Day-to-day life seems to come with detritus. Kids equal kit and clutter. Whether we stash stuff out of sentimentality or necessity, storage is a must in a modern house.

Joanna Willcocks, Principal of Designs Unlimited in Totnes, believes storage is a very important design aspect that can be incorporated into any room. As the entrance to a home, the hall is notorious for clutter, whether it’s shoes, coats, bags or tennis rackets. Joanna is an advocate of the coat stand, or coloured coat pegs (in wood, ceramic or metal) along a narrow wall to inject personality. “If you have a small space, try not to intrude too far into the width of the area, thus narrowing access and making the hall look smaller than it is,” she advises.

If space allows in a hall or porch, a free-standing wardrobe is the best way of hanging outer wear out of sight, and keeping the look neat and tidy.

Specialised shoe storage is the best way of storing everything from stilettoes to studs. “There are some excellent narrow units available in all sorts of styles,” says Joanna. “The fronts fold forward and are racked to hold all sorts of shoe shapes and sizes. When closed, the unit looks like neat drawer fronts.”

Under-stairs areas can provide useful storage, and Joanna advises dedicating the lowest area for small items, if the space is limited and low: “A rack on wheels means that you can pull items out easily without having to reach into awkward corners. In the more accessible area, units that are designed to pull out mean you can easily access everything you need.”

Karin Frances, Interior Design Consultant in Barnstaple, agrees that the under-stairs cupboard is a great place to store various items, and because most have a sloping ceiling to some degree, the angle of the stairs will determine the usable space: “Shelving is a great way of making storage space; a hanging rail can be positioned side-to-side to accommodate jackets; and if there’s enough space, a shoe rack for everyday wear can be another option.”

If a built-in under-stairs cupboard isn’t viable, the space can sometimes accommodate a small desk, but Karin suggests concentrating on head room and good lighting, to ensure the area isn’t cramped and dark.

The lounge is an important area to keep decluttered, so it can provide a relaxing space to gather at the end of the day. Karin will work with the room shape to design maximum storage without compromising on space – bookcases built into alcoves either side of a chimney breast is a great way of using the space effectively. “Wall-to-wall, low-level storage units won’t intrude on the room. They also leave space for positioning of ornaments/photos, and lamps on top,” says Karin.

Furniture that doubles up as storage is clever: think central coffee table with internal compartments or drawers – some have slide-aside tops and others have a traditional hinged lid. Modern sofas can have pull-out drawers underneath. If possible, a window seat with a lift-up lid, topped with a padded seat, is another good way of hiding the clutter, and may encourage family members to tidy up!

If built-in storage isn’t an option, Joanna suggests using feature items that can house day-to-day items: “Stacked decorative trunks are useful for homing DVDs, CDs and general equipment, and baskets look attractive, too.”

Finally, the bedroom is another prime target for potential mess and jumble when it should be a place of calm. The obvious choice is built-in wardrobes, again in chimney breast alcoves, if the room allows. The benefit is that they can be made bespoke to fit the available space and shape of the walls and ceilings, and can incorporate hanging rails, drawers, and shelving. “This option keeps the room sleek and, if floor-to-ceiling height is used, it eliminates any dust traps,” advises Karin.

Before plumping for floor-to-ceiling cupboards, Joanna has a word of warning: “While floor to ceiling maximises storage, proportion is very important. Look at the height of the room in conjunction with the square meterage, and see what balances best in the space.”

Joanna suggests using individual pieces that can add character: “Use a mix of wardrobes, chests of drawers, and other interesting pieces to dress a room in your style choice.”

Creating a bespoke wardrobe interior is the best way of hiding everyday items. Joanna says shoes work well on sloping racks at the bottom, and tie racks on the back of the doors are easy to use. “If you have height in a wardrobe, a combination of double hanging and single hanging is most useful. With extra-high spaces, you can use a levered rail that pulls down as you need it,” Joanna claims. Karin adds: “An internal mirror and hanging space for a hairdryer is another consideration.”

When it comes to wardrobe doors, do you slide or open? The question “often sparks heated debate,” says Joanna. But doors should not be overlooked, especially if space is at a premium. “Sliding doors use far less space,” says Karin. “Although, remember when one door is open, the other cannot be accessed until the first is closed,” says Karin.

For bigger items, such as spare bedding and blankets, under-bed storage is another solution – drawers or boxes on wheels that can be easily pulled out are the most accessible. “If you have space available, an ottoman at the end of the bed works well,” says Joanna. 

For any storage in any room, Joanna has a final tip: “The trick is to identify the need, and dedicate the space for that purpose.”

“The trick is to identify the need, and dedicate the space for that purpose.”
Weekend folding luggage rack available from Grace and Glory in Barnstaple
Weekend folding luggage rack available from Grace and Glory in Barnstaple

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