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You probably learned in kindergarten how useful cubbies can be. With a few simple design tricks, they can also be stylish and sophisticated -- and hold much more than crayons and lunch boxes. Think of them as versatile building blocks that can be stacked, clustered, and configured in any number of ways to create customized storage pieces throughout your home.
1. Just Encase
Those little objects that have a special place in your heart but not necessarily a suitable spot in your home? Give each pride of place in this updated curio cabinet. We gathered 10 mismatched wooden boxes, stained them all dark brown, and mounted them to the wall to create a floating display case. For a pop of color, we applied washes of paint to the doors and insides.
Wine boxes, woodcrafter.com
Other wooden boxes, etsy.com/shop/katerinakollection, centerpiecebox.com
Vintage Decor Paint in River Rock, Smoke, Charcoal, and Eucalyptus, Martha Stewart Crafts, michaels.com
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2. Media Savvy
Media consoles tend to be more practical than pretty, but we think this one delivers -- in both utility and style. To make the sleek, cubby-inspired credenza, we simply took a tall kitchen cabinet, placed it on its side, and topped it with a thick slab of white oak. Furniture feet were added to the bottom. While we used the surface to display art, coffee-table books, and potted plants, it’s also the perfect spot for a television or sound system. (DVDs, CDs, and remotes can be stashed behind the closed cabinet doors.)
Akurum high cabinet frame in white; Besta Tofta doors in high-gloss white, 15 by 23 5/8 inches; and Applad doors in white, 15 by 24 inches, ikea.com
Nickel-base adjustable leveler glides, Shepherd, 1 1/16 inch, homedepot.com
Natalie rug, Thomas O’Brien, safavieh.com
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3. Craft Service
Kids can be more creative when they can find their supplies! Let cubbies help tame the colorful, glittery mess. For this crafting area, we mounted cubbies that can be arranged however you like and painted them in different hues to expedite cleanup (e.g., the blue bins go in the blue cube). We also created storage opportunities wherever we could -- even on the exteriors of the boxes -- and outfitted the interiors with customized organizers. (The cubbies’ hanging hardware, sold separately, ensures a sturdy wall mount, but kids should be discouraged from climbing on them. For advice on how to anchor pieces to the wall, go to marthastewart.com/wall-mounting-tips.)
Unfinished ViaBoxes, viaboxes.com
Spinning Wheel Mosaic rug in Bougainvillea Red, Martha Stewart Rugs,safavieh.com
Orchard pouf and Greater Pyramid blocks, landofnod.com
Doll and hand puppets, abchome.com
Jumbo elephant, toysrus.com
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4. Band Together
Thread elastic diagonally through a cubby’s predrilled holes, forming an X, and knot. Then tuck in toys and other odds and ends.
Elastic cord, 3 mm, pacifictrimming.com
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5. Put in Pegs
With a rubber mallet, hammer dowels into the holes. Use them to hang supplies or to hold up interior shelves.
Dowels, 1/2 inch, homedepot.com
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6. End the Paper Chase
Make it easy for small hands to find and grab sheets of crafting papers by filing them in a plate-separator-cum-paper-sorter.
Medium maple rack, containerstore.com
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7. Make It Colorful
We painted the cubbies and accessories with a wash of two parts paint to one part water. To get clean, crisp lines (like the diagonal of pink), mark off areas with painters’ tape.
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Not all storage units are created equal. Case in point: Armoires may be useful for keeping sweaters or linens out of sight, but their wide shelves can lead to contents that, no matter how neatly folded, can topple over. Try adding do-it-yourself shelf separators to create nooks sized just right for your storage needs, whether a stack of pillowcases or a collection of quilts. Paint the resulting cubbies to coordinate with the exterior, as we did, and there’s practically no reason to close the doors.
Shaker-style mini armoire, gothiccabinetcraft.com
Quick-dry bath towel collection, Martha Stewart Collection, macys.com
Paint in Pacific Ocean Blue (exterior) and Laguna Blue (interior), benjaminmoore.com
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This handsome unit is pretty stylish as is. But with a few clever cubby upgrades (including mounting the piece to the wall for a modern look), it easily becomes a chic cocktail station: A piece of travertine rests on top, while brass hardware, in the form of stemware brackets and wine-bottle racks (fashioned from window curtain rods), provides a little polish -- and practicality.
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It’s a coffee table, a bookshelf, and extra seating all in one. This hardworking ottoman more than earns a prime spot in the living room. Just three basic elements make up the piece: a quartet of unfinished cubbies screwed together, a cushion on top (our tufted yellow linen version is trimmed with leather piping and held in place with Velcro fasteners), and casters underneath for easy maneuverability. After painting the cubbies white, we added a graphic design to one side of each. (Get the stencil template.)
Open cubes, cabinetcraft.com
Marled Ladder rug in ivory and gray, dashandalbert.com
Diamond and solid pillows, westelm.com
Baxter zigzag pillow, Kari Fisher, altforliving.com
Cushion fabric (HF003), graylinelinen.com