25 of the Smartest Storage Solutions We Saw This Year (That Also Look Good)

updated Jan 12, 2021
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It doesn’t really matter how big or small one’s home is—storage is always a challenge. Storage solutions have to be functional, like fitting what you need to store and making it easily accessible. But of course, many people want their storage to look good, too. This can be a tough combination to pull off, but the homes in this roundup absolutely nailed good-looking and ultra functional storage solutions.

The best part of designing storage for your home is that you can get as creative with it as you want. In this roundup I chose homes we toured in 2020 that weren’t afraid to think outside the box (or cabinet) to create storage to fit the needs of their home and their family. From IKEA storage hacks to floating shelves to narrow cabinets and more, you’ll likely find inspiration in all of the ideas these renters and owners came up with for their homes.

Credit: Erin Derby

1. Very narrow shoe storage used for… more than shoes

Zach Hilty and Libby Duke’s biggest challenge in their 350-square-foot NYC rental apartment? Storage! But the couple was able to design an extremely organized home thanks to lots of storage ideas, including one in the narrow hallway between their living room to bedroom with lots of STÄLL shoe cabinets. “We have six IKEA shoe racks and have filled them with way more than just shoes,” explained the couple in their house tour.

Credit: @deannadunn

2. Caning and curves in a converted van home

There are a lot of great small space ideas in James and Deanna Dunn’s converted Dodge Ram Promaster (the drop-down projector screen, for one), but I really loved the storage ideas in particular. The DIY caned door details on the cabinets are gorgeous and could work in larger homes. And the little inset arched cubbies are a great way to make use of unused spaces, as well as keep counters clear of clutter.

3. Deep drawers under a custom sofa

Monique Villiger and partner Aswan Shankara designed one of the most beautiful and functional homes when they designed their 248-square-foot tiny house. When you have so little space, maximizing the space you do have is vital. The creative couple not only designed a custom sofa sectional that would fit perfectly in one end of the tiny house, but it also features large, deep storage drawers. Another clever feature: “When guests come over, wooden boards slide over this drawers and an extra cushion makes this a queen size guest bed!” they wrote in their house tour.

4. Combining lockers and an affordable shelf

I think there’s a false belief floating around that large storage pieces have to be expensive. In fact, the stellar storage solution in Lindsay Varley and her husband’s Oakland rental apartment is proof that not every component has to come from the same place— or be originally intended to go together. As Lindsay wrote in their house call, (“My favorite and most prideful project was a set of vintage lockers I bought from Craigslist. I painted them white and found a bookcase (on Craigslist as well!) to put in between.”

5. A custom plywood pegboard

Robin Daprato’s Toronto rental house has one seriously stunning custom storage solution that she wrote about in her house tour. “When my ex moved out, my office had this big empty corner that I wasn’t sure what to do with and I think I saw a plywood pegboard on a Pinterest page or something and I thought that would fit perfectly in this space. What they came back with was so beautiful and FAR exceeded my expectations. I am so in love with how it turned out and it is such a beautiful way for me to showcase some of my favorite objects. I really like how the objects I display can constantly be rotating depending on what is inspiring me at the moment. Also, as a tarot reader, I wanted to have a beautiful backdrop for when I am giving clients virtual readings, so I use the pegboard to display my crystals, tarot cards, incense, and candles.”

Credit: Carly Fuller

6. A painted arch and floating shelf combo

Floating shelves are an easy way to add just a bit more storage or display space to a blank wall. But depending on the placement or installation, it might look a little out of place or even “dinky.” You can solve that issue quickly by taking a page out of Carly Fuller’s small NYC apartment bedroom: Paint an arch shape around your floating shelves. The result is a cohesive, substantial composition that elevates the simple shelves.

Credit: Sarah Huchel

7. A wildly-shaped custom bookcase

Anyone who’s a book lover knows how much SPACE is needed to store those books. And while your garden-variety bookcases are just fine, why not consider something a little wilder in style and shape? Sarah Huchel hired a local cabinetmaker to build the bookshelves based on a picture from Pinterest, and it certainly becomes a statement-making anchor piece for her home’s living room.

