Clever use of space will transform the way you live and allow even the messiest of people to channel the spirit of tidying expert Marie Kondo. She famously advised the eradication of items that didn’t “bring joy”, and since then the fixation with home organisation has taken hold. A new Netflix series launched this week features decluttering friends Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin whose Home Edit show, first found its way on Instagram and built an audience of 1.7million followers.
But there is more to saving space than mere decluttering. The secret is to use the space and volume within your home to make every centimetre work hard for you and your family. Interior designer Ruth Noble advises a mix of free-standing furniture with built-in cabinetry because it allows the freedom to move some of the pieces around as your domestic needs change. Here are some smart ideas worth implementing.
Space saving starts the minute you cross the threshold. In a smaller home a wall-hung console table with drawers is all you need to hold keys, dog leads, sun glasses, hats and gloves, says designer Trisha Younge. If you have room a bench with a different basket for each member of the family will also work says decorator Ruth Noble. But a simple but longer-term solution she designed for a family in Meath includes a built-in bench with room below for outdoor shoes and school bags, baskets for gloves and hats and hooks on the wall at different heights for small kids and adults .
If you have a decent sized hall you could take a more drastic measure and move the stairs forward creating more room behind. This can be a clever way in a small home to add a second bathroom downstairs.
When planning a kitchen think what you need to store, Noble cautions against endless banks of fitted cabinets. Think about the volume of the room too. If you are lucky enough to have high ceilings then use the extra floor to ceiling height to build a wall of cabinetry where the less used items can live on the higher, less accessible, shelves. In period homes consider existing fireplace spaces. The chimneybreast in the hall return, where the kitchen is often located, is one example. A hob and oven located here will take advantage of the existing ventilation for an extractor fan. Or it could easily take a family-size fridge, as Tinahely-based Fitzgerald Kitchens did at number 297 Lwr Kimmage road, currently for sale.
Custom made cabinetry allows you to fit in all manner of storage and seating, like this Bi-joux oak kitchen, designed by Sharon Ryle of Ryle & Co for a Greystones short-let. Prices for the reeded units start from €10,000 while the quartz worktops start from €2500
Make every centimetre work for you. Pocket doors, the kind that open back into cupboards, work well in narrow spaces. McNally Kitchens supplies a stylish range in its designs. Curtains, a traditional scullery set-up, is another affordable and on-trend option. If you cook but don’t have room for a larder or pantry then this tall, thin spice larder, in oak from The Design Yard, Clonskeagh, from about €850, will put every fragrant flavour you need within hands-reach.
According to a 2017 survey by London Cleaning Company the average UK resident spends 108 minutes per week doing laundry. Make room for a warm space within your home’s layout where clothes and bedding can dry out of sight.
If using a cupboard or a small internal space consider installing a radiator to speed up the drying process. Set the washer and drier at hip level to minimise bending and stooping. And where possible install hanging rails, ones big enough to accommodate king size sheets are essential. The Organised Store and Ikea sell a wide selection. An old fashioned timber clothes airer – Sheila Maid – that can be hauled up, out of sight is invaluable if it can be accommodated. The Old Mill Stores sells a range from €24 to €150, depending on size. Floor space for an additional, large clotheshorse is another consideration. Where possible a door will help as it’s nice to be able to shut this visually cluttered space off from the rest of the house.
Cleaning equipment also needs somewhere to live. A good, rechargeable cordless vacuum doubles as a sweeping brush and comes with brackets so it can be wall-hang and not take up valuable floor space. Miele’s Triflex cordless vacuum cleaner is one example and costs €499.99 from DID Electrical. Prices for Dyson’s cord-free vacuum start from about €443.
Open plan thinking for books
Open shelving for books and objects in alcoves on either side of the fireplace is the traditional way to go here but with more and more of us living in open plan layouts a smart, low-set option is to house books in shelving that surrounds a sofa. These Montfort units in burnt oak from UK-based Oka can be set on each side. Two small shelves, 97cm long, €1,109 each, frame the ends of the sofa while the large, 110 cm long, about €1,225 each, runs along its back.
A drinks trolley is a lovely idea in theory. In practice though they take up floor space and attract shocking amounts of dust. A drinks cabinet is a better option. Conbu Design’s wall of storage can conceal books and tableware but at its heart is a drinks cabinet that opens into an attractive presentation and can be closed away when not in use taking up a lot less physical and visual room.
Trisha Younge opted for an even more compact solution in her Ballsbridge cottage where she installed a drinks drawer, a deep device adjacent to her open fire, close enough that she could rustle up G&Ts for guests without having to leave the room.
Internal drawers within wardrobes will tidy away clothing and footwear. The Panelling Centre’s new shaker-style doors come in a cool dark anthracite while Sliderobe has some clever ideas for a teen’s bedroom that might dial down the floordrobe horror.
Beds take up a lot of space with the volume below and above often under-utilised. Uunsurprisingly Ikea has come up with the Gvrav, an ottoman style storage bed in grey which opens up to give you a full base to fill, €547, for a double, ex mattress. It’s a great place for storing summer and winter bedding, blankets and linen. Argos and Cuckoooland also offer beds with shelving options for underneath. In a very confined space custom bunk beds work really well too, says Ryle.
Think cubic m not sq ft
Volume is the name of the space saving game. If you have ceiling heights of 3metres, for example, as many period homes do, rather than the standard 2.4m, then a floor to ceiling cupboard or kitchen unit can give an additional 60 cm of space to accommodate stuff you don’t use everyday on the upper shelves.
Double up on drawers
Drawers work in halls, kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms where they can be custom built to accommodate anything from schoolbags below a hall bench or under the stairs to shallow systems for cutlery and table linen in the kitchen to varying depths to accommodate clothing and underwear in the bedroom. Inserts into shallow drawers within drawers will find a home for accessories like belts, jewellery and ties.
Map the space
Map your space and spend time online gathering ideas that will work for your home. A laser tape measure app on your phone will measure room dimensions so you can draft ideas to show an expert when seeking advice. It is also worth mapping the space out using masking tape to see how any planned additional feature might look.