A couple years ago, we featured a New York City apartment that had been transformed from a dismal state into a bright and beautiful home for a musical theater actress. (See Before & After: A Gramercy Park Apartment Transformed for the story.) Before its overhaul, the 1,000-square-foot apartment lacked any storage space for the owner to grow into, so she turned to architect Denise Lee to uncover the home’s original 1870s detailing while adding a bevy of clever storage solutions that we’re itching to re-create if given the chance. Let’s take a closer look at Lee’s best storage solutions.
Photography by Devon Banks, courtesy of Denise Lee Architect.
1. Put high ceilings to work.
Lee made immediate use of the apartment’s 12-foot-high ceilings by placing all nonessential storage overhead. She sited the mechanical “room” above the front door and put overflow kitchen storage above a niche in the living room.
Above: A storage niche built into the living room wall holds wine glasses, cocktail essentials, and a wine fridge, plus closed cabinets for extra storage.2. Make all storage areas easily accessible.
Lee designed a ladder-and-rail system for accessing the apartment’s overhead storage compartments, wherein one single ladder can be hooked on any of the apartment’s iron rails to access the storage space up top. The ladder hangs on the living room wall when not in use, keeping the compact floor plan uncluttered.
Above: The living room features a wingback chair from Ikea and a green velvet couch handed down from the neighbors next door.3. Keep furnishings spare.
Who really needs seating for 12? Unless you entertain frequently or have a large family, a compact table and two chairs might be all that’s required for everyday. (You can always hide a card table and folding chairs in your newfound overhead storage space.)
Above: The dining setup features a 35-inch Saarinen Round Dining Table and two Ercol-style chairs.4. Design storage solutions for the little things too.
The architect installed a single open shelf to run the length of the kitchen, just beneath the overhead cabinetry. It’s the perfect height and depth for spices, oils, notepads, and other items that should be close at hand, but not on the countertop.
Above: When the actress bought the apartment, its original details were hidden behind drywall. During demolition, the team found an original column, dating from the 1873 building’s original life as a bank, and designed the kitchen around it.5. No room for a bedroom? Install one overhead.
There are two full bedrooms in the apartment—one for the owner and one for a roommate (to help pay for NYC life). Lee managed to fit a third sleeping space for visiting family and overnight guests by adding a sleeping loft, again taking advantage of the apartment’s high ceilings.
Above: A twin-size sleeping loft has a laminate-covered rail and oak wood flooring. The exposed, white-painted pipe can be used as a storage hanger.6. Find storage potential in every unused space.
Knowing that guests would rather climb up stairs to get to bed than climb a ladder, Lee designed a shallow staircase to the loft with room for closet space inside. On the way up, she had a deep storage niche cut out of the wall—it can store seldom-used goods or display an art object, as the homeowner has done here.
Above: The staircase is made of oak wood and white laminate.7. Spend (money) to save (space).
Without a doubt, it’s costly to have a custom built-in storage staircase designed and fabricated. But it buys functionality that’s perfectly designed for your lifestyle—here, rollout shoe shelving and a cedar-lined closet for sweaters.
Above: The storage stair has slide-out closet units in a variety of sizes.
The space beneath a lofted bed is perfect for a few things—a play area or an office among them. But the bulky walls installed here to hold the lofted bed are ideally sized for tucking in a few extra closets.
Above: Closets beneath the sleeping loft hold personal accessories and craft materials.8. Need reminders to be tidy? Add open shelving.
It’s counterintuitive, but sometimes open shelving can oblige a certain amount of tidiness at home. (Think: If you couldn’t hide things in drawers and walk away, might you own less?) London architects Emil Eve say the same: They describe themselves as “not particularly tidy people,” but since the open shelving in their kitchen allows them to see its contents at a glance, open shelving, and its requisite tidiness, quickly became a way of life. (See the rest of their small-space recommendations in Tricks of the Trade: 7 Small-Space Storage Tips from Emil Eve Architects.)
Above: The bathroom has open shelving installed in a wall niche next to the mirror, and the custom oak vanity has partially open, pullout drawers.
For more apartment organization tips across our sites, see:
7 Things You Can Live Without in a Small Apartment, from Someone Who’s Been There Tiny Apartment Storage: Hide Potting Soil in Plain Sight The Smallable Apartment: At Home with a Parisian Shopkeeper #LoftBeds #Built-inStorage #Uncategorized #UnderStairsCloset #IdeasToSteal