Introduction: 9 Alternative Storage Ideas

Picture of  9 Alternative Storage Ideas

My apartment in San Francisco checked off many desirable features: hardwood floors, nice neighborhood, new appliances, great access to public transit, and even laundry in the building. The one thing it seriously lacked was closet space. A 5-month temporary sublet turned into a 5-year stay which gave me plenty of time to come up with creative storage solutions to utilize the apartment to its fullest.

I'll cover my favorite IKEA hack, vintage accessory, bike storage, shelving upcycle, furniture repurposing, organizational bin win, and a few others. I was able to do basic woodworking to make these ideas possible at Techshop in San Francisco, although not all the projects here require tools.

Step 1: Eight Cent Shelving

Picture of Eight Cent Shelving

I needed a little extra storage in my kitchen and preferred it be open shelving. Since I didn't own the space, I wanted to make minimal impact on the building itself and avoid nailing anything in place. This solution came together pretty quickly once I understood the needs.

Using leftover, scrap plywood from other projects, I built and installed this friction-fit shelving system. The bottom two layers are twice as tall as the upper (11" vs. 5.5") which worked out serendipitously for the sizes of things I wished to store. The eight cents estimated cost was the brads I used to secure the lip to the bottom board of each shelf.

The whole system was created based on initial measurements and then cut first to be oversized. I took the pieces home, measured a second time with all the pieces in hand, and marked cut lines for exact fit. The right vertical support is fitted in between the window frame and rear wall and the left is freestanding against the cabinets. The five shelves hold the vertical supports in place and the window frame keeps the system nice and stable. It seems precarious to think about not bolting this into the wall, but trust me - it's quite stable.

Method Notes
- This system is essentially an H with five cross bars. The vertical supports have identical dado cuts to allow the shelves to slide in and out, which is important because the shelves hold the vertical supports in place. To make it easier on yourself, take your measurements of where you want the dado cuts and then cut both the left and right vertical support for each level before moving the fence. This will ensure a nice, level slot for the shelves.
- No fasteners are used to anchor this system to the wall or anywhere else.
- All shelves are identical, with the exception of the outer lips of the bottom two. These are slightly larger to ensure that the contents of the shelf stay safely tucked in.
- Each shelf is simple construction of a bottom and front lip, nailed at the bottom by a simple brad on each corner. Using this method, each shelf will have a basic L shape when removed. Given the short lip of all shelves, I didn't feel a top brad was needed and never had a problem with wiggle.

To disassemble, you would just need to slide out the shelves individually and then lift away the vertical supports. When I moved out of this apartment, the next tenant liked these so much that I left them behind. They wouldn't do me much good elsewhere because they're custom fitted to this kitchen and besides, it gives me an excuse to build something new for the next home ;-)

Step 2: IKEA Expedit Filing Hack

Picture of IKEA Expedit Filing Hack

I converted a regular 1-drawer IKEA expedit insert into a filing cabinet and put it in my regular 5x5 expedit system. I really can't believe IKEA doesn't already do this! It's a huge space saver and great to not need another standalone piece.

Note: This one has had a lot of interest from people who've seen it in person, so I wrote up a separate instructable just for this project.

Step 3: Trunks, Trunks, Trunks!

Picture of Trunks, Trunks, Trunks!

We frequently have guests stay but living in a city makes a separate guest room impractical. My solution was this nice, vintage trunk placed in the room we often convert to our 'guest room'. It contains all the pillows, blankets, sheets, and air mattresses (we have a twin and queen tucked in there) we need for 1-3 guests. If we needed to store these things elsewhere they'd take up a good portion of a closet but it's a pretty attractive piece of furniture on its own and doubles as a quick seat when it's closed.

I also keep a smaller trunk in my IKEA expedit system which holds all my stationary.

Protip for those near the Bay Area:Where do I find these gorgeous, vintage trunks and alternative storage pieces? The Oakland White Elephant Sale, usually. Check it out every Jan/Feb/March. It benefits the community, it's entirely volunteer driven, and I usually do a nice rotation where I donate things I'm no longer using and find new things that meet my current needs while extending the life of someone else's formerly loved belongings. I can't say enough about the White Elephant Sale! It makes me all warm and fuzzy.

