Whether you’re renting, buying or renovating, having adequate storage options are top of most people’s wish list in a home.
We asked an interior design consultant about the essentials of good storage and whether custom storage is better than off-the-shelf.
“Storage can make a huge difference to both the aesthetic and the practicality of a home,” says interior design consultant Annie Bowen from Gallop Lifestyle.
“Being able to pack everything away at the end of a day can make a huge difference to how you feel living in a space.”
When designing or choosing storage with her clients, Bowen says her primary concern is that it must be practical and functional, and meet the individual requirements of the home owner.
“Make sure the storage will hold what it is designed for. This sounds obvious, but quite often I’ve seen people forget to take the time with their tape measure,” she says.
Books for children often require deeper shelves. Picture: Getty Images
For example, Bowen explains that in a kid’s room you should consider the depth of any open shelving as children’s books are a lot wider than a standard novel, and it’s easy to forget you need extra depth on these shelves.
But it’s not only practicalities that need to be thought through, as Bowen explains.
“Spend time thinking about how the storage unit will look: Balance and proportion are important,” she says. “Always consider whether you want it to be a feature or not, which will influence the choice of materials.”
“If it’s in the budget, my preference is to go with custom built joinery, as the end result is worth it if the practical requirements and aesthetics have been carefully considered,” Bowen says.Custom joinery is not an inexpensive exercise, Bowen says. But while a good joiner can cost serious money, you will also get a high-end finish and a piece that is perfect for the purpose and space if you’ve planned it properly.
The costs can vary wildly, and depend on the size of the storage unit and the materials. A standard Laminex colour, for example, is cheaper than a specific colour match polyurethane or timber veneer.
While custom storage might be a designer’s dream, it can be out of the reach of most renters or those on a tighter budget.
But don’t despair – thinking outside the box gives you plenty of adaptable storage options – reclaimed, repurposed, or second hand – and Bowen says most furniture retailers will have some seriously good storage solutions.
“A freestanding piece gives you more flexibility, especially if it is a short-term solution,” Bowen says.
“There are also some great modular options available, allowing you to choose your own size and layout.”
“And, if you are okay to build it and install it yourself, flat pack joinery is worth considering,” Bowen says.
“I just put a custom storage unit into a small workers’ cottage that has gone through a very modern renovation,” Bowen says.Each home has its own particular storage challenges, and needs a unique solution.
“The client needed a large cupboard to file all her paperwork and office supplies, which had been sitting in her dining room.”
The end result was a custom designed storage wall that looks slick, like it is part of the wall. Bowen says it hides away all of the client’s messy things while still providing easy access to them.
Bowen says there are two relatively simple storage solutions she couldn’t live without in her own home.
“Pot drawers in the kitchen are worth the money, and create so much extra useable space,” Bowen says.
“And toy baskets. With endless toys scattered about the house, I like to have somewhere for them to go at the end of the day.”
Consider if you want the joinery to merge into the background or to be a feature of the room. Picture: Getty Images
Here are Annie Bowen’s tips for good storage on a budget or in tight spaces:
Plan carefully: Measure the items you need to store to make sure they fit into the storage you are planning to use.
Consider aesthetics: Do you want to make a feature of the joinery or hide things away and not have the joinery as a feature in the room?
Hide it out of sight: If you’re using custom storage to hide things away in a small space ensure the doors are the same colour as the wall, to achieve a cleaner, cohesive look.
Trick the eye: In a small bathroom consider using a wall hung vanity rather than one that goes to the floor, because having a line of sight under the vanity tricks your eye into thinking the space is bigger than it is.
Get a seamless look on the cheap: If you have a cavity wall or are able to build a small false wall, insetting a pre-made mirrored shaving cabinet into the wall is a cost effective way to get extra storage and a seamless look