Eight Brilliant Design Ideas to Help You Organize Your Home

From shoe closets to food pantries, smart solutions from local homes will get your house in order
Shannon O'Leary  |   March 2014   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
kerf wall seattle home storage solutions in seattle seattle magazine
Designer Nathan Hartman added a Kerf Wall (this one an experiment using construction-grade AC “fir” plywood) to organize the entry in his new house

Wall Works
A fun, flexible, DIY shelving system made right here in Seattle
Nathan Hartman of Kerf Design (Interbay; 206.954.8677; kerfdesign.com) has been making Seattle-area kitchens hip and tidy with his custom plywood cabinetry for years. Now he has a stylish storage option designed for the whole house, the Kerf Wall (kerf-wall.myshopify.com). Prompted by clients’ calls for adjustable wall-mounted shelving, the Kerf Wall (which first debuted as a prototype for displaying shoes at Ballard’s Re-soul store) is composed of FSC-certified plywood panels, available with walnut or maple veneers, that attach to wall-mounted metal railings. Since the panels come predrilled with an abundance of notches—into which you can fit a variety of cool Kerf components, from shelving to bike racks (some of which are available in accent colors)—this wall is made to adapt to your household’s changing needs. Shown here is a Kerf Wall in the designer’s own home entrance. “We needed a place to handle all of our coming-and-going stuff: shoes, coats, hats, bags, backpacks, helmets, keys…all of the stuff that piles up by the front door,” Hartman explains. “The coat hooks can be adjusted, different storage options can be added or subtracted as our needs change.”
Cost for a basic wall setup runs about $500 (Hartman’s entry was $2,500), but the ability to customize the system to your space is priceless. Another bonus: Shipping is free, or you can pick up your system at the wood shop for a 20 percent discount. Available online or by appointment only.

Cooking Compactly
Storage designed down to the inch
When Carol Grossmeyer downsized, the avid home cook was determined not to settle for less when it came to her kitchen. “I had a huge dining room, this huge hutch and a pantry,” she says. Her new condo, in a 1926 Frederick Anhalt–designed building (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) on Capitol Hill, had no room for these conveniences. Enter Theresa Freeman, of SHKS Architects (Wallingford, 1050 N 38th St.; 206.675.9151; shksarchitects.com), and her knack for revitalizing older spaces. “In Anhalt buildings, the kitchens in particular are tiny…this one was probably just 7 by 10 feet,” Freeman says. Although the architect was able to steal a bit more space by annexing a mudroom, the key to making this kitchen appealingly functional was literally customizing it to the cook. To start with, the combination of mahogany and painted cabinetry was a custom fit. “When you have a kitchen that has this many constraints,” Freeman says, “go with custom cabinetry to make the most and best use of the space that you have.” Freeman also measured her client’s favorite cooking gear and incorporated these pieces into her design. Marvels Grossmeyer, “We measured my favorite olive oil tin and the spout that I used with it…I love it. There’s a home for everything.” To make way for oversize items, such as a beloved pastry sheet, Freeman dropped in deep vertical slots on the side of the range, while the range-adjacent niche shelving housing the olive oil, spices and pepper mills were purposefully made shallow to prevent messy overcrowding. (Photo by Benjamin Benschneider: In her previous house, Carol Grossmeyer’s serious collection of pots and pans had been dangling over the kitchen island. “They were on hooks, and it could take 10 tries to hang a piece,” she says. For vertical storage in the new condo kitchen, architect Theresa Freeman stylishly covered one of the wider wall sections with a piece of mahogany, echoing the cabinetry treatment, upon which she attached a professional cook’s steel pot rack system. Unlike tile, “when you put your pots back, they don’t scratch the wall,” Grossmeyer says, “and it’s really much easier than having them on the ceiling…you get them hung on the first try.”)

