Home Storage Solutions
Because the items stored in a pantry of this type are generally not needed every day, the pantry closet can be located almost anywhere, from the basement (for those without mobility restrictions) to the mudroom.
Pantries that Pull Out or Fold Out
One of my favorites, a pull-out pantry, uses every cubic inch of space for storage and can easily be worked into the main kitchen area. Even devoting 18 inches (45 centimeters) of linear cabinet space to this type of storage can greatly increase the quantity of food you can keep close at hand.
Typically, each pull-out shelf is quite shallow, with room for one or two cans from front to back, and extends the standard 24-inch (60-centimeter) depth of the countertop. The advantage of this design is that visibility is excellent. Pull out any one of the vertical drawers, and you can see everything in that drawer.
The disadvantage of this kind of pantry storage is that it is not designed for bulkier items like multiple rolls of toilet paper or paper towels. But if you can live with these items under the sink in the bathroom and laundry, there's no other pantry design I know of that will store so much in such a small area.
Another popular design for a confined location is the fold-out pantry. Once again, every bit of volume can be put to use. But in my experience, the fold-out pantry doesn't work as well as the pull-out variety. The common result is that the deeper recesses are accessed infrequently and thus contain forgotten items.
The Hallway Pantry
In attempting to make the most of a limited area, architects and interior designers are often pushed to come up with creative storage solutions. One of my favorites is the hallway pantry. If you have a wall that defines one edge of a hallway or walkway, you can increase its width by 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 centimeters) and add an efficient pantry that's perfectly suited for food storage.
Designed to accommodate cereal boxes and anything smaller, you can line the hallway with shelves, either leaving them open or covering them with cabinet doors. If the walkway opens directly onto the kitchen, you may want to consider adding some glass doors so that you can see what's being stored inside while protecting the pantry from dust accumulation.
Don't let yourself become too constrained by notions of how something is "supposed" to be done. Frequently, the best solutions are arrived at by thinking outside the standard approach.
So whatever your budget and whatever your needs, keep in mind that the most important criterion is whether the design helps you find what you are looking for when you need it. No matter how beautiful or clever a design, if it's not convenient for the person who uses it most frequently, it's not a good solution to the problem.
Planning for Recycling
Now that recycling is a regular part of our lives, it should also be considered in the design of our homes. Making it effortless requires that you first become a keen observer of your household's waste-generation habits.
Most important in accommodating recycling receptacles is to locate them close to where the recyclable item is normally abandoned. In the case of newspapers, this may be the kitchen table or the couch in the family room, while for metals this may be adjacent to the kitchen sink. Any design that increases convenience makes recycling much more likely to become standard practice.
Investigate the types of recycling receptacles available to you. There are now many household organizing stores and catalogs, most of which offer a number of elegant solutions for recycling. Be wary of products that are too small to be useful however. If you are planning to locate recycling containers within cabinetry, there are a lot of pull-out basket designs.
Think through the integration of the particular receptacle into the interior decor of the home so that it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb. For example, in my opinion, the best way to accommodate old newspapers is in a stackable rack. Locating this in the middle of the family room however may not be aesthetically acceptable. Is there a closet or cupboard nearby that could contain the newspaper rack? If not, could a screen or cabinet surround be made to hide the rack from view?
Although thinking through the design of the recycling system for your home may not be as glorious or aesthetically rewarding as some of the other aspects of house design, it can have a big impact on both livability and sustainability. There are few things we can do so easily that can have such a significant impact on consumption of natural resources.
And best of all, it doesn't have to be a burden or inconvenience at all. That's a sure sign of a good design solution.
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Sarah Susanka is a residential architect and best-selling author who has written a series of books on the virtues of the Not So Big House. Her newest book, "Home by Design," is due out from The Taunton Press in February 2004.
This article is excerpted from Not So Big Solutions for Your Home, copyright © 2002, available from The Taunton Press and at Amazon.com.