10 Go-To Tips for Optimizing Space

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By Paula McDonald Design Build & Interiors
It’s All About Custom From an NYC Perspective (or Anywhere)

1. First Rule: Look at all walls, all closets that are contiguous to the room and think inside out. When it comes to not having enough space the barriers or obstructions to a plan become integrated in the design solution. Example: For a galley kitchen (discussion below) this meant moving ALL plumbing, gas and drain lines, included the window and a through the wall heating and AC system to become part of the banquette in the kitchen. We opened up the kitchen wall and turned the electric riser/breaker panel to remove the "horizontal" obstruction for light, added storage and the expand the kitchen foot print by taking unused hall space, and part of the bedroom closet space to "add" to the kitchen foot print. The peninsula became the separation of space to the foyer, which gave the entrance a separate area. 

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2. Second MOST Important Rule: Probe. Open up odd spaces. Research what’s behind that wall/structure to see what you might gain for both dimensions of vertical and horizontal space, ceilings if dropped, soffits to see what or why they are there. 

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3. Galley Kitchens: Multi-purposing space with windows in a 7 foot wide by 10 foot long kitchen. It’s not often that we can find this "luxury" of space in a small galley kitchen in Manhattan, but when we have a window and the perfect spot for a Banquette that doubles as the Air-conditioning and Heating unit cover behind it, it quickly becomes a must have. I just use the challenge of multipurpose functionality to drive the dimensions that make it all work -- from stepping back cabinet depth dimensions at the window seat, making all components removable to service the unit, including a removable banquet table and still have the seating comfortable for two people. We just needed 46 inches to create this and added the storage we displaced as a glass cabinet/buffet to the expanded footprint in order to create the perfect setting for an eat in kitchen banquette! 

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4. Enhancing Natural Light without Losing Storage in Window Areas. Having a window in a Manhattan kitchen is a luxury and dilemma at the same time. We wanted as much natural light from a north-facing window and didn’t want to feel "cramped" by upper cabinets surrounding the sink. The solution: Custom cabinetry created an upper "étagère" on each side of the window, with Starphire glass shelves, glass side and front panels to allow transparency for light, and storage in a beautiful way for things you love seeing! 

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5. Concealing Columns. Every challenge that removes storage in any kitchen becomes a creative opportunity to think of a better solution then losing the space! In this case, we had the depth of the base cabinet that was proud of the structural column and when all was said and done, we hid it behind the 5 inch deep spice cabinet both above and below the countertop. We hid the column by cladding it with the same cabinetry material. And, Voila! Our spice cabinet and concealed column is created! 

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6. Lighting Design in General, with Slabs and Task Lighting in Crown Bridges. Task lighting over the sink is integrated in the crown bridge between the cabinets. We were able to provide adequate lighting with two 50 watt recessed lights (retrofitted) that work in my custom crown bridge to provide adequate dimmable task lighting exactly where they are needed. We often add soffits for perimeter down or up - lighting of a room when we cannot channel the ceiling to add a light fixture. That means integrating the moldings, friezes and interior finish details so the added lighting build out looks like the design detail was always in the plan. 

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7. Storage Interiors: Cabinet Spaces. For pantries, there is nothing better then the Rev-A-Shelf Tall Wire Pullout Pantry, and the base pull out. Even better, the Master Chef Pantry is the best use of space when you have it from Richelieu Tandem Depot Sliding Basket System. When we can have a door pullout for a double garbage rollout - (Rev-A-Shelf In-Cabinet Garbage Pullout Double Mount and Containers) its’ the best solution for recycling and waste since it is not under the sink which is the usual place for a single garbage rollout! And, for those of us who need them, they have lids if desired! The drawer shelves we create are also another go to for convenience in a pantry.. if it’s not a complete pull out. So much more manageable to access what you need! I’m also a drawer person in my cabinetry design.. NOTHING beats drawers for storage around bath vanity plumbing.. also custom made for our clients. 

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8. Optimizing Blind Corners. No matter how these corners arrive, every blind corner is the perfect space for custom drawers, and /or custom shelves which we designed for the small space on the right or left side of the refrigerator for cooking utensils, and storage. When larger, we include storage solutions for the base that makes access easier including half moons and other creative corner solutions from Häfele (LeMans II Corner Unit Set and Magic Corner). 

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9. Angles and Jogs in the Space: Kitchen, bath, windows.

Example - Sometimes spaces in what was almost a Pullman style kitchen only work when you really get creative about how you can fit everything into the space around structural columns, plumbing bump outs and clearance requirements. Example – the tall cabinet on the right side is a stackable Miele washer /dryer, that only fit if we angled the cabinet next to it. And the sink base cabinet only worked if the plumbing lines ran outside of the wall (which you cannot see) and pushed the cooktop and 18 inch Dishwasher forward. The mirrored back splash helped to disguise these changes, along with the white color palate. Cubbies in shower or bath walls is another big plus.. for hiding things we do not see and found when we demo, usually. 

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10. Storage on Wheels.Portability and dual functionality on wheels! I added a rolling cabinet with four drawers and matching counter top to provide the drawer space we needed and tucked it back on the column under the house phone when not in use! Perfect! 

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