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Storage Starved? 6 Tips and Tricks Anyone Can Use

Author Janet Lee reveals six small space storage solutions as valuable to apartment renters as they are to homeowners.

Small Space Storage Solutions

Photo: Aimee Herring

Over the past 20 years, author, blogger, and television producer Janet Lee has lived in a dozen small apartments, none of them larger than 750 square feet. Small wonder that she’s earned a wealth of knowledge about making the most out of less-than-spacious spaces.

Through her blog, Living in a Nutshell, and her book, Living in a Nutshell: Posh and Portable Decorating Ideas for Small Spaces, Lee offers advice on maximizing the real estate you’ve got, however limited it may be. Her small space storage solutions reveal your home’s hidden storage potential.

Small Space Storage Solutions - Living in a Nutshell


1. Outer Edges of Bookcases
Increase the storage capacity of a bookcase, armoire, or any wall-mounted cabinet by simply attaching racks, hooks, or shelving to the outer sides of the unit. Lee points out, “The trick is to keep the color or materials of the add-on shelving consistent with the style of the bookcase itself.”

2. Over the Fridge
The storage-starved among us typically leverage the space above the refrigerator. Lee suggests organizing items you keep here into coordinating boxes. Or if the appliance occupies an unusually tight space, install a curtain that extends down only low enough to conceal the loose collection of items the top of your fridge holds.

3. A Folding Screen’s Flipside
Capitalize on the fact that guests so rarely see the back of your folding screen: Add over-the-door shoe bags or hang a laundry bag from a small hook. Of course, the room divider must be sturdy enough to support the weight of whatever you choose to hide behind the panel; wood-framed designs are ideal.

Related: 11 Sneaky Storage Ideas

Small Space Storage Solution - Rubber Boating Straps

Photo: Aimee Herring

4. Underneath Sofas and Living Room Chairs
We all know what a godsend a storage bin under the bed can be. So why stop there? Lee asks. Stow baskets and bins beneath furniture beyond the bedroom. A good place to start is the living room sofa. For easy access (and to prevent floor damage), enhance your bins with caster wheels. Lee advises, ”Choose sliders you can attach with screws or nuts for a secure fit.”

5.  Hallway Walls
Transform tiny hallways and foyers into stylish catchalls with this inexpensive trick: Stretched across a wall or frame, rubber boating straps can support mail, keys, small toys and shoes—any possession you want to keep within arm’s reach, ready to be grabbed at a moment’s notice.

6. Closet Doorknobs
Here’s another great small space storage solution: “When you are trying to maximize your closet’s full storage potential, don’t forget the doorknobs,” says Lee. Hang coordinating tote bags printed with decorative designs to keep stockings, scarves, and socks neatly contained and instantly accessible.

A Green Dream Townhouse

Proving that green design is as beautiful and practical as it is good for the earth, architect Paul Gleicher transforms a New York City townhouse into an eco-friendly family home.

Green Dream House

Paul Gleicher and Lisa Sharkey sit in the living room of their eco-friendly townhouse.

Back in 2005, when Paul Gleicher and his wife Lisa Sharkey began to gut-renovate their 1885 Manhattan townhouse, the concept of green building was still foreign to many manufacturers.

“We were hard-pressed to locate accurate information and inspirational products,” recalls Gleicher, a LEED-accredited architect and the founder of Gleicher Design Group. “At one trade show, when we asked about green products, we were actually shown green-colored wallpaper and tiles.”

Slideshow: House Tour: New York City Townhouse Goes Green

The couple spent untold hours scouring the internet for earth-friendly building materials. Among their finds were household names, such as Sherwin-Williams and its Harmony line of no-VOC paints, as well as many small firms located close by.

For example, Icestone, a Brooklyn-based company specializing in recycled glass and concrete, supplied the kitchen and bathroom countertops, the living room fireplace surround, and the rooftop patio pavers.

Gleicher Sharkey Townhouse - Living Roof

Recycled-glass pavers appear on the "living roof" of the townhouse.

Gleicher and Sharkey filled their home with healthy, sustainable accents: upholstery made from recycled fabric, furniture made from recycled wood, and organic mattresses free of formaldehyde. Indeed, innovations continue from the high-efficiency boiler and water heater in the basement to the glass conservatory and green roof on the top floor.

