Designing Your Closet For How You Dress

Designing Your Closet For How You Dress

Without systems there is chaos. And while I’m decreasingly into fancy fashion (pandemic + working from home on a muddy farm + moving away from LA + rarely leaving the house) I still need a better system than two rolling racks and a dresser. I strangely still wear three outfits a day – workout clothes + comfy utility clothes + pajama sets. And oddly I need way MORE clothes here than in LA – not in quantity but in variety since we have seasons. And mud. I have what is called “jacket confusion” – and on any given day I wear THREE different coats – the cozy fleece, the rain jacket, the light parka that can also repel rain – not to mention if I want to look more pulled together and cute. Same with boots – I have my boots for cold but dry days, cold but muddy days, warm but muddy days, and finally warm (ish) and dry days (those are the cute ones). The weather makes it so you simply need more options for everyday utility. Regardless of how often I get dressed up, I needed something better than these two janky rolling racks. And while we didn’t need something fancy I didn’t want to be short-sighted and not be thoughtful about how we use our closet or how someone else might use it (should we ever sell). Here’s where we are currently:

I’ve worked with California Closets on our house in LA and frankly loved their customer service, expertise, and product. Also fun fact – the Oregon CC team is 100% women which is just nice to know 🙂 So Amy Bodi (one of their lead closet designers) met with me at the house and asked me all of these questions to help guide the function of the closet (and function leads form when it comes to closets). They take your info and present to you a plan (it’s full service). These are all very lifestyle questions that are obviously very personal to how you live your life. Brian and I are both on the messier side so we need extra help making sure that we are designing it to be easy to maintain and so that things are easy to put away (like literal children – it sucks).

  1. What do you wear on an average day? Me: dog walking clothes/athleisure, then if I change for people to come over and then for shoots (a twice-a-week activity now) I’ll put on “harder” pants (jeans if they fit comfortably) and a cuter sweatshirt. Then pajamas – and I only wear sets.
  2. If it’s a shared space, what is the ratio of your combined belongings? (50/50, 70/30, etc.)  Let that determine each user’s overall “real estate” in the closet. We are probably 70 (me) /30 (Bri).
  3. Do you like to hang or fold? This is hard because sometimes it’s just what you are used to. For instance, we’ve never had a walk-in closet except at our rental last year which was just four big rods (the mountain house is more like a galley but technically you can walk in) so I’ve never had the space to hang my jeans. That’s all to say since I hate steaming or ironing I like to hang most of my tops (not t-shirts) but not my pants. I also like to do laundry with the kids while watching TV on Sundays so folding is more fun than bringing hangers to hang. For us, we wanted ample “top” hanging space but prefer more drawers and shelves.
  4. How many “long things” do you have – aka dresses or coats? I only have about 10 long dresses but I have 7 fairly bulky long coats. Brian has 1 suit and 1 long coat that he never wears but dreams of wearing in December in New York again 🙂
  5. Do you like to display your shoes? Do you want to see them? This was an easy no for us and I hate clutter (because I create it) so I did not want one of those fancy floor-to-ceiling shoe shelves with fancy lights. I’m just not a “shoe person” which is ironic because I have extremely unattractive feet (it’s ok, no self-shame, I think it’s funny) so you’d think I’d want to cover them up. But I think the cute shoes that you want to display are the delicate ones that I can’t wear because they really highlight my bunion and my pale or orange spray-tanned sausage toes. They are so special!
  6. How much of your clothes do you want to see and how many “steps” do you want to have to take to get clothes? At first, we thought that we wanted everything out of sight, but realized that it would A. look boring and B. be kinda annoying to open every single day. Plus covering it all up adds a lot to the cost and while we were partnering on this we didn’t want to be greedy. We had a budget we were trying to come in under.
  7. How Do You want to display your jewelry? I don’t have a lot of jewelry (I think I have a sensory thing because I just immediately take it off and leave it places. So I think some hooks are just fine, but we don’t need a drawer.
  8. Do you need a full-length mirror in the closet? Yes, but we will have this big one from Rejuvenation in our bedroom (better lighting for fashion posts), but a full-length mirror is still nice in here (it would just be super backlit if I were to take photos in it).
  9. Do you want a hamper in the closet, or if real estate is tight, should it be moved to the bathroom, bedroom, or laundry room? We hope to have a hamper in here and ideally not floating around 🙂
  10. Are there any other non-apparel items that you prefer in the closet? (luggage, a steamer, etc.) Nope! We keep our luggage elsewhere and I use small steamers, not full-size. Hats…I do have a few hard-to-store hats!

