Solving the problem of too much stuff, not enough space

A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING

April 20, 1997|By Rosemary Knower

If you dream about the perfect home, what do you see? A big front porch, tall windows, high ceilings?

If your thoughts run to practical matters, you may see a kitchen with room for all the pots and pans you need to cook everything from soup to nuts; one pantry with shelves full of your homemade jams, jellies and pickles and another containing your silver and crystal; and a closet for all your fine linen.

If this is your vision of the perfect home, you may have been frustrated trying to realize it. The cook's pantry for the foods, the butler's pantry for the silver and crystal, the linen closet for the napery, all went the way of the walk-in attic in most American homes built after 1940. But good ideas die hard.

The pantry and the linen closet are making a comeback, though they've been streamlined, upscaled and downsized for today's home. Designers are coming up with all kinds of ingenious ideas to deal with our need to put things away, and makers of both custom and ready-made cabinets are standing by to turn those ideas into reality.

So what if you have a 10-foot-by-14-foot, circa 1965, no-room-to-move-in kitchen? The solution to your storage-challenged space could lie in your walls. Some designers are taking the facing right off the kitchen walls, exposing the support studs, and building shallow shelves for canned goods right into the formerly wasted space. Other ingenious uses of space include taking off the soffit above the typical sink-counter-cupboard combination and turning it into exposed shelving for pretty, but bulky, items like pudding molds and pitchers.

Whether your home is fairly new or pretty old, you most likely wish you had more places to put things.

A little homework

So where do you begin in your quest for extra storage space? All good solutions to home-improvement problems start with a little homework on your part. By asking yourself some questions about what you need to store, and where you want those items, and how much space they will take up, you can gain an idea of what you need to do put your house in order.

In your mind's eye, visualize where you'd like to put all the things you use every day, once a week, once a month. Now, walk around the house, looking at all the wasted and partially used spaces. Do you have a hall closet with nothing but coats in it? Are there spaces under the stairs, or up near the ceiling, or along the corridor walls that are not pulling their weight by being useful? Measure them. Keep all your ideas in a handy little notebook.

Once you have a list of dimensions, an idea of what you want to put away, and what you want to spend to get extra storage space, you're ready to do a some serious shopping.

Start by looking at some of the ready-made units available. Ikea, in White Marsh, is a magnet for people looking for streamlined storage they can carry home and install themselves. The store features a wide variety of solutions to the problem of too much stuff, from drawer and shelf units to cabinets and chests of all sizes, displayed in room settings.

By browsing through the products, you should be able to figure out what you need. But if you feel you need expert advice, check out Ikea's design service. Talk to the staff about your desires and give them your dimensions; they can help you figure out what will work in your home, based on your budget and your available space.

Ikea, and many other home stores offer a wide variety of storage products that are easy to take home and easy to assemble. But if the idea of putting a pantry together yourself doesn't appeal to you, consider having one built to order and installed for you.

Cabinets and more

Kraftmaid Cabinetry is well-known for its cabinets, which are available faced in either wood or sleek, modern-looking melamine. But the company doesn't just leave you with empty doors and drawers. You can order all kinds of functional interior features, from built-in spice drawers to rotating racks that put your pantry at your fingertips.

The base pantry is available in both wire and wood versions, with 75 door styles, six wood species and a large selection of quality finishes, says Marcia Harris, director of special projects for Kraftmaid. "Our dealers maintain a design service to help you select the storage options that are right for you."

If your home is of a particular era, you may think that inserting a linen closet or a pantry would spoil its architectural integrity. Think again. There are companies out there that can make new additions fit into any historical period.

Russ Kahn is president of the Kahn-Struction Co. Ltd., a local firm that specializes in restorations and renovations that match existing architectural elements. Kahn's work has been featured in Victorian Homes magazine, and the company recently completed a superb addition of built-in book cabinets in the Maryland State House in Annapolis.

"I love period work," says Kahn. "Anything before 1935 is of vast interest to me."

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