Mr Storage makes the case for making creative space
The man behind the under-the-stairs cloakroom on Dragons’ Den practises what he preaches and his own home is a model of clutter-free living
Paul Jacob at home in Greystones, Co Wicklow
Paul Jacob, the civil engineer behind Smart Storage, the company that makes those clever under-the-stairs drawers, has squeezed every inch of space out of his three-bedroom semi, without losing a centimetre of floor space.
“Storage is considered a luxury when in fact it should be treated as a basic,” says Jacob, aka Mr Storage, Sarah Beeney’s go-to man for solving her storage problems.
In the Greystones home he shares with his wife, Clodagh, and their daughters, Ellen and Holly, he has added four cubic metres of secret storage; in the attic, under the stairs and behind the bath, which amounts to 75 percent of the size of his small third bedroom or box room. This is without losing a single centimetre of floor space – all this storage is situated in unused cavities in the home.
And they’re in every property, he says. “We need to reconsider the cubic volume of the home and how better to utilise it.”
His house has become a laboratory for his smart storage ideas.
He extended the property, which was situated on a triangular-shaped plot that faced east to the rear, following the lines of the plot so that their kitchen could expand to become a large kitchen, diner, livingroom and the room adjacent become a TV room for Ellen and Holly. This added 51sq m (550sq ft) to the 102sq m (1100sq ft) house. An attic conversion gave him another 23sq m (250sq ft).
What is far more interesting is how he made use of so-called “dead zones” in the house – the hall, landing, attic, bathroom and outside shed – to create living spaces that are blissfully clutter free. “It’s not expensive but it does involve joined up thinking,” he says. He wants architects, interior designers and developers to consider storage in order to create better functioning homes that are more pleasurable to live in.
The hall is the thoroughfare of any home, the most travelled space within the property, Jacobs says. Coats, school bags, sports kits and shoes are the “road works that block the free flow of movement”. Under the stairs he has a cloakroom for coats and deep drawers that can accommodate the rest of the clutter listed above. The drawer system featured on the television show Dragon’s Den and inspired Norah Casey to back his business. Since then Jacob has built a flatpack version that can be purchased in places such as Woodie’s and installed by trained fitters anywhere in the country.
The space behind the bath facia in the family bathroom is another untapped void, says Jacob. “Forty per cent of the space within it is unused.” By turning the bath facia into a pullout flap he plans to create a place for secret shelving that can store 12 to 15 family-size bottles of shampoo.
The Jacobs turned their three-bedroom house into a two-bed because the box room was “unusable” Jacob explains. “We have two daughters. One had a good big bedroom and the other had no room for anything. By knocking the two rooms into one the girls now also have a study and play area.” He claims it makes better use of the space although agents would take the view it impacts the value of the property because it only has two bedrooms.
The floor-to-ceiling hot press in the Jacob household is situated on the landing. The hot water cylinder in it was so well insulated that it gave off very little heat so Jacob moved it outside into one of two sheds he had custom built. He retained the hot water pipes meaning the warm air had increased space to circulate and dry clothes. There’s also lots more shelf space to store bed linen and towels.
Suitcases and Christmas decorations are kept in the attic in the original storage which was created when he converted the space 10 years ago. It added 23sq m (250sq ft) to the house. It’s accessed through one of two hobbit-sized doors that you have to crawl through – fine for once-a-year forages. In the additional untapped volume of the internal wall he installed deep modularised drawers and rack systems, each insulated from the other to help keep out moths and mice.
Into one shed, approximately two by two metres in size, built on the north-facing perimeter fence where it wouldn’t throw shadow into the garden, he moved the water tanks, which were originally in the attic. By investing in a water pump he’s retained water pressure levels. “As well as minimising noise levels, having them there means if a tank leaks there will be no damage done to the house,” he says. The space also houses golf clubs, the lawnmower, fishing tackle and the family’s bikes.
In a second shed, two metres by one metre in size, along the same perimeter wall, Jacob installed the hot water cylinder and the condenser boiler, one at each end. The warm air from both circulates and dries clothes on a washing line 1.6 metres long that hangs between them. All this happens behind a set of louvred doors so the laundry gets that fresh air smell but remains protected from our unpredictable weather. It also stops laundry blighting the view from the kitchen and TV room. A sheet of light plywood hung in front of the pipework doubles as a place to hang additional storage baskets, sports equipment and tools.
The back garden faces east. The Jacobs moved their deck and patio to the east-facing perimeter wall at the far side of the garden, opposite the sliding doors that open from the kitchen and adjacent TV room. Originally a garden shed occupied this space but Jacob noted that the family dog, Obi, used to lie in front of it to sleep in the sun. “The Barna shed had the best spot in the garden so we moved it,” Jacob says.