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Hidden Spaces in Your Home: How to Make the Most of ThemSeptember 30th, 2013 by
This article was crafted with the help of Chandler Fox from Foxcraft Design Group
American homes are bursting at the seams. Nearly ten percent of all American households rent an outside storage unit, and the storage industry itself generates revenue in the billions of dollars each year.
Many of us complain that we have simply run out of room, but Chandler Fox, president of Virginia-based Foxcraft Design Group, Inc., explains that there are many commonly overlooked spaces in the home that can be remodeled to provide extra living or storage space.
Depending on the type of structure you have, a garage is a prime location for carving out storage space or possible living space. A detached garage or an attached garage with a faux gable almost always has an attic.
This space can be built out as a small garage apartment with stair access from either the interior or exterior of the garage. Another area of the garage that Chandler says is often overlooked is the space above the parking pad.
“Your car is probably six feet tall at the most, so there’s generally a lot of space in the area between the car and the ceiling of the garage,” says Chandler.
A professional remodeler can install suspended shelves or cubbies in that area, along with other types of systems on the market that rely on pulleys or hanging devices for storing anything from sports equipment to holiday decorations to building supplies.
The attic is a prime area for storage, and most of them can also be converted into some type of living area as long as the pitch of the roofline allows enough head room. The main difficulty with these types of conversions, Chandler notes, is the installation of stairs to allow entrance up to the attic.
“With attics in general, the question is, are there existing stairs or are there pull-down stairs that you can convert. If you build a set of stairs, it has to come out into the hallway—you don’t necessarily want it coming out into a bedroom.
But all houses are different. You might have to improvise.” Once in the attic, the eaves behind the knee wall are also a great spot to consider finishing off for storage purposes.
“When you have an attic with a sloped ceiling, there’s a knee wall around three to five feet tall. Behind that knee wall is storage,” says Chandler. “You can install bookcases, shelves—all sorts of things.”
Professional organizers can help you make great use of the space in your closets. In homes with taller ceilings, Chandler points out that the negative space above the traditional hanging rod height often goes to waste.
“There’s always space above the hanging rod, but because there’s typically a shelf there, you can’t access most of it. In homes that have nonstandard ceiling heights—meaning above eight feet—you can add a second, shorter closet above the regular closet, if you will.”
Using his own home as an example, Chandler says that by installing a standard-sized closet door in a six-foot wide closet space and then trimming out a two-foot cabinet space above that, he gained 24 cubic feet of storage in that one area alone—“And I did that on every closet in my house.”
Remodeling kitchen cabinets is one of Foxcraft’s most requested types of jobs, and the design options are as vast as the homeowner’s imagination. One popular way to maximize space in the kitchen is through the area above the traditional kitchen cabinets.
By removing the soffits, the tops of the cabinets can then be used for storage or additional shelving. Chandler also favors simply extending the cabinet’s height to add usable space. “As long as we’re doing a full-kitchen remodel, we’ll take cabinets all the way to the ceiling.
We’ve also had projects where we’ve placed glass cabinets at the top with shorter cabinets underneath. The great thing about remodeling is that depending on your budget, you can do whatever you want.”
Traditionally left unfinished, many homeowners are now looking at the crawl space under the home as a potential storage spot. “The crawl space could have most any kind of floor—the material doesn’t matter; it just needs to be waterproof,” says Chandler.
“If the floor’s dirt, you take some dirt out, pour concrete, and now you’ve got a crawl space that is relatively waterproof. It’s still not conditioned, but if you frame it, insulate it, drywall it, and put in lights, it can become a wine cellar, a place to store suitcases—it can be anything.”
While a room just for laundry tasks can be a luxury in itself, Chandler has found that many laundry rooms are not well designed. A lot of them have unused space or have appliances configured in ways that don’t take into account how the room will function.
Chandler says that the most efficient laundry rooms are designed almost like kitchens, with tall cabinets, wall shelving, and most importantly, a front-loading washer and dryer—“Then you can put a countertop across the top and do all your folding right there.”
A dedicated room isn’t even required to create a viable laundry center. Chandler favors locating the laundry room closer to the bedrooms of the home and using whatever space makes that possible.
“You can take a hall closet and make it into a laundry room. All you need is five or six feet in width, a washer and dryer with a countertop on top, and cabinets above them. Why take your laundry all the way downstairs and bring it back up? The laundry never has to leave the bedroom level.”
Depending on whether they are finished, stairs offer a couple of ways to provide shelter for stray household items. The walls below a set of stairs may or may not be load-bearing, but in either case, the area under the stairs can be opened up and used for storage.
You may opt for a built-in bookcase or shelving unit along the side of the stairs, or possibly a door that opens into a small space. If the wall on the back of the stairs is accessible, you can have an entire closet or alcove built in underneath for even more square footage.
A newer, interesting development in stair-based storage is the installation of drawers into the faces and treads of the stairs themselves. “It gets a little tricky,” says Chandler, “and it’s sort of a show-off thing, but you can do it, and it works pretty well.”
Benefits of Non-Traditional Spaces
Building out some nontraditional spaces in your home can add value not only to your life but also to your home in the long run. Added storage and living space makes the home more comfortable and versatile for the family’s day-to-day life.
In addition, Chandler says the added storage could make the house more attractive in the event that selling is necessary. “It’s like any other improvement on the house. The house is worth more; you may not necessarily get back dollar for dollar, but it’s another asset.”
“The house will sell faster, and you as the homeowner got to enjoy the value of it.”
This spotlight article was crafted with the help of Foxcraft Design Group, a Best Pick in Bathroom & Kitchen Remodeling in Virginia. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.