studio loft: explorations in storage

First of all, a huge thank you for all of the congratulations and well wishes for our big news! We’re excited to share this journey of how we transition to a family of 3 while staying in our small home. Lots more posts to come, that’s for sure! 

So back to the loft…a few weeks ago I wrote about how we decided to convert our mostly empty loft (which we’d been using as extra sleeping area for guests) into a studio/office space. I’ve been pinning different ideas and so far this is the image that has struck me the most:

[note: all images are linked]

With our limited head height and restricted access, we have to think short and small. Similar to this photo, the most logical arrangement would be to have a desk or work surface against the taller gable end wall with low-slung shelves flanking one or both short walls.

As a reminder, here’s a wide-angle shot of our space:

[It looks bigger in this photo, but the footprint is only about 13’x13′.

I also pinned this image because I love the idea of having a chaise or bench that could double as a twin bed if someone needs a place to crash. I’m not sure if we’ll have enough space, but I like the possibility. [The other option is to leave enough floor space in the middle of the loft that we can still inflate the Aerobed that is currently up there.]

This floating storage featured in an Apartment Therapy house tour was also appealing, especially with the mix of drawers and larger cabinets.

Unfortunately, after checking out the resources section I learned that it was made by the Italian company Vitsoe and was (no surprise) not affordable. Not even close.

Without a good affordable option, the other alternatives were to build something or buy something used. But with the looming basement project and a few other DIY ideas for the loft and nursery, I couldn’t really ask Kyle to whip up 20+ linear feet of storage.

So last weekend I resolved to hit up some local second-hand and salvage stores in hopes of a lucky break. I went to Goodwill (the big one, in South Seattle), Second Use and the RE-Store. I found plenty of cool things, but nothing that would work for the loft. In addition to our short wall height (about 32″), whatever we use also has to fit through the floor opening.

Disappointed but not deflated, I decided to hit up IKEA while I was in the area. Kyle wasn’t with me, so I took iPhone photos of any possibilities.

Confession: even though it’s slightly more traditional I actually like a lot of the Hemnes line. I thought this sofa table was about the right size and shape and appreciated that it is made of wood. The only downside is that I wouldn’t be able to place 2 or 3 of them side by side without a gap between. Also, at almost $200 a piece I didn’t really want to buy 2 or 3.

In the back of my mind I knew that this Expedit unit was the right size and look that I had been imagining for the short wall. I was also intrigued by the new high gloss finishes like this gray (though I do think that the horizontal surfaces would scratch easily). But I don’t know…I’m just not an Expedit girl I guess. I think it has something to do with the proportion of the outside frame to the interior partitions.

Moving on.

I’ve seen some nice things done with the Effektiv line and thought I could just buy several frames like this and install them side by side. At $35 a piece I liked the price but realized I’d have to buy additional bins or boxes to organize everything within the frames. A good solution for books and magazines, but not for supplies.

The Vika Alex line was also on my list (as was the wider Alex drawer unit), but at $80 and $120 a piece, the costs would add up too fast for how many units we’d need (though I do like how they were used in that first image). Besides, we would still need another solution to hold non-drawer items like books and magazines.

On my way out and empty-handed, I decided to swing through the As-Is section just to see.

Well hello. Who are you? You look a lot like that expensive Italian stuff that I pinned. Stolmen? Hmm…sounds familiar. You’re part of a wardrobe system, aren’t you?

Although I try never to do this, I made a second loop through IKEA to investigate the matter further. Sure enough, in a small display next to Pax was the meager Stolmen. Although it’s still particle board, I was impressed with the design and quality of construction. The larger drawer unit (about 44″ wide) is $100 which seemed reasonable since I’d only need 3 to line one of the short walls. To sweeten the deal, there is also this cubby unit which is the same height (though slightly shallower) and would be perfect for books and magazines.

Although the units are meant to attach to vertical posts, I didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t assemble them side by side, either on legs or attached directly to the wall. When I got home, I hunted around on Google to see if the Stolmen had been hacked. Surprisingly, I didn’t find much, but I did find this:

See what I’m thinking?

This 3-unit configuration would cost around $300 for 11′ of storage. Not bad at all.

[Has anyone else worked with the Stolmen products? Thoughts? Opinions?]

We still have to figure out the actual desk part, but we’ve come up with a few creative ideas that could work. One step at a time. 