“One of the great things we discovered was that choosing green does not add significant cost to a renovation,” Gleicher says. “And over time, the five or ten percent more you might spend up front will save you money, because the products last longer and use less energy.”

With the renovation complete, Gleicher and Sharkey now enjoy a home that’s as kind to the planet as it is pleasing to the eye. ”Today eco-friendly products and materials are at the forefront of the design world,” Gleicher points out. “People see their value in terms of the earth, our health, and even the market value of a home. But there is still a lingering sense that ‘green’ design is somehow earthy or crunchy, and we wanted to show that wasn’t the case at all.”

The Gleicher/Sharkey townhouse—and 16 other stylishly sustainable residences—can be found in Dreaming Green: Eco-Fabulous Homes Designed to Inspire (Clarkson Potter; 2008). “The book is the culmination of all out work,” Gleicher reports. “And the resource guide is one we would have loved to have had when we started out.”

How Do You Shower? 7 Revealing Facts About America’s Bathing Habits

Whether you use your shower to wake up in the morning or wind down at night, the way you take a shower may be more revealing than you know.

Bathing Habits


As the Senior Research & Development Manager for Delta Faucet, Paul Patton conducts frequent surveys and studies to better understand the needs of his customers. Through this research, Patton has observed an intriguing phenomenon: Although people interact with kitchen and lavatory sinks in much the same way, the way we shower differs from person to person.

“There is an emotional side to showers that just isn’t there with sinks,” Patton confirms. “A shower is a uniquely personal experience, whether you use the time to wake up in the morning, to wind down in the evening, or simply to get away from it all.” Here, seven telling facts reveal how Americans feel about their showers.

Better Than a Cup of Joe
18% of all respondents, male and female, report that their morning shower is more important to them than that first cup of coffee.

Me Time
About 40% of women surveyed agree with the statement, “My shower is my time for focusing just on me,” compared with only 28% of men.

Spa for Less
Households in lower income brackets are more likely to view the shower as a place to ease stress and escape the worries of the world. For many, a hot shower is an affordable alternative to a pricey massage.

What Women Want
When asked about their dream shower, 40% of men would include more room for a significant other; 45% of women would choose ambient music and lighting.

What Else Is On?
Much like they channel surf with the remote control, men are more likely than women to change the spray pattern and adjust the flow of water in the shower.

If Mom’s in the Shower, Don’t Knock
10% of women say if something interrupts their shower routine, their whole day is out of whack.

Waste Not, But Have It All
Despite droughts and water restrictions, Americans love their daily showers—something that continually drives Delta Faucet to improve water efficiency in their products. “The question we’re always asking ourselves is, How do we deliver a great shower experience and save water at the same time?” says Patton.

Is a Kitchen Banquette Right for You?

Kitchen Banquettes


Banquettes have a nostalgic charm about them, whether you sat at one in your grandmother’s kitchen or you shared a diner booth with friends in college. But is this distinctive seating right for your home?

For insight, we reached out to kitchen and bath designer Susan Klimala, CKD – CBD and owner of The Kitchen Studio in Glen Ellyn, IL. “Banquettes allow for a cozy, intimate dining experience with a casual feel, but they’re not for everyone,” says Susan, who has designed numerous banquettes, including one in her own kitchen. She cites several good reasons to consider a kitchen banquette.

Efficient Use of Space
“From a design standpoint, banquettes offer a very efficient use of space. You are eliminating the need for some of the clearances you would require with a table and chairs. This makes seating possible in areas where a table and chairs would just be too tight.”

Perfect for Casual Dining
“Banquettes are ideal as a casual dining spot for a small group. They are better for breakfast and after-school snacks than they are for formal dinners.”

Kitchen Banquettes - Booth


You Can Repurpose Out-of-the-Way Places
“Alcoves, bay windows, and corners are all good spots for a banquette. Another option—if you are planning to build or remodel—is to think about repurposing the space that might have been planned for a walk-in pantry. I did this in my own kitchen and was able to design a large island, plus plenty of storage, while still having enough room for an eat-in kitchen.”

There are, however, situations where banquette seating may not be the perfect solution, among them:

Not for Big Families
“I would not recommend banquette seating for a very large family. If someone needs to get out for another serving, a glass of water, or what have you, then everyone has to scoot over to let them out.”

