When I look at pictures of homes for sale, the one feature that invariably attracts me is a built-in: bookcases, pantry, closets with drawers and shelves. They’re beautiful and imminently practical because we all need a place for our stuff. I imagine an organized life where there is a place for everything and everything in its place.
The house I grew up in boasted storage throughout. We had a wall of built-in cabinets and drawers in the hall – a tidy broom closet, a space for vases, candlesticks and table ware. My bedroom had a walk-in closet with deep shelving that I loved; filled with light from a small, round window, it was my grooming station, personal bookcase, and trophy display. Behind the hanging rack for clothes was even more space – so cozy and hidden that I had sleepovers there. My dad built a wall of bookcases and cabinets in our TV room, making it my favorite. The continuous line of Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia volumes, and the Great Books series made it feel like a real library. Fiction and non-fiction books, framed art and photos rounded it out.
When our kids were young, we lived in a large colonial style home. Its most interesting feature – at least for me – was an interior hallway with a deep-shelved storage closet. It was the perfect place for cookbooks, the silver chest, large serving bowls and platters, the fondue pot, linens, and the occasional bulk purchase. The one significant improvement we made inside the house was adding a wall of built-in shelves and cabinets to our living room. Of course, it transformed the room from a dull rectangle to a place you wanted to spend time. Now there was a place for special books, art, and curios, and the cabinets were spacious enough to hold all of our photo albums – a feature I especially miss these days.
Now that we’ve down-sized, we find the closet-to-stuff-ratio challenging, but I haven’t let a lack of built-in storage stop me from trying to organize things. Bookcases, shelves, baskets and bins abound; our coffee table stores books and games; a padded bench holds towels and blankets. It feels good to have a place to put things away. In theory, you’ll know where it is the next time you need it. But while things are “away” is easy to forget what you don’t see, and that’s when stuff seems to expand to fill, and then overflow, the available space. Maybe a California Closets remake would help – especially if it comes with built-ins.