It’s that time of year again, when we pull out the blankets and sweaters and stash the last of the warm-weather items until spring arrives.
Many homes lack the space needed to store everything right where we use it. So seasonal things get shuttled around and sometimes even misplaced.
If the serving dishes you use only at the holidays are stacked way up at the top of your pantry, "you may find yourself running out and buying something you’ve already got, because you can’t remember what you have or you can’t get to it," says Atlanta-based interior designer Mallory Mathison.
Many of her clients struggle with insufficient closet space for storing items that are only used for a few months each year.
Here, Mathison and interior designers Brian Patrick Flynn and Molly Luetkemeyer offer advice on creatively storing off-season items in ways that maximize every inch of space and make it easy to retrieve what you need.
Find double-duty furniture
All three designers love furniture that offers hidden storage. A bench with storage space inside is perfect for boots, and bins containing scarves, gloves and hats.
Or add a large coffee table/ottoman combination to your living room: "They’re an easy way to sneak a bit more seasonal storage into a room, without having to add extra closet space or add pricey, big-ticket furniture pieces," says Flynn, founder of the design website decordemon.com.
For families with pets, Flynn suggests creating a sleeping space for a small dog or cat that doubles as seasonal storage. "To do this, I take a flea-market dresser, usually a highboy with four to six drawers, then remove the bottom two for use as an open lounge space for pets, complete with a removable cushion," he says.
Maximize under-bed spaces
Many people use the space under their master bed for seasonal storage. Luetkemeyer suggests doing the same with every bed in the house.
Tuck clear plastic bins under children’s beds (and a guest bed, if you have one), labeling each one clearly.
You can rotate items in and out of these bins during the year — one holding swimsuits all winter might hold sweaters in summer. If you know that all under-bed space is designated for seasonal items, it will be easier to track down the once-a-year items you’re seeking.
Also, see whether any sofas or other large pieces of furniture might have room underneath for flat storage bins.
Try creative carpentry
Mathison suggests having built-in cabinets added along the walls on both sides of your bed. Creating this architectural niche for your bed "is totally cozy, and it also creates great concealed and/or open storage," she says.
Another built-in option: If your kitchen cabinets don’t go all the way to the ceiling, add extra closed storage on top for seasonal serving dishes and table linens. Or have a row of very shallow shelves (no more than 3 or 4 inches deep) added to one wall of your kitchen or pantry. You can prop up dishware or serving pieces you rarely use, creatively storing them while adding some beauty to your walls.
Also, search your home for bits of square-footage that aren’t being used, such as a crawl space under a staircase. Hire a handyman to add a small door and turn that empty space into a cabinet.
Consider changing your kitchen seating: Swap out chairs for built-in benches with hidden storage, then hide rarely-used items there.
"Seasonal things that inspire you should be left out as much as possible," Flynn says. "I use a ton of wall hooks in my spaces, mostly to be able to hang up favorite pieces of clothing which add decorative flair to a room."
In a bedroom, a cluster of favorite flannel shirts can look great on decorative hooks, and the same goes for winter jackets. In summer, hang your favorite T-shirts or swimsuits on those same hooks while the winter items are put away.
Use closets well
Maximize closet space by adding shelves up high if there aren’t any, then keep a small step-ladder in the closet for accessing high items, Luetkemeyer says.
In a guest room closet, if you have one, Mathison suggests using two rows of hanging canvas shelves — one filled with items your guest may need, such as extra towels and soap, and the other left empty so your guest can put out some of the clothes they brought. Then use the rest of the closet for your seasonal things. It will be clear to the guest what space is theirs and what isn’t.
If winter items will be hung in a closet, Flynn opts for "thick wooden hangers or sculptural modern aluminum hangers to keep the structural integrity of coats or heavy pants."
Roll out the racks
Mathison suggests keeping seasonal things like coats in clear plastic garment bags on rolling racks in a basement or attic. They’ll stay clean, and when it’s time to swap them with the opposite season’s items, having items grouped in garment bags will make it simpler to transport back and forth.
Rolling garment racks are easy to find and affordable, but it’s important to choose good quality ones so they don’t bend under the weight of winter clothing.
Mathison is also a fan of coordinated bins or baskets to organize smaller items (gloves, hats, swimsuits, goggles) in closets. It’s easy to move these bins out of your main closet into a basement or attic during the off-season.