This may seem a developed world dilemma but if you own a period property every part of it seems to feel like it is designed for someone else. It seems hard to reconcile the stuff you have gathered with the space available in your home. When you think about it we carry along with us more than any of our ancestors could have ever imagined. We collect and curate artifacts, treasures and collections be it books, clothes or mugs! We attach memories and sentiment to objects and so when we are encouraged to de-clutter, tidy up and kondo our space it is emotionally hard to do. So then when we are faced with the building itself working against us when we store these artifacts we need some inspiration.
1. Kitchen Areas
If you have a largish square or rectangular kitchen it is perfect to swap the table for an Island unit. These can be built or adapted by a carpenter who can create space for seating to eat a meal on two sides but utilise the dead space between for shelves or cupboards. As island units are also higher than tables there will also be space for drawers around the edge. If you do not have space for a whole island unit what about a small butchers block unit which can be used for food preparation above and usually have a drawer and shelf below. This can be fairly easily moved around the kitchen to where you need the extra space and then tucked back out of the way when you are finished.
2. Utility spaces
Older houses may be infuriating when moving sofa’s or beds but they do tend to have space for “utility”. These are the spaces you need to maximise to free up space elsewhere. Work out ways to use every bit of wall space to fit shelves and cupboards or think Shaker and fix a peg rail on the wall. This would work well assigning each wall a duty, so wall cupboards on one wall to hide the less pretty clutter of washing machines, tumble dryers and washing powders. A competent carpenter could create fold down doors that double up as sorting and folding areas for piles of washing that tuck back neatly after use. A slatted shelf could run above a sink area to dry hand washing and the brackets supporting the shelf used to hook coat hangers. If you use a deep Belfast type sink like mine it can be used for hand washing and pre- washing but also to condition flowers before arranging, wash small dogs and children, clean muddy football/rugby/dog walking boots… if you think quick when it is being installed ask the carpenter to keep the cut out work top to slide back over the sink when not in use, get them to drill a hole below where the tap is and this disappears drips and gives you a handy lifting point. When it is removed it can double up as the splash back. A peg board running round a wall is ridiculously useful, or two if you have kids. One above the other. So many things can be hung up beyond coats, handbags,umbrellas, spare keys, torches, use woven baskets to store gloves and hats or piles of plastic bags, even folding chairs! Put a substantial shelf above and use old luggage bags, hat boxes, doctors bags to store out of season items, or if you like gardening trugs and wicker handled baskets for your tools and seeds. Keep to a theme and have fun with it.
Another plus of Period houses is that there always seems to be plenty of alcoves or recesses that can be used, particularly either side of the chimney breast. There can be the vanilla shelving option but think sideways for a moment and that alcove could open up with storage on the inside of the door and a folding work surface to be a home office, a drinks bar or a kids crafting space - probably not all at the same time!!
Under stairs spaces are impressive in many period homes especially Georgian and Regency piles, some are big enough to convert to be a water closet or laundry if you can get the plumbing sorted, others are much more modest and end up being cleaning cupboards. If this is the case get organised and use the stepped profile to create varying depth shelves. Use small wood fruit crates or boxes to organise contents into categories such as vets for animal first aid, bulbs and batteries, DIY for a small kit of screwdrivers, pliers and socket set and power cut for candles, matches, torches, batteries and wind up radio. Saves searching when there is an emergency.
4. Period home features pressed into service
Period homes seem to have an excess of fireplaces, but you have blocked off the fire in the spare bedroom to stop the infernal draught but you don’t want to leave a featureless space or are required to keep the feature, so keep the surround and put shelves in the recess to house a curated library for your guests.
If you have a property where timber beams are the feature you can still have an open plan space using the beams to frame and enhance the space. Assuming the Planning Department is happy the internal parts of a timber frame wall can be removed to allow light and vistas to other parts of the house. The horizontal beams can then be used for bookshelves or display areas for curated artifacts. If you are a dedicated Oenophile (wine collector) the beams themselves can be core drilled to house your collection, again check planning is happy and before you core drill like a woodpecker make sure the beam is not holding up the house! You could install a decorative beam horizontally, pre-drilled and use the top as a drinks bar.
Porches are again a recurrent feature of period homes they provide just enough cover to store logs ready to refill baskets on cold winter nights and upturned wellies for muddy walks.
5. Re-purpose furniture
Small cabinets and cupboards can be fixed to a wall to create a unique storage display, use stenciled numbers or numerals to identify and distinguish contents.
Apple crates are fantastic storage containers but stack and mount them on a wall and they become a walled display area, this works incredibly well in sheds and outhouses where the aesthetic can be rougher and more functional.
Old trunks are incredibly useful items of storage furniture being excellent spaces to hide out of season soft furnishing and being a coffee table at the same time. Pine linen chests in upstairs landings provide a huge amount of space why not re-purpose it to store home account files.
However you decide to use your space I recommend thinking first of the task and then planning around how to create the space to be able to to this task. A period home will give you a lead on what materials to use and the feel for the space but then have fun making it individual to you.