A closer look: Storage in the Lucky Linden
Storage is a pretty personal methodology, but - especially when you are planning for a tiny house - looking at what other tiny housers do can inform your decisions. I'm going to tour you through our storage, and explain how and why I chose to build the kind of storage we have in the Lucky Linden.
As a preface, I want you to know that our storage isn't perfect. We are still shifting things around, and the biggest shocker to Dan and I was that we had more storage than stuff! So some areas of our storage are still empty. I'm actually ok with this, because it means we can grow into the space a bit. But I didn't design it that way, nor would I recommend it. My most common advice to people who are planning to go tiny is to think about how much storage you need, and then build half that size. Why? Because I have never heard of a tiny house dweller ripping out a shelf or a cabinet because they have too much storage. Empty space will get filled, and it's easier to add a bit of storage here and there than to be too crowded in your tiny house because you overbuilt the storage.
Marie Kondo's book "The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up" clarified some thoughts on storage for me. One of the principles she promotes is that in modern life we continually think we need more space and bigger houses because our storage space is not (efficiently) full, and we don't make consistent good use of the space we have. For me, this means that I wanted to build very high-density storage to try to store things all in one spot, and thereby declutter the living spaces. So I built just one "closet", that was accessible on three sides.
The "closet" I built is nothing more that a 16" deep bookshelf 33" wide, and pulled away from the wall about 8". In the 8" gap, I have shelf cleats spaced 6" apart all the way from floor to ceiling. Shallow shelves are more effective than deep shelves in general because items can get buried at the back of a deep shelf, hidden by the more commonly used items. However, in this case, I've used bins to create drawers, so the bins can be pulled out and everything in the cubby is easily reachable. Without a drawer, that cubby holding the card games pictured above would be difficult to use. I would have to pull out each game individually to reach one at the back. These cubbies hold lots of things: Games (as shown), extra spices and tupperware lids, a snack drawer for granola bars and such, Dan's toiletries, my toiletries and cosmetics, a double-high shelf for two water dispensers (we have an artesian spring nearby that we like to use for drinking water), another double-high for a few books and Dan's CASA manual, and the bottom one is for yoga mat storage.
The actual bookshelf itself is our closet space. Dan has the top two shelves for his clothes, and I have the next two shelves. I actually measured the ideal height of a pile of folded clothes to determine the measurements of this bookshelf - I didn't want the piles to be to high, because then they topple over too easily. The lowest space of the bookshelf is our hamper space. I made a mistake here. I built this for a specific laundry hamper that used to be sold at Target. But between the time I looked up the measurements and the time it was built and ready for the hamper, they discontinued carrying that specific hamper. So, we had to go with one that doesn't quite fit the space like I had planned. Lesson learned: if you're designing for a specific item, buy that item right away! I easily could have bought that hamper and used it in the intervening time until the house was finished and avoided this problem. Oh well. And yes, the space to the right of the hamper is completely empty. Remember how I said we built too much space? Here's a spot that we haven't filled yet.
The four bins hold things like socks and underclothes. I willingly admit that three of the four bins are mine - I have tights and leggings and wool ski socks and scarves to store in addition to socks and underclothes. Dan and I have both standardized our socks. We have one brand and one color and one style. It means we don't ever fold our socks, they just get tossed loose into the bin and it's very easy to just pull out two in the morning and put them on. No matching required!
The bookshelf is 33" wide, which means that each one of those cubbies is also 33" deep. The gray bins that I chose are 16" deep, so they effectively mean that half of the depth is usable from the great room side and half is usable from the bathroom side. On this side we store extra paper towel, toilet paper, medicines, a double-high space for hair care stuff, and a double-high space for bath towels.
