Closet design takes off with creativity, customization

Elaine Markoutsas
Universal Uclick

Spring is so close! We can feel it. Time for a fresh start.

This time of year, who doesn’t have getting organized on their list? Besides dropping pounds, many people are hoping to shed all kinds of stuff. Most of us have too much of it, and not enough places to stash it.

A good place to start is the master bedroom closet. In recent years, custom and semi-custom designs have ramped up. One reason is that they are smartly designed, highly functional and they look good and neat as they handle tucking everything into its proper place. There are niceties such as dividers to section off T-shirts, underwear, socks. And jewelry trays. There are special hooks for ties and belts.

These built-in systems may include pull-down rods, glass front doors, laundry bins, full-length mirrors, electrical outlets in drawers, as well as USB chargers.

“From the little clips on the shoe organizer that hold sandals to the laundry hamper you can grab with one hand, these are components designed with everyday usability in mind,” Mae Holler, product manager for Hafele America Co., says about the company’s Engage modular system.

Hafele, a German manufacturer most known for its efficient hardware (hinges, drawer slides, soft touch and close mechanisms), also teamed up with EcoDomo to produce a beautiful collection of drawer fronts made from recycled belts.

And just as kitchen cabinetry has stepped up with furniture-like doors, drawers and finishes, so has closet cabinetry. There are matte and glossy lacquers, wood veneers that look like real luxury woods, such as burled walnut or macassar ebony, and good-looking hardware, too. At the high end, luxe makers such as Poliform, Lema, Mutina and Boffi offer stunning clean-lined systems, some appointed with leather-clad interiors.

Some, like Lema, actually suggest a shift in focus from container function to wellness. If your personal space looks good, you will probably feel good, too.

The ads for some of the most glam dressing room/closets look like boutique shops. All the clothing is impossibly color coordinated, stacked or hung perfectly, with elegant bins and cubbies. Linings are linen, velvet or leathers.

The association is intentional. And a lot of the impetus has come from blogs and Instagram postings that spotlight beautiful closets.

“It absolutely is having an impact,” says Erin Hogue, vice president of custom closets for The Container Store. “Our customers want their closets to feel like a luxury boutique that they essentially get to shop from each morning. Lighting and glass are very popular additions to our TCS Closet spaces to help our customers showcase their shoes, handbags and accessories.”

It was a natural segue for The Container Store, which expands its offering of beautiful storage solutions yearly, including baskets, containers and multicolored hangers. The company described the new venture as “not just a custom closet ... it’s an escape to the way things should be. It’s the promise of an organized life.”

More consumers are also seeking a wider range of finishes. While white laminate was an industry standard for so long, now there is more versatility, and style preferences seem to go hand in hand with what’s trending in furniture.

“Light toned wood grain finishes are especially popular right now,” says Hogue. “They lighten the space and help with visibility, as most closets are not always well lit.”

But even lighting is changing. In custom walk-in closets, it’s not unusual to see a combination of light cans and a central fixture — an elegant crystal chandelier or modern pendant. And even if lighting is not integrated into shelving (and even some pullout drawers), manufacturers like Hafele make it available with add-ons.

Closet design certainly has become more of a priority in high-end, custom-built homes, where walk-ins can be as large as master bedrooms. Plans even include windows, where natural light is a huge asset.

High-end systems, much like kitchen cabinets, can range into the tens of thousands of dollars.

But if you want the look and don’t have the budget, you can hack the fancy by studying some fancy features of such pampering closets.

In a walk-in closet, you may choose a wood finish or look that echoes the furnishings in your bedroom. Wood veneers like dark anigres, even macassar ebony, medium honey tones, and taupe or cappuccino are popular in today’s decor.

But think outside the box, too. You might consider covering panels with fabric or wallcovering. Leather and faux skins also are options. EcoDomo is one company that offers a range of leather, including textured croc looks, which you might consider for covering door or drawer panels to add panache.

Pullout drawers, which have become de rigueur in the kitchen, are also a boon in closet design. So are built-in laundry bins (the next best thing — a laundry bag on casters), and pull-down or pullout ironing boards.

Interior fittings have evolved not only functionally, but aesthetically. Acrylic often is used to divide everything from underwear to socks to belts. There are special dividers for jewelry — kind of like jewelry boxes for your drawers. Often these are lined in velvet or velour, but suede and leather also are used. Linen is another great look for liners, as well as for baskets and boxes.

In a room-sized closet, islands are another desirable feature. The surface is great for laying out an outfit, or for placing a beverage while you’re scouting out something to wear. Now benches also are integrated into some ends.

The most important thing to remember, says Hogue, whether it’s a standard-sized reach-in or a larger walk-in, is the footprint — “that it’s laid out well to maximize space and efficiency.”

That means you should certainly inventory your clothing and your needs: Are you stacking sweaters, hanging jackets and skirts, trousers, dresses, gowns, robes, pajamas, which require heights ranging from 20 inches to 70 inches. How many drawers do you need? How many shelves? What about special tie racks (some love those battery-operated revolving ones)? Belt hangers? Some closet-maker brands now offer safes — even in stylish colors like aqua.

“If garages are the man-cave, then closets are the she-cave,” says Hogue. “Customers want to make them as beautiful as the other rooms in their homes, and be able to show them off as they would a new kitchen.”

Many men may actually desire the same thing, though, and would gladly give up some garage time for some quality time in these closets.