Designing and installing a custom walk-in closet is a dream-come-true for many homeowners. The wrong design, however, can turn into a nightmare. Sometimes homeowners and even professional designers focus so much on the aesthetics of a closet design that they forget about some of the basic logistics, and end up with drawers that smack into each other when opened, shelves that can’t be accessed unless you close the closet door behind you and other common closet problems.
Tailored Living’s expert designers are trained to spot such issues and adjust plans accordingly. The last thing you want after spending your hard-earned money on a custom-designed closet is to be unhappy with it for the rest of your years in your home, or until you shell out more money to fix the problem. We run into these issues frequently, so we wanted to cover a few that we encounter most often so that you can start thinking ahead of time about a design plan that really works for you (one without crashing drawers and inaccessible shelves) and one that you’ll be thrilled about when your custom closet is finally finished.
Placement of drawers and sliders: Anything installed inside a walk-in closet that slides out when in use (drawers, slide-out racks and baskets, etc.) or needs to be pulled away from the wall to be accessed can be problematic if not placed smartly. We often work with clients who already have a basic layout in their minds of where they want drawers and sliders to be placed within the overall system. However, people often forget to think about how these drawers and sliders are actually going to interact with the rest of the system and with one another, when opened.
For instance, what if your walk-in closet is fairly narrow, and you want to have drawers placed on opposite each other on the side walls of the closet, his-and-hers style? This mirror-image type layout seems to make sense and might sound logical. However, what will happen if both of you are trying to access drawers on opposite sides at the same time? Will you be able to open both sides of opposing drawers at the same time without them bumping into each other? Would you be able pull it open a drawer on one side all the way and still have room to stand in front of it? Although such a layout might work with all drawers and sliders retracted, it will be problematic if there isn’t enough room to open them without doing an awkward dance around them inside your closet. The novelty of your new closet will wear out pretty quickly.
How your closet door opens and closes: If your closet has sliding doors, then you don’t have too much to worry about in terms of your door interfering with shelving, etc., inside the closet. If you have a traditional hinged door that opens into your closet, you’ll want to think about what you install in that space behind where the door will open. Will you still be able to push the door in far enough if there is shelving behind it? If your closet is on the small side, will you have to perform awkward maneuvers to get inside the closet and then get behind the door to access whatever is stored there? Is it plausible to change the design of the closet door (change the door from inward opening to outward opening or install sliding doors instead)?
The age and size of the closet’s main user(s): This is something you’ll especially need to keep in mind if you are designing a closet for a child, or a closet that is going to be used by two or more people of significantly varying height, or if the closet is going to be accessed by someone who uses a wheelchair. A standard closet in a new build usually has a rod that is placed about 68 inches from the floor. Double rods are generally installed at about 43 inches and 84 inches. This would be considered ideal for the “average” user.
Of course, everyone knows no one is actually “average” in height. A slight majority of people fall somewhere just above or just below that, while the rest of the population is usually significantly above or below that, height-wise. What this means is that the “average” closet rod really only serves just over half the population well. The rest of us either have to reach down or reach up to hang clothing. Not only that, but the “average” closet rod height really cancels out a lot of otherwise usable space in your closet.
If you’re going to design a custom walk-in closet, please for the love of all things sane, DON’T have it designed for the “average” person. If you’re spending the extra money to get something tailored exactly to your lifestyle, you might as well place drawers, closet rods and any other spaces you plan to access frequently at a height that makes sense for you. If you’re reluctant to do this because, say, you’re over six feet tall and you’re worried about the resale value of your home if a prospective buyer is 5 feet 2 inches tall, you can work your design so that pieces like the hanging bar can be height-adjusted.
The same goes for children’s closets. Hang rods and install shelves at child-height, not adult-height. This encourages independence in picking out clothing and in putting clothing and personal belongings away. However, children grow, so make rods and shelving adjustable so that they can grow with your child.
Consider other “hacks” that can help you access less-frequently used closet space: In order to make the most efficient use of the space in your closet, you should plan to utilize all of it, from floor to ceiling. Of course, doing so means that the very highest components, whether shelving, cupboards or otherwise, are going to be more difficult to access. These spaces are ideal for storing items that you rarely have to access. However, at some point you will have to access them. Hacks like extendable clothing rods, high-reach hanger hooks (a long stick with a hook at the end, great for reaching high-hanging clothes), step-stools / step ladders (with their own dedicated space in your closet) will make getting to those out-of-the-way spaces less frustrating.