Photo: Philip Harvey

This storage unit for the kids' room sports flexible, easy-to-clean laminate components.


When you're planning storage, take a look at your bedroom with fresh eyes. Perhaps you like the informal look of simple bins and baskets. Or you may prefer antique furniture and cabinetry. In any case, efficiency should be your goal.

Clutter-busting closets
You can never be too rich or too thin -- or have too much closet space. We can't help you with the first two, but there are a few things we can point out about the third.

Specialized stores and mail-order outlets can help you find your own closet hardware and accessories. And if you don't want to do anything but write the check, there are talented designers who can help you take advantage of the numerous closet systems available. Check your Yellow Pages under "Closet Designers."

Hangers, bins, and bags
Take stock of your wardrobe, and you'll quickly realize that some things are longer than others, that some things are better stored folded than hung, and that lots of things get lost. The old adage "Out of sight, out of mind" could have been written about the contents of your closet.

The way to keep all those formerly lost items from disappearing again is to put them where you'll see them.

Doubling up clothes rods is a key space-saver (in a child's closet you can even triple up). Position the top rod 6 1/2 to 7 feet off the floor and the lower one 3 to 3 1/2 feet up; err on the high side. A single rod is usually just under 6 feet off the floor; you'll probably still need a short length of single rod for coats and the like.

What about systems?
The most basic system -- the home-center standard that's easiest to work with and offers the most options for the do-it-yourselfer -- uses coated wire for rods, shelves, and accessories. Various component kits allow you to fit the system to virtually any closet; you can turn corners, stop short of side walls, even make the unit freestanding. Other widely available organizers use coated steel planks, wood, melamine-surfaced particleboard, or MDF (medium-density fiberboard).

Many of the MDF-based systems sport those ubiquitous rows of "system 32" holes up the sides of their panels, allowing each module to be fitted with shelves, drawers, doors, or anything else that can plug into the holes. You can also change components around when you need to.

You can have any degree of finish you like, from purely utilitarian up to fine cabinet quality. In fact, a well-finished closet can be one of the high points when you show off your house -- especially to a friend who still tosses things in and then chancily crams the door shut.

Starting from scratch?
Few homes, new or old, have enough closet space. But if you have the floor space, you can construct a built-in closet that looks as though it's been there from the beginning.

You can frame a closet in one of two ways: by using standard 2 by 4 wall framing and the wall covering of your choice or by installing floor-to-ceiling cabinets built from hardwood plywood or fiberboard. Both methods are shown on the facing page.

The 2 by 4 frame is the simplest to build and blends right in with the room. Cabinets, on the other hand, create a "custom woodwork" look and allow a number of design options, such as split-level compartments and built-in drawers.

In general, closets need to be about 24 to 27 inches deep inside (with the rods set 12 inches from the back wall). You can squeeze it a little tighter -- but don't. It's good to have some room around your clothes so you can move them easily.


A visit to a retail furniture showroom will unveil a surprising range of ready-made storage and display furnishings. You'll discover state-of-the-art European wall systems, Shaker-style media centers, French étagères, and many styles of chests and cabinets that can be used individually or in groupings to meet your exact needs. The quality of the piece is generally reflected in the joinery and detailing of drawers, doors, and similar parts.

 

Storage furniture: unfitted or modular?

You can buy storage furniture at furniture stores, department stores, and designer showrooms. Some furnishings are sold through mail-order catalogs. For complete media centers or furniture to organize electronic gear, visit quality home-electronics stores. And if you look around a bit, you can find ready-made storage solutions in other places -- antique stores, unfinished furniture stores, even office-supply stores.

It's easy to understand the appeal of a modular system. You can combine shelves, cabinets, drawers, and other components to fit your exact needs and space requirements; and when you move, you can pack up the pieces and take them along with you.

Most large manufacturers offer scores of components, accessories, and finishes. Components often include several cabinet types, a variety of shelves, several different doors, desk units, drawers, even fold-up beds. In addition, many systems offer a range of special accessories, such as record racks, swiveling pullouts for television sets, wine racks, and other helpful organizers.

Some modular systems are largely preassembled; all you do is mount the components on supports. With others, you may need to install door fronts on cabinets. Still others require that you assemble everything, even the drawers.

Manufactured cabinets
Factory-made cabinets, the kind typically used in kitchens and bathrooms, are an important option to consider when you're planning permanent, built-in storage for your bedroom.

Sold through kitchen-cabinet dealers, manufactured cabinets come in many styles, from relatively inexpensive stock modules to high-end custom creations.

Traditional American cabinets mask the front edges of each box with a 1 by 2 faceframe. Because the faceframe covers the edges, thin or low-quality panels can be used for the sides, which lowers the price. But the frame takes up space; it also reduces the size of the openings, so drawers and slide-out accessories must be significantly smaller than the cabinet's width. Hinges for faceframe cabinets are usually visible from the front.

On European, or frameless, cabinets, the raw front edges of the basic box are banded with narrow trim strips. Overlay doors and drawer fronts usually fit to within 1?4 inch of one another, revealing a thin sliver of the edge trim. Interior components such as drawers can be sized almost to the full interior dimensions of the box. And the door hinges are invisible.

Stock cabinet widths are typically 9 to 48 inches, increasing in 3-inch increments. Base cabinets, 24 inches deep and 341?2 inches high, are made to fit under counters, so they may not have a top panel. Wall cabinets are 12 inches deep and 12 to 60 inches high. Wardrobe, bookcase, and hutch-style cabinets are 18 to 24 inches deep and 30 to 96 inches high.

Though generally more expensive, custom shops can match old cabinets, build to odd configurations, and accommodate details that can't be handled by stock dealers.

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