New storage options ideal for dorms and apartments
By Harriet Schechter
August 22, 2004
Anyone who has ever lived in a small place knows the First Rule of
Stuff: Stuff expands to fill the space available for storage.
Take advantage of
vertical space above a bed with the Dorm Space
Saver Shelf. $39.99, at Bed, Bath & Beyond
Naturally, the smaller the space, the faster the stuff expands.
Whether your residence is a dorm room, a studio apartment, a
cramped condo or a "cozy" cottage, it's a challenge to find
effective ways to store what you already have – not to mention what
you'll accumulate as time goes on.
Fortunately, there are now plenty of well-designed storage options
available. The downside of this super-storage abundance is that it can
be difficult to choose what will work best for your limited space.
This makes it easy to buy things that turn out to be more interesting
than useful, which can result in space-wasting "clever clutter
How to avoid this common condition? Keep in mind just two key
guidelines: Utilize vertical space and use mobile, multipurpose units.
A chrome pantry rack adds storage to
other rooms, as well as kitchens. $29, at Target stores.
In small spaces, there's nowhere to go but up, so utilizing
vertical space is essential. (This does not mean piling up stuff to
If you live in a dorm or apartment, restrictions on making holes in
walls and ceilings may prevent you from installing wall-mounted
shelving and rack systems, but that doesn't mean you can't make the
most of your vertical space. Here are five types of vertically
oriented storage aids that will stop you from climbing the walls:
Baker's rack –Forget the kitchen connotation.
Baker's racks are useful anywhere you need a combination of
multipurpose surface and storage. Target's Chrome Baker's Rack ($59)
is an ideal yet inexpensive example. The shallow upper shelf can hold
everything from CD collections to grooming supplies, while the
wood-covered "work surface" and larger lower shelves are
handy for storing bulkier stuff such as books, storage baskets and
Detachable wire hooks that hang from a grid are good for keeping a
variety of frequently used items accessible: caps, keys, scissors and
anything else hangable that tends to get lost underneath other stuff
left on horizontal surfaces.
Bed etagere – For some people, a nightstand is merely a
nicety. For others, however, it's a necessity. It does make sense to
have a bedside spot for keeping within easy reach things like an alarm
clock, a box of tissues and various personal items. But dorms and
other small bedroom spaces rarely have room for a nightstand.
This compact breakfast set has many
other uses, including serving as a portable home office. $120,
at Target and Amazon.com.
Fortunately there's another option that goes over the bed instead
of beside it: Bed Bath & Beyond's Dorm Space Saver Bed
Etagere ($39) fits over a standard twin bed and features two shelves,
each with a 150-pound capacity (although you won't want to store
anything that heavy on it in case of an earthquake).
CD tower – Storing compact disks shouldn't take up
too much room – after all they're just skinny little things. Yet
somehow they manage to expand beyond their natural boundaries,
spilling out of drawers and other containers.
One solution is to streamline your CD storage by replacing any
relatively bulky organizers with a slender CD tower such as IKEA's
Hacka ($20). It holds up to 120 CDs in a unit that's 56 inches tall
and only 11 inches wide and deep. And minus doors or drawers, it's
easier to view and access your collection.
Door hinge-mounted rack –Corner space is often wasted
because it's difficult to find ways to use it effectively, especially
when the corner is behind a door. Now there's a device created
expressly for utilizing that tricky space.
IKEA's tall, narrow Hacka CD tower holds
up to 120 CDs. $20, at IKEA, Mission Valley
The Hinge-It Towel/Clothes Rack ($29, Bed Bath & Beyond)
installs easily on the hinges of most doors and has four, 16-inch
tubular steel arms that provide more than 5 feet of hanging space.
It's handy for hanging everything from damp towels to your
Hanging closet organizers –Vertical storage isn't
limited to shelf-oriented units. In fact, there's a whole range of
hanging closet accessories that utilizes vertical space inside closets
and on closet doors. These organizers are designed to accommodate
specific cloth ing categories.
For example, Bed Bath & Beyond's Hanging Canvas Closet
Accessories ($15) are sized for sweaters and shoes, but the
over-the-door shoe bag also works well for everything from underwear
to small purses.
On the move
The invention of the wheel stands as one of humankind's
greatest inventions, so honor that achievement by investing in wheeled
furnishings whenever possible.
Rolling systems such as carts, racks and trolleys make it easy to
move things around so you can reach what you need when you need it,
then roll it out of the way when you don't.
Having things on wheels also makes rearranging your furnishings
much easier. And when rollability is paired with multi-functionality,
you get the most versatile and effective storage options.
Here are some good examples:
Rolling file cart –Keeping file drawers accessible
is one way of preventing paper pile-ups. A rolling file cart that also
includes shallow drawers for office supplies will work in almost any
Office Depot's Medium Storage Tower Cart ($36) is made of clear
plastic so you can easily see what's in all six drawers. The two
deeper drawers are sized for file folders but could also work for
storing clothing, books, toiletries, etc.
Bin cart –Slide-out bins combine the ease of gliding
drawers with the accessibility of open shelves. You can use a
four-tier bin cart on casters ($20, Linens 'n' Things) for storing and
organizing anything that requires horizontal storage, from paper
supplies to folded clothing to toiletries.
A rolling cabinet with clear plastic
drawers lets you store anything from files to toiletries and
easily locate them. $36 at Office Depot.
Mobile bookcase –For items such as books, binders
and notebooks that are easier to access when stored upright, IKEA's
Didrik Storage Unit on casters ($10) is a handy size. It's low enough
to roll under a desk or table, and can be turned sideways for a
different storage configuration.
Kitchen racks – Look for storage systems advertised
for kitchen use (like the baker's rack mentioned earlier), which can
be quite effective in other areas and are especially versatile for
A chrome pantry rack ($29, Target) provides a solid surface along
with two wire shelves, two sliding baskets and locking casters. If
more surface space and underneath storage are needed, a butcher
trolley ($199, Target) is an expanded version of the pantry rack. It's
more than twice as large, with added features such as a towel bar and
Mobile breakfast set –Anyone who has ever done
homework or paid bills at the kitchen or dining-room table knows that
it's often more comfortable to work there than at a desk. The only
thing lacking is drawers for storage of supplies such as pens,
notepads, Post-its and calculators. Fortunately there's now an option
that combines the best of both worlds – plus it's on wheels. Target
carries a compact breakfast set ($120) on casters with a drop-leaf
that doubles surface size, a pair of drawers, and two stools that tuck
underneath when not in use. With the drop-leaf down, it doubles as a
rolling counter space, which can function as a tool for dividing up a