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How to Maximize Storage Space in a Small Bedroom


Even if you’re not a fashionista, your bedroom needs to hold a lot. Clothing takes up space. So do books and jewelry, not to mention things like extra sheets and blankets.

That’s why “storage is critical,” said Shannon Eddings, an interior designer based in Austin, Texas — especially true in small homes, where there are few places to hide clutter.

As Ms. Eddings noted, “Not everyone has big closets.” And in truly compact bedrooms, there may be no closets at all. But there are plenty of ways to add storage to even the smallest bedrooms. Here are the tricks that she and other interior designers use to maximize every bit of space.

The bed is usually the largest object in the room, and the space above and beside it often goes to waste. To make the most of these areas, one solution is to build a do-it-all headboard wall with integrated storage.

Regan Baker, an interior designer in San Francisco, has designed custom cabinetry for exactly that purpose. “We’ll do floor-to-ceiling cabinetry just to maximize every inch of the room,” she said.

For a home in Redwood City, Calif., she designed a millwork unit with cantilevered night stands, integrated reading lights, a recessed shelf behind the bed for storing books and art, and cabinets with doors overhead. On the sides, the unit has taller closet-like storage compartments, with a full-length mirror mounted on the back of one of the doors.

Sure, the unit eats up some floor space. But by incorporating so many features into a single piece, you don’t need many other pieces of furniture, Ms. Baker said. And because it’s a beautifully crafted piece, “it’s the focal point.”

Another way to add built-in cabinetry and shelving is with a sleeping nook. Ms. Eddings designed a lilac-colored sleeping nook for a house in Austin that includes integrated shelving and lighting behind the pillows, closet-like cabinetry to one side and a trundle bed under the main twin-size mattress.

“My desire was to do something fun and exciting and maximize color, while providing additional storage,” Ms. Eddings said.

In a truly space-constrained bedroom, there is also the option of a Murphy bed. In one project, Ms. Eddings designed a floor-to-ceiling storage wall that included cabinets with doors, shelves and a Murphy bed hidden behind panels that look like doors. The bedroom now doubles as a home office.

“We’re doing that more and more,” she said, “because it provides a lot of floor space in a small room.”

If you’re not ready to invest in custom cabinetry, a simpler approach is to use furniture that serves multiple functions.

Most night stands offer a minimal amount of storage, with a shallow drawer or two. But a larger chest of drawers can work as an alternative. “I love using a chest or dresser as a night stand, because it gives you a lot more storage,” said Emily June, an interior designer in Houston.

It also offers a larger surface on top to hold a lamp, books and other bedside accessories. Sometimes, Ms. June puts a pair of matching dressers on either side of the bed; other times, she uses mismatched pieces for an eclectic look.

Just make sure the top of the dresser is low enough to be easily reachable from bed.

“I always look at the height of the bed first,” Ms. June said, and “then select the night stands or chests.”

The space beneath can be used for more than collecting dust or hiding the boogeyman. Storage beds with mechanisms that can tip the mattress up and out of the way to provide access to the space below are widely available, from companies like Flou, West Elm and Ikea.

Another variation on a storage bed is one with built-in drawers that slide or roll out. Many furniture companies make such pieces, and some designers create their own.

Ms. Baker has designed bunk beds with storage drawers built into the base. Yvonne McFadden, an interior designer in Atlanta, designed a bed with a large rollout drawer for a home in Roswell, Ga. The drawer currently holds a trundle bed, but could be used to store other items.

For the same bedroom, Ms. McFadden designed drawer-like wooden boxes on casters that tuck neatly under a console. “The closet was minimal,” she said. “So we wanted to make storage fun and easy, and make sure there was plenty of it.”

Don’t overlook the storage space you already have. Your closet may not be very efficient, especially if it’s set up with only a hanging rod and shelf. To make the most of a closet, Ms. June suggested taking stock of everything you need to store and then outfitting the interior with a system that gives everything its place.

“I always measure my clients’ clothing,” she said, “to make sure we put shelves and hang rods at the right heights.”

That might mean installing two levels of hanging rods for shorter items and numerous shelves that can hold shoes and bags. Ms. June often uses Elfa products from the Container Store, which are adjustable, so the components can be repositioned as needed.

Sometimes, she changes the shape of the closet itself. In a compact bedroom in a Houston apartment, Ms. June combined two inadequate closets to create a single storage space running across the wall, concealing it with sliding antique Chinese screens that double as a decorative feature. “Then we used an Elfa system inside that closet to really maximize the space,” she said.

Ashley Macuga, the principal designer of Collected Interiors, a firm in San Carlos, Calif., once removed the doors and contents of a closet to add built-in drawers and cabinets inside.

“Instead of awkward doors, where it was difficult to access everything, we decided to take them down and do a full built-in,” Ms. Macuga said. “The drawers are where they have most of their clothes, so that also allowed us to avoid a dresser in the room.”

Not every solution requires building or buying big pieces of furniture. One of the easiest ways to increase storage is by adding large-scale containers.

Ms. Macuga has four children who share a bedroom at her house near Lake Tahoe. To create enough space for her family’s ski gear, she put large wicker trunks from Ballard Designs at the foot of each bed. “Those would also be great for blankets, extra sets of sheets, toys and all kinds of other things,” she said.

Ms. Baker and Ms. June often use woven baskets to store any number of things, including sheets and books. Ms. Baker likes to tuck large baskets beneath night stands, where they’re out of the way but always ready to conceal clutter. Ms. June uses African baskets with lids that hide what’s inside.

“We like using baskets in lots of different rooms,” she said. “Whether it’s a bedroom, a kids’ room or even a living room, they offer a lot of extra storage.”

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