Home Organization How-to: The Importance of Vertical Space

Home Organization How-to: The Importance of Vertical Space

My city apartment is 721 square feet. Total. And I have a roommate. And we both have an obscene amount of “stuff”. When it comes to decorating and organizing, the only way I survive in a small apartment is by remembering the importance of vertical space. When the living gets tight, it’s crucial to build up, so to speak. Instead of using all of your floor area for shallow and long storage pieces, purchase units that are narrow and tall, giving you greater room for foot traffic.

My most recent home decor project was in my bathroom. It’s not a huge space and the only storage is the medicine cabinet. There’s a small area, about 17″ wide, between the sink and the toilet where I used to store my bathroom necessities in a small storage unit (that was overflowing). With the addition of a new roommate I decided to reevaluate the space and give the room a little facelift.

I’m quite stubborn when it comes to finding furniture. I always envision something a certain way and I refuse to settle until I find exactly what I want. Please note: This stubbornness and not “giving in” also translates to almost every other area of my life. I twitch if things aren’t how I think they should be. I’ve got issuuuuues!

Here’s what was on my “must have” list for the potential unit:

• white, to seamlessly match the rest of the bathroom.
• contained a few shelves but also a cabinet to conceal items that guests shouldn’t have to see such as hair dryers, nail polish remover, extra soap, lady products etc. Hiding all of that stuff can make a space appear cleaner and not as busy.
• something that was tall and narrow enough to fit in the space.
• reasonably priced
• sturdy

In terms of looks, I ended up coming across exactly what I was looking for at several stores but couldn’t bring myself to pay upwards of $170+ on units that weren’t well made. A lot of stores had floor models out and the cabinets and shelving were quite rickety and didn’t look very structurally sound. I ended up going with the Sloan White 18″ Leaning Bookcase from Crate and Barrel for two reasons: 1) Crate and Barrel is a brand and quality that I trust and 2) I already own the 25.5″ Sloane Leaning Desk so I know they’re easy to assemble and very sturdy structures. I also figured if I ever get a bigger place I can put the two Sloan pieces together. Just me thinking ahead, kids 😉 Since I was compromising on having a cabinet, I purchased two baskets with lids on them for the bottom shelves, one for me and one for my roommate, so our personal items could still be concealed. Then I had a leftover basket that I used to store a few rolls of toilet paper in so guests can easily find it if we run out. I’m a self-proclaimed basket-whore. OBSESSED with the baskets. I’m planning to buy a couple more Ball jars for essentials like Q-tips and makeup pads, too.

Final product:



My Sloan leaning desk in my bedroom:


When you’re looking for storage units that aren’t vertically challenged, look for words like “tower”, hinting a tall, narrow structure. Also, don’t get attached to the name of a structure. The one I purchased for my bathroom is technically, or in Crate and Barrel’s eyes, a bookcase, but I put it in my bathroom. Don’t be afraid to get creative and do your own thing. A couple of my favorites are below:

Picture 2

Patterson White Bath Tower, Crate and Barrel

Picture 3

Slat Rack, CB2

When decorating small spaces, don’t forget about your walls. Wall-mounted storage and shelving units can be a lifesaver if you don’t want to take up floor-space:

Picture 5

Cable Brackets with White Melamine Shelf, Container Store

Picture 6

Single and Double Acrylic Shelves, Container Store

What are your go-to storage solutions for small spaces? Any creative ideas or tricks?


16 Responses to "Home Organization How-to: The Importance of Vertical Space"

  1. Kristen says:

    LOVE that shelving unit. I have wanted that in a dark wood forever, just don’t have the right place for it. Someday!

  2. Victoria says:

    I have no tips. I loved this post because I need help in this area. We recently moved from 2200 sq. ft. to less than 900. I know it still seems like a lot, but with 2 people, 2 big dogs and a whole lot of “house-sized” furniture, I feel cramped!

  3. Pooja says:

    Crate and Barrel is genius with the vertical units! Or maybe it is just you Chels, that finds all the awesome stuff like this there! Also I think I am in love with the Container store!!

  4. I have three of those shelving units myself. Two are the straight shelves and one is the desk. We have these lined up on one wall for my office and the other side of the room has the bar – because you know, you need a drink after a day in the office 😉

  5. The new shelving unit looks gorgeous! I love that you just got baskets for stuff you want to hide and didn’t limit yourself to only units with cabinets. Awesomeness. PS – I LOVE the tile in your bathroom. I may have to copy that when we redo ours. 😀

  6. Ooh, I love it! Such a cute and effective little bathroom organization piece.

  7. Dustin says:

    Chelsee, you’ve seen my posh space out in the ghetto of JP. One of my favorite tricks, is how to hide unseemly cords from technology. I use those paper boxes from Ikea or otherwise and I cut a big hole out of the back to insert all the cables and even my modem and wireless router (if they don’t give off much heat). Then I pop the lid on and no one would guess it wasn’t hiding some books or extra sweaters.

    I also use all my available wall space, such as hanging wine shelves under shelves in my dining room and having a similar storage shelf like yours in my living room to hold my surplus of throw pillows and blankets that are too pretty to hide.

    I also just turned a little vestibule in my bedroom between doorways into a functional space by losing access to that door (wasn’t needed anyway) and stuck a giant armoire that fit perfectly in it. So it looks like I have built in cabinets. I even hid an ugly storage unit behind it and out of the way for my out of season clothes. So I just have to move the armoire twice a year and voila! Free storage.

    I love your tips, Chels.

  8. Sharlene says:

    I love all the decorating tips. They’re so helpful! You did a wonderful job with your bathroom. It definitely looks spacious and not cluttered!

  9. Emily @ The Happy Home says:

    i hear you on the shelving– our house is a little less than a thousand square feet for two people and two 50lb+ dogs. i feel you on the need to move upwards. we’re currently on the scout for a lingerie chest, to act as a dresser in our teeny tiny bedroom!

  10. Susan says:

    That shelving is amazing.

  11. Jess says:

    When I redid the tiny tiny bathroom in our house this year, I bought a cabinet to go above the toilet. That is usually wasted space and it’s where I store everything! I also got a cabinet unit with a large sink to store stuff there as well.

  12. Bridget says:

    Love what you did in the bathroom! We only have 1 small bathroom in our house and unfortunatel I dont even think that shelving unit would fit! I am trying to find a small cabinet with no luck! But I love all the items you brought up here!!

  13. LOOOOVE the look of that vertical shelf in your bathroom. I’m sending this post to my best friend who lives (by herself) in a 600-something square foot apartment in Philly. I bet she’d pick up some great tips.

  14. love that bathroom. in my apt the bathrooms are HUGE, but i know when we’re in a house one day they prob won’t be as big so i need ideas. 🙂 thanks!

  15. Jaime says:

    i love that bathroom – gorgeous. looks like it is straight out of a magazine! great job 🙂

  16. Your site was great with interesting resources. Those thoughts about self storage is a huge help to anyone! keep sharing your ideas!

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