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The race for inner space.


Mericans are facing a storagecrisis. The reasons are many-- one is the rising cost of home building. As designers try to pack more living space into smaller dwellings, the area left for storage shrinks.

Tom Stanton, a residential homedesigner with W.D. Farmer, Inc., says a typical American bedroom closet today ranges in size from 2 or 2 1/2 percent to 4 percent of the total bedroom, although 10 percent would be more nearly adequate. But "no matter how much closet space we show, the homeowner always needs more in five years,' he says. The reason? While storage space dwindles, retailers continue persuading people to buy ever more toys, tools, gadgets, and appliances.

Joe Habib of the Household GoodsCarriers Bureau, an organization that charts statistics for the residential moving industry, says the typical family's personal property weighs 20 percent more today than in 1977. "We didn't have VCRs and compact disc players a few years ago,' Habib says. "Think of the storage demand created by just these two recent electronic inventions.'

In their present quandary, Americanshave much to learn from Europeans about storage. Anne Harland, president of Walther Furniture Company, a West German-owned firm that sells European home furnishings in America, says families in her densely populated native country are storage conscious out of necessity. "We use every corner to its fullest potential,' she says.

European furniture is designed withstorage in mind. The bedroom wardrobe, for example, used extensively in 19th-century America, is still popular in Europe as an economical alternative to building a closet. Modular wall units are another European storage invention. These 36 modules stack side by side to create useful storage enclosures. Most come with shelves, doors, dividers, and drawers. Some have lights and even electrical outlets--and they cost $50 to $500 per module.

Storage beds, popular with Scandinavianfurniture makers, sit on high platform bases with drawer space beneath. Some have drawers on three sides. In Germany, dining-room tables with storage space have caught on. "Wrap-around' seating allows the tables to fit against a wall or in a corner. Hinged seating tops hide storage space beneath.

In the United States, many homeownerswith the time and the tools are building home storage space themselves. Dennis Holtzclaw, of the national do-it-yourself retail chain Home Depot, compares do-it-yourself to professional remodeling:

"In rough numbers, figure on $300for a finished wall system six feet high and eight feet wide,' Holtzclaw says. "Figure on $200 if it's unfinished,' he adds. If you build your own system, the cost will vary with the grade of lumber you select, he says. A wall unit made with furniture-quality clear fir, costing about $2 a foot in the Southeast, would finish out at roughly $125, Holtzclaw estimates. In the same region of the country, pine would come out cheaper--about $75--and oak would be more expensive --about $200.

In other words, you save about halfthe cost of a prebuilt unit if you build it yourself. But Holtzclaw also counsels: "Ask whether you want the piece to be portable or permanent. A shelf doesn't move easily once you've made it part of the wall.'

Often it's possible to reclaim storagespace by using inexpensive materials. Home-improvement, hardware, home-accessory, and discount stores sell do-it-yourself steel-wire shelving (roughly one dollar a foot) that can be used to expand storage space in crowded or poorly organized closets. Ready-made shelving systems cost two or three times more.

The best procedure in planningyour home storage needs is to assess each room for unused space and to weigh the cost and difficulty of various solutions. Here are some suggestions:

Bathrooms--If your bathroom iscramped, provide extra space for hanging towels by attaching racks to the inside of the bathroom door. Better yet, attach basket-style wire shelving to hold towels, sponges, and toilet articles.

Wasted space on tiled walls in thetub area can become useful when fitted with glass or wire shelving.

Children's rooms--Traditional bedstake up much floor space. Platform beds on stilts five feet off the floor provide minilofts with plenty of room for storing toys or hanging clothes underneath.

Living rooms, dens--Recessed windowniches, often found in older houses, are a natural for window seats, inside which blankets, books, and other household items may be stored.

Or you can make a wall. Wall-unitmodules stacked back to back can create a room divider or shallow enclosure. A do-it-yourself wall could start with 12-inch-wide vertical beams with shelves between.

Kitchens--Manufacturers of convenienceappliances are battling for space in the previously underdeveloped wasteland between cupboards and counter. If you haven't already filled this space with microwave ovens, coffeemakers, and knift sharpeners consider installing open shelving, or, at the very least, hooks to hang some of your more frequently used kitchen implements.

Open-rack shelves for dishes andglassware hung above a kitchen island can also add attractive and practical storage space.

Hallways and closets--Hallwaysare notoriously underused areas. Bookshelves installed along one side of a hall may help solve your storage problem. There's also hidden space in almost any inside wall in the shallow area between the studding. This area can be opened to add extra depth to closets in rooms or hallways, or it can be turned into a shallow storage area covered by louvered doors.

Outside--Front and back porches,decks, and open crawl spaces may be walled with decorative lattice screens to create hidden storage for lawn and garden tools and supplies.

Photo: The race for more household space has reached the dining room in a recent European advance--bench seats that extend to make room for guests without the need for extra chairs. The area underneath may be used for storage.
COPYRIGHT 1987 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:home improvement
Author:Hayes, Jack
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Mar 1, 1987
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