The Wall of My Dreams

Wall Custom Closet Unit.jpg

Have you ever had a closet that was so small it forced you to dream about the day the universe would pay you back with the most beautiful closet in the world? Well, that was me circa 2013, when I lived in New York City and had a closet that was 24” wide (and located in the living room of our apartment).

I was working in the fashion industry at the time, with access to all the cool sample sale and discount perks a girl could imagine and I hadn’t yet become a reformed shopaholic. The fact that my bedroom was literally 6 feet wide by 9 feet long only complicated the issue and left me dealing with some serious storage issues.

Now let’s fast forward to a few years later, when my husband and I began house hunting in the DC area. I just knew that my closet situation in our house would be different; We would have an extra bedroom inside of it that I could convert to a beautiful dressing room with enough closet space to store every single thing. Well – that didn’t quite happen because while I wanted a huge closet, I needed a proper home office for my business and they tell me that part of being an adult means making proper decisions like an office instead of a closet.

Master Bedroom Wall [Before]

Master Bedroom Wall [Before]

The town home that we finally purchased had two closets in the master, which was great because it meant my husband and I no longer had to share closets. The closet intended for me to use though – while a decent size – lacked the type of storage solution that I needed for my clothing. Our master bathroom was also a little smaller than we’d hoped for, and my L shaped closet located inside the bathroom seemed like the perfect solution for expanding the bathroom space.

Luckily, I tend to have a wild imagination and see things like a whole closet when someone else just sees an empty wall space. So, with a huge blank 25” deep wall in our master bedroom and a vision of all the storage that space could provide, I reached out to my designer at Closet Factory to work on drafting a closet that would be perfect for me.

The Makings of my Closet

Curious of what we did to transform my master bedroom wall and create a design that worked for me? Here are five things we did to make this closet happen:

  1. I took a thorough closet inventory count.

    When I say thorough – I really mean thorough. I counted every piece of clothing that I owned and listed it out by category so that I’d know if the item needed to have short hanging, medium hanging, or long hanging space in the unit. I also counted shoes too, and because I have a thing for sky high heels, measured the heel heights to make sure the design could accommodate my 6” high heels and cowboy boots too!

  2. We made the design symmetrical.

    With this closet being so visible in the master bedroom, I wanted to make sure it would be visually appealing and symmetry was one of the easiest ways to achieve this. Since the closet has five sections, the two outer sections are equal and the two inner sections to either side of the shoes are equal. In addition to looking good, it also gave me more flexibility in interchanging rods and shelves if needed.

  3. I thought about how each section would be used ahead of time.

    With four clearly defined hanging spaces, I wanted to make sure that we had four clearly defined sections that made sense for how I would use the space. When I’m organizing a closet for clients, I always try to keep their systems as simple as possible to make maintenance easier. So for my closet, the four clothing sections represent lightweight separates, casual dresses, cocktail/dinner/evening dresses, and heavyweight separates.

  4. I focused on closet upgrades where it made sense.

    Custom doesn’t necessarily mean crazy expensive! Now there are definitely ways to make the price of a custom closet go up quickly, but I’ve found that if you are willing to be a little flexible with your closet system it can easily become more affordable.

    Where I upgraded: Since this closet is literally in the master bedroom, I decided that the overall visual appearance on the outside was the most important thing for me to focus on. As a result, I added doors to the entire unit (which cost almost as much as the unit itself) and included Closet Factory’s special Miami Glass Doors in the center to make my shoes more of a showcase. I also upgraded the handles on the doors to 20” bar handles for a more modern and dramatic effect.

    Where I skimped: Closet systems don’t typically come with backing (the piece that goes between the back of the system and the wall) unless it’s a wall mounted unit that has to be suspended from the ground, but most people add this to their units for a more completed look. Since most of the closet design was being devoted to hanging clothes and I had just repainted the bedroom walls, I skipped backing on every section except the shoe section – more on that in a bit. I also opted for the standard finishes (white melamine, flat trim, flat doors) which worked out nicely anyway because it was more of my design aesthetic.

  5. I insisted that the unit be adjustable.

    As a professional organizer, nothing is more challenging than trying to make a closet space work for you that isn’t adjustable. As we get older, your wardrobe and closet storage needs change, and having a flexible system that can change with you is really important. Plus, while I definitely wanted a custom system that worked for me, I know that we won’t be living here forever and wanted an adjustable closet system that the next home owner could utilize for their items in whatever configuration they want. So everything is fully adjustable in the closet except for the cubby area, which I’ve always wanted and couldn’t resist including for my handbag storage.

You Too Can Have Something Like This!

