Finding New Storage Space in an Old House

By: Mark Clement , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Home Improvement Tips, Old House Musings

We’ve done everything we can to maximize the storage in a house that, well, wasn’t built with much.

We’ve used kitchen cabinets to design custom built-in closets (it changed our lives!). We installed a Murphy bed (ditto!). I’ve custom built storage and shelves all over my shop. Heck, we’ve even built temporary storage while we installed new storage.

Uncovering Storage Space in an Old Home

So it’s rare that we actually uncover existing space that can be converted from nothing to something, yet that’s exactly what we found while demolishing our mud room as part of the larger kitchen remodel currently underway.

Here’s the gist: the entire rear of the home has a 1-story shed roof from left to right. Half of that space is enclosed (forming the mudroom.) The other half is a covered porch with a bead-board ceiling. When I demoed the mudroom’s interior walls I opened up the interior gable end of the porch, creating kind of loft space. And much to my mirth, I discovered a 12-foot deep, triangular-shaped void!

What to Do with the New Storage Space?

Oddly, since the bead board ceiling on the porch is beyond repair (thank you rampant roof leaks over the years) my original intention was to drop the porch ceiling entirely and expose the rafters (this trick makes a small space feel larger and we love structure-as-trim) but the more I looked at the space, the more I realized there was an opportunity staring at me–but I couldn’t put my finger on it until someone said the word “skis.”

Back in 1903 people simply didn’t have skis, nevermind the glut of seasonal item, such as toys, beach chairs, and tiki torches. “Sunday best” referred to the one suit people had, not the suite of sweet clothes don now.

Making the New Storage Space a Reality

Anyway, this gear gobbles valuable square footage elsewhere in the house–read: my shop where I’d rather dedicate floor space to tools that’ll help build storage for the house (Catch-22 much?).

So now that I have some surprise square footage, the trick is to detail it. To grab the brass ring of storage success I have to engineer access, retain the look of the original room–and, maybe most importantly–insulate the porch from the living space. Remember: it might be under a roof, but temperature-wise, it’s still outside.

So the roller coaster ride of emotion that is working on old houses, takes us up another climb, presenting with a gem, but one very much in the rough. In the coming weeks, I’ll spend more time than I have engineering and building the passage, ironing out insulation details, and, of course, adding lighting and a floor so this never-before-used space can deliver some modern comfort to our old house.

And once I’m done with that, look for a new bead-board ceiling to stand guard for the next century or so when someone might write about how much stuff people had back in 2009!