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Admit it, first-time home buyer: Your mother was right. Beware old houses, she said - not enough closet space.
But, no, you wanted those quaint 19th-century touches. Now, you find yourself with piles of 21st-century possessions to cram into a house whose original owners lived in a much less material world.
Before you start storing socks in the seat cushions, consider the alternatives: Look to the ceiling. Imagine cordoning off space in the garage or basement. Rethink how you use an already-designated room. Visualize going retro with a pantry.
"Maximize what you've got," says home-improvement expert Bob Vila, founder of Bobvila.com.
"It's about efficiency," says New York City-based architect Mark Squeo, who knows about making every square inch count.
Even those inches above your head. Some old houses and apartments have high ceilings. But do you need an 11-foot ceiling in the bathroom?
Squeo said he had a client who owned a so-called railroad apartment - the front and back faced the street - so the ceilings of any interior room, such as the bathroom, could be altered for storage. He said his client was able to store seasonal clothing in a bathroom-ceiling closet.
Rafi Kadosh, owner of RK Construction in Long Valley, N.J., had clients who wanted to solve two problems and avoid one.
The two to solve: Build a room where their children can play video games, and make sense of the kids' mess in the three-car garage. The one to avoid: the cost of building a $70,000-plus addition.
The solution: build a 22-by-24-foot raised room in the garage, with a 4-foot space underneath it for their seasonal gear. That 4-foot rise made the room level with the house.
Kadosh created a separate entry from the house to the room, situated 5 feet from the garage door, leaving plenty of space for garage-type stuff. Cost: $30,000.
Vila and Diana Augspurger, past president of the Association of Closet and Storage Professionals, are big fans of pantries. They allow more open space in the kitchen, locate everything in one spot, and, for short folks, end that business of dragging stools from one cabinet to another.
"Three to four feet wide, 30-inch door, U-shaped - the amount of stuff it could hold!" Vila said.
"The pantry takes advantage of putting things in reach for you to get to," said Augspurger, whose daughter overlooked the closet factor when buying her first home.
For a client, Augspurger converted a coat closet into a pantry, including a four-bin recycling center and pullout shelves with tray dividers. The client's space was 2 feet deep by 40 inches wide. Cost: $1,150.
Sometimes, it's worth losing a little living space to gain some storage space, the experts say.
Augspurger, owner of Creative Storage in Buffalo, N.Y., said narrow "bowling alley" closets can be made more useful by opening up a wall to square things up without eliminating too much room space. "Try to balance the room by putting hangings on the wall that create a square dimension," she said.
Squeo added a walk-in closet by narrowing a bedroom from 16 feet to 14 feet and reconfiguring the room's entryway, where the main door and folding closet doors converged. He removed closet doors and installed pocket doors.
If you don't have the money to move walls, try editing your possessions, Vila suggested.
Kadosh agreed, recalling a young family who lost their roof to Sandy. They moved twice during the half-year Kadosh took to rebuild their home.
"They threw out most of the stuff they had," he said, and they didn't miss it.
He still added closet space, taking out the vanity between the master bedroom and bathroom, adding an entry, and throwing in "a nice closet organizer."
"People can do this themselves," Kadosh said. "They don't see it. . . . Sometimes, you have to take the initiative and bring [the materials] to the house and play with [them]. You have to do the planning, then go and do it. Fill in the blanks, and the end result is fantastic."
Find Storage Space In The Darnedest Places
By Christine Bahls, For The Inquirer
October 14, 2013