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9 essential tips to put the YOU into a custom closet design

I met Jaclyn at the new home she and her husband Fred just purchased to design a new closet system. Mind you this home had an “organization system” in the master bedroom closet provided by a well-known (and well respected) national home builder. It’s a nice looking white laminate closet which is even adjustable. You might be saying right now, “So Mike, what’s wrong with that?” Well nothing except that the only thing in this closet is hanging space. There are no shoe shelves. There are no drawers for Jaclyn and Fred’s socks, underwear and sweaters. There is no shelving for jeans and sweatshirts.

This brand-new closet, while nice looking, will not work for Jaclyn and Fred and is going to be replaced before it’s ever used! Ouch!

The question is how can you get a closet which is designed for you? One which focuses on the “Y,” the “O” and the “U” of a personalized closet design. Here’s what I mean by the Y, O and U.

  • The Y begins by knowing this closet is designed for you (and/or your significant other). It should be built around your specific heights. The “Y” will look at how wide and deep your closet needs to be for your specific belongings. Making sure you be will be available to fit everything in. Figuring out if there is room for a closet island – if you would like that. It will be designed so you’ll be able to extend your drawers fully. The “Y” (or you) in closet design will use math (hope the thought of this doesn’t make your palms sweaty) to determine the size of every component, making sure it will work for you.
  • The O – The “O” is identifying opportunities you have for a more efficient or luxurious closet design. The “O” also looks at what obstacles you need to work around (not your clothes necessarily). Where are the light switches, access panels, outlets to be worked around for an effective design?
  • The U – The “U” of an effective closet design is gaining an understanding between you and your closet designer of budget and features which matter most. Making sure the design fits your desired finished look.

Let’s take a closer look at these “Y.O.U.” factors so you can get the closet your desire at a price you can afford.

Tip #1 (The “Y” – your height). Plugging your height into the closet equation   

I hate to bring up math again (although I’ll confess to loving math. In college I actually took 3 statistics classes – now that’s a bit crazy!) but it’s a key component in an effective bedroom closet design. A good designer will want to know your height (the height of the person you’ll share the closet with) and the height of the closet walls. Why you may ask? Well, if you try to hang one section on top of another and there is not enough room between them (in the industry this is called “double hanging” – that term sounds kind of spooky, doesn’t it) then your husband shirts may be laying partially on the shelf below, causing them to be wrinkled and need ironing. Also, if you’re “vertically challenged” (the new P.C. – politically correct – term for being short), if the top hanging sections are too high you won’t be able to reach them (although the closet can be designed with a pull-down rod to make them accessible). In a closet design, size does matter!

'In a #closet design, size does matter!'Click To Tweet

Bedroom closet design with LED lighting for impact | Innovate Home Org Columbus Ohio

Creating the right height for this closet allowed enough space for storage shelf above the hanging space.

Tip #2 (The “Y” – your width). Is your bedroom closet designed to use its width effectively

Generic closet systems come in generic (standard) sizing modules. For the middle sections of your closet this may work out OK (although you’ll want to check out tip #4 where we talk about obstacles, because this isn’t always the case) but what about the last 5 to 7 inches of space where a standard section width won’t fit. If you’re like most people you need every inch of space, you have (and then some!). When designing your closet make sure the designer measures and creates a layout which uses your entire width. If you’re unable to use the entire width (this can be the case when a door swings in) ask if there is an opportunity to use the space above the door.

A custom bedroom closet design with drawers and a display countertop | Innovate Home Org Columbus Ohio

Tip #3 (The “Y” – your depth). You need to “go deep” to make sure all elements of your closet will fully function  

Not only are the height and width of your closet critical, so is the depth. If a closet company gives you cheaper shelving which is only 12” deep it may look good at first, but when you “live” with it you may see your sweaters and your husband’s shoes hang off the edge (not exactly what you expected from a custom closet design). Insist on at least 14” deep shelving.

'14' deep closet shelving ensures sweaters don't hang off the edge.' Click To Tweet

14 inch deep closet shelving so sweaters and shoes don't hang off the edge | Innovate Home Org Columbus Ohio

14″ deep walk in closet shelving makes it easy to stack sweaters

In addition, if you want to incorporate drawers make sure they are in a place where you can fully extend the drawer box (and stand behind it at the same time).

If you’re considering installing a coffee bar in your closet you will need extra depth for a small fridge for your creamer – usually 24” deep will work.  If you want to store your clothes behind doors with slick glass fronts for the high-end furniture look you’ll also need 24” depth. On the other hand, if you need to keep a close eye on the budget, leave your hanging sections open with 14” deep closet dividers.  

Tip #4 (The “O” – your obstacles). Don’t let obstacles get in the way of an effective design  

In life, you need to navigate around life’s obstacles. In closet design the same thought process applies. You need to be able to reach the light switch when you walk in. You want your plumber to be able reach the access panel for the shower valve on the other side of the closet wall. Closet designs which work begin by measuring where are these obstacles are (outlets, light switches, access panels etc.). Then the closet is designed to make sure there is space between the closet dividers so you have access to these outlets, switches and panels.

