Think your home is not big enough? Think again about how you use space
I often get asked for the one thing that would make the biggest difference to a home. I would have to say good storage. If you have adequate storage you will find that you don’t need that much space.
We recently completed a job for clients in the RTÉ Design Doctors series who felt that their home was too small and just not right for them. They had two young boys and were at a loss to see how to make the house work.
Once the boys came along, life took over for Brian and Christine and three years later they found that their needs had completely changed and the house needed to be adapted to match.
This is something I am sure anyone with children can relate to – all of a sudden everything is totally different and your home no longer works.
We looked carefully at how they were using their home and quickly discovered that the main reason their home was not working was poor storage.
The sitting room was completely dominated by the children’s toys, making it difficult for Brian and Christine to relax in the evenings when the boys had gone to bed.
It also meant there was no space to store things, such as books and vases, because all of the storage space was being used for toys.
The children’s bedroom had no toys in it, which meant they were using it only for sleeping. The wardrobe in the room was used as overflow for mum and dad. The boys’ clothes were stored in a small bedroom that was never used.
All of this was making the day-to-day routine very complicated.
We proposed combining the two small rooms to create a bedroom for the boys that could accommodate their clothes and toys as well as create a play area for them. This would free up the sitting room, making way for new storage units for books, TV equipment and photographs.
For this to work we needed to think carefully about storage in the boys’ room.
When it comes to storage the most important thing to remember is that designated storage is far more effective than having a general cupboard into which everything is put away. Lumping lots of things together often makes it difficult, if not impossible, to get at what you need. Or you may forget what you have stored and run out to buy even more stuff, adding to your storage woes.
When storing children’s toys, make sure that they are accessible. This will mean that they will be able to get to the things themselves without having to call for mum and dad to help. It might also mean that they will be able to put things away.
In the boys’ room we designed different types of storage, including a pull-out drawer under the bed for Lego and another pull-out drawer for toy cars. We chose picture rails to hold the books, and these are a great idea as the books are easy to see and to access.
Now the under-used rooms in Brian and Christine’s home had a purpose, and they had a feeling of more space without adding any square footage.
Mum and Dad got their sitting room back and the boys got a playroom with great storage and full-sized beds that they could grow into.
The main rule that we followed was to have as much designated storage as possible. The old saying “a place for everything and everything in its place” for this scheme really was the key to success.
Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant