10 Clever, Creative and Unexpected Storage Ideas for Apartment Dwellers

February 29, 2016

6sqft’s series Apartment Living 101 is aimed at helping New Yorkers navigate the challenges of creating a happy home in the big city. This week we offer up spots in your apartment that may be underutilized as storage.

Unless you’re living in a mega-mansion with amazing closet space, chances are your belongings are scattered across your apartment and overstuffed into drawers and cabinets. With spring right around the corner, you may want to rethink how you’ve been tackling clutter at home. Below we’ve rounded up 10 clever, creative and unexpected storage ideas that you can put into action in your apartment right now.

Carlos Alimurung, kitchen pot rackImage from Mysqft

1. The ceiling 

Let’s start from the top. Architects and developers aren’t the only ones who can advantage of air rights. Overheard storage is the perfect place to keep items you don’t often use out of the way—this means tools, seasonal decor, and even your bike if you only ride in the summer. Cubbies or shelving can work for books, journals and keepsake items. And here’s a tip from one of our Msqft features: hang your pots on a rack from the ceiling.

storage-above-doorImage via My So Called Home

2. Above doors 

Bet you never thought about this one: the empty wall space above your bathroom door. Install shelving to store surplus items like tissue paper and toilet paper. This is also a great spot to safely stow cleaning products if you have mini residents who like to get into cabinets and closets.

closet organization, closets, closet shelving, closet storageImage via IKEA

3. Inside closets 

Not everyone is blessed with a Carrie Bradshaw-sized closet. To tackle this area we called on NYC-based professional organizer and stylist Jeni Aron. “Maximize the vertical space above your hanging rack by adding shelves that go all the way up to the ceiling,” Aron says. “Even if you rent your apartment, it’s worth adding a couple of shelves with the help of a handyman or by your own sweat equity.”

The extra-high shelves are perfect for storing off-season clothing, extra linens, towels, and even knick-knacks like journals and photo albums. Also try author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” Marie Kondo‘s method called KonMari where you store folded clothes vertically instead of stacking them. This not only maximizes space, but it looks much prettier.

Jen reminds us that if you’re building high, make sure to get yourself a small step stool that you can tuck in your closet to make retrieving your items easier. But more than that, she recommends constantly evaluating your wardrobe; Aron says, “Feel free to keep sentimental items, but they need to be tucked up and away and you don’t need all of them.” The clothes currently in your closet should be the items that you love to wear and that you feel comfortable in. What you don’t wear should be donated to worthy organization like Housing Works. You can also sell them online through Vinted or Poshmark for some extra cash.

For more tips on purging your closet, check out this short video.

Owen Boyle, Brooklyn apartment design, Julie Angelicola, studio apartmentsImage from Mysqft

For a streamlined look, opt for one style of hanger. Slim velvet hangers, like these, have the added benefits of saving space while also keeping your clothes from falling. And don’t forget, hangers don’t always need to hang clothes; use them to drape scarves or hook belts so you can clearly see all your accessories.

Bonus tip: Keep out musty closet smells by hanging cedar chips in between your clothes to absorb moisture and repel insects in a natural, chemical-free way. If cedar isn’t your favorite scent, you can always choose an odorless Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag for the same results. They also last up to two years!

shoe caddy, closet organization, closet storage, close door storage
Image via Walmart (L) and Shopko(R)

4. The front and back of doors

If you have a hinged closet door, use the very valuable real estate that’s on the back and front of the door, says Aron. Simple space-maximizers include hanging a shoe caddy, adding hooks, or using non-committal-but-super-strong Command hooks (they hold more weight than you’d think). If you already have a space for your shoes, fill your caddy with jewelry, ties and other accessories.

Boerum-Hill-Studio-Amy-26Image via Mysqft

5. On the side of dressers 

Have you ever considered the empty space on the sides of your dressers? If you use your dresser as a vanity, think about adding some hooks to hang hair dryers or curlers. Another idea is to add some shelves to place your shoes.

Similar ideas include adding bookshelves to your nightstand to put things like your journal and cell phone in quick reach. In the kitchen, this person upcycled an old dresser into a multi-functional island by drilling in hooks and a paper towel holder.

side-of-cabinet-storageImage via Good Housekeeping

6. On the side of cabinets 

Similar to our tip above, the sides of cabinets are fair game too. Use desktop organizers for sponges and brushes to keep countertops clear and clean—just don’t forget to clean those suckers as soap scum is not a good look.

narrow-spice-rackImages via Classy Clutter

7. Next to your refrigerator 

The narrow space in between your refrigerator and the wall may not look like much but it hides some very valuable space. Here you can install a sliding rack to store your spices, canned foods and other slim and small items.

shadow-box-storageImage via Woman’s Day

8. Behind picture frames 

Make your art functional by turning it into hidden storage. Use the space behind frames to hang jewelry or even keys. If you get a deep enough shadow box, you may even be able to turn it into a medicine cabinet for your bathroom. Own your home? Try this idea and place a cabinet inside the wall so it looks like a normal picture frame from the outside, and then wow guests by showing them it actually opens!

under-the-bed-storageImage via Lowe’s

9. Underneath the bed 

Sure, you can go for plastic bins for under-the-bed storage, but if you want something more chic, try re-purposing old dresser drawers. Slap some casters on them and roll them right under your bed. If you have furry friends, consider covering the tops of the drawers so your items stay free of pet hair.

6SQFT-Amy-Sprague-trunkImage via Mysqft

10. If all fails, buy a trunk 

If you’ve organized the heck our of your home already (or if you’re just plain lazy), pick up an heirloom trunk or a garment rack. It’s a quick, easy and attractive way to store clothing and other items. Just make sure you have enough space for one or the other.


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  1. K

    Finding storage space while living in an apartment can be SO difficult, but it’s not impossible! I love your ideas for creating unexpected storage spots, especially the ones that have to do with the kitchen. From food, to pots & pans, to dishware, there’s so much that needs to go in the kitchen. For those looking to add more storage spots in their kitchen, these suggestions might be of help!