heavy things down off high shelves. Who enjoys that?

Other ill-used spaces

Corners are a great spot we can all use better. Angled shelves that tuck into corners can make a great use of space. I had a tiny bathroom in the last place I lived in, and that’s how I made my bathroom saner, by getting my dad to make me a simple, but smart corner shelf on which I could store my toiletries. These days, it’s in my bedroom as a pretty knickknack spot.

There are lots of corner shelves available for purchase, if a built-in solution is out of your hands, and they vary considerably in price. I quite like the nice corner plant stands with several tiers that are 6 or 7 feet high. That’s a great way to use your corners.

Traditional Kitchen by Brooklyn Photographers Francis Dzikowski Photography Inc.

How about above the kitchen cupboards? Sometimes these are made as enclosed bulkheads, other times they’re used as cabinet space, but often they’re left empty. Not everyone puts them to use, but they should. Personally, I don’t like cramming them full of mishmashed stuff, but feel they’re a terrific place to store lesser-used pretty items, like a fondue set, flower vases, and other such prettiness.

So much possibility

From smarter furniture, like coffee tables with storage, through to well-placed built-in solutions, like bench seating with under-seat store-alls in halls or under windows, there are lots of ways you’re probably not maximizing the space you have.

Instead of looking for ways to “embiggen your home,” make your home work smarter. Tap into that European ethos of using what you have well, rather than just getting more of it.

Optimizing use of space is the number one priority for anyone wanting a smaller footprint in their home. From converting stairs to storage right through to rethinking furniture, corners, and gaps, there’s a lot of potential that might be waiting to be discovered in your home!

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