Photo: Brian Vanden Brink; Architect: Ted Wengren

Storage units can be both pretty and practical. This double-duty island separates the kitchen and dining areas from the great room’s seating space while offering a convenient spot to store cookbooks and display both cooking utensils and decorative pottery.


A place for everything and everything in its place -- it's an admirable adage that's a bit easier to remember than follow. But a variety of storage systems in a range of styles can help you corral clutter and display prized possessions. You can choose anything from simple shelves to storage walls tailored exactly to fit your needs.

Though expensive, built-ins allow you to customize your storage while maximizing available space. For instance, when you design a custom wall unit you can build all the way up to the ceiling. Painted the color of your walls and finished with matching trim, wall units blend in and take up minimal visual space. If you prefer something less permanent, shop for modular units that can be assembled in different ways to accommodate varied storage needs and spaces.

Book storage

Books are useless unless they are easily accessible. A successful design brings as many volumes as is practical into the mainstream of daily life. If you have books languishing in boxes in a basement, attic, or closet, you may want to convert part of a multipurpose room into a library. If space is at a premium, spread books throughout the area in a number of small collections -- cookbooks in or near the kitchen and classics and current best-sellers in the seating area, for example.

One way to incorporate books as well as photos and other display items is with a built-in wall unit that has drawers and cupboards up to counter height for closed storage, then shallower, open shelves up to the ceiling. A sliding ladder affording access to top shelves lends an authentic library look.

Media storage

Increasingly complex entertainment systems -- including televisions, VCRs, stereo equipment, CDs, DVDs, videotapes, movie screens, projectors, and remotes -- require substantial, well-planned storage. If a television or monitor is to be concealed in a cabinet or enclosure, make sure the enclosure is well ventilated; heat buildup eventually kills transistors and printed circuits.

Remote-controlled, wide-screen, flat-panel televisions (some as thin as 2 inches) can hang on walls, under kitchen cabinets, or virtually anywhere. But any television can be removed from the traffic pattern if you place it near the ceiling, either on a shelf or suspended from a special bracket (available where sets are sold).

Requirements for a large-screen projection television depend on which type you have. The projecting equipment for a front-projection television needs to be positioned directly in front of the screen, near the base or near the ceiling. The gear required for rear-projection models is concealed in the cabinet containing the screen. Movie screens are typically installed from the ceiling to roll down as needed. Projectors can be hidden in a cabinet or installed on a shelf across the room.

Stereo components can be stacked, in or out of sight, in a custom audio tower, on a stereo rack, or in a piece of furniture adapted for the task, such as a desk or bookshelf. If you tackle the furniture conversion yourself, arrange components and peripherals according to their serial connection, then drill holes as necessary to lead cables and wires out the back to a heavy-duty outlet strip that's equipped with a surge protector. Use the ganglia model to organize wires and cables: play out just enough wire or cable to reach the required distance to a connection and then wrap the rest in on itself with a twist-tie or rubber band.

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