Living room storage advice: clutter and cocktails don't mix

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | November 21, 2013

Are you living in your living room, or just tiptoeing around mountains of kids' toys and tripping over the wires from your electronic entertainment equipment?

If you have a family or a small home, chances are you use your living room or great room for any group activities that can't take place at the kitchen island or around the dining table. If you have a larger home and a formal living room plus a family room, storage issues might be confined to the latter, so you can apply these living room storage solutions to whichever room they suit best.

Easy living room storage: furniture is still it

A few decades ago it was not unusual to find monolithic entertainment centers dominating most living rooms, but times have changed. Bulky TVs have shrunk to flat screens, and those massive wall units have been replaced by dainty media consoles. You could hide a lot storage items inside the cabinets of an entertainment unit, so where do you conceal things now?

Furniture is still the primary storage solution in a living, family, or great room, but instead of an all-in-one unit, several smaller pieces scattered throughout the room have mostly taken its place.

Kat Reichmuth, professional organizer and owner of The Simplified Life, a home organization service in the San Francisco Bay Area is a big advocate of clearing out anything from the living room "that isn't used for relaxing with the family." After you've eliminated those items that don't qualify, she recommends you "hide your electronics and media in pretty baskets." For quick and easy living room storage solutions, she likes a double-duty storage ottoman.

Another of Kat's favorite solutions for corralling clutter in a living room is IKEA's Expedit shelving units. They come in a variety of different modules and can be outfitted with baskets to hold media and small toys -- a catchall for just about anything you want to banish from the floor or other surfaces. And her latest favorite find? The Badger Basket Barrel Top Toy Chest with safety-hinged lid holds a ton of toys and looks good enough to pass muster in the living room.

Contemporary furniture stores like CB2 carry an assortment of mounted wall display shelves, book cases, towers, mini-bars, credenzas -- and the ubiquitous storage ottomans and stools. For the smaller home that's short on wall space and still buys printed books, CB2's array silver bookcase is a vertical marvel that holds stacks of books on their sides.

Living room furniture storage is not limited to modern and contemporary pieces. Traditional-style, tiered coffee and console tables, hutches, and cabinet end tables have always been great places for hidden storage -- and still are.

Remodeling the living room: storage solutions

Pamela Farnsworth Smith, owner of Avallon Design, has been an interior designer for 36 years. During that time she has had the pleasure of designing many living rooms, quite a few of which are higher end. Her choice for classic living room storage?

"There is nothing like a full wall of custom wood built-ins, surrounding a stunning fireplace and wood or stone mantle. If you are building a new home or remodeling, make sure you consider this option first. It will greatly add to the resale value of your home later, not to mention how it creates a warm, 'rich' feeling to the room. Whether your wood is stained or painted, the result will still astound you when it is done."

built-in storage

Credit: Pamela Farnsworth Smith, Avallon Design

Pamela's suggestion for an "easy" furniture storage solution in the living room is no less eye-catching -- a warm-toned wood armoire on a focal wall like the one she positioned beside the fireplace in the photo below. She then added a "significant" bombe chest on the other side of the fireplace along with an accent mirror and plaque for balance.

Living room storage

Credit: Pamela Farnsworth Smith, Avallon Design

She explains her choice of furniture: "An armoire allows for added storage behind those doors. In this living room it can be an extra hidden coat closet for overflow during special party events, or for entertainment components, or dining room serving pieces." She adds, "It will surely be talked about during the cocktail hour."

For some, finding an easy or elegant solution to living room storage problems is good enough -- and certainly much better than overhearing guests talking about your clutter over cocktails.

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.