Renovation Design Group
Solar tubes bring natural light into closet to make it easier to distinguish true clothing colors.

Has anyone ever had too many closets? A need for storage (or possibly hoarding!) seems to be part of the human condition.

The old adage "A place for everything and everything in its place" is still good advice. Homes and rooms seem larger when they are not filled with clutter. A well-organized and well-kept space not only looks good to our eyes, but it is emotionally calming and soothing.

Because we all have clothes, closets are an integral part of any bedroom. In fact, to be called a bedroom, a room must have a closet. Most often, closets are designed as "reach-in" closets. They are usually about 2 feet deep with a rod for hanging clothes and a shelf above for additional storage.

The advent of closet shelving systems has enabled us to make much better use of existing closet space. Several companies can be found online or in the telephone directory that specialize in designing and installing customized shelving units. In addition to the traditional full-height hanging space, these custom closets feature additional options, such as half-height rods (good for hanging pants and shirts or blouses), open shelves, pull-out shelves or baskets, shoe racks, clothes hampers and many more elements.

While the expertise and full-service approach of a closet-organizing company is hard to beat, refurbishing your closet qualifies as a good do-it-yourself project. All the local home stores and discount chains offer shelving systems you can buy and adapt to your own situation. One good weekend is all you need to expand your storage capabilities without moving a single wall.

It is important to carefully consider the type of doors you have on your closets. The more access you have to reach into the space, the more easily you can access the actual storage space. Single closet doors usually open out, so they don't block the contents in the closet.

Bifold doors are a good option because they fold out of the way and don't take up a lot of "swing space" in the room. Sliding doors open up half of the closet at once, but you can never see all of the contents at the same time. Pocket doors are a good choice if you usually leave your closet open; they give you the option to close it off on those rare occasions when you may need to. By doing something as simple as changing your closet door, you can improve the way an existing closet functions.

People have come to associate a walk-in closet with greater luxury, and it is one of the three elements that make up a master suite (a bedroom and bathroom being the other two). The minimum space needed for a walk-in closet is 4 feet deep by 7 feet wide, if you want hanging space on two sides. For hanging space on three sides, the closet should be at least 6 feet deep. Shelving doesn't have to be 2 feet deep; in fact, shelves for folded sweaters or T-shirts are better if they are 12-14 inches deep, so if you only have 6 feet in width, you can have hanging space on one side and shelving on the other.

Lighting is nice in a reach-in closet, but it is a necessity for a walk-in. Surface-mounted fixtures give better light than recessed can lights since they distribute the light over a wider area. The type of bulb is important because you want to be able to tell true colors when matching outfits. The best kind of light is natural light, so a window in a closet is a great thing. You do have to be careful about too much direct sunlight, however, as clothes may fade. If you don't have a window in your closet, consider a solar tube, which is great for bringing sunlight into an interior space.

Lastly, the best thing you can do to make a closet feel larger is to get a large plastic sack and fill it with items that have not been out of that closet in years. You'll feel much better about your home and about someone else being able to use the items you have been storing for no reason. Happy closet organizing!


Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the founding principals of Renovation Design Group, www.renovationdesigngroup.com, a local architectural design firm specializing in residential remodeling.