Making the Most of Small Spaces with Smart Storage

small living room with storage /

With the hubbub of the city living and all that goes with it, there’s usually a major trade-off in the home: floor space. And while we’re happy to have a small living space when we’re spending much of our time lapping up the city culture, there’s always a problem when it comes to extra storage solutions.

But it’s not just city dwellers who can get cluttered. Out in suburbia, if you’ve got a growing family, you might find you’ve accumulated enough stuff to fill an average sized semi. But with a little initiative, there’s a host of brilliant ways to use that precious area, with everything from alcove ideas to building a cupboard under the stairs.

The theory goes that if you can use the small areas – nooks and crannies, corner spaces, hallways and so on – for smart storage, you’ll find the remaining floor space will be that much more usable for furniture, entertainment and a general feeling of spaciousness. Here are our favorite design ideas to make the most of those small spaces.

Hall Storage Ideas

shoe storage
hallway shoe storage

The hall is often overlooked as a location for storage, and it’s no surprise why. In most dwellings it’s a narrow passageway, the bane of removal companies, designed to get people in single file from the front door to the rooms. But there are some narrow hallway storage ideas that can help you wring a little more out of the space.

First up, there are wall hooks and hangers. The walls are taking up no room, so a multi-hook coat rack is not only perfect for coats, but also bags, dog leads and anything else you need only when you’re out. Down on the ground, a low-profile umbrella stand takes up hardly any floor area – get one with a tray to stop puddles accumulating.

If you’re the shoes-off type (or just someone with a lot of shoes), a rack by the front door has a small footprint but removes piles of shoes at a stroke. This one’s extendable, to grow with your collection, but growing upwards saves even more floor space.

Alcove Cabinets and Other Storage

navy living room
artjafara /

If you’re one of the millions who live in a house with a chimney breast, you’ll also be blessed with a number of alcoves. In many cases, the space is used for alcove units, a chest of drawers or a side table, and that’s fine. But some homeowners also have utilitarian alcove shelving ideas that get the most out of the sides of the fireplace.

Because you’ve got brick walls on either side, it’s pretty straightforward to put shelves up running the whole width of your living room alcoves. You’ll need to make them yourself as there are no standard alcove sizes, but all you need is battens and planks and you’re good to go. Choose thick, aged wood for a rustic look, or go for modern engineered wood that you can paint the same color as the walls for a more consistent, modern look.

Open shelves full of books, plants and ornaments look beautiful, but if you prefer minimalism, put some ceiling-height doors over them. Running flush with the fireplace, you’ve got sleek continuity throughout. Slatted or paneled doors break up the area nicely, but if you’re a committed minimalist, plain doors with push latches can completely hide the alcoves – and everything in them. Naturally, you can make a feature of shelving that makes no attempt to reach the sides. The free-standing look breaks the wall up for an interesting effect – try something modern and contrasting, or a faintly industrial look shelf unit works perfectly in a home office.

Under-Stairs Storage

under stairs storage
ventura /

Stairways are traditionally partitioned off in typical British homes, so there was always a little wedge-shaped room that was notorious for clutter. However, the side panels aren’t usually structural, so it’s relatively straightforward to remove them. Suddenly you’ve acquired several square meters of floor space in the hallway or a downstairs room.

Again, shelving can be used against the wall, which retains more of your new-found floor space. But spaces beneath stairs can also fit purpose-built cabinets. The stackable cube type is popular. They sit aside each other in growing piles of one, two, three, four high, and represent a very efficient use of space.

If you know how to build under stairs cupboard units, you might just trump the cubes for maximizing the volume of understairs storage. But do note that it can be pretty fiddly under there – definitely one for the seasoned DIYer.


luxury living room
luxury home accessories

Empty corners in every room are a waste of space that’s surprisingly common. Even placing a simple floor lamp in there can use up the space efficiently, especially if it’s behind your favorite reading chair, but some other corner decoration like a small bookcase, sideboard or side table will always complement the space and give you somewhere to keep a few things squirreled away.

Every Square Inch

By pushing all your storage space to the extremes of the floor space – the places that beforehand would sit idle while you squeezed your way around the home – you’ll suddenly realize your small, overcrowded home isn’t half as small as you thought it was. It might be time to buy more things for it then...