So you live in an apartment that has about as much storage space as your left thumb. Me too.
As a child I made up a saying one day when I was cleaning out my drawers: “Stuff, if it doesn’t have a name, it doesn’t have a purpose.” And it doesn’t have a place, either. I’ve always been a bit of a neat freak. But when the living space is small and shared, something manic in my brain kicks in and I become obsessive.
I’ve lived in a few big cities in my life: Boston, Toronto, D.C., New York and now Paris. One thing these cities have in common is the need for space-saving storage and organization. As a lawyer in North America, I didn’t spend much time at home. It mattered less to me if the apartment was overflowing with “stuff” or whether that stuff had a proper home. I was in the apartment to sleep.
Now that I live in Paris and I am no longer practicing law, my lifestyle has significantly changed. I have much more time, and as a writer I spend a large portion of that time at my desk in my apartment. Clutter drives me crazy. But in an average Parisian apartment, say anything under 900 sq ft, there are no real closets (the French use, to my delight, old fashion armoires which take up an enormous amount of space in an already squished room), no storage spaces under stairs or basements or garages; sometimes you might luck out with a “cave” but most are moldy, dirt floor stalls that you wouldn’t feel comfortable storing your empty luggage in. Because many of these apartments began as larger townhouse-type residents (hôtels particuliers) for the wealthy bourgeois and aristocrats in centuries past, when the space was broken up into smaller, more affordable apartments, storage was not taken as a high priority. In some of the much older apartments, you share the toilets, sometimes even the showers, with the entire floor.
Over my years in Paris, and with the help of IKEA, House & Home magazine and the local hardware store (in Paris that’s Bricolex or Bricorama – “bricologe” is French for handy work – or Leroy Merlin), I’ve managed to find a number of space-saving tricks. Here are crafty space-saver methods to turn your cluttered space into a chic metropolitan abode.
If you have any other nifty ideas, we’d love to hear them!
1. Use all hidden spaces for maximum storage.
From IKEA we bought some lovely, lined, under-the-bed, wicker storage units. They are fabulous. We put four under our bed and they serve as the linen closet we don’t have and don’t have room for. We don’t have a very high bed, so we had to go with the 21 cm units. If you have a taller bed, go as tall as you can. I store my bedding, an extra feather bed, all towels as well as purses and travel paraphernalia in the four I have under the bed.
2. Baskets, Baskets and more Baskets!!!
Baskets are an incredible storage space. Not only are they cute, they come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Plus you can put them just about anywhere! Even put them in otherwise wasted space, like corners. I found mine at the local hardware store, some at IKEA and others were brought over from my Mom’s house in Canada. I have propped them all over the house. On bookcases, on counters, on shelves. They hold everything from rolls of extra toilet paper and feminine hygiene products in the bathroom, to extra shower supplies, tools, magazines, extra lamp shades and wrapping paper. I love baskets!
3. Trunks are your new best friend.
I think trunks add a special feelings to a room. When I was young growing up in the South, I had a cedar chest at the foot of my bed and it was filled with dolls and certain precious things I didn’t want my older brother to find. Now I use various trunks in my home decoration. They are so useful! I currently have two in my living room. A large green one I used to use as a coffee table in a former apartment is now a side table next to my desk where I store all my extra-large bedding (everything that is too puffy to fit under my bed), pillows for the pull out bed, extra duvets, etc.
I have another trunk under the French doors just behind an armchair. It holds all my table linens and candles and doubles as a shelf for my orchids.
4. Take advantage of multipurpose furniture.
I have a number of pieces, mostly from IKEA, that are multipurpose. An ottoman triples in function: With a wood tray atop, it is a coffee table. Alone it is an ottoman for tired feet. And inside it holds our DVD collection and board games.
I have stacked a number of matching hat boxes on top of each other to make a night stand in the bed room. Inside are light bulbs for the two bedroom lamps and well as other occasionally useful items.
In the hallway, we have a small seated trunk that doubles as a bench for putting on shoes as well as a storage areas for all my shoes. Very handy.
5. Be creative!
Plant pots as an umbrella holder. Extra shelving in rather unconventional places (e.g. almost touching the ceiling in the bathroom). Hangers on shelving as extra storage. And take advantage of your ceiling height!!