Modular storage is having an interior design moment right now, as more people opt for ways to save on space with items that can be rearranged for different purposes.This kind of furniture is great for anyone looking to downsize, create more flexible workspaces, live in a tiny home, or customize a vehicle.
Beware of the trendy term, however, as companies misuse the term "modular" for their furniture and household storage options to capitalize on the catchphrase. To be modular, items have to be multi-functional or have different components that can be changed, modified, or combined with other pieces to fit your needs.
Modular storage is not usually permanent, either. The whole point is that they're able to be disassembled and rearranged quickly. This can come in the form of kitchen cabinets, shelving, garage storage, or bedroom space saving pieces.
Whatever room or space you need to organize or provide multi-functional options for, here are some modular storage ideas for tiny spaces.
Where to Use Modular Storage
Modular storage can help organize or create a more functional space in any room, or an entire house. Tiny homes have been a trailblazer for creative use of modular storage since space is at a premium. For these homes, having a couch that can turn into a bed and also store bedding and other items capitalizes on good modular design.
Similarly, tiny home kitchens have to make use of limited cabinetry to hold all the various things one might need to cook with. Every room is about a quarter of the size of a regular home, so creative ways to hide, store, and organize personal belongings need to be applied to the entire space.
Any home can benefit from creating a more organized, multi-functional space, however, especially for anyone living in smaller, urban spaces with less square footage. More people are working from home, as well, so a spare bedroom may act as a home office.
As families grow, a basement may have to function as an entertainment or playroom, laundry area, and storage space all in one - or it may get turned into an accessory apartment, or ADU to provide extra income.
Garages and workshops are other spaces that benefit from space-saving organization. Tool companies are offering more streamlined modular storage options to create a seamless way to access and keep track of what's in your workshop.
Vans or RVs are other tiny living spaces that can benefit from smart modular storage. With even less space than a tiny home, vans use custom modular storage to turn a bed back into a seating area, or make use of multi-functional cooking kits that can also be folded up and stored when not in use.
How to Choose Modular Storage
A quick search for modular storage will bring up an endless amount of options for every room, design style, and budget. This is why it's important that you sit down with either a designer, talk with your family, or take time yourself to figure out what your specific needs are.
Not only will this provide you with a more concise idea of what you need, it will also highlight any budget restrictions, and help you create an overall design plan whether you are redoing an entire space, or starting from scratch.
For homes that need a facelift with modular storage, this might also include what to get rid of. Part of utilizing the idea of better storage is to only keep around that which serves you.
Not everyone can live like Marie Kondo, but getting rid of a few clothes, or bags of stuff can open up a ton of space, allowing you to move forward with a clean slate. Modular storage can't solve your problems if you have too much stuff to begin with.
Your lifestyle will influence your modular storage needs, as well. Do you have kids, or are you planning to? Do you need more space for work purposes, or to assist in everyday household chores like laundry and cooking? Or are you finding compact apartments and spaces challenging to live in?
Narrowing down your lifestyle goals, as well as everyday needs, will be paramount to finding the ideal modular storage solution for your space, while giving you a clear plan of what might need to go to make a new system work.
What Counts as Modular Storage?
Beware the term "modular storage" that's used on almost any furniture site these days to draw people in. Modular furniture means it can be altered to fit different purposes or in conjunction with other items - not that it's cute and small and looks good on furniture sites.
True modular items provide flexibility, and while being small may be what you're looking for, just keep an eye out for trendy terms that don't live up to their listing.
Modular storage is often combined with minimalist design, but remember that even minimalism maximizes space. Adaptability and versatility are characteristics you want to look for. Modular storage can also circumvent the need for customized storage like built-in shelving units and cupboards, especially if this isn't in the budget.
Look for items or complete systems that allow you to customize to your own needs. Open shelves may allow for some areas with drawers, or not, depending on what you want, and also how much you can spend, as each extra item will cost a little more.
Modular storage often has a number of customizable colors and shapes giving you creative license to things that are normally considered boring, or are afterthoughts of designing a space.
Modular storage will also provide options for tight spaces or areas that are angled, narrow, or sloping—think under the stairs, in closets, or rooms where the ceiling isn't flat.
IKEA Storage Solution Systems
IKEA is one of the first major retailers to bring modular storage to everyday homes, and there's no lack of ideas from this company for any room or budget. It can be a little overwhelming to browse through their website or walk around their store, so best to think about your exact needs and specific spaces you want to revamp before taking a stroll.
If you're just looking for ideas, great, but beware the overwhelming feeling of wanting to buy it all, and ending up with stuff you don't actually need, thus creating the vicious cycle of having too much stuff without anywhere to put it.
With that in mind, their "storage solution systems" offer a ton of modular storage ideas designed for different spaces and needs (it's also a complete category you can search on the website).
The BESTA, EKET, and KALLAX systems are very popular modular storage collections that allow you to mix and match various combinations of similarly designed shelves, cabinets, and drawers. They can be reconstructed as you need or if you move, for example, allowing for versatility beyond their original design.
There's even a helpful EKET planner where you can design the combination before you purchase.
Their IVAR system is another neat combination storage system that's all wood. There's a handy fold-down desk option that can be integrated into the overall system to provide dual function for students or people working from home.
Modular Shelving Systems
String, Muuto, and Floyd are a few other contemporary companies that are providing modular shelving systems that allow you to customize work or home spaces of any size. These companies offer something outside of the IKEA aesthetic, providing modern designs that look great, while being functional.
