Cabinets are among the most versatile storage units, working well beyond the kitchen to hide or display your things. Since they don't have to be recessed and are relatively shallow, they offer great design flexibility. While small cabinets work well above a desk or in a laundry room, a custom armoire can dress up a bedroom wall or house a big-screen TV in the family room. When you're pressed for space, custom cabinets may conceal a whole lot more. New York City architect S. Russell Groves used a floor-to-ceiling unit to tuck an entire home office into a small room. And Kurth hid a potting station, complete with a countertop and sink, in a mudroom cupboard.
Seating that doubles as storage is the ultimate space-saver. A bench with cubbies, drawers, or cabinets underneath is practical in an entry or as a window seat in a living room or bedroom. A banquette in the kitchen that replaces dining chairs can store extra table linens and serving trays. To sit two adults comfortably, a bench must be at least 4 feet long, 16 to 25 inches deep, and 16 inches high. And when it comes to design, Groves suggests cantilevering a "floating box" from the wall for a sleek modern look, while Kurth favors the seamless appearance of beadboard wainscoting on the bench and around the room. Looking for a DIY option? Set a row of stock cabinets (that match the cabinetry already in the room) on a wooden platform and trim with coordinating molding. Add a cushion, and you've got the custom look at a fraction of the cost.
A standard shelf is 12 inches deep, but you might want something bigger (18 inches) for displaying toys in a child's room or for stacking sweaters in a closet (16 inches). For DVDs, a depth of 9 inches is best. Or try a combination: narrow shelves above deeper ones. Tailoring the tiers to specific storage needs is part of the beauty of customized shelving. Other ideas? Groves incorporates sliding panels along open shelves that can be pushed back and forth to hide unsightly items. As a budget-friendly alternative, Kurth recommends hanging a store-bought bookcase on the wall at baseboard level, constructing a base, and adding crown molding at the top. "Then paint the whole thing to match the wall," she says.
Since so many households are wireless, people are creating computer stations throughout the home instead of just in the office. A wooden carrel with a few drawers and shelves can be stashed in a hallway or a kitchen corner. "If it's for a laptop, you can get away with a surface as small as 18x24 inches," Kurth says. For a more traditional office setup, line an entire wall with a desktop, stash rolling file cabinets underneath, and float shelves above. Regardless of the design, consider this: Build the work space near a power source or have one installed.