One of Dan's must-haves in the design of our house was a King size bed. This didn't worry me, because I knew we would just have a loft that fit a King size mattress. What was difficult was figuring out "nightstand" space. We charge our phones next to our bed at night, and what was I going to do about the books, iPad, and glass of water type of stuff? I designed the bed so that the head of the bed was against the side wall of the house, and the wall with the windows is along the side of the bed. This gave me a chance to use the window sill as my bedside table, because the sills are deep enough for a phone and a glass of water. Above the windows I included a shelf integrated into the window trim - that was a beastly piece of trim to make and install! It's all one piece, surrounding both windows and spanning the shelf across the top. I had these wicker baskets, which fit perfectly across the shelf. A couple of them are still empty, but one has my manicure and nail polish stuff in it because I like to do my nails at night watching a TV show. I also store my journal, pens, coloring book, and current reading material in one of them.
The rest of the baskets hold electronics for our entertainment center. The TV, DVD player, and WiiU are all mounted at the foot of the bed. One basket is nothing but WiiU games, another holds all the controllers and batteries for the Wii. Still another has cords, remotes, and miscellaneous electronic stuff. I'm pretty happy with how this turned out - I don't like cords showing at all, so I planned for an outlet behind the TV. Everything is plugged into that outlet and all the cords are hidden behind the TV, and the games and controllers are hidden in pretty baskets. It's possibly the best it could be, because I personally think it's very difficult to make electronics look nice.
Dan's side of the bed was more difficult. His side overlooks the downstairs. Since the mattress runs right to the edge of the loft, I built a railing because honestly I'm a bit scared of heights and I didn't want Dan to roll over in bed and end up down in the living room. The railing is topped with a scrap piece of cedar I had left over, and that created a nice wide spot for placing stuff. I was concerned that a water bottle or a glass would fall off the railing, though, so I used some scrap pieces of purplewood, Zebra wood, and a leftover bit of our butcher block counter top to make a three-sided nook. The fourth side ends up being the wall of the house, which is good because it also has an outlet right there for charging things.
Our storage loft is actually the least-used storage in our house. I built it extra wide, mostly so we could place a twin-sized mattress up there in the future. For now it holds just a few things. My suitcase, a wicker bin of winter hats and gloves and scarves, a couple of pillows and a throw blanket my grandma knitted for me. We intend to use this space as a small reading nook, but for now it's mostly just a little bit of storage with a nice cedar floor and ceiling.
We make good use of the space under our couch. I dislike storage benches where you have to lift up the bench to access the storage - the cushion gets pinched, it's heavy or you have to install gas lifts, you have to clean off the bench to access the space. So I built our bench so the platform is fixed, and we use baskets and bins to pull things out from under. The bin to the far right is for our shoes. To the left of that is a bin of dog food, and then all of our bigger board games, some of which are in a basket and some are just on the floor. This has been very effective storage for us, and it's easily changeable if we decide to move stuff around (which, since this picture has been taken, it has shuffled a bit).
The last couple storage areas are mostly incidental. The folding table we bought from IKEA has 6 drawers in it, three on each side. They store a surprising amount of stuff! One has reusable shopping bags close to the door so I hopefully remember them (but I usually forget). Dog treats, shampoo, brushes, extra collars, flea and tick medicine are in another drawer. One is simply a catch-all junk drawer with pens, scissors, sticky notes, flash drives, etc. And one has a few small hand tools in it - a hammer, measuring tape, some nails, a screwdriver. This stuff will likely move to be with the rest of my tools in the spring, but for now they are useful to have close because I am still moving things around and hanging pictures. The storage ottoman is actually for our dog Squirrel, who is too small to get on the couch by himself, so the ottoman is actually a step for him. We store my computer and our day pack backpacks in it, where they are easily accessible. Our mail sorting center is on the wall above the table. This actually holds all of our checkbooks and bills too, along with birthday and thank you cards that I send out. I don't like it to look messy, which means I go through everything pretty regularly and our bills get paid on time.
And that's it for storage in the Lucky Linden. I hope this clarifies how and what and where various things are stored, so you can effectively plan for storage in your tiny house design!