Step 4: Shoe Rack

Picture of Shoe Rack

We used to use this basic, metal expandable rack but over the years I upgraded to this bookcase that worked beautifully as both a shoe rack and a nice bench for people to sit while they put their shoes on. If you don't have space for shoes in a closet, this turned out to be a great way to store them.

Step 5: Bike Storage

Picture of Bike Storage

I installed some bike hooks in our building for us and our neighbors to keep our commuter bikes but I didn't feel comfortable leaving my nice, new road bike down in the common area as we'd had some problems with theft. In our space constrained abode, I decided to add a regular bike hook (see detail shot) to my IKEA expedit unit (are you noticing a trend) using a few heavy duty command grips on the back. Note: these are the type that are sticky on both sides, not the version that acts like velcro. My bike was safely tucked out of the way and was easy to take out for a ride and put back.

Updated as a response to some of the comments: I made sure the weight of the bike was still mostly on the bottom wheel and not the hook itself, as you can see in the photo. You can do this by setting the bike next to the unit you're planning to add the hook to and marking with tape or a pencil line where the top wheel naturally touches the vertical surface where the hook will be mounted while the bottom wheel is resting on the ground. From there, line up the bike hook so the natural resting place is the same for where the hook is placed and you should be set!

Step 6: Organizing Workout Clothes

Picture of Organizing Workout Clothes

This one is tucked into a closet but shows how to make better use when you are space constrained. My husband and I shared one closet that was the size of a single, standard door. To maximize this space, I installed a simple horizontal shelf using scrap plywood from other projects (and believe me, this was functional and sturdy but not aesthetically pleasing since I knew no one, not even us, would see this) to make vertical supports and a horizontal shelf. I then found simple rubbermaid bins to keep my athletic clothes organized and out-of-the-way below our hanging clothes and above the laundry basket.

Awful photo, but awfully useful idea. (Sorry for that :-P)

Step 7: Espresso Island

Picture of Espresso Island

Without enough counter space in our kitchen, I looked to other solutions for important appliances that we wanted to use often. I ended up making 'Espresso Island' using a prefab sideboard. This had room for the espresso machine, our stacked, colorful cups, and little wire racks that had room for the beans and other accessories. The bottom shelves also had a mini wine rack and room for other kitchen appliances. Pretty handy addition to our kitchen. We also really liked that it allowed for more vertical storage without feeling massive in the kitchen.

Step 8: Additional Kitchen Storage

Picture of Additional Kitchen Storage

This IKEA bookcase has taken on many purposes and fit nicely next to the refrigerator in our kitchen. A simple milk crate fit inside to collect recycling and we used the other shelves for cookbooks, our reusable grocery bags, and other helpful kitchen supplies. Nice to have a place to store these things to keep them from being left out in the open.

Step 9: CNC* Milled Chair With Storage

Picture of CNC* Milled Chair With Storage

I made a set of a dozen chairs in three different shapes. The inside is open with room for simple storage. We often kept our baseball gloves in here since they were an awkward shape for many other places.

*CNC stands for computer numerical control for those who are just learning :-)

What other great things have you done to make use of a great space with less-than-awesome storage?


obillo (author)2017-01-02

You've done some terrific things here. Here's an idea that's more of a 'next time' project, because it looks as if it would be tricky in your kitchen. Anyway, every kitchen counter offers a large area of salvageable space--underneath. That's where counters and cabinets sit on an item called the toe kick: the platform on which cabinets etc sit is about 5" high; it's recessed about 5" also so there's room for your toes when you stand at the counter. The pedestal can be built or rebuilt to support the counter and still have (depending on cabinet size) one or two shallows drawers installed. These drawers can be simple ones that simply slide on the floor if you bottom them with teflon. What can you put in a 5" drawer? Pie plates, pizza platters, lasagna bakers--all sorts of stuff that you don't use very often but still need from time to time. This would be especially easy to do with IKEA-type cabinets, which sit on short legs and are fronted with a 'kick plate' that fastens to the legs with spring clips. I had actually planned to do this for our own IKEA kitchen renovation, bu then IKEA-Brooklyn screwed up our order so badly that we just cancelled the whole thing.

