Creating Found Storage Space In Your Home

TORONTO - When homeowners start to feel squeezed for space they may be inclined to scout out a bigger house, but Rob Evans says new isn't necessarily better.

"It's not easier to move because moving adds expense," said the contractor. "It adds a lot of money that's lost — property tax, your real estate fees. Inevitably that place you're going to you're going to do work to, so keep that in the place that you're used to (living in.)"

"It's about growing with the house, with your family and taking a couple of steps back," said designer Mia Parres. "Everyone has a hard time doing that and that's what we're here for — to show them it is possible."

Evans and Parres help space-starved homeowners in the new series "The Expandables," which airs back-to-back episodes Thursdays starting at 9 p.m. ET on HGTV Canada.

The families featured in "The Expandables" are faced with individual challenges of living within cramped quarters, whether it's due to the addition of children to the household or ineffective floor layouts that disrupt the flow of the home.

Evans and Parres each present their visions of how to help homeowners create a more functional living area better suited to their present-day needs. Once the homeowners select their favoured plans, the duo and their team go into rebuild mode as they redesign the interiors.

While homes undergo significant structural changes, Evans said taking out walls isn't actually increasing the square footage.

"The point is opening the space up," he said. "You can do damage to a home by being able to see the front door to the back door if you take all the walls out. You're basically taking your $700,000 home and it (becomes) one room. So, you need little design tips to have little bump-outs or a closet or a small new wall just to break up the space.

"It's about sight lines, it's about view, it's about layout. It's not necessarily about adding literal square footage."

Parres said they made use of many storage solutions throughout the series, with a banquette being a notable option.

"Instead of having a table and chairs with eight chairs around it, we'll push the table against the wall, given them a built-in banquette with storage underneath," she said. "(There's) tons of storage underneath their dining room table and it just opens everything up."

There's also a lot of vertical space within kitchens that isn't used. A simple solution would entail taking out a 30-inch cabinet and replacing it with a 42-inch model.

Another larger-scale space solution — particularly in single-storey homes — is lowering basements, but Evans admitted it's one option that causes concern for some people.

"They're worried about the structural issues and the money issues," he said. "So, for your typical 20-foot-wide by 40-foot-long house, 800 square feet, I can drop that floor two feet, but it's going to cost you about $40,000. It's a lot of money that's being hidden below the surfaces.

"To finish all of that — so say we put a media room or another bathroom, laundry, another bedroom down in that basement or a nanny suite down there — another $40,000.

"Eighty-thousand dollars is huge, but if you're thinking about 800 square feet in the city for $80,000, where are you getting that?"

For homeowners who may not have the money to make massive structural changes, Parres and Evans said there are cost-effective solutions they can try in the short term.

"I think storage would be the first place to start in terms of design," said Parres. "Maybe putting away everything on the surfaces, getting a fresh look at your space."

Evans said eliminating kids' clutter is another way to save space.

"It's almost like people are shovelling a pathway to push the kids' toys out of the way," he said. "Get those big, clear bins. Your kid is going to want to get up and take his toy and throw it in there. But just get that out of the way. Take that visual noise down."

"Start in one spot. It doesn't have to be a big job," added Parres. "Take it one step at a time. Each day, do something little and it just grows over time."

Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version stated the house cited in the example was 30-feet-long.