Furniture that looks good and offers storage space now there's a neat idea


June 12, 1994|By Elaine Markoutsas | Elaine Markoutsas,Universal Press Syndicate

"A place for everything and everything in its place" is the neatnik's credo. And many others simply aspire to be less at loose ends.

But truth be told, most of us own stuff that just tends to hang out. There are CDs, newspapers, magazines and books -- objects we like at finger's reach, but not cluttering our line of vision.

Then there are the other clutter culprits -- keys, loose change, pens, mail and earrings. With the abundance of possessions in our lives, it's not surprising that a recent USA Today survey of 3,000 women ranked organization second only to losing weight as life's top priorities.

Although armoires, wall systems and bookshelves have been around for years in a variety of styles, we don't all have the space for another big organizer.

Enter storage pieces that satisfy our impulses to be neat with decorative features, sometimes throwing in another function. For example, CDs have peculiar dimensions, yet few designers have gone far beyond plastic drawer divider inserts.

Until now. The Frontgate catalog offers a way to team CD storage with lighting. A 300-watt halogen lamp tops a striking 69-inch all-steel column with a rich matte black finish. The torchere base is round; up to 60 CDs can be positioned into the angled slots.

The shade of the up-light features a cobalt blue accent. A rotary dimmer allows precise lighting adjustment. The lamp sells for $125.

Once you've put your CDs in order, check out some of the other multifunctional pieces on the market. An ottoman where you can stretch out your legs after a tiring day is appealing enough, but some manufacturers allow you to lift the top and find a place for decluttering your living room or den.

Anticipations Catalog offers a roomy floral-patterned ottoman that complements an overstuffed twin sleeper chair. The rectangular ottoman wears a tight skirt, matching the chair-sleeper, and sits on upholstered feet. The chair and storage ottoman are sold as a pair for $699.95.

Another clever hideaway is built into a pine bench sold through Hold Everything, a catalog dedicated to storage needs. The company, a division of the San Francisco-based Williams Sonoma, has grown into a retail operation that now numbers 37 stores from coast to coast.

"Our first priority is function," says vice president Jim Boike. "If we can marry that with decorative features, then we've got a runaway best seller."

The simplicity of the bench makes it a versatile piece, and its storage capability would be especially welcome in an entry hall.

Besides benches with hidden agendas, other double-duty pieces include a wicker cocktail table from Spiegel's spring catalog that features not only a bottom shelf but drop doors for those things you want to tuck away. Measuring 34 inches wide by 18 inches deep by 17 inches high, the table sells for $299.

End tables, too, are versatile. Designed to keep everything from drinks, books, small games and remote controls close at hand, one handsome table from Touchstone Catalog has a magazine/book rack built into its base. Crafted from mahogany with a warm walnut finish, the piece borrows its design from Colonial times. A bonus is a pull-out, moisture-resistant shelf in front and spacious storage behind the front door.

The table (22 inches long by 13 inches wide by 20 inches high) is crafted of hardwood solids with a rich cherry veneer. Priced at $235, it's suitable for a formal library or study.

A wonderful multiple-function piece that makes an artistic statement is a grandfather clock with concealed shelves designed by Seattle artist Robert Massa.

Mr. Massa paints the clock's face in folk-art designs corresponding to the four seasons. The clock doors open to reveal two glass shelves. Light from an inside lamp passes through cutout images in the door, and the tops are fancifully crafted from metal leaf and topped with finials of feathers or birds.

The clocks, which measure 60 inches by 10 inches by 8 1/2 inches, sell for about $1,150, and can be customized to your own whims. They are often used in hallways "for people to stash their keys and other stuff when they walk in," according to Mr. Massa.

In addition to pieces with multiple functions, furniture manufacturers are offering other decorative strategies for storage. If you need more than one drawer, you might consider tall, slim and handsome three- or four-drawer chests, accented with Japanese styling, from Spiegel. Rustic, sliced rattan wood with a lacquered finish is accented with hand-hammered, antiqued copper, whose dark color emphasizes the form. A 30-inch tall pedestal is $229; its 37-inch companion is $249.

Small decorative trunks and suitcases also make attractive storage. A pair of bamboo briefcases can add style at the side of a sofa. Stacked against the wall, a pair or trio of graduated briefcases assume an almost architectural look.

The Bombay Co. features two sizes: 14 inches high by 21 inches wide by 6 1/2 inches deep, or 16 inches high by 23 inches wide by 8 inches deep. The cases, which sport metal closures, are also attractively priced, at $29 and $39 respectively.

Woven storage pieces can be mixed with more formal English furnishings. The Bombay Co. also shows a pair of domed bamboo picnic baskets with a green wash, set beneath a Chippendale-style console in a mahogany finish with brass hardware. The small piece (13 3/4 inches high by 10 inches wide by 10 inches deep) is $29; the larger (15 1/2 inches high by 12 inches wide by 13 inches deep) is $39.

Even if you opt for more contemporary storage solutions, you don't have to be limited by style. When you're hunting for places to stash trinkets as well as necessities, consider pieces with more than one function. Shop wisely, and you can store stuff while lighting a room, keeping track of the time, organizing your music, or just putting up your feet.

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