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Originally published Friday, October 18, 2013 at 8:05 PM

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HomeWork | Even small houses have possibilities for adding storage

One way to boost storage is to look to your walls to create more space and function in your home. And wall-storage units don’t have to look utilitarian.

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Q: We love our cozy little new home, but we lack storage space. What can you suggest?

A: Living in a smaller, more environmentally responsible home has become increasingly popular and is a great option for families just starting out. But it can leave you scrambling for storage space.

One way to boost storage is to look to your walls to create more space and function in your home. And wall-storage units don’t have to look utilitarian. You can enhance the style and appeal of wall storage by using baskets and decorative boxes. In addition to adding color and accent to a room, they can corral magazines, office supplies and more.

Thinking about replacing your kitchen cabinets? Consider replacing the upper cabinets with shelving. In addition to saving money, open shelves can improve the functionality of your kitchen.

Your everyday dishes and attractive serving pieces can create warmth and pizazz, and you can tackle two kitchen challenges — accessorizing and storage — with one easy solution. And if you happen to have a family member who tends to leave cabinet doors open, using shelves instead could prevent a head bump or two.

Do you have a small bathroom or powder room? Skirt the pedestal sink, and behind the skirt create a bumped-out ledge to store bath necessities and supplies within easy reach.

A nifty idea for even a narrow slice of blank wall in your laundry room or laundry area is to transform it with a wall-mount drying rack. Now you have a handy space to hang and dry small items.

Don’t be afraid to take full advantage of a spare wall. Use the wall’s entire height capacity by installing a floor-to-ceiling bookcase. An open unit can look sleek and light, and it makes the room seem taller since it draws the eye up. Another great trick is to build an in-wall niche. These recessed cabinets or shelves are narrow and shallow, so they can be added to almost any wall.

How about a simple wall unit for your mudroom, laundry or entry hall? It’s a time- and sanity-saver for busy families, and you can easily build your own. Begin with two tower-style bookcases, and place a wall cabinet between the two units as a bench. If you like a cottage-style look, install beaded board behind the center unit and top it off with a narrow shelf with hooks for coats and bags.

Wish you had room for a home office? You can turn a blank wall into an information center by hanging a combination of blackboards and magnet boards.

Blackboards are ideal for writing important phone numbers and reminders, and magnet boards are perfect for hanging small storage bins for pens and note pads, as well as papers and notes that need prompt attention. A bit of simple shelving underneath the boards can even serve as a small desk. Add a small chair and you’re set.

HomeWork is the weekly column by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council about home care, repair and improvements. If you have questions about home improvement, send them to


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