8. Smart makeup and clothes storage

“We all know ‘closet/prep space’ isn’t in NYC vocabulary, so I had to DIY our ‘prep area’ with: (1) a matte black modern mid-century full mirror hung on the wall by our closet with a gooseneck LED light makeup mirror suctioned to it and (2) Plastic shelves I DIYed and hung on the tiny corner between the mirror and our closet to hold my makeup and brushes,” described Oyin Antwi in the tour of her and her husband’s small NYC apartment.

9. Painting a pantry closet black

Ryan and Emily Smith have created a vintage-style home in a two-bedroom rental apartment situated in a quiet pocket of inner-city Melbourne above a business. Full of cute style, I was impressed with their kitchen-closet-turned-modern-pantry. Ryan painted the inside of the pantry black, a great tip for modernizing a utilitarian space, and also making it feel less cluttered.

Credit: Stacey Dyer

10. Apothecary drawers in the kitchen

Stacey Dyer and her husband live in an Edwardian end terrace house that was built in 1910. During the pandemic, they had extra kitchen space built. “It took six months to plan and then six months to build (with a nine-week COVID break in the middle). This room has completely [improved] how we live and it really is the heart of the home,” she explains. My favorite part? The amazing apothecary drawers integrated into the kitchen’s designs.

Credit: Erin Derby

11. A table skirt for hiding personal items

Photographer and Apartment Therapy house tour contributor Erin Derby has been renting this Brooklyn apartment for eleven years, sharing it with her daughter. There are cute ideas for storing things, both hidden and in sight. And I really loved the storage idea in the entryway, which features a table with a table skirt. Imagine all the things you can tuck away behind there!

12. Perfect pantry storage in a shallow wall nook

Kristi Dammann’s home is full of cute DIY painting ideas, but when it came to storage, I fell in love with the DIY ideas in their kitchen. A shallow inset nook in one wall features several rows of shelves that are just perfect for pantry items, particularly with the way they placed all their pantry supplies in simple glass jars. It’s a simple and affordable solution for these supplies when you don’t have hidden storage.

13. A super organized custom-inspired wardrobe

“The most expensive thing in our flat was our wardrobe,” explained Leila Davis and Fleur Finch in their small apartment’s tour. It’s all my favorite storage solution in the 460-square-foot home. “It’s honestly just an IKEA wardrobe so nothing to scream about. It was just important that our wardrobe was open and more of a display of our clothes than a box that would close off our space. Leila has a fair amount of Pleasers (pole dancing shoes) that are 8-10 inches tall and pole dancing costumes, which she measured out space for when designing our wardrobe.”

14. Crates for shelves

I love when storage solutions are both affordable and attractive, and the storage crates from IKEA Bree Contreras’ renovated 1970s RV home is a perfect example of both. I like how they installed the crates in different ways to add both variety in looks but also in function.

15. Using wasted space in a hallway

India and her partner Harry bought this 465-square-foot Edinburgh flat a year ago. There were a lot of things that the couple wanted to update, and they ripped out and replaced the kitchen, as well as refreshed the rooms with paint. Their DIY kitchen’s storage is worth the click alone, but their teeny tiny hallway is a great example of using space that would otherwise be wasted with these cute shelves.

Credit: Alec Kugler

16. A hallway turned walk-through closet

Sara and Gunnar Larson’s proudest DIY in their Brooklyn home is their walk-through closet. “I love a small space challenge, so when I measured our hallway and figured we could maximize the extra space for a custom walk-through closet, I was thrilled!” explained Gunnar. “I used a combo of Yamazaki racks, IKEA BESTA cabinets, Elfa Closet structure, and custom ash shelves to create the ultimate space-saving closet that also allows us to view our ever-expanding shoe and handbag collection, thanks to my wife and her fashion career.” 

