7 Built-In Storage Ideas for Small Homes

Feeling cramped in your apartment or small house? These built-in storage ideas will free up space and help your cut down on clutter.

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Senior couple organizing items in home attic
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Maximize Attic Space

Finishing an attic is a great way to add an extra bedroom or an office to your home. But even if your attic isn’t well suited for that, you should still utilize it for the storage space. The key is adding shelves and other systems that can help you organize it, rather than just randomly jamming your extra stuff into attic storage.

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Interior of bathroom with walk in shower and freestanding bath tub
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Use Dead Space in the Bathroom

There’s a lot of empty space above your toilet, in between the shower and the sink, and even above the door. Chances are even if you’ve got a small bathroom, there’s perfectly good space in there that’s not being used to its fullest. One built-in storage option to consider is building a medicine cabinet into the stud cavity of the wall. That might not be an option if you’re renting your place, so if that’s the case, you might check with your landlord to see if you can install a larger, surface-mounted medicine cabinet.

You can buy storage solutions for your bathroom too, like this cabinet that goes over the toilet that’s got lots of storage space.

If you’re trying to give the impression of a bigger bathroom, you could paint the cabinets the same shade as the walls, or consider tiling the area if your tile shape and size permit.

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Father And Daughter Lying In Bunk Beds
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Use Bunk Beds

If you’re short on space, why not take only half of it by building in bunk beds? This may work better for kids than adults, but it can still be fun and grown-up. Depending on how you build them, you can create clever extra shelving within the structure too, on the side or set into the wall behind the pillows.

A woodworker should also be able to incorporate a couple of roomy drawers beneath the bottom bunk to make even more use of the space.

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Fh23mar 623 53 Bookshelves
Family Handyman

Use the Space Under Your Staircase.

One space-saving trick is to use the area under a staircase – including the steps themselves – as storage. This might not work in a traditional interior, or if you already have storage under the stairs, but if you’re building in a new staircase, or steps between levels in an open-plan space, consider this savvy idea.

Depending on the size of the space, you can get really creative with the space under your stairs too, installing everything from a home office to a wine rack to a pet nook.

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Pullout Steps

What about if the steps themselves actually become drawers? You may not want all of them to be like this, but a few close to the bottom of the staircase could be useful for shoes, blankets and other things you’d like to keep handy.

It’s not a small project, but amending an existing set or building new stairs¬†with built-in storage wouldn’t be difficult for a skilled woodworker. If you’re not quite at that level, you might want to reach out to a contractor if this is an idea you’re interested in for your home.

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Rev A Shelf 2 Tier Cabinet Pull Out Wire Basket Ecomm Wayfair.com
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Customize Your Kitchen Cabinets for Storage

Create cabinets that have a rich inner life by carefully thinking about what you’ll use the storage for when you’re building a home or moving into a new place. Then, think about using cabinet organizers to maximize the space available.

Even simple additions, like this pull-out wire basket, can help you organize your cabinets to cut down on clutter and make things easy to get out and put away. Don’t forget the small cabinets too. Little additions, like this tiered organizer, can give you a convenient way to store spices or other containers and open up lots of room in your cabinet.

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Fh21d Ottoman
Family Handyman

Add Storage Under Seating

The storage ottoman is a classic example of having your furniture pull double duty: you can sit on or kick your feet up, while your extra pillows and blankets are tucked inside. You can build your own storage ottoman, like the one above, in a single day.

Of course, it’s not just ottomans that can be used for storage. Outdoor benches that open up to more storage space are another popular example. And you can take that concept indoors too with a bench under your window that doubles as a small storage locker.

Ryan Van Bibber
Ryan Van Bibber, the executive editor for Family Handyman, is a career journalist with more than two decades of experience in the industry. He's been DIY'ing since he was a kid, learning from his father who was a carpenter and general contractor. Ryan has a natural curiousity to learn how things work and how to make them work better. That spirit has guided his career his own DIY journey as a homeowner. He specializes in the areas of painting, sustainability, and basic home maintenance. Through his career, Ryan covered the NFL for more than a decade, edited award-winning features, worked as a senior editor at Outside magazine as well as writing and editing buying guides and product reviews for national publications.