Who doesn’t love a well-organized, brightly lit clothes closet? Whether walk-in or reach-in, a closet can be made efficient and attractive—even luxurious—using many different techniques. To bring the best out in a closet, it takes imagination, a first-rate plan, hard work and a defined budget.
A walk-in closet is at least 4 feet long by 4 four feet deep, large enough to allow one or more people to enter, usually by way of an aisle. House hunters highly value large closets because each side of the closet offers multiple storage, including rods, shelves and drawers, as opposed to the single rod topped by a shelf that a typical reach-in closet offers. In short, as my college friends and I used to say, “It is to die for!” Some walk-in closets are larger than a standard bedroom. Some even have a bathroom off of them. Such a floor plan would allow a person to take a morning shower, dry off, and step straight into the closet to decide what to wear. Standing inside a large closet early in the morning surrounded by skirts, pants and shirts neatly hanging on rods; shoes paired on custom shelves; cabinets of sweaters, drawers of graphic tees; and boxes of jewelry could really be overwhelming. I prefer my more plebeian plan of choosing what to wear the night before.
I remember a time when a bedroom either had a walk-in closet or it didn’t. There was no special name for the other type. It was just a closet. Now, however, that other type is labeled a “reach-in closet.” Doesn’t that sound more intriguing than “a closet?” A typical reach-in closet is approximately 6 feet wide by 2 feet deep. Decades ago, you could tell by the age of a house whether it had a walk-in closet. For instance, a split level home from the mid 1950s would not have been built with a walk-in closet. Over the years, clever architects and contractors have reimagined and renovated split level homes to include walk-in closets of all sizes. Of course, we all know how frequently older homes are being renovated to take on the characteristics that people crave.
I recently had the good fortune to tour the California Closets showroom in Bernardsville, New Jersey. The California Closet showroom includes a simulated garage, living room entertainment center and many versions of walk-in and reach-in closets. I felt as if I was inside the homes and closets of the rich and famous. My guide was Debbie Royal, senior design consultant. Debbie has been with the company 10 years and was named the 2015 Customer Satisfaction Designer of the Year. I asked Debbie why a potential client might choose to invest in hiring a closet designer as opposed to taking a DIY route. “There are so many reasons why it makes sense to hire a professional closet designer! You start every day either in or in front of your closet. Getting organized and having what you need when you need it can simplify your busy life, improve your productivity and provide more space for fun. A professional designer can offer guidance on the best placement for hanging rods, drawers, shelving and accessories to maximize storage and to ensure easy access to all your belongings. In addition, he or she will offer lots of suggestions to bring on the glam, maximize storage space and ensure that all key items are within easy reach.”
During my tour, I saw up close the huge choice of colors and finishes offered by a high-end closet design company like California Closets. These include the materials used for knobs, drawer pulls, rods, lighting and drawer liners. It is worth noting that at one time a company offering real leather finishes was sought after while offering fake leather or vinyl was considered a step down. With the growing population of vegans who will not use products made from animals, many are actively seeking faux leather or “pleather” finishes. The faux finishes California Closets offer have rich sheens and inviting color palettes.
If your budget does not include hiring a high-end closet design company, you can create your own plan. While it does require a bit of work, I invite you to have fun with this part. Pinterest, YouTube as well as your friends could be great sources for ideas. Make a list of your must-haves and your “if-possibles.” Pay a virtual visit to several stores like the Container Store, IKEA, Target and Walmart to get familiar with their inventory and pricing structure and create a budget you can stick to. Alternatively, there are online DIY closet installation companies that allow you to use your own tablet or computer to redesign your closet and order a kit that includes simple instructions and cut-to-size materials delivered to your door.
Here is a list of tools you may need to redesign a walk-in or reach-in closet: a tape measure, drill, hammer and, if you want to pre-cut shelves, a jigsaw and a wire cutter. Remember your phone to snap before, during and after photos.
While researching this column, some closet accessories caught my fancy. They include: acrylic partitions for both wire or solid shelves, which prevent piles from leaning into one another, “daylight bulbs” that give off a bright blue light and allow a clear view of each item in a closet, and a glam-inspired desk and chair placed inside a massive walk-in. I imagine the owner sits at this desk and keeps a spreadsheet of what she wears and when, in order not to repeat her outfits too frequently. After all, we wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time. Can’t be too careful! Organizers advise their clients to do their prep for each day the night before, so the final closet accessory I was drawn to was a valet hook, meant for separating out clothes for the next day. I originally saw this in the California Closets showroom, but we can achieve a high-end look, be organized, and stay on budget by selecting one of the many valet hooks offered on Amazon.
To recap, the bedroom clothes closet, a feature that is standard in most American homes, is continually being made more functional and glamourous. Custom made reach-in closet units are designed to attach to the wall of a closet and can include rods, drawers and shelves to utilize every inch of space. The story is the same with a walk-in closet but multiply space for these attractive features several fold. If you are considering a closet redesign, I hope you achieve the closet of your dreams. Please contact me to help you organize the clothes in your closet in a more functional and attractive way.
Ellen Smith is Central Jersey’s kosher organizer and tzniut wardrobe stylist. For over 14 years, Ellen has helped people restore order and create calm in their homes and souls. Ellen believes “Clutter Clogs, but Harmony Heals.” See Ellen’s work on Instagram @ideclutterbyEllen. Contact Ellen for a complimentary phone consultation at [email protected].