34 Responses to “studio loft: explorations in storage”

  1. Peter says:

    DId you check out the bestå system?

    It comes in various widths/depths/heights, with doors or drawers, with legs or can be wall mounted, and even has some office appropriate organizers to go with it. Prices are great too.

    • chezerbey says:

      Hey Peter, I did look at Besta (it was actually one of the first things I looked at) but didn’t take any photos. I think it’s great for a media room or living area with taller ceilings, but didn’t find a combination what was the right size/shape for our space.

  2. First of all, congratulations on your new addition!

    We purchased the Stolmen system a couple years ago for our walk in closet (we bought the black/brown before it was discontinued) and are pretty happy with it. The vertical poles everything is mounted to do take up more space than I would like but in the 2.5 years of daily use we cannot complain.

    Initially we didn’t buy enough shelving and discovered we needed two more shelves. We bought two in white and my husband sanded and painted them. Not what I really wanted to do but it works. I intend to do a post when they are finished.

    Good luck to you!

  3. I’ve always liked the Stolmen line for storage instead of as a closet system! Unfortunately I don’t have a place for it in our apartment but I’d love to see someone use it. The last inspiration image is great.
    And like you mention, it seems to be very solid even though it’s particle board.

  4. Isabelle says:

    Congratulations to your most amazing project this year. ;-)))
    I can’t add personal experience with Stolmen, but one idea, a former landlord of mine had for an “in-laws-apartment” in his house with a seperate house entrance, but a second door inside the apartment to connect it to the main house. He used the Stolmen wardrobe to “cover” the connecting-door, so he was able to use the space but needed to only push the coat hangers to the side to access the apartment in case of need.
    May I ask a general question: Is the studio going to be used a lot? I would assume that it would be more comfortable to have the new basement room equipped with the studio and sewing space as access to the loft is more “difficult” especially when pregnant and with a baby/ toddler at hands?
    All the best! And the idea to use the Stolmen cabinets as a credenza is GREAT!

    • chezerbey says:

      Hey Isabelle,

      We’ve definitely thought about the practicality of getting up and down the space, but it will likely be used less than the new basement TV room. Now that the flex/guest room will be a nursery, it’s more important for the basement room to accommodate guests (like our parents) and there just isn’t enough room for everything unfortunately (so jealous of people with full basements!).

      • Jamie says:

        How large is the nursery? Our’s has a dining room table used as desk in it (due to lack of space). The nursery furniture really doesn’t take up the entire room. Maybe the craft space could be in there…

        • chezerbey says:

          It’s an average bedroom size, but b/c of the big sliding doors it basically only has three useable walls so not much extra space unfortunately.

    • chezerbey says:

      Oh yeah! I think Anna and I were both channeling the fauxdenza around the same time when we built our “stair cabinet”. Although it looks like the Stolmen has been successfully wall-mounted, we’re actually leaning towards putting it on legs to keep things flexible.

  5. Robyn says:

    If I ever had any doubt that we’re related, your description of how you tackle an Ikea trip would erase any of that doubt. : ) also, I think it means that we might be part Swedish.

  6. Adrienne B says:

    I agree with the Fauxdenza idea- kitchen cabs are meant to be hung on the wall. I know you probably couldn’t get drawers, but you could hang them without any modification (not sure how you would hang the Stolmen- might need beefing up to hold the weight of office stuff.

    • chezerbey says:

      We definitely love the fauxdenza idea (our stair cabinet is basically that…back before fauxdenza was a thing), but for this space we’re probably leaning towards something that’s not attached to the wall (just to keep things flexible). The nice thing about the Stolmen too is that it has a finished top so we won’t have to add another material.

  7. Chris says:

    Nice pins! I repinned lots and saw several that are my boards as well. Damn Pinterest addiction.

  8. Janelle says:

    I love the look in the last inspiration picture as well, especially with the wood top!

  9. katrina says:

    I don’t have feedback on the Stolmen system, but I do use an Expedit shelf to store my record collection. It’s the perfect size.

    So excited to see how this develops!

  10. casacaudill says:

    I love the look of what you’re going for! Good luck and congrats on the new addition.

  11. furpants says:

    I never think of hacking IKEA stuff while in the store – it’s too overwhelming in there to use reasoning skills. But totally agree, Stollman with legs instead the chunky pole framing would look a lot, lot better.

