The Question: I need additional storage in my home. I’m tired of the bins and baskets I’ve been piling things into. But the truth is I don’t have a lot of room for chests and bookshelves. What do you recommend?
One problem with buying furniture items for storage, especially when space is limited, is that those pieces can make it feel like you are just adding more clutter to your home. A lot of people think that custom-designed built-in units are meant for those creating a grand focal point in a room. But built-ins can make a lot of sense in smaller homes — they’re perfect for turning the difficult geometry of a tucked-away corner into a usable space.
When creating custom carpentry, the first step is a thoughtful consultation. When I go to someone’s house to propose a project, I think it’s important to try to consider not only the architecture of the home and the dimensions at hand, but the way people live — your interests have an impact on what you need. Books piled high means focusing on shelving. Lots of electronic equipment might call for a media center. Maybe there’s no room for a chair but a window seat would be great. There are lots of logistical considerations to take note of, like heating sources, windows, and outlets.
One design idea I use a lot in smaller spaces is to cantilever the piece 6 to 10 inches above the floor. Seeing more floor creates a feeling of spaciousness.
No matter what the design, I have learned that it is hard for a lot of people to make sense of two-dimensional drawings. So I use a program called SketchUp to create a virtual design, a way to visualize the new piece in three dimensions.
When looking at materials, the most economical choice is to use what is most readily available here on Cape Cod. Hardwood is more difficult to find, so I typically work mostly with paint-grade wood and incorporate hardwoods as accents.
Don’t assume that custom built-ins are prohibitively expensive. It’s an important part of the planning process to discuss budget, and designs can always be scaled back or expanded accordingly. And while a built-in design may be more expensive than some furniture choices, when it is done right it will enhance the value of your house.
This week’s Dovetail Joint question is answered by Christopher Vazquez, a cabinetmaker with a fine arts background who lives and works in Truro. He calls himself the Architectural Woodwright. Keep sending your questions and we’ll find more good answers.