Tip #5 (The “O” – your opportunities for increased efficiency). Getting the biggest bang for your closet buck…and space

Nobody installs a new closet because they love their old one (unless they’ve just got money to blow and too much time on their hands. My guess is you don’t fit into this category). What people want is better use of the space they have (since most people aren’t using the adjoining room and making one humongous closet). Consider these 3 space efficient ideas:

  • Use flat shoes shelves vs. raised ones to get more pairs in the same “footprint” (OK, that’s bad closet design humor right there!)
  • Add more drawers and less hanging space. You can put 2 to 3x more stuff in drawers than on hangers.

Full extension drawers can store more clothes than hanging space | Innovate Home Org Columbus Ohio

  • Use a shallower shelf at the top of a tall reach in closet so you can access this shelf for storage.  

Tip #6 – (The “O” – your opportunities for more luxury)

Aah, this is the tip you’ve been waiting for – more luxury.  Isn’t that what every woman dreams about? Closet luxury can come in small (or big) packages. For small luxury features add a wardrobe rod so you can stage tomorrows outfit, or a scarf rack or a slide out velvet lined jewelry drawer.

A wardrobe rod is a nice custom bedroom closet feature to stage tomorrows outfit and reduce your stress of getting ready in the morning. | Innovate Home Org Columbus Ohio

For big luxury closet opportunity consider adding an island in your walk-in closet. If you want to make it a real “wow” consider a granite countertop or for the ultimate in a slick look a glass countertop (spice it up with add LED lighting and you’ll have a blow them away celebrity closet look!).

Tip #7 – (The “U” – A Rolling Stones understanding of closet design). You can’t always get what you want.

I can still picture myself banging on my blue pearl Ludwig drum set in the basement of Al Atkinson Chagrin Falls Ohio house jamming to Rolling Stones tunes in the late 70’s. We had fun, and thought we were cool (big hair and all!). I still enjoy an occasional 70’s tune and find wisdom in the lyrics (although I have lost the big hair and the blue pearl drum set). The common-sense logic of this Rolling Stones song definitely applies to a closet design:

“You can’t always get what you want

But if you try sometimes, well, you might find

You get what you need.”

'Apply Rolling Stone logic to #closet design - make sure to get what you need!' Click To Tweet

In life (and in closet design) we can’t always get what we want – but, we do need to get what we need. I would recommend you start out with a budget for your closet project. Make a list of what you need to have and what you’d like to have. Prioritize so you can make sure you get what you need (and hopefully get some of what you want!).

Tip #8 – (The “U” – Understanding your options)

The greatest equalizer in this world is an Internet connection. When you take on a project you no longer need to put up with a sleazy salesperson giving you a line of bull! You can research your options before you even talk to someone.

What’s nice to know is the options in laminate closets have exploded. Now there are patterns which look like real wood (at a fraction of the cost and with less maintenance than wood). There are cool features you may never have thought out like a revolving 360-degree shoe organizer, a pull down hamper or a fold out ironing board.

A pull down hamper is a nice closet organizer feature for a walk closet | Innovate Home Org Columbus Ohio

This pull down hamper keeps the dirty laundry and clutter out of sight!

Before buying a closet system do your research. Call out the most knowledgeable companies who are attending the industry conferences for storage geeks (note: I’m totally stoked about checking out the upcoming Cabinets and Closet Conference next week). See out and work with the best, most knowledgeable person who will go beyond your research to add more value and ideas to your project.

Tip #9 – (The “U” – understanding cheapest is usually just that)

I remember my brother in law telling me the story about taking my two adorable nieces (they were 3 and 6 at the time, now they’re a bit older at 26 and 29) to the dollar store and saying they could have ANYTHING in the store they wanted. They felt like they hit the jackpot! These dollar store toys provided a jolt of excitement – although I’m sure they didn’t last very long.

When you consider a closet design get a system built to last and designed to work for you. Yes – you can “save” money going with 12” deep shelves (but who wants their sweaters and sweatshirts hanging off the edge)? You can get a cheap wire closet system – but do you really want to have to iron the “beautiful” (sarcasm intended) stripes on your clothes which were resting on the wire? You can get a nice design – with an eye on cost – by simply making choices like using a simple white laminate finish.

'Cost effective #closet design does not have to equal cheap design.' Click To Tweet

This lower cost adjustable white laminate closet design in a reach in closet shows cost effective design can look nice (and provide the function of adjustability) | Innovate Home Org Columbus Ohio

This cost effective white laminate closet design is also adjustable – no inflexible builders grade closet here!

Sometimes what’s cheapest is just that – the cheapest. It’s fun to get a cheap dollar store “find” – but for a permanent room in your home (like a closet used 2 to 3 times a day) – doesn’t it make more sense to get a system which will provide you the best “value” for your money?


What these tips boil down to is a bedroom closet design should be all about you. Could you benefit from an organized closet which puts you first?

How can I help you next?

If you have questions, comments or would like a  Free 3D closet design in Columbus or Cleveland call Innovate Home Org at 614-545-6888 or 216-658-1290. If you’d like Mike to hook you up with an old-fashioned blue pearl drum set from the 70’s you’ll have to look elsewhere – his Mom made him sell it years ago!


Mike Foti

Mike Foti is the President of Innovate Home Org, a division of Innovate Building Solutions. You can learn more about Mike here.

Mike Foti

Mike Foti is the President of Innovate Home Org, a division of Innovate Building Solutions. You can learn more about Mike here.

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