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Home & Garden

Using vertical space reaches new heights

| Sunday, March 6, 2011

Using vertical space around the house seems to have far more ups than downs.

It is a way of storing material without taking up more lateral space, says professional organizer-designer Leslie McKee from Mt. Lebanon. It also can be a way of avoiding stress on a bad back, says master gardener Alvin Sanfilippo from Hempfield.

It can be as simple as creating a "visual pantry," with the use of narrow shelves on a wall going down a stairway, says Linda Wernikoff, owner of the Crate cooking school and kitchenware in Scott.

Whether in the kitchen, the bedroom or on the deck, use of vertical areas provides many uses, ranging from the plastic buckets hanging on a wall to relatively sophisticated closet organizers.

KC Lapiana, proprietor of the In the Kitchen store in the Strip District, is sometimes puzzled when she gets only a few calls for such products.

"I don't know if people aren't interested in it as much as they just don't know about it," she says,

Being able to handle change

Flexibility and the ability to change are the keys to efficient storage around the house, says organizer-designer Lynn Staab from Munhall's Organized Spaces.

She says one of the simplest ways of accomplishing that is by using plastic boxes that are stackable and interlocking to fill up the vertical area on shelves.

"A lot of space is wasted by not using the area above things," she says.

The boxes generally are inexpensive and can be labeled and rearranged easily.

Walls provide the obvious area for vertical-space use in any room. Lapiana talks about kitchen items such as pot racks ($300-$700), racking systems ($100-$200), and knife magnets (anywhere from about $30 and up) that find homes for items that might be clutter elsewhere.

She and McKee both mention the great use of slat wall, grooved boards that can be hung from a wall. Hooks can be placed in the slats to create holders for a variety of items.

Slat wall comes in a wide variety of styles, weights and sizes, from $56 for one firm's 7-foot-by-6 1/2-foot piece and on into the hundreds for others.

Wernikoff made use of a generally ignored wall space by adding rows of narrow boards onto which she attached a small front. That created rows of single-unit shelves in which she can judge her supplies immediately. For instance, she can see how many cans of tomatoes she has because none is hidden by another.

She also has found great use of wall space with a medicine cabinet that has become a spice container and can as utensil holders for utensil.

McKee also mentions the effective use of adjustable hooks in garages, home for tools and mechanical items.

"Adaptabilty is the key," says one of the principals from McKee Organizing Services. "Your needs change as your need for tools change."

A different look at storage

Similarly, McKee says, racks, hooks and fold-out holders that make up closet organizers provide vertical space in bedrooms and baths. She has just begun a website dealing with that issue, www.pittsburghclosetorganizer.com .

But she warns the key to using this vertical space is not to create room for more things, but to find a way to make current possessions handy and more useful. She says if a use for an item doesn't emerge when it is being considered, it should not take up space in the house.

"Let them store it at the store," she says.

Use of vertical space also makes aesthetic, physical and practical sense in the back yard, Sanfilippo says. Ivies, clematis or climbing hydrangea all are natural to a trellis and provide a good look in the garden while not taking up much space.

Vegetables such as pole beans, gourds and cucumbers also can climb to full growth, making harvest easier for someone with a bad back.

Vegetables also can be planted in containers on a deck or a porch to keep them away from rabbits or deer. That allows them to grow in a climbing fashion.

A use of vertical control also is used in espalier, which is a form of growth in which the boughs of trees are held in place against a wall of fence, making them grow at one level and having fruit always at one height.

In all of these cases, however, Sanfilippo warns against the use of pressure-treated wood, which has chemicals that can be dangerous to fruit or vegetables.

Use of vertical space is not new and sometimes exists in a form that might not seem like it.

"Wine racks are vertical storage, right?" McKee says.

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