Clever solutions solve storage dilemma

| Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, 8:48 p.m.

Finding places for in-house storage can be simply a matter of attitude,

“It is basically looking at familiar spaces with a fresh eye,” says professional organizer Jody Adams, who owns Greensburg's In Its Place.

Jeff Kokowski, assistant manager of the McCandless Lowe's outlet, says the secret is “making a commitment to do it.”

Storage seems to be a problem that never goes away, despite the frequency of efforts to handle it.

“These two rows are the busiest in the store,” says Kokowski, standing in a custom cabinet-shelf aisle of the store.

The Washington-based Self Storage Association says 11 million American households rent storage units, up a million in the past two years. But there are ways of finding that room in the house.

“It is a question to the no-space-wasted design,” says Susan Sikora, talking about a general idea that also is the heart of a top-floor storage scheme, AtticMaxx.

Designers and organizers say the biggest secret to finding storage space is to look up.

Adams and interior designer Carol Jackson of McNeel Jackson Interiors in Lower Burrell say discovering the principal of “verticality” can be a key in giving items a home.

“Going vertical means using all the wasted space,” says Vickie Dellaquila, who runs Organization Rules in McCandless.

Using space from the floor to the ceiling is wise wherever it is, they say. Whether in kitchen cabinets or bookcases, it is efficient to go all the way to the top to gain space for any kind of storage.

“Use walls as much as you can,” Dellaquila says, “and put the stuff you don't use often up at the top or at the bottom.”

She says that storage pattern allows a person to get to often-used items without bending or climbing up a few steps.

Verticality can exist in an overlooked space, too, they say. The area beneath a stairway can provide a place for shelves — or even be turned into a closet.

Another area that often is forgotten is the space between the floor and trusses in the attic, says Sikora, the co-owner of a North Carolina firm that makes shelving units for that slanted area.

Her husband, Sean Brisendine, a home builder, saw that wasted area in homes and designed a product called AtticMaxx. Units sit on floor or beams of an attic and open to hold a shelf that creates another level of storage.

“You just look at an attic and you see all that wasted space,” Sikora says.

A set of eight units sells for $169, she says, and the company also sells instruction kits for do-it-yourselfers.

“When you look at what we sell, a lot of people say, ‘Well, what a simple idea,' ” she says.

Space under beds can be used for storage, too, but Dellaquila and Adams say the bins used for such projects have to be conceived well.

The space is inviting in its accessibility, Dellaquila says. It offers storage room that is virtually invisible, yet easy to get to.

The size of the space is perfect for covered bins of shoes, Adams says,

But, they both warn, the under-the-bed bins need to have easily handled covers and perhaps even wheels to make then accessible. Otherwise, they often are loaded and then ignored, Adams says, becoming another form of clutter — even if invisible.

Natural storage places can be used better, too, the designers say. Hanging clothes from the mid-level of a closet can nearly double the space.

Lowe's Kokowski says closet kits that add racks and storage compartments are among the most popular items in the McCandless store. A 4-foot-by-8-foot kit sells for $127 while a 6-by-10-foot package is $179. Customizable units sometimes also are popular. In those, individual pieces cost only around $15 each and can be cut to whatever size is needed.

Storage units that are like pieces of furniture also can add space in rooms, he says. A bedroom unit ($329) is more than 6-feet wide and offers places to hang clothes as well as racks to store them. Cabinets for the garage offer a similar storage solution and include lightweight plastic units ($177) and heavier metal ones ($355).

“When a homeowner decides to do it,” he says, “it can become a whole-house issue.”

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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