Thinking about doing something like this in your own home? Here are a few things you should know:

Custom Closet 2.jpg
  • If you’re planning to include doors on the unit, you need at least 24” of depth in the space you’re planning to put your unit. Doors aren’t always necessary (especially if you’re building a unit into a closet that comes with a door that can be closed) but since this was in our actual room, my husband and I agreed that we didn’t want to stare at my clothing all the time. Also remember that you need to take door swing radius into account and make sure that you won’t be bumping into a bed or other furniture pieces when you open the doors.

  • To achieve a natural built in look, try to utilize as much of the height of the room as you can. You may feel like you’re losing space to items that you could be storing on top of the unit, but it will provide a much cleaner look overall and give you more interior shelf space.

  • For shoe shelves, 12” – 14” is my preferred shoe shelf depth. In fact, in my closet I actually added backing to the back area of my shoe section so that I could make those shelves 12” instead of 24” deep. Yes, it means that there is 12” of dead space behind my shoe area in the closet, but because I wanted to look at my shoe section and know that I was seeing all of my shoes (and not missing the hidden row behind) losing that 12” of space was worth it to me.

  • Make sure that the unit doesn’t impact the layout of your room (or make it too awkward). For us, it was important that we still felt like our master bedroom was a true master and still felt spacious, and we got lucky with a master bedroom layout that gave us the perfect amount of space to integrate the closet into the wall. We also opted for an all-white unit too to keep the room bright, and complemented it with a light gray paint color selection for a majority of the master bedroom walls.

  • Find a focal point in your closet to highlight that will really bring the space to life. I am a shoe lover so I knew that I wanted to focus on a design that showcased my shoe collection. Whether it’s handbags, hats, or even a section of your wardrobe like dresses or jackets – find a section that would make you smile every time you look at it and figure out a way to integrate that into your design so that area is highlighted.

  • If there are organizing products that you know you are planning to incorporate into your closet, grab the dimensions of those items ahead of time so that you can make tweaks if needed to accommodate the products. For instance, I knew that I wanted three Laguna Cotton storage bins to go across the tops of my double hang sections, so I was able to build those areas out to accommodate three bins ahead of time.

  • Consider adding drawers to your unit. This is probably the only regret I have with my unit, but I knew that hanging space was more valuable for me and that we had the space in the room to accommodate a separate dresser. If you’re looking to reduce the number of furniture pieces in your room though, integrated drawers are an easy way to do this and worth the investment.

Shop My Closet Products

Closet Companies That Can Help You Get the Job Done:

If you want something custom, I’d highly recommend working with a local closet company that can help make your dream a reality. As I mentioned earlier, I worked with Closet Factory to create this system and loved my experience and the service that they provided. There are a ton of other great companies in the area too though – California Closets and Tailored Living are two other companies I love working with on closet projects.

Pro Tip: If you’re planning to go through and purge your closet, do it before designing a closet unit so that you can focus on designing a space for what you’re planning to keep.

If you’re just looking for a great wall unit (and doors aren’t necessary), I’d check out The Container Store’s latest closet system, Avera. It has a modern, sexy look and can still be completely customized to your needs. And, it’s also still adjustable too (though adjusting this unit after it is installed requires a bit more work).

Pro Tip: Schedule an appointment with TCS in advance so you have a dedicated designer ready to help you when you arrive. Also – if you’re thinking about Avera, try to be as precise as possible with your space measuring as every millimeter counts with this system.

If you’re on a budget, try building your own wardrobe system using IKEA’s PAX system. There are so many different ways you can use all of the components of this system to create something that works for you. If you’re looking for additional shoe storage – try IKEA’s BILLY bookcase unit. I used to have one of these for my shoes before we moved, and added glass doors to the front of it to protect my shoes.

Pro Tip: Opt for the IKEA delivery and installation – it’s worth every penny.

If you’re the ultimate DIYer, consider a company like EasyClosets. You design the system online yourself and pick all the finishes and accessory options, and then they ship all of the pieces to you to assemble and create a custom system on your own (at half the price!). You’ll need to make sure your measurements are spot on, but if you’ve ever wanted the chance to be your own designer then this gives you that opportunity!

Pro Tip: Interested in going this route but intimidated by getting the closet design right? Look into seeing if you can hire a local professional organizer to help with your closet design. It requires a little investment, but can be worth it to make sure you don’t end up with a design that you don’t like.

Ashley After 3.jpg

I know that I am probably a little biased, but I truly do believe that a custom closet can definitely make a huge difference in creating a system to keep your clothing, shoes, and accessories organized. As long as you remember to design a closet that works for you and not just for the space and that designing the closet of your dreams doesn’t necessarily require a huge space, I have no doubt that you’ll love your new closet space.

Thinking about designing or reconfiguring your own closet space? Click here to download my basic closet inventory to help count all of the items in your closet in an organized fashion.

Have you converted a wall into a closet before? I’d love to hear about it below!