Two additional tips from California Closets: Where is the door opening? Let that determine where drawers, bins and/or baskets land. Drawers and bins/baskets are the nicest to look at and will function best if they have to open within the doorway (in a reach-in closet for example.) For a walk-in, try to keep hanging items along walls that have the most depth (and preferably away from the doorway.)    

If you don’t have enough space in the closet for all your apparel, prioritize what’s in season, along with your daily undergarments.  Use a dresser in the bedroom for off-season items and reserve a couple of bins and/or drawers in the closet for undies, bras, and socks so you can 1-stop-shop in the closet, rather than ping-ponging from the bathroom to the bedroom, to the closet, to the bedroom…you get the idea.

So here’s the process – they come to you to take measurements, you have long conversations about finish and style (which is better to do in their showroom so you can really experience everything) then your designer takes a stab at it and presents you the design. It’s WONDERFUL. Once again I was EXTREMELY impressed with their speed, knowledge, and expertise. When you only do storage design all day every day like they do, they bring such expertise that ensures long-term function and enjoyment.

Version A – Open Shelving With A Drop Zone

So Amy (our closet wizard) sent two options the next week and we became just so excited.

This version is a lot of symmetry. Mirror in the middle (with my taller boots behind it). In this version (and others I think) I get the left side and the back side, Brian gets the right and some drawers along the back. Before you think I’m somehow steamrolling Brian (which literally never happens), Brian takes pride in how few clothes he owns. So yes, we both quickly agreed that I get more space than him.

This version allowed for a “drop zone” for both of us – to unload pockets and throw our wallets. We weren’t convinced we would keep them looking nice and they would get a lot of attention.

I think our feedback for this version was also that Brian doesn’t have that much to hang, so he wanted more shelves than hanging space.

Version B – All enclosed

Now this version was based on our initial request to not be able to see as much mess as possible. Once we saw what that would look like though we decided that they were right – that the “two-step” process would be annoying and that this is just less visually pleasing.

Version C (Final Version)

So Amy took our feedback and did a final version.

This felt perfect for us – a nice mix of hanging, shelving, and drawers.

The shelves on the left were going to have to be set back due to an outlet, but we are cutting out the wood instead to expose and integrate the outlet. We kept it there because I use a steamer a lot so I need to plug it in easily. The space under the shelves is for a hamper – I just bought this one, which admittedly now that it has arrived it might be too tall – not because it won’t fit, the dimensions are good, but it’s so deep that if you want to get out something you threw in at the bottom, you have to take it ALL OUT and make a huge mess. We’ll see if that annoys us too much or if it’s okay.

In this version, there is room for 16 pairs of shoes on the bottom, and obviously more room for seasonal shoes in the bottom of the hanging areas or above in shelves (like a bin of summer shoes). And again, my tall boots (that I have a lot of strangely) are behind the mirror.

In this version, Brian doesn’t get his own “full-length” section but I have too much of it so he’ll throw anything that is full-length (possibly just a nice coat and his only suit) on the back wall.

We chose the light natural wood – mostly because I loved it in Joy’s closet and felt that it had the most warmth (but they have a ton of different tones or woods or painted colors to choose from).

So we approved this design (and are so excited).

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