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Storage solutions: uncovering hidden space

Joan Fieldstone

March 4, 2014

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: Interior Home ImprovementGeneral Remodeling

A couple of blogs ago I was ecstatic to find a reasonably priced storage ottoman for my entryway where I could camouflage and corral my kitty litter boxes. Having made a little progress toward organizing one aspect of pet ownership, I couldn't wait to tackle my need for a partial mudroom in my front entrance hall.

Last week I added a coat rack so I can keep my jacket, coat, hat, scarf, keys, and dog leash handy. My shoe rack is right beneath, but I'm on the lookout for one that's more aesthetically pleasing than what I have now. I hung a full-length mirror to the right of the closet door, which is not only practical for self-reflection before leaving the house but also gives the illusion of more space in the entryway now that the mirror is opposite the dining room.

Along with the storage ottoman, which makes a convenient place to sit and put on or take off shoes, my mini-mudroom is more or less functionally complete, but I still wish I had more space. What I really want is to hide the litter boxes completely, or put in a half-shower or utility sink where I can bathe the dog and perform other messy washing chores. Remodeling for pets seems to be part of my overall home improvement agenda these days.

Finding unused space for storage solutions

My home is, by today's standards, small -- two bedrooms and only 1,129 square feet. For a single person of a certain age, that's plenty of space, especially when it comes to keeping it clean with four pets. Even so, I'm always looking for ways to contain the mess or keep cleaning supplies close at hand both upstairs and downstairs to help save time when it comes to tidying up.

Because the house is compact, I am obsessed with the idea of creating additional space for storing things and for performing specific tasks. BFF is always full of great ideas and tipped me off about a pocket of space hidden behind the wall next to the hall closet. She knew it was there. She watched the two adjoining houses across from us being built and saw that the builder actually expanded the hall coat closet into that empty space and finished it to create additional closet storage.

Since we were preparing to put some new flooring in my hall closet as part of the still-unfinished downstairs flooring project, she suggested enlarging the space first so we can just extend the same flooring into the storage area.

Here is a picture of the tiny coat closet. That is not an electrical outlet on the right. We would not be cutting a hole in the wall if electricity ran through it. We made just made a small hole in the wall to get stared.

coat closet renovation

So we -- she, I should say -- busted out part of the sheetrock to see what we were dealing with. I didn't want anything to do with sheetrock dust. It gives me a sinus infection. (I suggested she wear a respirator, but she was too intent on tearing down the wall to heed my warning. Now she has a sinus infection. Let this be a cautionary tale for all you DIYers doing demo work: Wear a suitable respirator for the job.)

Here is the hole we have made so far to enlarge the area. Notice all the garbage the builder left inside the wall? We even found a plastic bottle half-full of liquid under the debris. Don't ask.

coat closet renovation

You can see the space runs all the way back to under the stairs. I haven't decided exactly how much of the area I want to use yet, or exactly for what. There's a lot to work with and the possibilities are tempting: Pantry? Wine cellar? Dog kennel? Utility sink or shower? But if all I want is a place to hide the litter boxes, that should be easy -- we hope.

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