Clutter Buster
A young family’s simple but mighty home improvement
Helping people declutter is an abiding passion of Liselotte “Lotte” Kragh. Recently, the Denmark native and principal of Seattle’s Abita Studio (206.328.8878; abitastudio.com) worked her now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t magic for an active family of four in View Ridge. “They’re all outdoorsy people. They bicycle, they do a lot of sports. They have helmets, shoes everywhere,” Kragh says. “They definitely needed better storage and functionality in their kitchen.” And since their 1942 brick house didn’t allow an easy, affordable bump-out solution, the architect created a hidden shoe wall off the foyer and a food pantry off the kitchen, simply by cannibalizing space from around an existing staircase. “I love shoe closets, and I like them to have adjustable shelves,” Kragh says. “It’s a really convenient option when you just have a few inches [to work with].”
“They totally love the storage pieces and are super-excited to have an orderly house,” Kragh says of her clients’ reaction—which includes the littlest residents. “The kids actually use the storage. They don’t put shoes on the floor.” (Photo by Alex Hayden: To help an active family keep things neat in a small home, starting at its entrance, architect Liselotte Kragh hid a built-in shoe wall behind a door—with a phone-charging station on the fourth shelf from the top. Right around the corner, as you enter the newly remodeled kitchen, she installed a food pantry/cookbook case that can be hidden behind sliding doors)

Goods to get your home shipshape

Mini Mudroom

For those of us who don’t have a room designated for inside/outside gear storage, The Container Store (Bellevue, 700 Bellevue Way NE, No. 120; 425.453.7120; containerstore.com) has a solution: the platinum Elfa freestanding mudroom ($629.85). The steel unit consists of ventilated shelves and racks that can be adjusted to fit your storage needs, whether fat backpacking gear, big coats and boots or awkward sports equipment. The basic system is made to fit an 84-inch-wide space, but other sizes can be special-ordered. And if you’re not a fan of DIY-ing, the store will assemble your new mudroom (cost: 25 percent of purchase price, or a minimum of $180). On April 12, The Container Store opens a new 25,000-square-foot location in the Westfield Southcenter Mall (2800 Southcenter Mall; 206.246.2700; westfield.com/southcenter).

Petite Planner

If your scattershot Post-It approach isn’t keeping your household well ordered, it’s time for a smarter system. Seattle’s Three by Three (877.329.3462; threebythree.com) accommodates with its dry-erase channel panel and planner ($80), in bamboo or white, which features a just-the-right-size 18-by-18-inch dry-erase board that is helpfully divided into seven day-of-the-week planning sections. Nifty stainless steel accessories include two hooks, a pen cup, a magnetic strip, pockets to stash mail and notepads, and markers and magnets.


Shoe Ledge
Stowing footwear becomes a statement with Design Within Reach’s (Belltown, 1918 First Ave.; 206.443.9900; dwr.com) horizontal shoe rack. Whether deployed in an entry or bedroom, the wall-mounted, brushed stainless steel ledge, available in 47-inch ($165) or 28-inch ($110) lengths, is ideal for stylish neatniks.

Hang It All
Room & Board’s (University Village, 2675 NE University Village St.; 206.336.4676; roomandboard.com) new powder-coated steel triple wall hooks ($60 for two, $90 for three) are available in 12 perky hues—pale pink to fiery orange—and come with three sturdy prongs upon which to neatly hang your gear.

Magic Drawers

It’s a snap to bring the contents of your lower cabinets front and center with roll-out cabinet drawers. The Container Store’s (Bellevue Collection and Southcenter, opening in April; containerstore.com) exclusive bamboo creations come with industrial-quality gliding action, can hold up to 80 pounds’ worth of kitchen gear and are easily installed in existing cabinets. A minimum cabinet depth of 23 inches is required, and cab openings should be 1 inch wider than the drawer selected, but there are four sizes available and you can’t beat the price for this custom-style convenience (ranging from an 11-inch drawer for $54 to a 20-inch drawer for $69).