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Adventures in Storage

Photo Illustration by Ryan Ward

The world doesn’t have enough closets. Medicine cabinets are too small, kitchen cabinets waste too much room. Space, like gold and pork bellies, has become a commodity. Here in L.A. there’s something besides smog in the air. Everyone seems to have the same shelter-mag fantasy about huge rooms endlessly lined with shelves and shelves of high heels or sneakers, individually spot-lit and perfectly perched. Get over your anal self.

We have entered the 21st century with too much stuff, and we don’t know where to put it. Storage has become the battle cry of the modern dweller: There are more Closets-R-Us stores than there are Starbucks. It’s time to think outside the box. How much stuff do you have? How much of it do you need? How much space do you have? Do you need more stuff? Can you afford more stuff; if so, can you afford to house more stuff? What’s that living under your sink? Stop thinking like a decorator and start thinking like an accountant.

For some people, enough is never enough. Take the couple in the 10,000-square-foot house with two master suites, seven bedrooms, 13 bathrooms and a kitchen slightly larger than my entire house. The walk-in closets had walk-in closets. And yet, despite moving from a tiny condo, there suddenly wasn’t enough space. They added another 2,000 square feet to provide parking for 10 cars and some desperately needed additional storage areas. Mind you, they didn’t collect cars, had few possessions, no friends, never entertained and neither of them cooked.

A more positive use of space was in the home of a fashion writer renting the top floor of an old brownstone. With the apartment came access to a huge attic, replete with skylights and peaked windows. He added multi-level floors and risers, carpeted every square inch of the attic, and filled it with rolling racks to hang things on, knobbed poles for robes, jackets and ties, and huge wicker baskets brimming with T-shirts, underwear and socks. The dressing attic was organized, well-lit and yummy to be in. Nothing was hidden; every item had its own casual, comfy place. It was Fred Segal’s as a dressing room.

You’ve got to hand it to the French: They raised the bar of organized living way high with the invention of the armoire, a storage unit that, in spite of what Valley housewives-turned-decorators would have us believe, was not created to hide televisions. The armoire, in fact, was luggage, a traveling closet that broke down into flat portable pieces so that muckamucks visiting the palatial homes of other muckamucks could have a place to put their clothes. Guest rooms in stone castles were cold sleeping chambers furnished with a bed, a fireplace and perhaps some draperies, tapestries and rugs to control heat and dampness, if you were lucky. One provided one’s own storage, hence the armoire, accompanied by huge chests decked out with drawers and compartments for britches, panties, jewelry, vapors etc. Of course, this was all before the advent of yuppies and their 40 identical pairs of white tube socks stored in separate compartments.

Places like Lowe’s and Home Depot have lots of neat sliding shelves and hampers that pull out. Stuff banished to the back can now be within eye’s and arm’s reach. For a few hundred bucks you can retrofit your kitchen and probably double your space. Got a dog? Rubbermaid makes a nifty two-bin unit that fits in all standard-size lower cabinets. You can dump a 25-pound bag of kibble in the back bin and use the front one for biodegradable garbage — that’s a lot of stuff for a space that’s 23 inches high, 23 inches deep and only 18 inches wide. Is your bathroom closing in on you? Either throw away all those old pots of ointments and dried-out Band-Aids or trot down to IKEA and buy enough mirrored medicine cabinets to wrap around the room, which will make it look brighter, bigger and allow you to horde all those itty-bitty things that make you feel so special. Do not leave the store without one of IKEA’s most brilliant objects: a very modern, round, stainless-steel and white-rubber, wall-mounted toilet-paper dispenser that holds eight rolls. It’s gorgeous and frees up all the space in the hall closet where you’ve always kept your Charmin.

What’s up with your clothes? If you have a walk-in closet, you can rack and roll it to organized perfection without calling in a closet specialist who’s going to make a fortune selling you the same stuff that’s available at all the previously mentioned stores. With the money you save you can buy a new plasma TV to hang on the wall or a Japanese tansu to hide your old one in. It’s much more modern than an armoire, and won’t eat up your room. Be clever, be a space warrior — or you’ll end up living in a blivit. A blivit, as our fearless leader from Texas will tell you, is 2 pounds of horseshit in a 1-pound box.


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