There's hidden potential for greatness in every space. Unlock it with these smart, stylish ideas that transform overlooked areas into the best spots in your home.
CARVE OUT A COZY NOOK
This custom built-in transforms a walk-through room (or a wider hallway) into a sweet spot for getting lost in a good book. You can also take the idea one step further by adding drawers underneath to store blankets and extra pillows. To achieve a similar do-it-yourself look, flank a deep bench or loveseat with two bookshelves securely mounted to the wall.
Be flexible: Triple-jointed light fixtures, like these Signal 2 arm wall sconces by Jieldé ($399 each, shophorne.com), allow for just-right illumination, no matter your angle of repose.
CREATE A PRETTY PERCH
By simply hanging a shelf across a window, you can give purpose to an unexpected area and, best of all, take in a view. Mount brackets to the molding and add a few stools to make a new table, which is a perfect workstation for a morning coffee and a laptop, and a great vantage point for relaxing while watching the kids play in the yard. Bonus: It can double as a sun-drenched but toddler- or pet-proof locale for potted herbs.
Reach new heights: Depending on the window’s location, opt for the table to sit at counter or bar height — around 34 or 40 inches, respectively.
Sources: Van Dyke’s Restorers Architectural Olympic shelf brackets, 12 inches, in Alder, $34.25 each, vandykes.com. Ballard Designs Paris Bistro counter stools, $289 each, ballarddesigns.com.
MAKE AN ENTRANCE
Literally. If your front door opens into a living or dining room, differentiate the space by creating a wall that functions as a stylish divider as well as a storage center. This look was created by painting the inside of a birch IKEA unit, then wrapping the exterior with painted fiberboard so it fit snugly over the baseboard molding. Shoes go on the bottom, but adding something beautiful on top, like an assortment of pretty vases, draws the eye upward, helping this workhorse feel more decorative than utilitarian.
HANG LOOSE: Hooks, like these medium circular hooks by Staffan Holm for Hay, can handle bags, scarves and other items that beg for a designated home (in Natural Ash, $28 each, momastore.org).
STASH AND STORE: Dress up cabinet fronts and drawers with do-it-yourself pulls. Drill a hole in each panel, then attach a folded piece of leather with a small screw and nut.
IKEA Kallax shelving unit, in Birch Effect, $149; Kallax inserts with 2 drawers, in White, $20 each, and with door, in White, $15 each; and Drona boxes, in White, $5 each, ikea.com. Simpson Door Company Contemporary thermal exterior door with white laminate glass (#7406), from $1,100, simpsondoor.com.
ADD UNDER-STAIR STORAGE
It’s been there all along, yet few homes utilize it. The space under your steps is roomier than most closets, and there are many ways to take advantage of it. You can open the wall and fill it with open shelving, or even hire a contractor to install plumbing for a powder room. Another idea: Build drawers to find a permanent (and out-of-sight) solution for mail, stray mittens, dog leashes and other household ephemera that needs a home.
OPEN UP: Leave the bottom panel exposed for stashing commonly used items, like gardening tools and cleaning supplies.
PAINT IT ON: A durable, easy-to-clean semigloss paint, typically reserved for molding and trim, does the trick here. The neutral shade (Revere Pewter, from Benjamin Moore) lets the rustic pine’s character shine through.
HANG A HUB
Embrace the fact that the kitchen is the bustling heart of your home by turning a wall into a cheery communication center. Cover an unused wall with two dozen 12-by-12-inch cork tiles to offer plenty of real estate for tacking up reminders, grocery lists, kids’ artwork and inspiring images to keep everyone smiling throughout the day.
Pin like a pro: Try using Michaels ArtMinds diminutive cork tiles (in Natural, $12 for 4, michaels.com). The best part? Each comes with mounting tape, which makes hanging the grid a breeze.
(Questions may be sent by email to: email@example.com. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Martha Stewart regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually. For more information on the topics covered in the Ask Martha column, visit www.marthastewart.com.)