Function is at the heart of most storage solutions that today’s designers incorporate into their clients’ kitchen and bath projects. After all, at the end of the day, it’s still about creating a place to put a person’s ‘stuff.’
Thankfully, storage has evolved to the point where it’s so much more than just a shelf behind a door or a cavernous space within a drawer where ‘stuff’ is stowed, and, too often, seemingly lost forever. These days, much consideration goes into how to best organize what’s behind doors and inside drawers so people can access and retrieve items easily and efficiently.
Certainly, designers need to think about aesthetics as well. Maybe it’s a drawer with exquisite wooden dividers, or a floating shelf that not only stores glassware, but also showcases them artistically and adds beauty to the space. The choices are seemingly boundless.
This month, KBDN asked designers to share projects that highlight some of their favorite storage solutions.
Kaitlyn Wolfe, MBA
Iconic Design+Build, Scottsdale, AZ
As Kaitlyn Wolfe revisits this kitchen’s transformation, she is pleasantly reminded about the dramatic improvements she made to the mid-century modern home built in 1959.
Based on a foundation of walnut cabinetry accented with a three-dimensional, emerald green ceramic tile backsplash, Wolfe revived the space with a playful, organic design that boasts plenty of clean lines.
Working within the existing footprint, the designer also vastly improved storage and gave her clients more than 18 linear feet of additional storage space.
“The previous layout just didn’t use the space in the best way,” she says. “Now, their new kitchen has enough room for garbage and recyclables, rather than a freestanding trash can, and even a microwave drawer in a lower cabinet so it doesn’t have to sit on the countertop.”
The bulk of the gain was made by removing a 12″ soffit, which gave Wolfe the ability to include taller upper cabinets. She also revamped the cabinetry layout, creating an L-shaped arrangement that allowed for additional cabinets and eliminated the peninsula, which she replaced with a more functional island that she spec’d with drawers and an overhang for seating.
Additional storage increases were made by choosing custom, European frameless cabinetry with tab pulls that are routed into the door for a clean, seamless aesthetic.
“The way these cabinets are built utilizes every square inch of space since there are no bulky face frames,” she says.
Although there wasn’t enough space for a tall pantry, Wolfe increased the cabinetry’s functionality via horizontal lift-up doors on several upper units that her clients use for storing glassware and dishes.
“I personally love lift-up doors,” she says. “They are my favorite storage solution because they’re so functional and give easy access to contents.”
Wolfe further enhanced access to storage by using full-height doors on the cabinet below the sink as well as bifold doors on the wall and base corner cabinets, the latter of which also includes a lazy Susan.
“Manufacturers are designing more modern styles of lazy Susans that are more efficient,” she says, noting that she, and many of her clients, prefer them over blind-corner pullouts.
Although storage was a priority, Wolfe didn’t want to simply fill every nook and cranny with cabinetry.
“We wanted to break up the cabinets a little bit so we included a floating shelf above the sink,” she says. “It also gives my clients a place to display items or store things they use every day.”
lead designer/project manager
NAR Design Group, Sacramento, CA
Specialized storage is a key consideration in Ashlee Richardson’s designs, including this master bathroom where she incorporated a variety of storage features for specific functions.
For example, custom vanities are designed to accommodate a 12″ height difference between the husband and wife.
“He’s 6’8″,” says Richardson. “Although he’s grown accustomed to crouching down to use the sink, we didn’t want him to have to do that in his new bathroom.”
As such, the designer created multi-height vanities. His is raised to 40″ while hers, which tucks beneath his countertop and wraps around the corner, drops to a standard 36″.
The vanities are also designed to resemble furniture. An open shelf at the corner where the two meet is within arm’s reach of the shower so Richardson’s clients can use it as a place to set shower necessities, such as extra towels. The designer also gave consideration to storage for items used when relaxing and bathing in the freestanding tub by creating a ‘shelf’ that is actually an extension of the shower bench.
