Itty Bitty Spaces, Part Two

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Over Places

Last week, “A Faithful Reader” asked about ways to store things out of sight in small living spaces. I’ve broken my response into three categories of acquiring more space: under places, over places, and inside places. This week I am sharing ideas of ways to organize over places (otherwise overlooked areas?) that can be better utilized or repurposed as storage spaces.


Look up! Often there are wasted spaces on the walls where elegant and useful storage can go. Where to look, you ask? How about over the washing machine, on top of the pantry, around the perimeter of a room, a shelf above the highest shelf, or above the last hanging rod in your closet. Shelving can be the easiest thing to install, but if you don’t want to see your stuff, use attractive matching baskets on the shelves.

There are even furniture units that are just open squares — open front and back — that hold everything from books to baskets of odds and ends. They can act as room dividers as well, making them that much more useful.

But note: If you are in California, think earthquake safety. Be mindful of what you place in the cabinets and shelves above you. Would you really want that heavy glass vase falling on your head?


A hutch placed on top of a desk can supply additional storage in ordinarily unused space. If you get one with closing cabinet doors, then no one, including yourself, has to see all the stuff there. Not only can you place things in the hutch but on top of it as well. Again, try eye-candy baskets for less-used or less-comely items.

If you have a desk in a corner, there is often wasted space in that corner where regularly used items generally can’t go. So turn it into useful storage with a cubby system or corner bookcase placed there instead.


There are countless gadgets that attach to or hang over a door, providing ample storage for anything from baseball caps to candles. Check places like or The Container Store for cool ideas. I put a set of narrow Elfa shelving behind a hall door to hold small items in order to free up the larger space in a nearby cabinet, and it worked great! There are even specialized hanging units for areas you may never have thought about, such as baskets that go over the doors under your kitchen sink.

Toilet Tank

Yes, I said that. The top of the toilet tank is a perfect place to put a basket for extra bathing supplies, hand towels, soaps, or even spare rolls of toilet tissue if you have nowhere else for them to go. You can even get an over-the-toilet cabinet unit, which sits on the floor on either side of the commode and has shelving above it. Some boast nice glass cabinet doors and offer loads of extra storage. I said not to overlook any area!

Ceilings (and More About Walls)

Sometimes a place just needs a hook! Throwing your robe over a chair may appeal to you sometimes, but if your goal is to keep your place looking “guest-ready,” then a hook on the back of a door might be a better option. How about other kinds of hooks? Utility hooks can hold brooms and mops, hammers and cords. Hook racks offer a luxurious amount of storage, freeing up drawers and floors. The list goes on and on. Tie-hook racks, ordinarily meant for ties, can hold belts, necklaces, and scarves beautifully. These make an otherwise unused space perfectly useful. I have one just for scarves and belts, and another for my necklaces. This keeps them from getting tangled up and makes them very easy to see and select.