17. Mirrored closets and baskets

Tiara moved to this small studio apartment in London from New York City. At around 400 square feet, the whole space is an amazing example of how to design a very small space. But the clever cabinets in the main living space combine the power of mirrors with wall-to-wall storage to create a TON of storage that also makes the space feel larger than it actually is. Tiara made sure not to waste the precious space above the cabinets with mirrored doors, adding big, textured baskets on top that are probably perfect for things she needs to keep but doesn’t use every single day.

18. A wall of square bookshelves

I couldn’t believe how much I loved the bookshelves in this organic modern Buenos Aires home. When the couple first found this apartment, it had been neglected for years and it needed a full remodel. Thankfully, this gave the creative couple the opportunity to not only update the aesthetic of the space, but also create a home that adapts and functions for their family. One of my favorite elements is dining room library wall custom made with white lacquered wood. “[W]e made it specially for that wall and for placing all our special books and objects,” they described in their home tour.

Credit: Jaime

19. A custom storage bed platform

This 330-square-foot studio’s custom furniture and smart storage ideas maximized every inch in the small space. And the custom storage bed platform is particularly noteworthy.
“After struggling to find the right solutions for the space, I decided to design the kitchen and bedroom furniture from scratch. I enlisted the help of my father, who in addition to being a photographer and textile designer, is a hobby architect and designed the home I was raised in,” wrote apartment owner Jaime. “The bed has drawers in the headboard and all around the frame, with a massive storage trunk that rolls out into the living room. The trunk has a wood top that unfolds to transform it into table for up to eight people; turning the living room into a dining room with a few gestures.”

20. A painted peg wall

Professional organizer Fay Wolf shares this 660-square-foot apartment in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake neighborhood with her partner, and it’s full of clever storage ideas. My favorite was the super organized hanging peg board she painted to coordinate with the rest of her home’s decor.

21. An orange pipe clothes hanger

Janina Gavankar worked with Mandy Cheng of Mandy Cheng Design on her very gorgeous Los Angeles house. It’s packed with inspiring decor ideas, but I really loved this little storage solution: Simple and industrial pipes installed on the ceiling and painted orange make for a sculptural clothes hanging solution.

Credit: Andrew Bui

22. Banquette storage seating

It’s honestly incredible how much storage (and style) fits in New York-based makeup artist and stylist Kim White’s 296-square-foot studio apartment. Along with being smart and practical, many of her home projects were also very budget-friendly. “I found a TV stand for $15 at IKEA in their scratch and dent area, and was inspired to build a channeled banquette based off of a headboard I’d seen on Emily Henderson’s site (yay, more storage),” wrote Kim. “I’m a makeup artist and those two drawers in the banquette are home to lots of product!”

Credit: Andrew Bui

23. A flat file cabinet nook

Emily Edelman’s 525-square-foot Brooklyn studio apartment features clever room dividing and storage ideas, including the gorgeous flat file cabinet she used in a former closet-turned office nook. “You can store a surprising amount in drawers that are only 1.5″ high, including tools, jewelry, scarves, hats, memories in the form of papers and trinkets, and shells!” she wrote in her house tour. “I have been wanting a flat file cabinet since I started collecting handmade papers in college, so even though this was my biggest splurge, it was also something I’ve been thinking about buying for a long time.”

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

24. Hanging wire storage

Professional organizer Vaishali Sahni’s tidy Toronto condo is packed with organizing ideas you’ll want to steal, including this simple but revolutionary one spotted in her laundry room. A closet organizer makes a great cord and charger station, and this hanging organizer from Amazon is a smart way to unclutter your cord tangles and get your junk drawer back.

Credit: Minette Hand

25. An open air shelving divider

Art director, stylist, and event designer Taylor Bennett has been renting this apartment in a historic building in Monroe, Louisiana for a year, and one his favorite elements is the wood feature storage wall in his kitchen that he helped design. “One of my favorite creatives to follow is Billy Jack Brawner,” wrote Taylor. “He’s on the creative team for the ‘Magnolia Journal. He has a similar wall in his Waco home and I’ve been obsessed with it since the first time he posted it.”