YourMagesty (author)2017-01-02

re: kitchen shelving...... I SO appreciate when an individual id's a problem, considers options and obstacles, and then births a simple & practical solution! Good brain exercise, satisfying results!

markgrogan (author)2016-02-07

I have always considered shelving as one of the most practical storage solutions that can help maximize space to its maximum capability without utilizing too much floor area. However, the catch is to regularly perform housekeeping of the area to ensure that it doesn’t look messy as it is not concealed like a cabinet with doors.

acoens (author)markgrogan2016-02-12

Yeah, thankfully these shelves were shallow and each thing I kept in there had a specific spot. Definitely something to keep in mind about shelving!

antioch (author)2016-02-12

Great ideas, thanks!!

(Apart from #8 which violates everything that is good about feng shui, aesthetics and decluttering, no matter how romatic the name sounds, haha)

acoens (author)antioch2016-02-12

Haha, antioch, I've never heard anyone else describe "Additional Kitchen Storage" as a romantic title :-)

I'm guessing that's not the one you meant.

Thanks for the nice words!

dandroid20xx (author)2016-01-10

Excellent guide! I'm definitly planning implementing the bike rack and filing hack

acoens (author)dandroid20xx2016-01-24

Nice! Good luck with your own takes on these :-)

Evelyn348 (author)2016-01-23

love your hacks but I don't know what CNC stands for.

acoens (author)Evelyn3482016-01-23

Thanks, Evelyn348! It stands for computer numerical control. I created the designs in a design software called Rhino and the mill cut them out based on the designs.

XSimpleHacksX (author)2016-01-14

Great ible! I'm doing one similar to yours too! Don't worry, I won't steal any ideas XD I voted for you!

acoens (author)XSimpleHacksX2016-01-23

Thanks! And sharing ideas allows for them to get better. Feel free to steal them ? And thanks for the props.

PeterM13 (author)2016-01-10

I like the chair. I'm thinking of constructing some for our Makerspace when we move to a larger space. My thought is a children sized scaled down with four curved front trays for craft supply storage. I would place hard plastic blocks on the bottom surface so they can be pushed around the space instead of casters. My padded cushion would be full sized for the seat and all of the corners would be rounded over

acoens (author)PeterM132016-01-14

Cool, please come back and add a photo of what you make! This one is part of a larger, modular system but not designed for children - more for the nomadic, college aged type so you could keep the same furniture and rearrange it everytime you moved. I think it'd be a lot of fun to make these for wee people!

aurelas (author)2016-01-08

This is really making me wish that the nearest IKEA wasn't about 200 miles away...

SuzyM1 (author)aurelas2016-01-10

We also live over 200 miles from the nearest IKEA, however, certain things can be ordered online which include certain storage things. Good luck . : )

acoens (author)aurelas2016-01-08

See if people nearby have done the work for you - Craigslist it up! Not all places are as great for secondhand stuff, I realize. Best of luck!

WannaDuino (author)2016-01-10

exactly, people can be more apresiated here, She thakes the Thime to put iT on here, on one of the better sites the are. Probs, from simon and comes from Holland

ITS al verry Nice, do go one miss.

acoens (author)WannaDuino2016-01-10

Thanks, WannaDuino!

MadeByGloria (author)2016-01-09

Why not? It's her money.

acoens (author)2016-01-07

It seems this person also reads the comments of the Instructable she wrote ;-)

BetsyFartBlossom (author)acoens2016-01-08

One MUST have one's priorities in place:) You definitely need to have coffee before tackling any project. Great projects and really nice of you to leave the shelving for the next renter.

acoens (author)BetsyFartBlossom2016-01-09

That's exactly right, BetsyFartBlossom! Coffee. Making. Repeat.

OnAngelsBreath (author)acoens2016-01-07

Bwahahah!! I love it acoens!! Some people just don't know how to be kind, it shows that you, clearly do! Nice job on all of your instructables as well as your comments to commentators.

acoens (author)OnAngelsBreath2016-01-08

Life is more fun when we're kind to each other :-)

Thanks for the nod!

ChelseaB14 (author)2016-01-09

The definition for "thrifty" in San Francisco is a much different concept than other places. Don't be ethnocentric.

thundrepance (author)2016-01-07

that crescent moon chair is to die for!! < :^D

acoens (author)thundrepance2016-01-08

Thanks thundrepance! Definitely seems to be a crowd favorite. I'll create a separate instructable for these shortly. Good CNC fun :-)

BPACH (author)acoens2016-01-08

I definately want to see the chair plan. That is a great idea.

acoens (author)BPACH2016-01-08

Thanks, bpach :-)

aurelas (author)acoens2016-01-08


Markomyt1 made it! (author)2016-01-07

I do love the espresso bar, one must be civilized!

