House hacks: a place for cookbooks and more

Joan Fieldstone

January 12, 2015

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: Interior Design

Every home, no matter how perfect it seems when you move in, could use a little tweaking here and there. I've written about how the builder's choice of putting a pair of cabinets in an alcove at the top of the staircase was useless for me, and how I turned it into a personal desk space separate from my bedroom and home office. Essentially, all I had to do was pull out the cabinets and replace them with an inexpensive, small profile desk. Voila - instant workspace.

The Urban dictionary defines this type of clever solution as "a hack." Some people call it repurposing -- taking an old drawer, for example, and hanging it as a shelf. I call it home improv. Whatever you call it, coming up with the solution and executing it can be just as gratifying as enjoying the results, either from an aesthetic point of view or a practical one -- often both.

Where to find inspiration for home hacks

If you're not very good at devising your own hacks, you can find lots of examples online to stimulate your creativity or even solve your exact problem. I once spent an evening online searching for ideas of how to hide cat litter boxes. One of them took me to a website called IkeaHackers.net. Apparently, there are a lot of people who enjoy the challenge of specifically modifying and repurposing Ikea products.

Pinterest is another great place to look for all kinds of hacks. DIY blogs are another. Not every idea or solution will knock your socks off, but some might just inspire you enough to come up with a similar but more refined version. Sometimes just a photo of a compelling home remodel or storage solution can spur you to come up with a less costly alternative.

For example, I was ecstatic that my home had a kitchen island, but not so excited that I didn't have a place to keep my cookbooks someplace closer than the cabinet over the microwave or the refrigerator where I would have to climb a stepladder to get them down every time I wanted to consult a favorite recipe. While browsing the Internet for kitchen remodel ideas, I saw one kitchen island after another that had a lovely built in set of shelves on the end -- perfect for cookbooks.

After measuring my island, which is not very big because there needs to be room to pass on either end, I began searching for a standing bookshelf that would fit. I was determined to find something the right size and not spend a fortune. I found a folding shelf on the Crate and Barrel website exactly the right size. I was patient and not long after, a local consignment shop turned up a sturdy one of the same size and style for half C & B's clearance sale price. It holds all my cookbooks, a plastic drawer to file loose recipes, and containers of cat food, treats, and miscellaneous pet supplies, all within easy reach.

It wasn't the color I wanted, but it's a handy hack, and maybe this spring I'll finally take it outside and spray paint it a better color to match my kitchen.

Bookshelf next to kitchen island
Handy hack, even in black


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