    Congrats on the new baby.

  12. I LOVE that last picture. The idea of Stolmen units hung on French cleats is very intriguing for my art room….

    Good luck with your loft space!

    • PS – My idea for the Stolmen is sort of what I did here, but I really like the idea of a wood top like Anna’s fauxdenza.

      • chezerbey says:

        Nice job! I think we’ll probably end up installing the units and then playing with different ideas to attach or put legs on them. From what I remember the back is just masonite or something similar so we’d definitely have to come up with some type of cleat system if we hung it.

  13. Martha says:

    I definitely hope you’ll share any trials of transitioning to a family of 3 in a small home since I hope to do the same in the next year or so. We also live in a tiny 2BR Ballard house that has to be a full-time office for me as well. I think the Stolmen idea looks great.

  14. Isabelle says:

    I am off to Ikea this morning to get some curtains to be hacked ;-))) Do you need anything? ;-)))
    One thing that just came to my mind and might be interesting for you; we hacked the kitchen cabinets of Ikea last year to serve as wardrobes in the space under the roof. We bought the ones that are about 48 inches high and cut the sides so that they could slide under the slanted ceilings, put wheels under them so that we can move them for storage in behind, and put drawers in some of them, which we had saved from our old Ikea kitchen in Germany.
    But I agree that the Stolmen looks like a more fancy solution.
    Another “intruding” question: Have you considered swapping bedroom and flexroom/ nursury? I was wondering if the nursury right next to the open living area might be a bit uncomfortable (noise level etc.)?
    I am looking forward how the basement will come along; ours is on the project list for this year as well ….

    • chezerbey says:

      Hey Isabelle, we have thought about swapping our bedroom with the nursery (especially since they’re the same size) but realistically the kitchen and bathroom are usually louder than the living room (since there’s no TV in there) so we’re going to try things out as is. We figure if we have friends over and are hanging out in the living room, then we can always put baby in our room or in the basement bedroom. Also, since our house is so small it doesn’t really matter where you’re at…you hear everything. We do plan on adding some acoustical treatments to the big barn doors though to help create a better seal when the doors are closed.

  15. Matt says:

    “We’re excited to share this journey of how we transition to a family of 3 …”

    What about Bailey and Felix?!


  16. furpants says:

    I am curious if you have ever researched IKEA regarding environmental issues? There is a lot of information out there about the evils of IKEA, hard to know how bad they really are. Or I suppose relatively bad, since probably every big, low cost retailer is inherently evil.

    I know for myself I have stopped buying their furniture because it falls apart and becomes land fill too quickly. Making things out of plywood is more eco-friendly and not really much more difficult than assembling IKEA stuff.

  17. Cathy says:

    Just stumbled across your blog and have spent the past hour entranced. I have to admit I was a bit shocked when I realized that you’d done so much work on what was originally a one-bedroom house. You’ve done a fantastic job. Love your sense of style. Wish my husband was half as handy. As for the Stolmen, we’ve had a couple of black brown units (that they no longer carry–grrrrr) that we use to store my husband’s DVD/blue ray collection. They’re the perfect size for the cases to fit so you can read the spine. For several years we had them set on the floor like a window bench with a cushion on top (Our corgi liked to sit on them and look out the front window and bark maniacally at everyone who dared to walk by). We recently moved to a larger house (I probably shouldn’t mention the 1700 square foot basement with 9 ft ceilings) and have put casters on them to get them up off the floor. The old house had hardwood, but we’ve got carpeting in the room they’re in and it looks a lot better to have them up off the floor plus it doesn’t squish a giant rectangle of carpet. They’ve held up well to a fat corgi jumping up on them and the finish has held up exceptionally well. The drawers also still consistently open smoothly. I wish they still made the black brown–if you get a scratch or chip, you can just fill it in with a black sharpie and it almost disappears. I like having the DVDs hidden but easily viewed and accessible and the two Stolmen we’ve got don’t come close to containing his collection. Hope yours perform as well as ours have. And good luck with the baby!


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  1. […] weekend Kyle and I went down to IKEA to take a closer look at the Stolmen drawer units that I wrote about a few weeks ago. We went on a Sunday evening, thinking it would be less busy. Yeah, just kidding…it was […]

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