Storage or display?

My lovely parents came to visit for the weekend, and offered up as a gift, my father’s DIY skills for the duration. This is even better than it sounds, since my father is really very clever. It is my firmly-held belief that he can make anything, and fix anything so I spent quite some time planning out the things I wanted him to get done whilst he was here. (Oh, and I also spent some time looking forward to the pleasure of both parents’ company, naturally….;)

Black-out blinds in our room, in the forlorn hope that cutting out natural light might increase the chances of this new baby not being as bad a sleeper as India was. Those were top of the list. After being at home more on maternity leave, and noticing every day how the constant *drip* … *drip*… was going on, replacing the kitchen tap was another priority.

Putting up shelves in what is now Rosa and India’s room was third on the list. The entire house is nearly over-run with cuddly toys. We love them. Rosa loves them. India loves them. I have had a pretty brutal cull, but there are still thousands of the things underfoot. I decided a couple of shelves in the reading corner alcove would be just what we needed to corall free-range cuddly toys into something a bit more manageable and domesticated. My dad suggested going further; why not shelve all the way up?

ShelvesAnd why not indeed? Look at how beautiful they look. With unlimited money, I would get shelves built into almost every room in the house. Shelves above the doors for storage. Shelves all over the basement. Bookshelves galore. Meanwhile, back in the real world, I got a worried phonecall from Oli letting me know that the materials for our shelves were going to cost around £130, and was this ok? Alternatively, we could get MDF, which would be only around £40. I hesitated for a bit, then bit the bullet and decided we should go for it. These would, after all, be decent sturdy shelves, built to last. If we went for wood, I reasoned, it wouldn’t matter if it took me a long time to paint them. And furthermore, they could stay in that room for ever, since – as above – there is not a room in any house that couldn’t benefit from some shelves.

reading corner reduxBut what of the poor reading corner? Well… it’s still there, only rather subdued. Cut down. No longer does the (redundant, and resolutely un-used) reading corner get to dominate the whole of the alcove in a leisurely, American, ‘I have more house than I know what to do with’ way. Now, it’s reading corner at girl-level, and storage higher up.

read more books printThe main casualty, in fact, was the ‘read more books’ print, which has been relegated to the very top shelf like a publication of dubious moral worth. I do of course have plans for this print, which probably involve juggling around some pictures on the opposite wall to make space. But for the moment it sits up on the very highest shelf, looking at me reproachfully, as if the very fact of my leaving it there is certain to ensure Rosa hates books, drops out of school with no qualifications and barely literate, and ends up on the streets.

Do you know what my favourite thing about these shelves is? It’s all the empty space. Seriously. I really think that the key with storage space is to create more than you need. Not only to future-proof against additional purchases, but also to give space to spread out, and a chance to display rather than store.

The ‘display / storage’ dichtomy is one that pre-occupies me greatly. All the more so because it appears to be a dichotomy which is totally invisible to all manner of other people – to those who work in interiors magazines, in particular. I cannot count the number of times that I have been assured by various magazines that X, Y or Z piece of furniture represented an ideal storage solution, when X, Y or Z piece of furniture was in fact very small indeed with barely any space to store anything at all. And illustrated in the magazine laden up with one small plant, a beautiful vase, and three hardback, colour-co-ordinated books. This is not storage. After all, no one looks at their home, and thinks, ‘My god, I have a real surfeit of small plants, single beautiful vases, and small collections of colour-co-ordinated hardback books. They are all swilling about underfoot and destroying my feng shui. I must find a solution.’. Repeat after me. This is not storage.This is ‘display‘.

‘Storage’ is the place where you put your family’s wellington boots. it’s the understair cupboard where you can stash your hoover and mop. It’s the attic where all the baby equipment goes, and where you store the Christmas decorations. ‘Storage’ is not a single bookshelf, with a bird’s egg and a piece of driftwood on it. Storage is the set of shelves where all the children’s books are precariously balanced in piles. Or indeed the ottoman in which one wishes to pile up the jigsaw puzzle boxes.Which is not to say that display items of furniture don’t have their place. Cox and Cox is absolutely stuffed with fabulous items for display, many of which I covet fiercely, and have mentally planned places for in our house. But let’s be honest. If I need to find a home for wayward boxes of toys, I’m not going to order this. I’m straight off to Ikea.

Or… straight on the phone to my parents, to ask my Dad to build some more shelves. My immediate plans are to move the cuddly toys where they are currently strewn across several different locations and put them all onto the lwoer shelves. This has the added bonus of freeing up one of the toy baskets in the front room for baby toys. Then the jigsaw puzzles and games are destined for the next shelf up. At some point (when I have a free day. Perhaps once this new baby turns 18?) I will paint the shelves white. And as Rosa and India get bigger, I’m sure they will have many many more things to fill up the rest of the space.

Display shelves

Unitl then, I have been enjoying the luxury of having more shelf-space than we actually need. Spreading stuff out a bit. Using one shelf for toys and gifts that would otherwise be crowded together. Turning my storage solution, effectively, into a temporary display.

Hurrah for shelves. Could one ever have too many?


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5 Responses to Storage or display?

  1. Rose says:

    I really enjoyed reading this and couldn’t agree with you more! Storage is not the same as display, not in the real world anyway, and certainly not with children!

    What a lovely dad you have! I think it was a good idea to have shelves all the way up the alcove, it’s always better to have too much storage rather than too little! No home can have too many shelves, after all.

    I also just wanted to sasy I love your girls’ names, both of them are lovely and you chose well! :-D

    • rachel says:

      Thank you, Rose!
      The storage / display thing is one I will almost certainly return to, as it is SO irritating….
      And yes, you’re right, my Dad is indeed very lovely. Few things nicer than having more storage than you need. Not like normal life, which is more like stuffing everything in, and trying desperately to think of what we could get rid of…
      And thank you also for your compliments on the girls’ names. Obviously we like them very much, but then we are biased. Our newest is called Persephone, btw!

  2. Fiona says:

    Definitely agree you can never have too many shelves! We’ve just done something similar in a couple of rooms and next on my list is to deal with usurped objects (like your ‘Read more books’ picture). I seem to have and endless cascade of things shuffling around the flat as we tackle! Hopefully they’ll all find their final homes soon – it’s driving me a bit mad.

    • rachel says:

      I hear you! I sometimes think of managing ‘stuff’ as being like one of those little stocking filler puzzles where you move the little squares around to make a picture: before you can move one thing, you need to move at least four other things…
      I think the long term solution is for me to get rigorous and just get rid of things. In the meantime, though: storage solutions. And more shelves. Brilliant. ;)

  3. Jen says:

    A great idea indeed. I love too much storage, and wholeheartedly agree it’s great when there’s more space to ‘display’. We are hoarders though and ours soon became overwhelmed. Have recently culled the shelving!! Must be mad :)