Storage. It’s the one thing no home can ever seem to have enough of. It almost seems like a human impulse to fill up the space we have, so even in places with enough storage space, we feel like we’re constantly on the verge of running out.
While the best solution is probably a vigorous session of sorting, evaluating, and disposing of the things you don’t want or need anymore, smart built-in storage is definitely part of the answer. And if you are working on a custom design/build dream home, putting the work and imagination in up front is a great way to maximize your available storage, and win the war on clutter.
Classic built-in storage options include bookshelves and dining room cabinets. But these days people own fewer physical books, and while open kitchen designs haven’t killed off the dining room, it’s often part of a larger space and less of a defined room. That means fewer walls to use in built-ins. None of that, however, takes away from how useful a set of smartly placed cabinets, drawers, and shelves can be. They can also contain a lot more than books and grandma’s dining set (all 24 place settings!).
Think of the kind of cabinetry you find in a typical kitchen. It’s probably a mix of drawers, cabinets, and shelves, whether those shelves are exposed or housed within cabinets. The way to create great built-in storage in rooms that aren’t the kitchen is to take the same idea and replicate it elsewhere, with the mix of storage that makes sense for how you live and what your design/décor aesthetic is. That type of built-in can be a lifesaver in creating a functional flex room, for instance, letting you transition from home office to guest bedroom seamlessly and quickly.
A mudroom can be the difference between chaos and order when you first step into your home. Built-in storage, such as lockers or cubbies, can give each member of the family a designated place to hang a coat and a backpack or purse. Pair that with a floor-to-ceiling shoe unit with adjustable shelves and you can stop tripping over everyone else’s shoes (never your own!) and never lose track of a pair shoved to the back of a closet.
Hats, mittens, heavy jackets, and boots are as much a part of Minnesota life as flip-flops, sunscreen, and beach towels. While they are designed for very different seasons and weather, they’re all things that get dropped on the floor when people enter a house. Provide your family and friends with dedicated spaces to hang and store these and other items, and the clutter will vanish.
Everyone (and especially, it seems, Instagram) loves an organized pantry. A place for everything, and everything in its place. But what are those places? Built-in storage, of course! A mixture of drawers and shelves can make it as easy to grab a quick snack as it is to quickly find the ingredients for a five-star meal. Open shelves are a very popular choice in pantry design, especially when paired with matched sets of containers that let people easily see what’s in them.
This is storage designed specifically for a certain appliance, product, tool, or function. For instance, if you use a robot vacuum to clean your floors, a built-in replete with charging station can be located in a toe-kick (the space at the very bottom of a set of cabinets), making functional use of what is typically empty space. Now the vacuum has its own garage when it’s not doing its work.
The same idea might apply if you’re an avid outdoorsperson, or just have kids who love to play in the Brainerd Lakes Area’s snowy winters. Designing a space to store not just wet boots but a boot dryer is a way to make sure that the next time you or anyone else ventures out, their feet are dry (and even warm). These are just two kinds of individually specific storage needs that might not be a big deal for everybody but can make all the difference to an individual or family.
Another built-in to consider is bench seating. Sure, the primary purpose of a bench is to give people a place to store themselves, even if only temporarily. But the space beneath that bench is an ideal place to create built-in storage. Kids’ toys, board games, workout equipment—anything you might want to access easily but then put away quickly can go into below-bench storage. You can transform a room from cluttered to clean in just a few moments, then park yourself on the bench and enjoy the view afterward.
As with most aspects of a custom design/build dream home, the best solutions take the way you and your family live into consideration. The built-in storage solutions have to work for you and your lifestyle. Thinking about what meets your needs and blends into your home’s interior design will leave you with built-in storage that wins on design and function, and helps you manage and house all your stuff.