Your projexts are awesome.

Here is how we handle storage issues in Wyoming.

acoens (author)Markomyt12016-01-08

Thanks Markomyt1! I love your state, all the times I've been to it. The fact that you have more elbow room is only one of the many perks.

ArcticExplorer (author)2016-01-07

By the way, I voted for you in "Living without Closets" ;-)

acoens (author)ArcticExplorer2016-01-08

...and thanks!

ArcticExplorer (author)2016-01-07

Bike racks are always a great idea, when living in the city. It is rather impressive how that sticky tape holds your bike's weight, but I guess it's one of those lightweight ones? Anyway, it's good both for your mental health and the bike's condition. Nice job. I also love how, in the kitchen, you tend to go up. When there's height but not width, it is always a cool solution.
I don't know how to put this...but if you are interrested in this kind of "smart storage" you might wanna look at the movie "Das Boot" from 84. It's a submarine movie about a german sub in World war 2. I know it's weird, but hear me out. Quite often, you'll see how they tuck things away in the most ingenious facion, because it's a submarine. EVERYWHERE hangs bananas, hammocks, tools, and not a single space of air is allowed to not be used.

Nice instructable!

acoens (author)ArcticExplorer2016-01-08

Thanks, ArcticExplorer! I made sure the weight of the bike was still mostly on the bottom wheel and not the hook itself. The hook is just there to stabilize, really.

I like thinking outside the box for problems - thanks for the movie rec :-)

Markomyt1 (author)ArcticExplorer2016-01-07

The Uboats in world war 2 couldn't fire a torpedo for 2 weeks after they left port due to the fact the torpedo room was stuffed with food. I think it was 4 or 6 weeks that they only had 1 bathroom due to the other 2 being crammed with food.

cle0o_143 (author)2016-01-07

i really love the chair idea...and the first thing i thought when i see it is my cats would love it :P .. if i got a chance to do, i might attempt it... and i love the shoe rack & additional kitchen storage also..that is definitely something i want for my home...thanks :)

acoens (author)cle0o_1432016-01-07

Thanks for the kind words, cle0o_143! I hope you do make your own version of these chairs and that your cats have a field day :-)

cle0o_143 (author)acoens2016-01-08

i hope i will...thank you..have a nice day :)

evajagd (author)2016-01-07

Creative ideas without sacrificing practicality - and very well crafted.

Salutations from Scandinavia :-)

acoens (author)evajagd2016-01-07

High praise coming from the land of Simple Things Done Well :-)

rburwasser (author)2016-01-07

Really like the bike hook one just wondering what brand hook you used?

acoens (author)rburwasser2016-01-07

Thanks, rburwasser! I just looked at the hook and there's no branding on it. It's been years since I purchased it but I know I got it from REI in the states. I had a look and this appears to be the closest model to the one I own:

rburwasser (author)acoens2016-01-07

Oh cool I have a friend who works at rei I'll ask her to take a look for me thanks.

acoens (author)rburwasser2016-01-07

Sweet, yeah, anything with the open hook that sits vertical should do.

I'll add this update to the Instructable too: I made sure the weight of the bike was still mostly on the bottom wheel and not the hook itself, as you can see in the photo. You can do this by setting the bike next to the unit you're planning to add the hook to and marking with tape or a pencil line where the top wheel naturally touches the vertical surface where the hook will be mounted while the bottom wheel is resting on the ground. From there, line up the bike hook so the natural resting place is the same for where the hook is placed and you should be set! Be sure to add a photo here when you get you own set up :-)

makemyclay (author)2016-01-06

Your bike storage is pretty clever.

acoens (author)makemyclay2016-01-06

Thanks makemyclay! It worked well for me. Hopefully someone else finds it useful :-)

IDThoris (author)acoens2016-01-07

Oh yes, bookmarked that hook and forwarding to the family. We've had to move all the bikes inside, and getting a little tight for space because of it. These are all pretty great ideas, and any IKEA hack with the expedits always has fans here.

About This Instructable




Bio: Designer. Thinker. Doer. Hiker. Lover.
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