Making the Most of a Master Closet
When Laura Baer and Mike Levine bought their 1926 Dutch Colonial-style house, storage was one of the home's unexpected selling points. "For an older house, it had surprisingly big closets," says Laura. But 18 years and two grown sons later, the roomy closets were overstuffed and under-organized.
Laura's master bedroom closet was in the worst shape. Even though the couple had outfitted their bedroom closets with custom shelving systems several years earlier, Laura's closet was bursting at the seams. "The system we installed looked great, but it took up so much room in the closet that it made a lot of the hanging clothes impossible to reach," she says.
The existing shelves also obstructed sightlines. Laura could barely see what she had to wear, inconvenient for anyone, but particularly difficult for someone as visual as Laura, an art director and photographer. Accordingly, she'd taken to piling her most-often-worn items onto hooks mounted on the insides of the closet doors, an arrangement that kept clothes visible, but looked messy.
The central tower of drawers and shelves was too wide and protruded too far forward. "The drawers and shelves provided a lot of storage," designer Debbie Royal of California Closets says. "Because the closet is fairly shallow to begin with, the width and depth of that central storage unit made accessing the hanging clothes on either side very difficult."
Debbie suggested a new design that would eliminate the drawers, decrease the width and depth of the central shelving unit, lower the top rods to a height Laura could more easily reach, and add shelving to the left side of the closet. Laura would lose the closed storage of the drawers, but would gain easier access and better visibility. "I knew I'd have to rethink how I stored some of my clothes, but that was okay—it was time to clean out the closet," Laura says.
After a 3-dimensional closet plan was created, Laura unloaded her wardrobe onto rented rolling garment racks. "It was so much easier to reorganize everything right on the rack," Laura says. To prepare the space for her new closet, the existing shelving system was torn out, walls were patched and the interior was painted. It took a few hours to install the new system.
Once everything was installed the hard work began. Reorganizing was definitely the biggest challenge for Laura. First, she went through her entire wardrobe, creating "keep," "toss" and "donate" piles. "I had to be really brutal," says Laura. "I had so many things that I hadn't worn in years, or that just weren't in great shape any more, but it felt great to be able to give a lot away."
The clothes were sorted by type and color and rehung on matching hangers. Space-saving hangers are slim and flocked, so they take up less room and nothing slips off them.
"If you have double rods, hang pants on tops and shirts and jackets on the bottom," says Debbie Royal, certified design consultant at California Closets. "Most people do just the opposite, because that's the way clothes are worn on the body, but inside a closet shirts and jackets take up more room horizontally—so if they're on top, the sleeves hang in your face when you’re trying to see what's hanging below."
To corral items she'd previously stored in drawers (scarves, camisoles, undergarments), Laura used fabric-lined bins. A special sweater box with a clear, flip-down drawer protects cashmere sweaters from moths.'Everyday' sweaters and jeans stack neatly on shelves, as do Laura's most-worn shoes; more pairs tuck into a canvas shoe storage unit hung on the inside of the closet door.
To keep the space neat Mary Lambert, author of The Ultimate Guide to Clearing Your Clutter suggests, "when you buy something new, get rid of something old."
The newly organized space not only looks neater, it's much easier to use. "I can reach all my clothes," says Laura. "But best of all, because I can see everything now, it's like having a whole new wardrobe. I'm combining things I'd never thought to wear together before. Don't tell my husband, but I won't have to go shopping for a year."
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