By Patrick Langston

If you’re like many of us, your bedroom closet is a black hole. Footwear, shirts and skirts, a box of yellowing photos all crammed into too-tight a space.

Little wonder the closet makeover industry is thriving.

“People are increasingly looking for ways to declutter and make more out of the space they have,” says Alison Simpson, head of marketing for DYMON Storage and its design and installation service, Custom Closet Solutions.

Lianne Levy, owner of the Ottawa and Montreal franchises of California Closets, agrees.

“In our current headspace, there’s more consciousness of our home as a sanctuary. Great closet design… entrenches that peaceful, taking-care-of-myself ambience that we’re all looking for in our busy lives.”

If your closet doesn’t induce that peaceful feeling, it’s likely because the space itself is poorly designed.

Homes from the 1960s and even later typically feature shallow, reach-in closets with a rod and shelf. That might have fit the bill when people had fewer clothes and accessories than we do now. Fast forward a few decades and the space as originally configured is hopeless.

Even contemporary homes can suffer closet conundrums. It’s often an “illusion” that new homes have well-designed closet space, says Jason Allen of Ottawa’s Tailored Living, where services include custom closet design. “A lot of builders still underutilize the space. Their walk-in closets aren’t all that efficient and custom,” and homeowners often call in a pro to optimize the space.

Holly Voorneveld, a designer with Deslaurier Custom Cabinets, pinpoints another problem: Many bedroom suites no longer include a dresser or armoire, relying instead on the owner to stash all their clothing in a closet. That means the closet needs to be re-designed to accommodate everything.

“People are super-into having their spaces work a little harder for them,” she says.

Solutions galore

How do you make that space work harder?

“It’s about creating space that works for the particular client,” says Levy. “One client might have 20 pairs of shoes that are worn (regularly), so they need to be front and centre and easy to grab. Great closet design is about thinking through not just what you have but how you use it.”

Doubling the number of rods — a common solution — and adding an extra shelf or two are great space maximizers. That’s especially so when the rods and shelves are part of a flexible system that can be reconfigured as needs change, according to Caroline Castrucci of Laurysen Kitchens, which offers a full closet design and installation service. For instance, a child’s closet may have lots of shelves for easy access, but when that child becomes a teen, she’ll want to hang more of her clothes. “It’s the flexibility with the closet system that’s so desirable,” says Castrucci.

Other space-conscious and aesthetically pleasing solutions include furniture-like cabinetry, basket systems, jewelry racks, built-in ironing boards and even pull-out mirrors.

A bigger space can allow for an island with its own storage space. “What’s nice about an island is that you can fold things on it,” says Castrucci.

A well-appointed walk-in closet also gives you a convenient place to dress and undress.

Bells, whistles and wood

The closet industry is competitive, with manufacturers and design/installation companies touting a cavalcade of specialty items.

An array of tie and belt holders; swivel trouser racks; lights integrated into clothing rods, under shelves and even in sock drawers; decorative trim to make the space as special as the clothing and accessories it contains: it’s all part of the brave new world of closet design, which can help even smaller spaces seem luxurious.

What about colour? Grey is popular, says Simpson, noting that grey walls appear to recede and make the contents pop.

People are also opting for more colourful rods and drawer handles, says Allen. “The trend now is gold, slate, brushed chrome and nickel. If the theme in your home is black or bronze, you can carry it through in your closet.”

Wood finishes are also popular, lending warmth and a natural feel to the space, especially with the trend to built-in cabinetry in larger closets.

The Bottom Line

What’s all this going to cost? That depends on the space and your budget. You could likely get a standard, five-foot closet outfitted for around $1,000, says Castrucci. But those bells and whistles can drive the price north in a hurry.

Your best bet: contact a professional closet company for an estimate and then sharpen your pencil.

5 low-cost tips for maxing out your closets

Don’t have the money right now for a full closet makeover? The pros have 5 affordable ideas to tide you over until you do.

  1. Closet organizers from big box stores help you maximize space and reduce clutter by hanging shelving units, baskets and more from an existing rod.
  2. Storing your shoes so the front, not the heel, faces out is visually appealing and makes matching footwear and outfits easier.
  3. If you have two rods, put shirts and jackets on the bottom and skirts and pants on top. Because the latter are less bulky, it’s easier to see everything at a glance.
  4. Having all your hangers match makes your closet feel more organized.
  5. Slide your dresser into the closet underneath shorter clothing items. It creates a custom closet look and frees up space in your bedroom.

Tips from: Alison Simpson, DYMON Storage/Custom Closet Solutions; Lianne Levy, California Closets; Holly Voorneveld, Deslaurier Custom Cabinets.

patrick langston