When your older home was built — say sometime in the 1800s — people had a few changes of clothes that would fit neatly into a wardrobe cabinet or a steamer trunk if they were to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip somewhere. Closets, if they existed, were small; just enough for a few quilts, coats, and other items they couldn’t see fit to throw away.
Decades passed and storage was still not a high priority. The occupants still needed room for just a “Sunday best” dress or suit, and a handful of other changes of clothes. Indoor plumbing came along and a small bedroom was converted into a bathroom. The linens were placed inside a small piece of furniture. These were the “storage solutions” of yesteryear.
Storage needs are much different than they were 100+ years ago. Clothes, along with seasonal decor, toys, mementos from everyone’s childhood, and those boxes you haven’t looked inside for a decade or so, storage space is more important than ever. How can today’s storage needs be met in an older home? You probably have more room than you think.
Options to Increase Home Storage Space
One solution to limited storage space is to build storage cabinets into the interior architecture of an older home. A type of storage that is often in short supply is a linen closet. Often, the space is there in those underused alcoves and corners. The trick is to find them and make them fit naturally into the flow and design of the home.
When there is room for a linen closet in the bathroom, that is always a bonus. Below, we moved a doorway and took a few square feet from an adjoining room to allow for a built-in cabinet beside a double vanity. The reconfiguration created just the right amount of storage for the space.
We were working on updates to a beautiful old farmhouse in Dover, Mass. One of the challenges: There was no linen closet. So we built one along the landing pictured below.
This vestibule space sits opposite a primary bathroom, so it was an ideal location for linen storage. As part of a much earlier addition (probably around 1900) there was an awkward space where the roofline sloped along the stairway. We built the linen closet around the steps, creating much needed storage space, and utilizing an area that was not serving a purpose otherwise.
There are spaces all over older homes that can be utilized. Below is a knee wall in a bathroom that we converted into storage space. This is a great example of the space being right there in front of you — you might as well use it!
Built-in storage comes in all shapes and sizes. A well-organized closet system isn’t just for bedrooms. Here are several examples of building storage for specific needs in different areas of the home.
The entrance the family uses can get cluttered very quickly. An increasingly popular solution is a wall of cubbies where each family member can store coats, boots, and whatever else they use to transition from outdoors to indoors. Go ahead and stash those bear claw slippers here!
In the example below, what had been a servant’s entrance is now where this family of six moves in and out of the home. Having a place to stash your things in easy access without clutter was a big win.
Garage and Basement Storage
In a garage or basement, things can just start collecting in a corner, with no organization. The clutter keeps growing until someone says, “enough!” Storage systems like shelving, cupboards, and containers will help you organize the things you need to store away for occasional use. Plus, if the garage or basement are used for woodworking or crafts, you can create storage for these uses as well.
In the garage below, we created a combination of storage and workspace, as well as a wall of pegboard for storage of bicycles.
Storage Ottomans: Opt for ottomans with built-in storage compartments. These can be used as footrests or extra seating while providing concealed storage for items like blankets, pillows, or magazines.
Modular Shelving: Instead of traditional bookshelves, consider using modular shelving units that combine open shelves with closed cabinets or drawers. This way, you can showcase your books and decor while hiding away items you don't want on display.
Under-Bed Storage: Invest in a bed frame with built-in storage drawers or hydraulic lift-up mechanisms. These allow you to store extra bedding, clothing, or other items without sacrificing valuable closet space.
Of course, to get exactly the kind of storage you want, a well-designed addition is hard to beat. Want a redesigned primary bedroom with a walk-in closet? Do you want that closet to be a sitting and dressing room as well? An addition can make that happen.
Looking for a dedicated craft room with plenty of space for fabric, art supplies, and a drawer completely dedicated to glitter? An addition can turn that dream into a reality.
An addition can help you solve multiple challenges you are facing in an older home, starting with more space for living overall, with the important factor of storage on the “must have” list of renovation priorities.