Finding the Right Table Is Challenging
“It can be tricky to find an attractive table to service a banquette. The table has to be a pedestal of some sort. It cannot have legs at the four corners, because you would bang your legs every time you got in or out. Most times a banquette necessitates some type of custom table.”

Related: Trending Now: Banquette Seating

They Can Be Hard to Clean
“Banquettes can get a little grungy, especially the parts tucked away in the back, so ideally you want a movable table that you can pull in and out when you need to clean or change the tablecloth. We did a banquette where the table was on casters for this exact purpose.”

Kitchen Banquettes - Dining Area

MB Wilson Interior Design / Photo: Beth Singer

Construction Details
If you are thinking about putting a banquette in your kitchen, heed Susan’s advice: Ideally, you need a minimum of 27 inches of space for each person to sit comfortably. The depth of the benches should be at least 24 inches, because you will want to leave space for an angled back or upholstered seating. The table should overlap each bench by three inches or so.

If you are designing a banquette in front of windows, be sure that the windows are a good 24 inches off the floor to allow for a seat height of 15 inches (not counting the height of the cushions).

When it comes to upholstery, opt for something washable. Fabric-upholstered cushions are never a great idea, especially with children. Choose an upholstered banquette in leather or pleather, just like the seating you would find in a restaurant. Such material can be easily wiped clean, and you won’t have to deal with the cushions falling off the benches. Your local upholsterer should be able to help you pull this together.

For more on kitchen design, consider:

Kitchen Design Trends for 2013
12 Outstanding Kitchen Island Options
Planning Guide: Kitchen Remodeling

How To: Choose a New Bathroom Faucet

How to Choose a Faucet

Delta's Cassidy Faucet

In the overall scheme of a bathroom, the sink faucet might seem like an incidental detail, but its design can set the tone for the whole space. If it’s been a while since you last shopped for a faucet, you’ll be amazed by the broad range of styles, finishes, and state-of-the-art functions available today.

Buying only one from a field of so many options may seem daunting. Allison McKinney, a product manager at Delta Faucets, says that “the three main considerations when choosing a new faucet are style, function, and fit.” Indeed, zeroing in on these criteria helps simplify the selection process.

Are you updating an old sink or planning a complete bathroom remodel? If you’re focusing on the sink, your choices will be somewhat limited, since the faucet will need to fit into the existing setup (ideally, it will coordinate with other fixtures in the room). If you are redoing the entire room, all avenues are open. Curvy or sleek, one handle or two, there are truly styles to fit any taste.

Related: 12 “Decorator Worthy” Bathroom Vanities

Once you’ve honed in on a silhouette you like, next you will need to decide on a finish. Do you prefer traditional chrome or something a little unexpected, such as old-rubbed bronze? McKinney reminds renovators: No matter what shape and finish you love, be sure the faucet has matching tub and shower fixtures so that you can complete the whole room.

If you want a faucet with no bells and whistles, take your pick—there’s no shortage on the market. But a lot has changed in faucet technology over the past decade, so you may find it worthwhile, not to mention fun, to see what’s out there.

Popular now are hands-free designs that use motion sensors to turn on and off automatically. (These are a great option for households with young children who tend to leave the water running.) Or maybe a luxurious waterfall flow is just what you’ve dreamed about for your new master bath.

Before visiting a showroom, consider your lifestyle and the amount of use the new faucet is likely to receive. A more decorative style better suits a powder room used mainly by guests, while your high-traffic kids bath may warrant a sturdier choice.

Whereas style and function are often a matter of personal taste, “fit” is the technical part of the equation that will be of particular importance if you are replacing the faucet on an existing sink.

The basic sink configurations and their associated faucet types are:

  • Single-hole sinks fit either single-handled or smaller two-handled faucets.
  • Centerset (also called mini-widespread) sinks feature three holes drilled within four inches and accommodate single-handled desins or two-handled faucets mounted on a plate or escutcheon.
  • Widespread sinks, which have three separate holes at least eight inches apart, accept larger two-handled designs.

Wall-mounted designs are also available. If replacing an old faucet, be sure to bring a picture and dimensions of your sink to a showroom.

How to Choose a Faucet - Oil Rubbed Bronze

Delta's Victorian Faucet

Prices vary from about $50 to more than $500, depending on style, finish, and technology. Have a budget in mind before you begin your search and realize that to get the look you want, it may be necessary to compromise. Affording a hands-free design, for instance, may mean opting for a less expensive finish.

