Stuck for storage? These ideas for small spaces will help you find a place for everything, even in a tiny home

These clever storage ideas for small spaces, from nifty built-in features to simple transformative hacks, will give you ample more room

A built-in unit with cabinets and fold-away desk
(Image credit: French + Tye. Design by Studio Ben Allen)

When planning your storage for small spaces, you've got to think outside of the box and get clever with the way you approach design. From clever built-in storage units that magic space from seemingly nowhere, to genius rearrangements that can afford you more space in mere moments, we've rounded up our favorite smart storage ideas for small spaces to give you that extra bit of room in your small living room, bedroom, bathroom, or indeed any area of the home.

For Cagla Akguner-Taylor of CHEG Architects, the first place you can start is about decluttering and working on the elements within a room. 'Our experience of small spaces is dependent on the relationship between all elements within it,' says Cagla. 

'An imbalance of materials, colors and shapes competing for attention amongst the daily mess of life is going to feel tiring, cramped and uncomfortable. Careful planning of storage in small spaces is essential. Having an easily accessible place for everything allows the space to breathe as it creates ease of circulation and eliminates visual clutter, making the room feel spacious.' Read on for our favorite methods to let your room breathe.

Oonagh Turner
Oonagh Turner

Oonagh is an interiors writer and editor, and expert at keeping up with trends from the world of interior design. For this story, she's spoken to the designers and architects who have worked on small-scale projects to dig out practical tips that will help her readers make the most of small spaces.

1. Combine stairs and storage 

Under-the-stair storage

(Image credit: Fred Howarth. Design: Studio Webster Dale)

Under-the-stairs storage is nothing new, but we don't just mean a cupboard under the stairs that stores a random assemble of walking boots, old and broken umbrellas and a clunky vacuum cleaner. If you look at the zig-zag of the stairs, each step offers room, so it's about making the most of this space and creating under-stair storage.  In this example, a small mezzanine is accessed via a plywood storage stair in this home designed by Studio Webster Dale (opens in new tab). This makes handy use of the space under the staircase, with each door and shelf converted into space for storage. The use of plywood makes it aesthetically pleasing and neat. 

'When space is tight, maximize your storage opportunities by using what otherwise might be dead space,' says Stephanie Dale from Studio Webster Dale. 'This custom plywood alternating tread stair gives access to a small storage mezzanine. The division of cupboards was optimized by thinking about what actually needed to be stored, so think about your requirements. 

'The closed cupboards hide bulky or messy items - in this case printers and screen printing equipment -giving a more streamlined look. By contrast, the open shelving adds lightness giving the opportunity to display your favorite collections, enhanced with pops of color.'

2. Double up seating as storage

Bench seating space doubling up as added storage

(Image credit: Tatjana Plitt. Design: CHEG Architecture)

A bench that doubles up as storage is a handy addition to a small space. Top it with a custom cushion and it's a cozy window seat or spot for you to take a seat and relax with a book, but it's also making clever use of that floor space. 

In this example from Melbourne-based CHEG Architecture (opens in new tab), the bench wraps around the perimeter of the room and you're not wasting any space. 'Avoid visual clutter created by placing too many individual storage items in one room,' says architect and designer of the space, Cagla Akguner-Taylor. 

'Ideally, built-in storage spanning full height or wall to wall will allow it to blend into the space easier. Storage that serves multiple purposes also makes efficient use of space,' Cagla adds. 'In this project, the kitchen bench runs the full width and joins into a multipurpose unit. The seating/TV unit/display bench/fireplace hearth/storage unit spans the kitchen, dining, and living areas in one unit.'

3. Stretch cabinets to the ceiling

Cabinets that frame a fireplace and mantelpiece area and stretch to the ceiling

(Image credit: Tom Ferguson. Design: Victoria D'Alisa)

Don't waste wall space and make sure you stretch those bedroom cabinets and built-in wardrobes to the ceiling. This doesn't necessarily mean wall-to-wall cabinets either, and you can cleverly frame a mantelpiece, or work around an architectural feature like this fireplace to keep the space interesting. 

Keeping the cabinets white means they blend well into the wall and the green and blue of the wall artwork and fireplace are the main focus of this small space. This 1890s home in New South Wales was designed by Victoria D'Alisa (opens in new tab).

4. Use clever millwork to add extra storage

Clever cabinet space built onto the floor, made from plywood

(Image credit: Chris Warnes. Design: Passer architects)

Passer Architects (opens in new tab) used careful planning and detailing to maximize and conceal storage and create space for all the clients’ belongings. The home was a small property with a tiny footprint of only 430 square feet. 'Every inch counted and it made us think outside the box with how to design storage and services to maximize the size of the internal spaces,' says Katrina Passer. 

'A new birch plywood joinery element spans the length of the ground floor. It houses the kitchen, pantry, powder room, general storage, stair and living room shelving all in one unit, fulfilling the client brief for minimalist living - everything has a place.'

5. Add storage around a door 

Storage that stretches to the ceiling and frames a doorway

(Image credit: Itay Benit. Design: WE Architects)

When searching for extra space for storage in a small home, be sure to look up and take into account the wall space. The space above our doors often goes unnoticed, but you can make more out of this space by building cabinets that frame the doorway, like this example from Studio WE Architects, an architecture and interior design studio based in Tel Aviv.

'Near the black entrance door, and opposed to the wooden staircase, we concealed the guest bathroom inside a pinkish cube. The 'cube' is composed of a closet, a dresser and a wall of the same color,' xplains Efrat Weinreb from Studio WE. 'The carpentry contains a mirror, a place to put your keys, bag, a coat rack and shoe storage.'

6. Design in home office that stores away

Owners of this London apartment sought out the expertise of Studio Ben Allen (opens in new tab) to create more space from the little square footage they had at their disposal. 

The result is a clever storage unit that includes cabinetry as well as a folding-down table that closes away again at the close of the day. The unit houses a desk, home office storage, a child’s desk, a seating area, a bed that can fold down when the table is not in use, and a living room storage unit. 

The clients also requested that the storage solution relates to the architecture of the Grade II building in which its housed. 

7. Combine open and closed storage

Clever bookshelfs for storage and decor

(Image credit: Itay Benit. Design WE Architects)

It's a smart idea to combine your decorative space with storage solutions. In this example, the designers at Studio WE Architects (opens in new tab) have gone for a bookshelf that has some shelving closed off for hidden away, unsightly storage. 

Meanwhile, some are left open to give a decorative edge and provide a home library or surface for trailing plants, beautiful coffee table books, ceramics and other decorative items you might want on display. The illusion is that the space feels purely decorative, but in reality, it's cleverly concealing storage.

Stacked storage system configuration 9, 2Modern (opens in new tab)
Get the look

Stacked storage system configuration 9, 2Modern (opens in new tab)

A functional and aesthetic storage system that brings customized storage to your living room. The unit can be arranged and rearranged for however you'd like it, with as little or as much as you'd like on display. 

8. Go handleless for a seamless finish

Handleless storage for a seamless storage solution

(Image credit: Fred Howarth. Design: Studio Webster Dale)

For a seamless look, ditch the bulky handles in favor of tactile pulls that are carved into the material, subtly mimicking the grip of a hand. This handle-less look takes up less visual clutter and space and can help create a minimalist and Scandi living room feel. 

When space is at a premium, the minor details matter, and this clever solution for your storage helps make the storage go unnoticed, blending into the background for a slick finish. 

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.