The seemingly endless piles of bills and statements in most people's houses need somewhere to reside. Try stashing those documents you refer to only rarely in a set of nesting boxes, which, stacked from largest to smallest, form a small but serviceable side table. The ones shown here are woven of pandan, a shrub with palmlike leaves that are highly flexible but reassuringly sturdy―and neutral enough to play nice with any color scheme.
To buy: Large three-piece square box set (11 by 5, 13 by 6 1/2, and 15 by 6 3/4 inches), $130, viamotif.com for store locations.
2 of 7Ngoc Minh Ngo
Modular shoe-storage units, stacked one atop the other, make a stepped side table with room to spare and two top surfaces for displays and lighting. Create miniature still lifes in the cubbies, or stack reading material that you're going to get to...someday. With a simple push, the top unit can sit neatly on the left or right of the bottom unit (which is twice as long).
To buy: Closits collection shoe-storage unit (29 by 14 1/2 by 14 1/2 inches), $43, and 14 1/2-inch open cube, $25: sauder.com for store locations.
3 of 7Ngoc Minh Ngo
This clean-lined, single-shelf bookcase (the shelf's height is adjustable) is 29 5/8 inches long (providing plenty of surface area) but only 11 1/2 inches deep―perfect for a narrow living or entertaining space. Or put it to work in the foyer, with the telephone on top and address, phone, and reference books stacked below.
To buy: Quick-assembly bookcase (29 5/8 by 29 1/2 by 11 1/2 inches), $40, sauder.com for store locations.
4 of 7Ngoc Minh Ngo
Plant stands are designed to raise indoor plants to window level to capture natural light. At 27 1/2 inches tall, this one also happens to be the perfect height for a sofa-side reading lamp. Or you can enlist it for mobile cocktail service; the surprisingly light tray lifts easily out of the epoxy-coated steel base. And don't worry about spills from those drinks―the tray is watertight.
To buy:Unfortunately, this item is no longer available.
5 of 7Ngoc Minh Ngo
When Second Cousin Annabel isn't in for a visit, commandeer the luggage rack from the guest bedroom and center a glass picture frame on top of it (perhaps with a piece of decorative construction paper inserted). Your lamp, vases, and copy of Nicholas Nickleby will weigh it down and keep it in place. But for extra security―or if the table will be moved around often―use an adhesive, such as Fun-Tak, to temporarily secure the frame to the rack at all four corners.
To buy: 1300 Series folding luggage rack, $65 (with nylon straps), Scheibe, scheibeco.com, 888-889-9922.
6 of 7Ngoc Minh Ngo
Large art books that rarely get cracked, have done their time on the coffee table, or are taking up precious real estate on the actual bookshelves can be put to work on the side―of a low couch or chair, that is. Stacked from largest to smallest, they provide a sturdy base. The varied colorful and graphic spines create their own spontaneous artwork and will garner inquisitive, then admiring, glances.
7 of 7Ngoc Minh Ngo
A tall, sleek bath cart rolls out of the powder room and into your living room, family room, or den in a near seamless transition. Stash books on the towel shelves. Keep your place in that magazine by draping it over the washcloth bar. Or stock all three levels with drinks and snacks and let your guests trundle it back and forth during cocktail hour.