Suzanne Dimma’s Organizing Tips

Whether it comes easily or not, everyone craves a little organization in their lives. I’m a bit of an organization junkie, but I draw plenty of inspiration from designers, blogs and other magazines. Different people have different ways of organizing, and that’s just it — make your organizing style work for you.

Here are a few tricks I love, tricks I’ve tried, and tricks that work for me. Please send me your comments and tell me some of your favourite storage and organizing tips.

I found this photo of San Francisco photographer Heidi Lender’s kitchen on Remodelista. I love the natural materials and open storage that displays all of those gorgeous kitchen accessories. A box-like structure that includes a back, like the top shelf here, is a far better option then cantilevered shelves simply because it’s sturdier. No need to worry about all of those gorgeous dishes crashing down off the shelves. Ikea has several upright units that you can mount horizontally to create a similar effect. You can even add a door or two to combine open and closed storage.

These cabinets are the polar opposite of the first kitchen, but I think they’re just as effective. Designer Steven Gambrel used every inch of wall space with ceiling-high, paned glass cabinetry. The drama comes from how weighty the uppers are relative to the lower cabinets. The panes remind me of old-school library shelves, and just like with books, this is a great way to display your tableware. Collections like this usually look best if they’re all one colour, or all neutrals. And be sure to reserve the shoulder-height shelves for items you use most often. I also like the fun shade of pistachio green on the beadboard walls, which is unexpected in this classic pantry.

I absolutely flipped over the dramatic black-on-black Ikea kitchen at this year’s Interior Design Show in Toronto — a totally new look for Ikea. The hand-hewn look of the tile is right on trend, but it’s the full height pot storage on either side of the stove that gives this kitchen its character. I personally think this look works best when all the pots are from the same line so that it’s totally cohesive.

I met the amazing Darryl Carter at this year’s IDS. He was so lovely! So naturally I’m including a few examples of his work. The minimalistic shelving in this kitchen hits just the right note. The bold black lines of the shelving unit sharply contrast the all-white tableware and oyster-coloured walls. Darryl picks up on the black again in the trim on the roman blind. The open unit is wider than most of the ones you see in stores, and I love how it offers extra depth on the bottom shelves. And nothing beats the simple beauty of all-white dishes on display.

Not long ago, my husband Arriz and I were over at John Tong’s house for dinner. (They’re partners at their design firm 3rd Uncle.) While I was there, I couldn’t resist snapping some photos of his clever storage solutions.

Like the Steven Gambrel kitchen above, he brought the kitchen shelving right up to the ceiling, but recessed the shelving into the wall for a seamless look. And instead of porcelain untouchables, he’s piled the shelves high with everyday dishes, kitchen gadgets, and a few quirky toys for loads of character. He included an extra ledge just above counter height for oft-used items — a totally smart way to keep counter space clear of clutter.

The ledge on the right doubles as a railing for the stairs, and also acts as hallway storage. The kids’ bedrooms are to the right directly across from this shelf, so these cupboards make up for the lack of storage in the bedrooms. John has mirrored the waterfall design of his kitchen’s concrete counter here, but in clear plywood.

This is the second floor den/home office in my home. Mostly Arriz uses it for when he works from home, so it is definitely masculine in style. He designed this wall storage unit based on the simple idea of attaching and staggering ten individual cabinets. It’s a great combination of open and closed storage, complete with nooks for displaying sculptures, closed cabinets for hiding messy office items, as well as a few spots up top for stacked books. The wire clip running along the bottom is a fun alternative to an inspiration board. And I love that the house came with a few idiosyncrasies like the secret bookshelf tucked in behind the wood fireplace mantle (to the right).

This is my home office on our third floor. I’ve been dying to paint these floors white, but can’t decide if I will miss the warmth of the old pine boards … but that’s beside the point. The filing cabinet to the left is an affordable find from Grand & Toy. I bought two of them ages ago and ordered them in a custom white. I placed them side-to-side, then built an MDF cover with waterfall sides to unify the two units and create a more polished look.

I also designed this custom daybed to sit under the window on the other side of the room. It’s a super cosy place to read and doubles as a guest bed in a pinch. We have piles and piles of books, so we try to fit in storage wherever we can. Under the bed seemed like a natural spot.

Eventually I would like a massive wall of shelves like this. Open bookshelves stacked high with bright spines are always an easy way to add colour to a room. And if you have a gorgeous piece of art, work it into the display and arrange shelves around it. I love the open display of gorgeous fabrics down below, too.

A great trick for storing books in a bedroom is to flank the bed with shelving. These tall shelves make this bed set-up feel totally cosy and inviting. Without them, this bedroom — also by Darryl Carter — wouldn’t be the same.

If hiding things away is more your style, this dressing room by Steven Gambrel offers up some inspiration. I’m a sucker for a polished walk-in closet, and I’m currently dreaming about turning one of my bedrooms into a full walk-in. Wallpaper or fabric panels are a simple touch that create a totally luxurious look. If you have the space, it’s a huge bonus to have an island in a walk-in closet — you gain so much extra storage and create a boutique feel.

Storage is always essential in bathrooms, and here are a few ways I’ve added storage to mine.

To the left is the bathroom in my old house. I installed custom vertical storage next to the sink for tall, bulky bottles and products that never seem to fit neatly on smaller shelves (ladies, you know what I’m talking about). I love how the single doors open up to display everything I use regularly in plain sight. And as you can see, I choose hooks over towel bars every time — towels dry quicker on hooks, and I totally hate folding. I also just prefer the look of white towels hung in a row — they fill a wall so nicely.

To the right is my current bathroom. This time, because I had the space, I went for an extra-long vanity with room to display my vintage apothecary cabinet. The benefit here is loads of room to spread out. And the built-in ledge behind the tub stores plenty of bath products.

Adding custom cabinetry isn’t the only option for bathroom storage. If you can swing it, a freestanding piece like this gorgeous secretary makes a unique, outside-the-box statement in a bathroom. And how about the his and hers tubs?!?

Even a tiny bathroom with a small sink tucked into a recess can have added storage. Here the Carrara counter wraps in front of the adjacent wall to create a small ledge for display and a little bit of extra storage for the tub below.

If shelves and cabinets aren’t in your budget, temporary storage solutions like baskets are always an affordable option. I’m a big fan of baskets, so when I came across these lovely Washed-Wood Linear Baskets  West Elm, I pictured them full of towels in the bathroom, books by the bed, knitting by the sofa…

For more ideas, check out our Chic Organization Products photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1. Remodelista
2. Linden NY home, Steven Gambrel
3. Michael Graydon
4. Milk & Honey Home
5. Suzanne Dimma
6. Michael Alberstat
7. Suzanne Dimma
8. Unknown source: Help! Does anyone know where this shot comes from?
9. Darryl Carter’s bedroom, Elle Decor, photography by Simon Upton
10. Lower Fifth NY home, Steven Gambrel
11a. Per Kristiansen
11b. Michael Alberstat
12. Darryl Carter’s bathroom, Elle Decor, photography by Simon Upton
13. Remodelista
14. Washed-Wood Baskets, West Elm

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