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Closet & Storage Space

Is There Ever Enough?

By Steve Umland
Published: November 1, 2007
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The sign above the door says it all when it comes to the storage design of this cabin.
Photo by Steve Umland
Closet and storage space is more important than I ever dreamed possible. For instance, I used to think a closet was just a rod on which you hung your shirts and pants. But storage space, it turns out, is like life: It’s so much more complicated than it appears.

My attention to storage space started shortly after I met Bev, my wife-to-be. I had invited her to my cabin, which was still under construction. Building my own full log cabin was a dream come true. In fact, Bev even told me it was a dream of hers to live in a log cabin. Understandably, my chest heaved with pride as I opened the door and ushered my beloved into my log cabin’s great room for the first time.
   
“Steve, why is there a table saw in the middle of the living room?” she asked.
   
Uh, I don’t know, I thought to myself. Because I am building a cabin?
   
As she scanned the room and took a few steps, she said, “It looks like it’s going to be very nice. Where is the coat closet?”
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Though it might have been a perfect pantry location, the space between the hallway and bedroom did turn out to house the stereo and CD collection.
Photo by Steve Umland
“Well, you can’t take off your coat yet.” I said. “Because I have to build a fire in the stove to warm the place up. We don’t need a coat closet since we’re going to be wearing our coats for at least an hour or more.” It was February, it was cold, and the room was big. Anyway, I always just hung my jacket on the corner of the table saw.

“Okay,” she said, “Where is the bedroom going to be?” I showed her with pride the room right off the kitchen.
   
“Where is the walk-in closet?” Walk-in what!?  I paused to consider an accurate answer. 
   
“Uh,” I started.  “I thought just an 8-foot closet would fit nicely here in the corner.”
   
But the look I was getting from Bev was a little disconcerting. This initial walk-through wasn’t going as I had envisioned while driving there that first cold Friday night.
   
Rebounding, we headed back to the wood-burning stove to warm up and passed a little area right by the bedroom door just off the kitchen area.
   
She stopped and said with certainty, “This would make a wonderful pantry!”
   
Again, I was thrown off balance. I looked at the empty 2x4 walls, looked back at her and with a firm but placating tone said, “I designed this space for the stereo. I am going to build a custom cabinet with drawers for the CDs.”
   
“You don’t put the stereo by the kitchen!” she countered, and then quickly added with a sigh, “But it’s your place.”
   
Then she asked me where the pantry was going to be. I always thought all the canned goods went into the kitchen cabinets. I was wrong.
   
Even with the unexpected question-and-answer session, the first few hours at the cabin were very romantic. We sipped wine sitting amidst the sawdust in front of the stove. But the next day she was settling in, and I could see I was in trouble.
   
“Where’s the broom closet going to be?”
   
I carefully thought about my answer, which came quickly.  “Right over here, dear, if that’s where you think it should be.” It was early in the relationship and in the back of my mind I was thinking, what do WE need a broom closet for?
   
I soon learned that the laundry room needed to contain more than a washer and dryer. Plus, it’s a utility room, not a laundry room. I have a college education – I should have known that.
   
I found out that the two bathrooms needed to have storage. I owned one towel, and it was on the shower curtain rod. I like pedestal sinks that don’t have cabinets under them.
   
“So just where are the towels, wash cloths, hand towels, hygiene products, cleaning products, aspirin, and other things going to go?” she asked. My cabin hygiene products consisted of a toothbrush tucked into my bathrobe pocket. And I did not know that cleaning products were indigenous to a specific room.
What bachelor knows all this stuff?

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The author’s handmade storage lockers hold outdoor apparel.
Photo by Steve Umland
Since that weekend almost eight years ago, I have learned a great deal about closets and storage space.

I redesigned the bathroom in the basement. It includes a storage area, which some folks call a medicine cabinet, behind the mirror. My toothbrush now has a holder right behind the mirror! But it took me six months to stop reaching into my bathrobe pocket for it. To think I was merely going to hang a mirror with a frame on the bathroom wall above the sink.
   
I, of course, have learned and built special shelves just for the towels – yes towels, plural. Did you know that you could buy matching towels, wash cloths and hand towels that even match the shower curtain? And I built a cabinet below the towel shelves to store other bathroom stuff.
   
I have evolved as a spouse and now understand the need for adequate storage. I have learned that you do, in fact, need a broom closet, which I tucked into our hallway by the kitchen. When designing the kitchen, I was amazed to learn what cool storage features they now have for kitchen cabinets.
   
But the pantry is still a work in progress. I had already buried all the wires for the stereo into the walls, and they all led to that perfect space – next to the bedroom, off the kitchen. Bev has been working on me for a few years now about the pantry, and the Las Vegas odds are on it going right under the stairs that lead to the basement. But that’s where I now have all my hunting and fishing clothes, motorcycle leathers and assorted boots.
   
Bev’s greatest storage idea, I must admit, came just a couple of years ago. After I added an exterior door into the basement, Bev designed storage lockers adjacent to this entrance. Per her direction, I built these large open lockers with many coat hooks, lower cubicles for boots and shoes and upper cubicles that have plastic bins tucked in the top ones. These lockers are the place for boots, jackets, vests and seasonal clothes. And the bins are perfect for hats, scarves and gloves. I have found this to be one of the most functional storage solutions in the house!
   
The table saw in the middle of the great room didn’t last three weekends. Bev bought an antlered coat hanger that stands by the front door. I no longer needed the table saw on which to hang my coat.

Truth be told, the storage places Bev designed into the cabin are very functional. And she added those cabin touches that made my bachelor weekend getaway into a real home. I personally haven't changed a bit - not a teeny, little bit.  I don't need more than one towel. I didn't have a problem with my toothbrush being in my bathrobe. But Bev educated me and turned our cabin into a beautiful, functional living space.

Now, if I can only figure out where I put my keys...

Steve Umland, frequent Cabin Life author and photographer, abides by the organized chaos theory of the universe.
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