Interior Style

A renovation expert’s advice on built-in storage

Hide unsightly clutter and stash those out-of-season items by adding some beautiful built-in storage

Even for minimalists some amount of storage is still required in the home – especially if your home is built before 1940 and has an absence of wardrobes. The trick is to look for areas storage could be added and integrate it into your home’s existing footprint, no matter the age and design of your home. Closed storage will always feel neater than open storage as you can hide items away so it is worth building it in when renovating.

Wardrobes and cupboards

When it comes to adding wardrobes to bedrooms, I recommend built-in and full height. Loose furniture or clothing racks doesn’t optimise space, but utilising the floor-to-ceiling space does. This especially applies to older homes with higher ceilings. It might seem counter-intuitive to add storage in above 2-2.4 metres, but it’s perfect for things like off-season clothing, travel gear, luggage and other bits and pieces you don’t use on a daily basis.

Apply this same mentality to linen or hallway cupboards, too. It’s impractical to access shelves behind a nib wall, so why not have a second higher cupboard to store less frequently used items instead?

Alcoves and eaves

In a similar vein, look for places you can add cupboards just like you would wardrobes. An alcove in an office, a nook by your front door, a wall with no window, along a wide hallway, a wall unit around your TV – anywhere you can build in additional storage, even if it’s more shallow than a typical wardrobe, is going to be beneficial. If it’s there, it will get used.

Eaves are another good one, if you happen to have a two-storey house with porch roofing below – cut cupboards into the eaves. They’ll be low in height but great off the side of kids’ bedrooms and offices for toys, spare linen and things like sewing machines when not in use.

Ceiling space

Don’t underestimate the value of ceiling space, especially if your garage isn’t watertight. There’s usually somewhere you can cut in an access hatch and pull-down ladder, which isn’t too obvious. This opens up a world of opportunities for seasonal decorations and sentimental items that need to be stored but not used every day.

Kitchen cabinetry

Much like the earlier examples, use the height. Leaving your wall mount cabinets exposed to the room opens them up as dust traps, anyway. If your solution to that is a built-in bulkhead, you may as well add doors and store your fancy tea set and cutlery up there, or that dinnerware you got for your wedding and only bring out when the gift giver visits.

Bathroom cabinetry

Mirror cabinets are making a comeback. Vanity units used to be floor mounted and packed, but the wall hung options currently in fashion cut storage space in half. This can be easily made up with a tasteful mirror cabinet, and if it’s set back into the wall even better as it’ll look like a wall hung mirror to everyone else. Tower units that match your vanity are another option, as they can be hung alongside a shorter vanity to provide additional storage – utilising, you guessed it, the height. A word of warning for those who store towels in their bathroom, first of all – they take up a lot of real estate. It’s better to keep them stored in a linen cupboard, if possible. Secondly, storing them in a humid and damp room isn’t going to keep them fresh – so move them out and that should give you some storage space anyway.


The thing I love most about furniture is it can be taken with you. It’s usually not as practical as built-in storage, in terms of what it gives back to you, but it is a way to show personality and bring visual interest to a space – depending on your style.

Garages, sheds and studios

For tools, surfboards, bikes and whatever else you need to store out of the house make sure what you’re storing can’t corrode or go mouldy (think surf bags, luggage, etc) as these storage locations are historically not the most watertight. Having tools stored in a cupboard will certainly help. If you don’t have a garage or shed yet, or studio office/sleep-out, then I recommend adding one so your lawn mower and other associated items don’t need to be left out in the elements – or in your house.

Words by: Jen Jones

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