Inquire how the finish on a faucet was applied, as this usually affects price. So-called PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) coating is extremely durable but costs more. Also, note that warranties on faucets (for both finishes and inner valve construction) are usually worthwhile.

Before you begin your search, take a picture of the sink you plan to update, jotting down its dimensions and hole configurations. Or if you’re renovating the space in its entirety, collect pictures of dream bathrooms and fixtures to develop a sense of what you like. Installing the faucet yourself? Ask which models have the greatest ease of installation. “Bring all the information you can with you to the showroom, so there are no surprises when you get there,” McKinney concludes.

For more on bathrooms, consider:

Delta Innovation: Then and Now
5 Simple Ways to Modernize Your Bath
Bathroom Sinks That Rise Above the Rest

Formica Goes Retro Upon Turning 100

Retro Formica

Formica's 100th Anniversary Collection

Formica, the colorful laminate used in American homes for generations, turns 100 this year.

It was back in 1913 that Daniel J. O’Conor, a young research engineer at Westinghouse Electric, first discovered that layers of resin-coated fabric, when pressed together, made a laminate that worked well as an electrical insulator.

O’Conor partnered with fellow Westinghouse associate Herbert A. Faber to start a new business, Formica, named for the insulating properties of the new material that acted as a substitute “for mica,” a mineral often used for electrical insulation. Read the rest of this entry »

How To: Bring the World’s Most Romantic Color into the Home

Red Decor - Front Door


As Valentine’s Day approaches, the color red becomes more and more apparent in our homes. Red roses, red hearts on Valentine’s cards, and for true holiday enthusiasts, red-colored lights draped on a mantel or at the window.

Traditionally seen as the color of passion, red is also associated with power and assertiveness. Small wonder then that so many homeowners choose to surround themselves with the vibrant hue all year ’round.

“Red is an excellent color to use if you want to create an effect that is stimulating and invigorating,” says color consultant Doreen Richmond, whose blog investigates the use of color in interior design. “It is a color that makes you conscious and alert. In the home, it adds strength and warmth.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Top New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

Home Improvement Projects 2013


The start of each new year is a hopeful time. People vow to get to the gym more often or to finally quit smoking. But as winter turns to spring, even the most steadfast determination can begin to wane, and resolutions often get sidelined. The same is true in remodeling. There always seem to be things on our wish lists that we never get around to.

We spoke with three experts to identify the home improvement projects most of us think about but rarely tackle. And we got tips on how to finally get these projects done.


1. Making Our Homes More Energy Efficient

Home Improvement Projects 2013 - Energy Efficiency


Bob Vila knows a thing or two about the home improvement projects people dream about. One that he hears mentioned frequently is increasing a home’s energy efficiency. “People often ask me about energy conservation methods, from installing a programmable thermostat to adding insulation in an attic to replacing old windows and doors,” he says.

Why It’s Important: Boosting your home’s energy efficiency saves you money—a common resolution in and of itself!

What Holds Us Back: Budget concerns can be roadblocks to success, Bob points out, but they don’t have to be. “There are $50,000 window replacements, but there are also options as inexpensive as a tube of caulking to seal out drafts.”

How To Get It Done: “Take a realistic look at your finances and start with what you can afford,” Bob advises. “For larger projects, you may have to adjust your priorities in order to save money, like taking a one week vacation instead of two weeks.”


2. Remodeling a Kitchen or Bath

Home Improvement Projects 2013 - Kitchen and Bath


Modernizing an outdated kitchen or bath is a project that Amy Matthews, licensed contractor and host of DIY Network’s hit show “Sweat Equity,” is asked about time and again.

Why It’s Important: Aside from the aesthetic qualities, a beautiful new kitchen or bath can increase the value of your home.

What Holds Us Back: “I think people feel overwhelmed by the scope of these projects,” Amy reflects. “There are other rooms you can renovate for less money, but kitchens and baths can involve plumbing, gas lines, fixtures—they are expensive places to fix.”

How To Get It Done: “Begin by making a detailed plan of your dream room, but be realistic about the costs,” Amy says. To have the stove of your dreams, for example, you may need to compromise on cabinets—or the other way around. “A good contractor will be able to help you adjust your plan to fit your budget.”


