Storage solutions: Clever and colourful cupboards

charlotte pigeon portrait circle

There has been an explosion of pretty and functional off-the-shelf storage solutions available to buy, from cheap and cheerful (think Ikea) to more high-end retailers. However, a common issue that people find is that standardised cabinets, chests of drawers and shelving units just don’t fit their space.

In particular, period houses often have non-standard alcoves, cupboards and plenty of nooks and crannies so ready-to-use storage solutions just won’t work. It could be the ceilings are very low (old farmhouse) or very high (Georgian villas). Perhaps the alcoves on either side of a fireplace are uneven or the space is just untidy.

When you move house often pieces of furniture that were perfect in one house, don’t work in your new space.

Furniture can look dwarfed in spaces with high ceilings. And if walls and ceilings are not square – which happens a lot in period properties – it means standard furniture just looks wrong.

The key to great storage solutions

The key to brilliant made-to-measure storage solutions is maximising the available space and using it effectively and efficiently.

It’s also about storage solutions that add to the room and makes a positive impact rather than something you have to have.

The storage solution becomes a feature in itself as well as something practical and useful.

Whether a cupboard, cabinet, shelving unit, drawers, or a combination of all of them, the right solution can transform a space and provide much-need storage for contemporary living.

Cupboards that belong

When we create custom storage we always aim to maximise space and make beautiful pieces of storage furniture that look like they belong there.

We balance the light, the space and the ceiling height as well as the functional requirements for the storage area.

Bespoke shelving and cupboard unit

We created a wonderful storage solution at an old cottage that was being renovated. There was a long wall where they had created an opening near to a fireplace. We felt it was crying out for a full built-in unit of cupboards and open shelves.

bespoke bookcase
The cupboards help to enhance the other features of the space, such as this wood-burning stove.

The cottage retained a lot of character but this space was a blank canvas. Adding the bookcase would give character to the room, and turn it into a personalised space.

The brief: custom bookcase and cupboards

Our brief was to create a custom-fitted bookcase to store and display books and treasured possessions. We needed to incorporate somewhere to keep kids toys and games tidy and out of sight.

We were also asked to integrate picture lights so that the bookcase could be lit up in the evening.

Starting with the space

The space designated for the bookcase helped to define the dining area in the new multi-functional open-plan dining/lounge/kitchen space.

Charlotte started her design with the door sizes for the cupboards and then found a division that works for the space. It is essential to strike a balance with the proportions of the sections. If they are too wide the cupboard doors can look awkward and get in the way. Too narrow and the space begins to feel too busy. The symmetry with the 4 sections helped to make the bookcase look both generous and functionally appropriate.

fitted bookcase
The shelves balance the dining room table, sofa and all the objects they showcase while remaining a feature in itself.

The large wooden dining room table also helped to balance the space.  

Feature colour for storage solutions

The clients had a clear vision for the colour of the bookcase. They chose this incredible blue hue that changes with the light over the day, and where you view it.

We are certainly seeing a trend towards more colourful storage solutions to lift the pieces and make them a feature colour. Making a bold colour statement helped the bookcase to stand out from the wall rather than blend in, much like how a feature wall is used to add depth to a space.

The colour adds so much to the space and looks different all the way through the day and night.

In particular, darker shades with integrated lighting are a fantastic way to highlight the furniture in the evening, to showcase not only the books and curios but also the bookcase in itself.

Get the look

Paint is Celestial Blue by Little Green Company

Picture Lights from John lewis (exact model used no longer available)

Cupboards made from English Ash and Oak veneer plywood inside by Frome Interiors.

Awkward Bathroom storage solutions

Another of our creative storage solutions was in a very old farmhouse with odd recesses and nooks. There was a very large, but weirdly proportioned, L-shape bathroom. All the pipework was exposed as you can’t hide anything in the solid walls as you would do in a new build.

The entire bathroom was ripped out and Frome Interiors designed the layout of the suite, plumbing, tiles and also the clever storage solution: a wall of built-in cabinets, shelves and drawers.

The Brief

The clients wanted a vanity unit with plenty of drawers for storing all their cosmetics, medicines and other bathroom bits and bobs. They wanted to neaten up the wall and hide the plumbing.

They wanted to start utilising all the wasted space created by the shape and size of the room.

handmade vanity unit and bath

Our clever fitted cupboards

Charlotte decided that cupboard panelling would hide all the pipes and drainage perfectly. We slotted in nooks for various cupboards that could not only store items but also act like airing cupboards.

We created storage for towels and linen, cleaning products and equipment, cosmetics and medicines, an integrated bin and even a place to put toilet rolls! Understanding how a space is going to be used is a crucial part of the design process. There is little point in creating a beautiful space that will just be littered with flotsam of daily living.

Charlotte left no space unused –  she even fitted in mirrored cupboards above the cistern! With a bit of creative imagination, it is surprising the amount of storage you can fit in a bathroom!

Some open shelving was left so it felt more like a room. Too many doors and panelling can be a bit imposing and overpowering. The shelves show off the depth of the space.

painted shelves and shower unit

These fitted shelves also provide a way to dress the room with accessories; display nice jars and plants. It helps to make the bathroom a nice space to be in and relax in, not just a functional room.

Get the look

Paint is Matchstick by Farrow and Ball

Tiles are part of the Retro Metro range by Fired Earth

Cupboards made from Poplar and plywood inside by Frome Interiors.

Making the most of alcoves with high ceilings

Alcoves often require bespoke storage solutions. Modern houses simply don’t have them and all too often period homes are outside of standard cupboard shapes and sizes.

We had one project to transform some alcoves in a Frome period house with really high ceilings – nearly 3m (the UK standard is around 2.3m). The alcoves were in the living room and were positioned on either side of a fireplace. Each alcove was a different size and multiple layers of plastering over many years had made the walls very uneven. The previous owners had painted everything white and no furniture would fit in the alcoves – it looked awkward and untidy and was definitely not functional.

The brief

The clients wanted a storage solution that took advantage of the high ceilings. They wanted to be able to fit speakers on the shelves, have space for a TV, and also some hidden storage.

They also wanted the colour to match the rug they already were using in that room.

Colourful cupboards that work for your needs

We went for the classic combined cupboard topped with open shelves made to fit the uneven sizes of the alcoves.

green bookcase storage
The fitted cupboards help to make the alcoves look much more even, as well as provide a clever storage solution.

Charlotte decided not to take the shelves right to the ceiling as they would have been too high to reach. In such a high-ceilinged room it also helps to leave a little gap at the top to give a sense of space. It also creates options for mood lighting.

Like the bookcase above, it was painted a bold, dark green colour that highlights the geometric rug.

The TV blends nicely into the background of the room. Simple flat-door cupboards hide the tv cables & electrics, plus storage for games and dvds, toys and devices.

Creative colourful cupboards and smart storage solutions

It can be tricky to find the right furniture for an unusual space and we have seen that with a little bit of creativity, you can find that you can fill even the most awkward space with plenty of storage.

Who knows, your shelves might just be the new showcase piece in your home.

Get the look

Paint is Goblin by Little Greene Company.

Cupboards made from Poplar and MDF by Frome Interiors.