Above each sink, his/her medicine cabinets with lift-up doors provide concealed functionality and storage, including interior power and lighting as well as a mirror on the back of the cabinet that can be used when the door is open.
Black powder coated frames match the plumbing fixtures and cabinetry hardware. Richardson designed the lower frame to extend and serve as a hand towel bar. The black metal also coordinates with the stacked elements at the end of her vanity.
“They add a lot of dynamic interest, especially given the height the room,” she says, noting the 10′-tall ceilings. “The open frames in combination with the closed cabinets give her some concealed storage as well as display area.”
One of Richardson’s favorite storage elements is the custom make-up station positioned in front of the window to take advantage of natural light. The top of the cabinet tips up while the front tips down to give easy access to its contents. A mirror, outlets and LED lighting enhance functionality.
Another special element within the space is a built-in dresser, which serves as an extension of storage for their bathroom and his/her closets. It is designed with multiple sizes of drawers, including a trio of shallow drawers nearly 6′ wide, one of which serves as a place to charge electronics. One of the deep drawers beneath them hides a hamper.
“We converted much of the storage in the new space to large drawers,” Richardson says. “Drawers are easy to access and can increase storage to eliminate upper cabinets so a room feels more spacious. In the end, we were able to give our clients double the amount of storage within the same space.”
You-Neek Designs, Pittsburgh, PA
Emily Klapkowski’s clients had grown weary of their old, chopped up, galley-style kitchen. Major appliances were poorly placed, the workflow didn’t make sense and several doors and window openings worked against them. Plus, cabinets were ineffective for any type of efficient storage and an oddly shaped closet they used as a pantry was so deep that it was difficult to use.
Focusing on cabinetry and function is one of Klapkowski’s favorite parts of the design process, so creating a wealth of storage solutions is always fundamental to any space she creates.
“I work with a local cabinetmaker and everything is custom made so we can solve a lot of storage problems,” she says.
Many of her favorite solutions are included in this kitchen, starting with a more suitable and useful tall pantry cabinet.
“People don’t always have one place where they store food,” she says. “Typically it’s scattered throughout the kitchen.”
Oftentimes she’ll incorporate storage on the inside of the doors, which has the benefit of shortening the shelves within the cabinet housing so when someone opens the door, they can visually see everything inside.
Another frequent request is for drawers in the corners of base cabinets, which Klapkowski’s clients often use for corralling plastic storage containers and their accompanying lids, as well as items like plastic wrap and aluminum foil that are packaged in slender boxes that fit neatly into the long drawers.
The designer also often gets requests for built-in paper towel dispensers, which she likes to locate conveniently next to the sink. As a complement, Klapkowski usually includes a wide, tall drawer beneath the dispenser that can be used for cookie sheets, cutting boards, platters, etc.
“Everything loads from the top, and since I include dividers, items don’t lean against each other,” she says.
Additional special storage features in this kitchen include a shallow-depth drawer beneath the drop-in cooktop that the homeowners use for storing cooking utensils. A magnetic knife strip located near the cooktop eliminates the need for a drawer or countertop knife block and keeps cutting utensils handy, while a ‘touchdown station’ serves as command central and keeps mail and the kids’ school papers in check.
While many storage elements focus on keeping items hidden, Klapkowski did include a few open floating shelves that flank the bay window above the sink.
“She wanted a big window to let in a lot of light,” she says, adding that it sits flush to the countertop to maximize light flow for her indoor window herb garden. “It didn’t make sense to jam cabinets to each side of it. Plus, sometimes it’s better to end upper cabinets on a straight run so you don’t have awkward corner cabinets.
“Everyone also seems to want more storage, so it may be tempting to fill every square inch of wall with a cabinet,” she continues. “But if we’ve designed the cabinetry efficiently, we can get away with fewer cabinets and include other elements such as shelves, which can open up the space.” ▪