Client Before & After: Using the vertical space in a small utility closet

I am not sure if it’s the timing of the new year and people's increased interest in getting organized, but in the last few weeks I have had a ton of email requests asking for Before/After pictures of past projects. And, while I am more than happy to show off these transformations (I guess I should be doing this more often?), I started getting curious as to why people wanted to see them. A few of the responses I received included:

  • “I am curious to see where things start from and what you have to deal with on most projects”
  • “Your Instagram pictures only show so much and usually it’s only the after shots”
  • “I want to see that you have worked with disorganization and chaos worse than mine!”  

Of course, all these questions got me thinking and I have decided to share more Before and Afters! You all have asked, and now I am going to deliver. And while all the photos you will see are not professional (they’re from our iPhones), if you can handle the not-so-professional photography you will hopefully see some of the transformations--both big and small---that we have worked on with our clients.

First up, a recent project of a client that moved into a newly-renovated row house in Washington, DC that is full of charm but slightly lacking on storage space.

At the close of the home’s renovation process, our client knew that she would need to make the most out of the storage closet located off of her kitchen, and we jumped at the chance to help maximize this space along with others in the house. So, listen up all of you with smaller closets...there is hope for all of your storage needs and dreams! :)

Here is the “BEFORE”: Completely bare kitchen closet

Utility Closet - Before.JPG

Before designing a solution, we had to figure out what was going to go into this space. Here is what needed to fit inside the closet:

  • Appliances (again: it’s a row house so the kitchen cabinets and drawer space were occupied with the commonly used items like glassware and dishes)
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Outdoor gardening supplies
  • Stock household items (garbage bags, napkins, paper towels, food storage bags and wraps, and a variety of filters and refills ranging from the Brita to the vacuum)
  • Kitchen towels and aprons
  • Placemats
  • Paper products and plasticware
  • Broom, mop, and Swiffers
  • Step stool
  • Vacuum
  • Bike pump

For a closet that measured just under 3 feet in length (in the closet world that is pretty small!) we knew that the best solution would be to use as much vertical space as possible.

Here is what we designed, had installed, and then organized into the space:

Utility - After 1.JPG

We used The Container Store’s elfa line to add four shelves up the wall that are deep enough to hold appliances, but functional enough to still grab items easily from the top shelf without worrying about hitting the door frame. This closet also had a hidden bump-out on the right that we wanted to make sure would still be accessible for our client’s larger items like her broom, mop, swiffer, and step stool.

We used wire baskets to store the cleaning supplies, separated by categories: multi-purpose cleaners, specialty cleaners, and outdoor gardening supplies, and put the bulkier stock items on a shelf of their own.

Below the shelves are five deep and wide drawers where we put the loose items like dish towels, paper products and plasticware, and filters and refills. We could have added shelves down the entire wall, but we love that the drawers keep the products contained and categorized (and the labels make for easy access).

So, there you have it! A blank closet space that is now completely functional and maximizes the space due to a bit of closet design and organization. An, “Aha!” moment for our client because hey, the potential was there and she just needed “outside eye” to weigh in.

What tricky storage situations have you overcome in your home? Are there any space-saving tips or products that you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comments section below!

And as a friendly reminder for our DC area-based readers: we’re hosting an organizing workshop at West Elm DC this Saturday! We’re discussing our organizing tips, solutions for the tricky areas in your home, and showing you how to combine function + style using our favorite West Elm pieces (oh, and every attendee will leave with an organizing starter kit that includes The Playbook).

People have asked if I am going to be preaching what you “should be doing” like how to keep things clean at all times and how to implement impossible strategies that include color coding your closet. My answer: absolutely not! This isn’t a workshop that is designed to make you feel bad about the state of your home organization. There is no perfectly organized, clean, calm house (unless you know something I don’t), but this workshop is where you will hear about realistic and stylish solutions that work in a busy home (we know that there isn’t enough time, you work, you have kids, you have a life!) and get your questions answered. Please join me and the rest of the DC area attendees who are in the same boat as you!

Click here to grab your ticket!

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