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Sarah's Cottage

All tidy and tucked away Add to ...

We've just finished cleaning out our garage at home for the umpteenth time (where does all that "stuff" come from?). 'Tis the season for spring cleaning and there's no time like the present to purge your life of all unnecessary trappings from days gone by. Make sure your life is neatly organized so that you are ready to enjoy the beauty of summer when it arrives very soon.

Having just survived a major reno at the cottage, I'm decidedly relieved that I don't have to face the task of cleaning closets when I go up to the island for the first time next weekend. While major renovations have their downside, one advantage is the undeniable fact that you must purge.

In order to tackle a big project, you have to first pack up every possession in the house and then, when the trades have left and your new homestead is a reality, you get to unpack all your treasures.

(Okay, so some of those things you couldn't live without at the beginning of the project are now ending up in the "what on earth did I save that for" giveaway pile.) Thankfully, the one thing I knew going into our renovation was that we were seriously lacking in storage. We needed to designate and design solutions to manage the trappings of kids, family and visitors to maintain some semblance of order in our small cottage. Here are a few small tricks that helped me achieve my goal of "a place for everything and everything in its place." Some are big, some are common sense, but all help keep clutter at bay.


Pick a coffee table with ample clearance to the floor. The boxy proportions of my oversized table allow me to slide three big woven baskets underneath that I use to store everything from board games to magazines. Since the baskets are a bit smaller than the width and length of the table, you can't see what's inside when they are tucked underneath. But little ones know exactly where to look for their favourite puzzle, and it makes clean up so easy that even toddlers can pitch in and pick up.


I'm always on the hunt for furniture and accessories that do double duty. These lidded boxes that look like honeybees' nests have a flat top so you can put down a drink or a plate, are lightweight and offer the extra bonus of storage inside. What more could you ask for in a side table?


Adding an elevation of extra storage on the backside of your prep area in the kitchen can help you keep non-essential clutter away. By installing 48-inch high cabinets that are only 14 inches deep on the lounge side of my kitchen, I was able to carve out a space for flashlights, electronics equipment, kids' craft supplies and all manner of other bits and bobs. The tall pantry cupboard actually houses the stereo, and the lower section was designed to "borrow" extra depth from the kitchen cabinets behind. By moving the interior divider we managed to get exactly what was needed both inside the kitchen and out.


Divide and conquer is my new motto for custom storage. In my life I just can't keep it all organized without specifically designed storage solutions (believe me, I've tried). When left with an eight-foot wall in our new entryway, I opted to have custom-made cabinetry installed to help me make it look good and be efficient at the same time. I allocated two feet on each side for hanging space (and chose a shutter door profile to ensure airflow in case any damp boat jackets get hung up in there), then used the remaining four-foot section to create a bench, two deep drawers that hold everyone's shoes, a high shelf with baskets for hats and sun gear, and a row of hooks to toss up items that will be worn again shortly. Not only do I like the way it looks, I know where to find everything I'm looking for!


Don't overlook the space beneath the bed as a valuable storage area. Instead of using box spring and mattress combos that take up a lot of room, I tried to select beds that offered a bit more. The kids' sleigh beds are actually trundles on wheels so the sleeping capacity of the room doubles in an instant, then slides neatly away without the bulky inconvenience of bunk beds.


The previous iteration of our cottage getaway was lacking in proper bedroom storage, so I made it a big priority this time around. My solution took shape in the form of pseudo locker room area outfitted in intense red lacquer paint. Each side is but 48 inches wide yet has three tall doors and six handy drawers to keep everyone in my family organized. If you are designing clothing storage, keep in mind that folded items never need more than 16 inches, and bin-type deep drawers allow you to toss socks and undies, bathing suits and T-shirts away quickly and easily. By mixing up the shutter door profile with mirror in the centre door sections I was also able to make this tiny hall feel like a sleek dressing area.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****


Rectangular woven storage bins, trundle beds - Pottery Barn, potterybarn.com

Custom kitchen and cabinetry - Northern Living Kitchen & Bath Ltd., 705-746-8686, northernliving.ca

Cabinetry hardware - The Door Store, 416-863-1590, thedoorstore.ca

Nest storage boxes - Chair Table Lamp - 416-934-1021

Sarah Richardson is principal of Sarah Richardson Design (sarahrichardsondesign.com). Sarah's Cottage can be seen on HGTV Tuesdays at 9 p.m.

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