Organizing Awkward Spaces Part III: The Eave-entual Challenge

Organizing Awkward Spaces Part III: The Eave-entual Challenge
10 Mar 2016

Organizing Awkward Spaces Part III: The Eave-entual Challenge

One final place I should address is the existence of eaves in closets and other storage areas. Cape Cod style homes, farmhouses, old buildings and even contemporary architecture often have eaves within closets and pantries or laundry areas. In particular, closets suffer the most from the intrusion. There is typically a single shelf and a rod for storage, in the space that is not affected by the eave, thus limiting the storage potential by more than half.

The eaves become another space for shoving things from pillows and comforters to stuffed animals and off-season clothing. Many times it becomes a fort or secret room for the children! If all or most of your closets have eaves this can be frustrating. The best way to handle this organizing challenge is to divide and conquer.

As a professional organizer in Boston, when I see an eave space, I look at the opportunity rather than the disability. Typically, I will recommend a closet re-do, removing the existing rod and shelf and starting over. If you use a simple design with a combination of short and long hanging or shelving, you can get a lot more out of the space. The key is to use a modular system such as elfa from The Container Store that can be cut to a specific length and height. A track can be hung at two different levels and then the adjustable shelving hung from there. The result is a staggered height that will accommodate items of varying lengths.

For example, if your closet floor measures 7 feet long, but the eave to the left interferes at 3.5 feet, hang one track of modular shelving at about the existing height and length of the old shelf and pole. Hang the second track at a lower level where the eave exists, but still allows for vertical storage. Usually I will split the higher side with two levels of short hanging, one over the other and one level of long hanging where the eave is. Most people don’t need long hanging that is the same height as the old shelf; there is usually vertical space wasted there. You can also choose to incorporate some shelves under that eave to the left by using the modular system for a section of shelving instead of long hanging space.

If your eave is deep into the closet and the narrow space limits your accessibility to another level of hanging storage, consider hanging a track and section of shelving facing outward towards your hanging area to the right.

In one client’s attic turned finished children’s room, we split the hanging storage in two levels, one for each of the girls. We then used the shelving on the back wall for their out of season clothing. This would be an area only accessed by Mom since it was essentially out of site from the girls.

In many of our client’s old Bostonian townhouses, there is storage underneath the stairway. Since coat closets don’t often exist in these homes, they either need to be built in, or coats need to hang elsewhere in bedroom closets or on hooks by doors. The eave storage under the stairs should not be ignored though. I use rolling cart systems that can be chosen in varying heights so that drawers become mobile and can be tucked away under the eave. The drawers can hold gloves, hats, scarves, small sporting equipment, beach bags, etc. Out front, just in front of the door, is a great place to store the vacuum or mop and pail. Hooks can be hung just inside the space for the dog’s leash, coats, tote bags and umbrellas.

Eaves are a part of architecture and harkens back to the way people in history stored their belongings. I like to embrace that concept and be creative. My antique home has eaves under the stairs in the area that used to house the claw foot tub and commode many years ago. As it is located off of the kitchen, it now it has tiered shelves, covered with shelf liner, and I store paper products, serving pieces and large pots there. My second floor is essentially the finished attic and both guest rooms have closets with eaves. One even turns a corner to an even darker, deeper space. I keep memorabilia and old tax files there with big labels on the boxes that I can read from the doorway when I stick my head in. If I didn’t do that, I would inevitably forget and have to empty the whole closet, and I really have to be in an organizing mood to do that!

Follow my advice and eave-entually, you’ll have your eaves organized.

By Kate, Altieri, Professional Organizer, Organizing Boston



Sarah Buckwalter