3. Conquering Clutter

Home Improvement Projects 2013 - Storage and Organization


“Getting rid of clutter and finally getting organized is always on our readers’ list of New Year’s resolutions,” reports Amy Panos, Senior Editor for Home Design at Better Homes & Gardens.

Why It’s Important: Clutter-free spaces not only help you save time by making it easier to find what you need, they also foster an overall sense of serenity in your home.

What Holds Us Back: The urge to get it done all at once. “Remember, you didn’t accumulate the clutter in a day, and you’re not going to organize your whole house in a day,” Amy says.

How To Get It Done: Start small. “Think about the three areas that, if you could get them organized, would make the biggest difference in your daily life,” Amy suggests. “Work on one of them each month, even if it’s only for an hour a week. Focus on one and work on it until you finish, then move on to the next one. Let success breed success.”


For more on remodeling, consider:

New Year, New Color
Kitchen Design Trends for 2013
5 Market Trends to Cash In On This Year

New Year, New Color

Emerald Green - Pantone 2013

Pantone, the global authority on color for the design industries, has announced the Color of the Year for 2013: Emerald Green. (Or more specifically, PANTONE 17-5641.) Leatrice Eiseman, executive director for the Pantone Color Institute, reflects on the choice: “Symbolically, Emerald brings a sense of clarity, renewal, and rejuvenation,” she says, “which is so important in today’s complex world.”

Slideshow: Trending Now: Emerald Green

How will the choice of Emerald affect your decorating decisions in the year ahead? Perhaps quite a bit—or perhaps not at all—depending on how much you like the hue and to what degree you enjoy bold colors in your home.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sweet Dreams: A New Line of No-VOC Paints for Nurseries

Lullaby Paints - Golden Slumber Nursery

Lullaby Paints' Golden Slumber Nursery

The health benefits of low-VOC paints for people with chemical sensitivities and respiratory conditions are well documented. Earlier this year, those benefits inspired one company to launch a line of non-toxic paints targeted towards the most susceptible among us: infants.

Lullaby Paints—intended specifically for nurseries and playrooms—are free of benzene, formaldehyde, and a host of other compounds often found in traditional household paints.

Related: Fresh Coat: 10 All-Natural House Paints

Company co-founder Julian Crawford points out that parents often paint a nursery mere weeks or months before a baby’s arrival, and that, once home, newborns spend many hours a day sleeping in their rooms. “We have baby monitors now that allow parents to shut the nursery door to keep out noise,” says Crawford, who adds that new homes are also better insulated and therefore less drafty than they used to be. “It’s more important than ever to have high air quality indoors.”

Lullaby Paints - Palettes

Lullaby Paints' Designer Palettes

Although designed for nurseries, Lullaby Paints’ broad palette is sophisticated enough to look great beyond the nursery. There are bold hues like Tangerine and Citron and more subdued choices such as Portobello, Celadon, and Sheep’s Wool. Pale pinks and blues are offered as well, but overall, Crawford reports, “these are not typical baby colors.”

Also available from Lullaby Paints are chalkboard paints in 16 vibrant hues like Royal Blue and King’s Red, all safe and toxin-free so that children can help with the application. The chalkboard paint is sold by the gallon or quart. It’s also sold in a convenient kit, which includes roller, tray, edging tape, enough paint to cover a 30-foot square surface with two coats, and even some chalk to get little artists on their way.

Coming in 2013: a line of stains and varnishes for woodwork, floors, and furniture. “It’s even harder to find varnishes that are low- or no-VOC, so it was really a natural extension of what we offer,” Crawford states. Now in the final stages of color development, expect to see shades that are both traditional and a bit unexpected—charcoal gray, for instance.

Lullaby Paint's packaging

Lullaby Paints' Eco-Friendly Packaging

Homeowners seeking green products will undoubtedly appreciate Lullaby Paints’ packaging. Gone are the paint cans that would sit on your garage shelf year after year. In their place: resealable pouches that cut down on manufacturing and shipping costs and keep paint fresher for future touch-ups.

For more information, to order paint or samples, or to find a retailer near you, visit Lullaby Paints.

Fore more on painting, consider:

Fail-Safe Colors
What to Do with Old Paint
Paint Guide: 10 Essentials for Successful House Painting