With the rise of small houses and dense cities, we were forced to sacrifice a good amount of storage space. Ironically, we did not compromise our purchasing habits, so with a few square meters to work with, architects and designers had to come up with efficient storage solutions, and make the best of the limited space they have. However, if you were lucky enough to be occupying a large, unobscured space with a generous budget, your storage design possibilities are endless. In this article, we look at how architects and designers found creative ways to store their belongings in spaces with different functions, scales, and spatial constraints, ranging between completely invisible units to sculptural centerpieces.
In theory, a storage unit is an enclosed space to store objects, be it merchandise, food, clothing, books, furniture, etc. And the design of these units depends on how often the stored objects are being accessed and used; short-term storage units, such as closets and shelving, are often integrated within living rooms, kitchens, or behind counters so users can access them frequently and easily, whereas long-term storage units, such as stock depots, are built separately as they require different spatial configurations. Regarding the structural design and what they are made of, storage units can be built with any material the architect desires, and in however shape or size, depending on the context and spatial restrictions. These units can be fixed, mobile, modular, sliding, folding, or removable, and can be either completely concealed and "invisible" within a space, or entirely out in the open.
Oftentimes, a comfortable space is a clean, clutter-free space where users can circulate freely without physical or visual obstacles. Every project, regardless if it's a residential or commercial one, requires objects to be neatly stored away, not just for visual purposes but for functional ones as well; For instance, some products require to be stored in dark and temperature-controlled environments. This led designers to install hidden storage units that maintain products and create a cleaner, more refined look that seamlessly blends with the interior design.
Perhaps the most common types of storage units are wall-mounted closets and shelves. Since closets can take up a lot of space, they are often mounted onto walls to refrain from obstructing the circulation. For some users, it is necessary to maintain clean and organized walls at all times, so they conceal their units with sleek-designed cabinets that compliment the overall aesthetic of the space. In other cases, they go for vibrant cabinetry and built-in furniture to create a pop of color.
The lack of storage space is a recurrent problem in homes nowadays. In rooms with limited space, elevated shelving and storage units can be very effective, since they do not overwhelm the area or take up from other needed fit-outs.
Following the same approach of elevated storage units, some designers utilized the area beneath beds since it is already considered a dead space. Once the bed is slightly elevated, the void beneath is sufficient to install both fixed and moveable drawers and cabinets.
Combined with Furniture - Multipurpose
Another creative way of storing objects is combining it with other pieces of furniture. Staircases are the most commonly-used example of multipurpose furniture pieces, since users can take advantage of the empty space beneath the steps and transform it into a coat closet, a warehouse, a pantry, or a decorative bookcase. Combining storage with furniture is not necessarily limited to small spaces, but to how much storage space is needed and the size of items being stored.
For some users, being able to see the content of their storage is not so frowned-upon. Instead of finding ways to hide their belongings, architects and designers took the liberty of displaying them using exposed storage and shelving, turning them into decorative features. Having visual access to what's stored makes it easier for users to organize and retrieve their objects, whereas visually, the items become an added value to the interior design of the space.
The larger the interior is, the more liberated designers are in adding storage space - not just in terms of where they're allocating it, but how much space they are dedicating exclusively for storage. Free-standing storage units are often seen in retail stores and warehouses, due to their open-floor plans. In these types of projects, designers build a series of modular storage units that are easy to configure based on the merchandise. In residential projects or offices, designers create these units as elements of their own, serving as decorative sculptural pieces or spatial partitions.
Combined with Furniture - Multipurpose
In projects with elevated platforms, architects can make use of the void beneath and integrate exposed storage units. However, the type of objects being stored corresponds to the height of the platform, and since they rarely exceed 20-30 cm (depending on the height of the ceiling), the objects are limited to books and small electronic devices.
Mechanical - Automated
In retail stores with high ceilings, it can become difficult for employees to retrieve objects stored at high levels. This inspired architects to resort to mechanical solutions and integrate vertically movable hanger rack systems to facilitate the process and create a store space that keeps changing from day to day. In this way, the stock is integrated into the store's design and becomes a part of the visual merchandising.
When users want a more liberated layout, they opt for customizable wall units for adjustable shelving and storage. These can be created using perforate or hooked boards, which allow them to install and arrange shelves based on their preferences. Customizable storage units are frequently used in small retail stores that have seasonal or a variety of products.
Find more projects of storage spaces in residential and commercial interiors in this My ArchDaily folder created by the author.
This article is part of an ArchDaily series that explores features of interior architecture, from our own data base of projects. Every month, we will highlight how architects and designers are utilizing new elements, new characteristics and new signatures in interior spaces around the world. As always, at ArchDaily, we highly appreciate the input of our readers. If you think we should mention specific ideas, please submit your suggestions.