We often want to build a wall of cabinet in the living room for storage while worry it might lead to the reduction of the space. Should we do it or not??
1 – living room high cabinet, is it a creation or a compromise??
Why do we make a high cabinet in the living room?? Probably most of us are afraid that the clutters occupy the living room, rather than us, the people.
A lot of things in a very small space, a big high cabinet is a quick and good solution. Most importantly, it’s almost suitable for every kind of layout. Whether you have a big or small living room, seems that you can always achieve it.
High cabinet in a living room might be a nostrum, but the side effect is quite obvious as well. It will reduce the width of the living space.
In the picture below, with given window location, the bigger the width is, the smaller the depth is, the bigger the room will be. It tends to be lighter in a square than a rectangular.
The dimension of the width of the living room is a criterion to measure if this layout is good or not. It’s also for developers to categorize the housing quality level.
You can easily find ways online to have a high cabinet while keep the space relatively not too small. For example, make full height from floor to ceiling, or have it relatively slim, change from 400mm depth to 300mm etc.
But is it really the best solution?? Are there any other ways to make our living room more comfortable??
2 – how about entryway closet / mud room??
In Japan, it’s very common that an apartment is comprised of small width x big depth. The space near the window side is the brightest spot.
Hence, it’s better not to block the natural lighting with putting a lot of things near the window. Japanese like to keep the living room simple and empty.
So without high cabinet in the living room, how should we get the storage back??
An entryway closet is the key solution. In Japan, no matter how small the house/flat is, storage space is never neglected during design and construction. The entryway closet is often seen in flats that stores shoes, clothing and clutters.
Below is the stuff we need to store in a home at entryways and living rooms.
It’s very interesting to find out, the daily routine can be turned upside down if we just change a little bit in the layout of storage space.
Now let’s take a closer look.
3- location, location, location
Let’s take an example of a 7m x 3.7m living / dining room.
Here are the two different layouts.
You might think the entryway closet occupies some area of a corridor, so it seems it’s better to have a high cabinet in the living room.
But if we calculate it carefully, the difference is only 1.5 square meter bigger for layout left.
In fact, it’s not accurate to consider it this way. The value of a space should not be judged with its area, but also its location. The housing price in Hong Kong is way higher than that in mid Chinese cities.
The entryway closet locates in an area with little natural lighting while the high cabinet spans within the best area in the whole flat. Are they worthy where they are??
If a cabinet is designed to showcase our favorite items or collection, it’s totally worthy it by bring us happiness.
But if your cabinet is only to store clutters that you hate to have in sight so you add doors onto it??
Coming back to the square/rectangular theory, different layouts make the space completely different in perspective.
You have to consider you, yourself the most important item in the usage of a flat/house. You should be the one who enjoys the best natural lighting and the best landscape, other than your clutters.
4- where are they from?? Where should they go??
People often think, it’s not our fault to have so many things in the living room. But it’s just the way it is since the living room is a public area for everyone to share. We cannot always go back to the entryway to fetch things, can we??
But first thing first, do you really need all these ‘things’ as you imagined??
If we observe ourselves precisely, we would find that more than half of the stuff we thought would end up in the living room can be intercepted at the entryway.
Hang up your jacket and backpacks at the entrance.
Put away the football, skateboard or dog leash at the entrance.
Daily groceries you bought at sale, toys abandoned by your kids, instruction manuals you don’t need at the moment, put them away too??
I see entryway as the upstream and living room as the downstream. If you don’t shut the gate properly, you take the risk of the dyke breaching…
A preliminary storage planning is necessary and importance to keep the balance of the little river of your flat.
Now we can tell, the entryway closet digests your clutters to have the living space simple and spacious.
Move the ugly clutters to the low-value entryway and leave editor/you-picked items in your sight in the living room. Isn’t this a better way to enjoy your time at home?
5 – you need the storage flexibility more than the total storage space.
We often think the high cabinet takes up lots and lots of things and hide them away. But actually, you need to insert TV set, router devices, a/c unit into it. It’s never 100% storage.
Let’s take a look at the 3950mm L x 2400mm H cabinet below. A 70-inch TV is placed in the middle which took up 20% of the space. The blue part at the top is hard to reach, which left only the pink part of 40% of the total as daily storage.
Besides, the items in the high cabinet can be different sized and it’s quite difficult to have them united in their depths. For example, kids toy usually needs a cabinet of 40-45cm depth while as books needs a bookshelf of 28-30cm depth.
These concerns wouldn’t happen if you use the entryway closet instead of the high cabinet. Because you can have two cabinet with different depths for different items.
Meanwhile, the closet is an enclosed space, there’s not doors. So it’s ok to have the stuff over to the corridor area. You can park the baby stroller or delivery package in the corridor, and it won’t affect the outside – the living space.
In our daily life, it’s like a game of balance between the people and people’s stuff. Within given space, you cannot live comfortably with a lot of things of yours occupying your home.
Sometimes, the question floating the surface isn’t the question itself.
Having a clean and spacious living room doesn’t mean you have to put a bigger storage space in the living room. After all, we have the storage in our life, not our life in the storage.
About the author:
草三冉 Cao San Ran
is an interior designer and writer, based in Canton area, China. He has been working in design industry for over a decade both in Japan and China. His works are always well-thought-out in layouts and details to ensure the unique and best hierarchy solutions for each client. His great writings also put an in-depth theory into an accurate but simple explanation that made me a big fan of his.
If you read Chinese, scan above QR code to read more articles in Chinese from 草三冉.
I will be happy to translate more of his works to share with English readers.