Home furnishings magazines are great tools for armchair decorators. You dream about what you’d like to do to your own house.
But innovative storage ideas rarely make the pages of Architectural Digest. Fortunately, three new books tackle the problem by visually presenting several hundred pages of options.
Pottery Barn, which has begun publishing a line of decorating books based around its furniture and accessories, recently released its newest title, Storage & Display: Stylish solutions for organizing your home (Oxmoor House, $24.95).
As you might expect, the book looks like an extended version of a Pottery Barn catalog, with a few notable exceptions: First, there are no descriptions or prices for the items displayed (although many will look familiar if you’ve perused the company’s catalogs over the years); and, second, there are loads of helpful tips that can teach you how to organize without losing your personal style.
Of course, for most of us, a loosely disorganized house is part of our charm. In the preface to the book, called “The Art of Organization,” the reader is assured that a balance between order and being surrounded by the family photographs, art collections and favorite books that define our place in the world, is the desired goal of the book.
The good news is that the book takes the reader through every space in the house, finding ways to maximize space and get rid of clutter. Easy-to-understand explanations and suggestions abound in the text.
The Pottery Barn Design Team starts in the entryway, which Ã¢â‚¬Å“can set the stage and make a serene and welcoming first impression. But first you have to stow away all the little things that a busy life demands.
In the “Design Details” section for each chapter, are suggestions about color (and how that changes the look and feel of the room) and the storage and care of objects necessary to the room. In the entryway, or mudroom, for example, the Design Team reminds you to make a place for the outerwear, boots, shoes, mittens and gloves that every family has.
Of course, it helps to have a mudroom the size of a kitchen. And if there’s a failing to this beautiful book, that’s it: Most homeowners don’t have the ability to edit down their possessions to the things that will fit in the space that’s available. Anyone’s mudroom would look great with five hooks and one jacket hanging on each hook. The problem is that most family members have 4 to 8 coats each. And that looks messy no matter what you do.
The book works best when illustrating ways to make each object as good as possible: Towels wrapped with a ribbon, for example, or oatmeal soap bars in a white glass bowl. For more practical solutions, you might want to turn to Sunset Books, which offers two new books this season, Ideas for Great Wall Systems and Shelves and Cabinets (both books $14.95).
Based on some of the photographs in the book, if you need more storage space, the best thing to do may be to replace the artwork on a few walls with a built-in wall system.
For example, a remodeled landing has been remade into a library, complete with bookshelves lining the walls and a seating area (with a good standing lamp) built in under the window. You wind up with a great view, a quiet nook in which to read, and make the most of underused space.
Both of the Sunset Books offer several interesting ideas for maximizing the space beneath the stairs. A stair wall can be turned into deep display shelves or drawers. Or, why not just have pull-out storage units for all the extra coats, boots and shoes that don’t fit into the mudroom?
If you have a collection, both books offer different solutions for well-lit, nicely displayed pieces. Home offices get special treatment, as well, with mini-offices hidden a pantry and armoire, or a full office layout with plenty of shelves and hidden filing cabinets.
The photos in both books overlap in some places. While a fantastic idea, the kitchen command center turns up in both books, for example. But in the second half of Shelves and Cabinet, you get a step-by-step to building cabinets, including a primer on the art of joinery.
You also get plenty of photos that show how to put stock cabinetry together to get the storage space you need at a price you can afford. There is also excellent information on finishing cabinetry.
All three books offer a breadth of ideas and innovation. The more practical solutions, for my money, come from Sunset Books.