String is a Swedish company, but their products can be found in US stores like A+R Inc., Design Within Reach, and Design Holdings Inc. Muuto is also Scandinavian, but can be found in US retailers. Floyd is a US company based out of Detroit, but doesn't have any physical stores, just online sales.
All of the above mentioned brands are on the higher end of the budget, so if money isn't an issue, you can find great-looking modular shelving systems to suit any design.
For more budget-friendly modular shelving ideas, big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes sell basic shelving systems that are durable, and can be configured in a number of ways.
Employees can custom cut shelves to specific dimensions to fit in tight or awkward spaces, and there are usually a few different styles to choose from, including wire and MDF shelves.
To save even more money, you can get creative with resale items and fabricating them into something that works for you. Wooden crates can be attached to walls or left freestanding to create cheaper options for bedside tables or under the bed storage.
You can also stack them side by each, on top of each other, either vertically or horizontally to create your own makeshift TV stands, dressers, or shelving. This configuration can easily be taken down or modified as needed.
The wood from free pallet boards can be pried apart and de-nailed to create shabby chic, cube-shaped shelves that you can mix and match as needed, or used to create any kind of custom DIY modular shelving.
Tiny Home Modular Storage
Modular storage for tiny homes goes beyond shelving, and works best if items are multi-functional. Stackable chairs and nesting tables are great ways to hide furniture when not in use, but a modular sofa is going to be even more important if you want to have guests over.
Sleeker than bulky fold-out couches, modular sofas designed for tiny homes can be configured in different ways for optimum seating needs, while also offering a sleeping solution, or the ability to add-on when things change. Burrow sells modular couch options for different sized living rooms.
Tiny homes are also known for being creative and thinking outside of the box. You don't have to be an experienced carpenter to set up your own foldaway desk/ table that can function as a place to eat, or get some work done on a laptop.
A solid square or rectangular piece of wood, strong wire, and a latch can be all you need to nestle it against the wall when you aren't using it.
Modular Tool Storage Systems
Modular storage is also finding its way into oft-neglected parts of the home: the garage. Even the most organized homeowner has to be diligent when it comes to keeping their garage or workshop neat and tidy.
Tool companies are also offering ways to store your tools in a complete wall organization systems. Ryobi's LINK system offers heavy duty plastic wall shelving that can be configured in different ways to hang tools, hold boxes, and even store bikes and ladders.
Rubbermaid's Fast Track System is an even simpler looking rack-on-wall storage option that combines hooks and rails to hang and store whatever is taking up space in your garage. It's sleek, and easy to install, no matter what your experience with tools is.
Don't forget the time and tested pegboard system that garage and workshops have been using for decades. Highly customizable, you can get pegboards at whatever size you need, and utilize different hooks or shelving options to hang, store, and organize pretty much anything you can think of.
Hot tip: they're not just good in garages and workshops - pegboards are great for home offices, bedrooms, and even kitchens.
Van/ RV Modular Storage
Another way to find great storage solutions for small spaces is to search for modular storage ideas for camper vans and RVs. While RVs are generally already outfitted with furniture, people are buying old ones for cheap and renovating them with smarter designs.
Camper vans are also popular among digital nomads as they can work from anywhere as long as there's a bed to sleep in. Custom designed camper vans have to utilize space and storage optimally if anyone wants to live in them long-term.
While you can get a company like Happier Camper to custom design modular storage options for you, it's also possible to find individual pieces to suit your needs and save on money.
Adventure Wagon sells customizable interior kits that will be a little less expensive than a full conversion kit. Flatline Van Company sells modular kitchen storage solutions that you can mix and match to fit your needs, as well.
Cons of Modular Storage
While modular storage offers some excellent options for tiny spaces, there are some downsides to different products and their application.
The best products will have hassle-free assembly, and while that can be more or less challenging to different people based on their DIY experience, look for brands with good customer service and reviews in case something goes wrong, or you need help.
The other main consideration is the price. Modular storage systems are considered to be customized furniture to an extent, which means their price tag is often higher than mainstream items. While brands like IKEA and some hardware stores offer affordable solutions, individual items can add up after just a few pieces.
There aren't many quality concerns with modular storage, but, because of the nature of the product, there may not be a permanently secured feel to the product.
Modular storage is meant to be disassembled, stacked, or re-configured easily, meaning they may not be able to handle as much weight as permanent fixtures, or could fall over when on the road.
Even with the downsides of modular storage, you can find something to suit your needs as more companies are offering solutions for smarter, more compact living spaces.
With transient living on the rise, furniture is being made to fit with the trends of downsizing, and living in smaller spaces. Modular storage for tiny spaces can offer you the solutions you need to make this lifestyle change more joyful, rather than cumbersome.
Emily grew up in a household where there was always a summer garden, and a room being renovated. This influence followed her into adulthood as she has worked in various trades for more than a decade, specializing in tile and trim carpentry. She owns and runs MLE Renovations and has over 15 years of professional renovation and landscaping experience.
Emily has a Bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Guelph, a Masters in Creative Writing from Humber College, and a Journalism diploma from Conestoga College, so writing about DIY projects is her dream job! She&rsquo;s particularly interested in green design, re-purposing items, and creating environmentally-friendly outdoor landscapes. She always has a project in mind. Next on the list: creating a rain garden on the front lawn, and turning her garage into a working office and guest suite.
Emily lives just southwest of Toronto, but grew up in Chicago, and has family across Canada and the United States. She currently works in a Lowes garden center and has an orange tabby cat who helps her decide where plants should go - without getting his paws dirty.