Storage under the stairs
John Ellis

Stash It Under the Stairs

The big idea: Camouflage everyday storage by hiding it in an unusual spot, as with this pullout wine cubby located under a staircase landing. Positioning the drawer next to the front door makes efficient use of what's often wasted space. For these owners, grabbing a last-minute hostess gift has never been easier.

Notice the details: The beaded-board front panel of this cabinet is identical to the rest of the wall,–the only hint of a secret wine cellar is a single bin pull.

Find it: Reproduction bin pulls, prices vary, from Historic Houseparts; 888/558-2329 or

Top-of-the-room storage shelves
Dana Gallagher

Use of Out-of-the-Way Places

The big idea: Make the most of vertical space by taking advantage of the empty area at or around the ceiling. The opening above the large doorway at left, between a home office and guest bedroom, provided an opportunity for built-in bookshelves, creating a small-scale library. In a kitchen, top-of-the-room shelves can offer storage for cookbooks; in a den or living room, they can highlight your collections.

Notice the details: Smart and functional, this elevated bookshelf and its contents sprinkle color from room to room. Single and divided compartments create a system for organization. For small, loose items, consider adding baskets to the larger shelves.

A modern twist on locker room style
Robbie Caponetto

Organize All the Odds and Ends

The big idea: Remember when lockers were cool? Re-create the efficient system with cubbies in an entry or mudroom to corral the clutter. Hooks, drawers, shelves, and baskets catch all sorts of bags, coats, and sports equipment. Wooden partitions divide the area into three distinct stations–one for each child in this busy family.

Notice the details: Cushions offer a comfortable spot to sit and pop on skates or tennis shoes. Water- and stain-resistant fabric guards against mud and spills. A backdrop of beaded board adds cottage character.

Colorful cubbies add storage and accentuate the theme of the room
Keith Scott Morton

De-clutter Built-in Cubbies

The big idea: Consider turning extra wall space into a useful niche, like the high nooks in this playroom that maintain order and store infrequently used items. When building a new cottage or renovating an older one, look for inventive ways to conceal life's daily clutter, keeping favorite items within easy reach.

Notice the details: Deep boxes and baskets maximize storage. Remember to mix it up: While baskets may be ideal for bulky toys, boxes with dividers work well to organize crayons, markers, and construction paper. Choose colorful or patterned containers to serve as accents in the room.

Find it: Spherical paper lantern, $2.50-$30.50, from Pearl River; 800/878-2446 or

A laundry nook doubles as a bar area
Robbie Caponetto

Swizzle and Spin

The big idea: Let a hardworking laundry nook pull double duty by giving it the additional role of spirited bar. In this hallway, an unused powder room was turned into an easy-access laundry niche, thanks to patterned curtains that slide open to reveal front-loading appliances. Pull the curtains closed and you have a guest-ready entertaining space on top.

Notice the details: A platform raises the washer and dryer off the floor and keeps loading from being a backbreaking chore. The concrete countertop creates a durable space for matching socks or mixing a Manhattan.

A window seat is a classic way to use corner space
Paul Whicheloe

Offer a Front-Row Seat

The big idea: Capitalize on scenic views by creating a comfortable corner retreat with an L-shaped window seat. Tall casement windows with divided panes welcome natural light and a breeze, ideal accompaniments for savoring the latest page-turner. The arrangement also provides seating for several friends. Simply pull up a round table and you've got a dining nook.

Notice the details: Deep drawers with beaded-board fronts can hold blankets and extra pillows. Cushions make the seat even more inviting; we suggest covering them with a UV-resistant fabric to prevent fading in the sun.

Incorporate a bed into a dormer window space
Dana Gallagher

Tuck in a Built-in Bed

The big idea: Pack comfort into a pint-size space by nestling a built-in bed into a dormer window. Even small corners and recesses hold big potential. Rather than planning a costly addition, consider turning awkward spaces into niches for work or sleep.

Notice the details: Bright and cheerful aqua paint alerts all eyes to the craftsmanship of this built-in. Curtains invite midday naps, and six lower drawers maximize storage. An extra touch, the swing-arm sconce, allows for bedtime stories before a good night's sleep.

A hidden office space
Tria Giovan

Do Your Homework in Style

The big idea: When you don't have the space to devote an entire room to a home office, turn a tiny closet into a workstation. This small nook holds all the essentials: desk lamp, bulletin board, files, laptop, and printer. Simply pull up a chair and you're in business.

Notice the details: A hemstitched cotton sheet, cut to fit, acts as a curtain to hide the basic metal file cabinets and stacks of stuff. Translucent containers take the guesswork out of which ones hold magazines, catalogs, and important papers.

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