This Is the One Place You Should Be Shopping for Super-Unexpected, Small Space-Friendly Storage Pieces

published Nov 4, 2022
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When it comes to small spaces and storage solutions, creativity is key, especially if you have small closets (or lack them altogether!) and need to stash things out in the open. While simple bins or baskets oftentimes might seem like the default option, homeowner Mary Burgess is thinking beyond the plain old plastic box with a resourceful (and aesthetically-pleasing!) storage strategy that actually complements her interior setup.

Burgess, a professional hand-weaver and self-proclaimed collector, lives in a two-story townhouse in Melbourne, Australia, which she initially bought 22 years ago with her then-teenage daughter. “We wanted either two living spaces or three bedrooms — one for an office/studio,” she explains. “I managed to get both with this apartment.” When it came to designing the home, Burgess adds that her “style has gradually evolved and become more defined with time,” yet, she manages to pay tribute to her creative career by using her “weaving equipment and textiles as decoration, but much of it is also practical and in regular use.”

Because the townhouse doubles as a working studio and living space, Burgess has to depend on storage not only for her crafting supplies but also for those unsightly everyday home essentials many of us have. Rather than buying new organizing items though, she strategically shops at vintage stores to find completely unexpected secondhand vessels and compact pieces of furniture or cabinetry that basically double as decor. “For storage I have gone for woven baskets, old rusty metal grape washing boxes, stationary files, drawers, and cardboard boxes and folders from the 1930s and ’40s — including one of my father’s,” Burgess says of her functional-meets-stylish storage repertoire.

Her studio, for example, features an old painted timber shelving unit with 10 spacious square openings (pictured above). Burgess then filled each with a vintage grape washing box, labeled with hand-printed luggage tags, which creates an industrial-looking “drawer” effect. You’ll also find a mini antique flat file cabinet on her desk for documents and papers, as well as vintage printer drawers hanging on the wall filled with spools of thread and buttons. The list of repurposed accents goes on: “I have used old industrial shelving and cupboards, old file boxes — often covered in great papers, and cardboard boxes with patina,” Burgess says. Overall, she notes, “storage does not need to be plastic!”

This mentality ultimately gives Burgess’s home a clutter-free yet lived-in look that’s brimming with personality and charm. While it’s undeniably more time consuming to collect these one-of-a-kind recycled receptacles versus immediately grabbing something from your local big box, it’s worth the wait (and way more sustainable and oftentimes more affordable) to curate your very own thoughtful, display-worthy assortment of bins, baskets, cabinets, and beyond. In fact, Burgess’ studio shelf DIY alone took two full years to actualize. If you do plan to follow in this homeowner’s secondhand storage-sourcing footsteps, she shares one piece of advice: “Have a list of the things you are still looking for when you go shopping.” That helps eliminate the inclination for “impulse buying,” she says, which is also key when you are dealing with a smaller space.