Designing Storage Space

by | Dec 8, 2023 | Designing

Combining functionality with beauty is the goal of a downsized home.

When you plan a new log or timber frame home, it’s natural to think about the way you want it to look and feel. We tend to dream about things like flooring, windows, and décor—the fun stuff! But don’t forget to plan for functionality. (In fact, that’s often where designers start: exploring how to best design for their clients’ lifestyles.)

Will you be using your home year-round or only for weekends and holidays? Do you anticipate hosting friends and family, or are you building a cozy getaway? Are you building a remote mountain retreat or a home right in town? One essential facet of functional design is storage, so you should consider which areas of your home need storage as part of the design, and how you can make the most efficient use of your storage space.

A good rule of thumb is to plan more storage space than you think you’ll need, to avoid having to add space later. If you are designing a “forever home” and anticipate extended family visits or frequent guests, that should help inform your storage decisions. If your home is in a remote area you will want to be able to stock up on necessities, so that may mean extra pantry or garage space.

As someone in the midst of a major kitchen remodel, I can attest that poor storage planning can make an otherwise lovely space frustrating and even untenable. After years of kneeling and craning my neck to see what got lost at the back of my lower cabinets, I made sure that my new kitchen design has pull-out drawers and shelving in the lower cabinets, extra pantry space, and simple design upgrades to hide clutter.

Some areas of the home naturally lend themselves to added storage space, while others might benefit from clever use of space or furniture that serves dual purposes. “Working from outside-in, definitely any sort of a garage should have ample storage,” says Erwin Loveland, Project Coordinator at MossCreek in Knoxville, Tennessee. “While open shelves are always useful, consider some number of locked cabinets for safe storage of fuel, chemicals, tools and such.” Garages can also have attic space or pull-down storage units that go in the rafters, for storing items you’ll need access to less frequently.

Another natural storage area is the mudroom. This is an ideal spot to design built-in benches with storage under the seats, overhead cabinets, or even lockers. Many families with log and timber homes enjoy outdoor pursuits, so mudroom storage is an essential design consideration for boots, skis, or other recreational gear. If this is the case for your family, think about whether you’ll be entertaining guests frequently, and make sure you plan ample space for everyone. Laundry rooms are a great place to add linen storage, but you can also store linens in bathrooms if you plan adequate cabinet space or shelving.

Just as I learned from my old kitchen, it is important to make sure you have the right combination of cabinets and drawers for easy access in your log or timber frame home’s kitchen. Deep drawers are great for pots and pans and even small appliances, while upper cabinets are best for lighter items like plates and bowls. A banquette in an eat-in kitchen or informal dining room can hold table linens. Open shelving is nice for frequently used items like coffee mugs or glassware. Don’t forget about special pieces for serving dishes or holiday china—you may want to plan some display space (or deep storage) for those items.

In your living area or great room, well-planned storage space can help eliminate visual clutter. “With the advent of flat-screen TVs and streaming, you no longer need big audio-visual cabinets in the great room but consider shelves on either side of the TV or fireplace,” says Loveland. These storage spaces are perfect for board games, books and magazines, and puzzles. “Something really cool that I saw (but we didn’t design) were shelves that went up along the inside gable wall of a home with a steep pitched upper-level roof,” says Loveland. “The shelves were at right-angles to the roofline, but they could still hold books and things like record albums just fine. It was as if you turned a bookcase on its side.”

Don’t forget about under-utilized spaces like under the stairway for cabinets that have triangular doors which can open into a great room or hallway. “These are more accessible than a space where you have to walk back under the stairs,” says Loveland. “Many of our clients are now building homes that will be used as vacation rentals. As such, large walk-in or reach-in closets aren’t as important as lots of space for beds and bunk beds.” In these cases, many families choose to use just an armoire to store a weekend’s worth of clothes, or beds with pull-out drawers underneath.

If you are designing a home with a smaller footprint, you can still make efficient use of space to ensure ample storage. A good designer will be the expert on the best options for your specific home. “The most important thing would be to really understand both your storage needs in the way of what is being stored, and how often is it being accessed,” says Loveland. “If it’s things like holiday decorations or seasonal clothes for example, those can possibly be stored in a garage, especially since many garages have some sort of climate control now.” Loveland adds that if you have a very steeply pitched roof, you’ll end up with areas that may not have a lot of head room, but still allow for storage of low/flat items. “Sometimes we’ll have areas like that behind an upstairs bedroom closet, that is still accessible from within the home.”

Just remember that good design embraces functionality, so if you work closely with your home designer on every aspect, including storage space, your collaboration is sure to pay off.