Palo Alto Eichler owner Lynn Drake put California Closets organizers throughout her home five years ago. "It's made a big difference for us," Drake claims. "Rather than just having a single rod, we have organized spaces with shelves, drawers, and multiple areas for hanging clothes. This allows the kids a place to store their toys and clothes and make more efficient use of the space."
But for Drake, it did not stop there. Like many California residents, she has out-of-state relatives who visit, and needed a functional guest bedroom that could double as a home office. As Drake began her research for a solution, she hit upon the idea of a wall-bed. Known in the trades as a 'Murphy bed,' wall-beds fold up and out of sight into a wall when not in use, and they can be combined with cabinetry to provide additional storage.
Using a combination of cabinets and desks from IKEA and California Closets, and a wall-bed from San Francisco design-and-build firm Modern Spaces, Drake was able to create the multi-purpose room of her dreams. "Before putting in the Murphy bed and home office, we used that room no more than two hours a week," says Drake. "Now we use it at least three hours a day. We have all of our office stuff in there—a computer, my sewing machine—and when guests visit, they have a comfortable bed to sleep in."
Another under-utilized and under-organized space is the garage. Fox of Valet Organizers finds that "a lot of people go to Costco these days to stock up on sundries and dried goods, but they don't have room for them inside the house." Says Fox. "We can design garage cabinets to include roll-out shelves for storing pantry-type items until they are needed and brought inside the house." Garages are also being used for storing seasonal clothing and shoes. "Sometimes people have limited space and they might want to keep their raincoats and other seasonal clothing out in the garage," he added.
For tastes that include custom European-style solutions, Modern Spaces may be the answer. The brainchild of British-born designer Richard Pennington, Modern Spaces specializes in architectural space planning and general contracting and provides custom, turnkey solutions for an array of modern-focused remodeling projects. The company is also the sole U.S. distributor of ip20 modular systems.
One of the Eichler storage issues that Modern Spaces has encountered, among others, is the hall closet. While Eichler hall closets have great potential by virtue of their size and location, they were not originally designed with storage efficiency in mind. "The original closets had fixed shelves spaced wide apart, so things would just get piled in, making it nearly impossible to find anything," observes Mike Sullivan, co-founder of Modern Spaces. "Our solutions provide a lot more versatility, with adjustable shelves that go all the way to the ceiling. This provides complete storage and flexibility."
When it's time to shop for storage solutions, adequate preparation combined with asking the right questions will save you time and perhaps money, and help you to get exactly what you need and want.
The process usually involves doing research, visiting the showroom to view products and get ideas, arranging an in-home consultation with a designer (who will draw up plans and work with you to finalize them), placing the order, and arranging for installation.
Most organizing firms recommend that prospective customers start by visiting their website to get familiar with the kinds of products that are available. But they also caution against getting overly concerned about design in the early stages.
Valet's Fox observes, "Sometimes people have a tendency to try to design something on their own and then come to us and say 'this is what I want you to design' without considering the services of a professional designer. We find that in the long run it works better if customers give us their list of priorities and needs, then let us design to make sure we can accomplish those things within our design.
"For example, in a closet, one should think about how many shoes they have. And of those shoes, how many do they wear on a weekly basis, versus two to three times a year. Do they need to store those shoes in boxes, or open on shelves? How much access do they need to them? Do they want jewelry stored in the closet somewhere; and if so, behind lock and key, or not? Do they have any special height requirements for particular things?"