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Avoiding the Back to School Storage Crisis

Very few people I work with in Toronto have the luxury of space when it comes to a defined entranceway. It’s hard enough managing clutter during the summer let alone the start of the school year when storing backpacks, sports equipment, multiple pairs of shoes, seasonal coats etc.

Here are five tips on creating storage and defining an entrance in your home including a few of my favourite unique storage solutions:

Leverage Height

Whenever width and floor space are at a premium it’s important to think vertically. With only a few feet of wall space you can create individual storage nooks for each family member using hooks, boxes or baskets attached to the wall, railings etc. If you have a corner, consider a diagonal bar like CB2’s black rod with brass accents. It’s as practical as it is decorative and therefore one of my favourites storage solutions:


If you prefer the look of more formal horizontal storage, stick to consoles, benches and storage pieces with a maximum 10 to 12” depth. A mirror and a narrow floating shelf may be the perfect choice and all you really need.

When it comes to designing entranceways you never want to obstruct the swing of the door or the flow of traffic so be sure and consider both when choosing the right storage for your home. Something as simple as reversing how your entrance or closet door swings could provide the exact amount of additional space needed.

Edit & Prioritize

The smaller your entranceway, the less you should keep on display. Stick to necessities like coats, shoes, mail and keys. If you have a closet with closed storage, add custom inserts to maximize space. A closet rod suspender hangs from the existing rod above to give you double the hanging space for shorter items. Gather small, hard to store pieces in bags and hang them from hooks on the inside of the door. If you don’t have a closet, hooks are a less formal but equally practical way to store items along the wall. Just be sure to edit their contents from time to time as well, so they don’t take over.

Think Outside the Box

There are so many interesting, unique objects that can be used as hooks. I love using beautiful antique doorknobs that have been repainted or refinished.

I’ve also seen Martha Stewart reuse old-fashioned mailboxes as closed storage with built-in hooks for coats and backpacks below.

Ikea’s a great resource for something clean, modern and affordable while antique or flea markets may be your perfect source of inspiration. I also love Anthropology for something a bit eclectic and unexpected.

Have fun with the colour, shape and material of your hooks so they become part of your unique décor. Who knows, they may even make it more fun for kids to hang and tidy their own stuff. Design miracle you say? Let’s hope!

Double Duty Storage

A lot of retailers are coming up with all in one storage pieces that are great when you have the length and width required. Both Crate & Barrel and West Elm have entrance trees that feature a bench, shoe storage, coat racks, hooks etc.

Whether closed or open storage it’s great for things to serve a dual purpose. Another favourite is the Stall storage unit for shoes from Ikea that also provides a narrow 6 ¾” ledge as an entrance console.

Having a bench in an entrance way is a luxury we can’t all afford. Consider tucking a bench with shoe storage inside your closet or under a console so you can pull it out when needed. West Elm’s Universal Expert Shoe Bench is a lightweight solution I’ve used many times:

Design is in the Details

Be sure and incorporate your style and your family’s personality into the storage you choose and the space you create. A mirror is never a bad idea near an entrance – especially one that’s full length. If the space allows, try tucking it behind a console for an elegant yet practical look. A beautiful piece of artwork you love also helps set the tone for the entire house.

The entrance is your first impression so no matter how utilitarian, it’s important it represents the people living there and creates an inviting atmosphere for you and your guests. If you lack natural light, create a window like mirror with four panes that will help brighten the space.

If your entranceway causes you stress its definitely time for a redesign.

Sometimes the smallest spaces are the most fun because they’re less overwhelming to start and less expensive to fix should something go wrong. Be sure and handpick every item based on its functionality as well as its design to ensure your entrance works better this school year than ever before.

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