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What matters most in a closet design – fashion or function?

Do you swoon with envy over the drool-worthy images on Houzz and Pinterest of dreamy custom closets? A place where jewelry, shoes, handbags all have their place and are proudly on display (check out Kim Kardashian’s converted guest bedroom into a glam-closet below).

Maybe you’d love a closet which makes you feel as excited as walking through Nordstrom’s eyeing those glamorous pair of Jimmy Choo’s.

The drool-worthy closet is fun to think about, however, does it make more sense having a closet focused on maximizing function. Is a practical Columbus closet (or anywhere in the US for that matter) more important than a fashionable space?

Image Source:

Image Source:

In this article I’m going to tackle the debate if fashion or function is more valuable in a custom closet design. First, I’ll put on my jeans and take a practical look at why you should focus first on function. I’ll give you ideas to add more bang for your storage bucks. Second, I’ll put on my tuxedo (OK – who am I fooling I’m not fancy enough to even think about a tuxedo) and make the case for the fashion-first closet design. I’ll give you thoughts to kick up the style of your closet.

At the end of this article I want your opinion. Should function or fashion drive your next closet design?

The Case for a Closet Design Driven by Function

A functional closet is simply a closet which works for you. If your blouses, dresses, jewelry, shoes or underwear are impossible to find, what good is your closet even if it’s the most stylish one on the planet? Here’s 3 solid (and practical) reasons function should take center stage in a closet design (and some ideas to get a bigger bang for your storage buck).

Reason #1 for a functional closet design – If you can’t reach it you should just ‘fuggitabout it’ (as a New Yorker would say)

My ‘almost’ 16-year-old (as she likes to remind me) 5’1” tall daughter Jade is used to being teased about being short. She’s open game for teasing (I think as her Dad I broke her in well) because she’s good natured about it. The reality for Jade is even as an adult the chance of her being “VC” (vertically challenged) are high. 

If I’m designing a closet for Jade (or for anyone who wishes they were taller) if they can’t reach the top of the closet, the prettiest space in the world will be (at least) partially useless to them. However, as I would tell Jade, “don’t fear honey – I can help you.” Here’s 3 ideas to bring a closet ‘down to size’ for Jade (or for you if you’re ‘VC’ as well).

  • Idea #1 – Use a pull down closet rod. With a pull-down system your clothes come to you with a handy-dandy handle.

Pull Down Rod in Closet | Innovate Home Org  | #ClosetDesign #FunctionalCloset #PullDownRod


  • Idea #2 – Make sure your shelves are adjustable. With adjustable shelves you can get more shoes, sweaters and purses closer to the ground (without them being buried on the floor).


  • Idea #3 – Double up your hanging system. Place the lower rods closer to the floor with an upper rod above. If Jade is sharing a closet with another person in her life (Oh boy – that has me sweating just saying it!) and they are taller – she can use the bottom rod, her ‘friend’ can use the top (I’m sure Jade will realize nobody will be as cool, fun and nice as her Dad – no matter who she chooses as her ‘friend’!).

Reason #2 for a functional closet design – Your older-home closet is waaaay too small and you need to fit 10 lbs. of s*** into a 5 lb. bag

My Dad used to spew out one clever saying after another. I remember him saying to me, “Michael, you can’t fit 10 lbs. of s*** (insert swear word here) into a 5 lb. bag.”

Although Dad was an extremely smart guy I’d have to (respectfully) disagree with him when it comes to closets and say, “Dad – with today’s wardrobe collections you’ve gotta find way to fit 10 lbs. of s*** into the 5 lb. closet!” The reason is closets of ‘yesteryear’ homes were not designed for the clothes you own today. Here’s a few fun facts to bring this point home:

  • The average American woman owns 30 outfits – one for every day of the month. In 1930 (according to Forbes magazine) that figure was 9.


  • Shopping malls outnumber high schools in the United States and 93% of teenage girls rank shopping as their favorite pastime (according to Affluenza). I can relate to that stat – for my 15-year-old daughter the mall is the center of HER universe!

Bottom line – the need for more functional and efficient space is not only not going away- I’d bet money it’s going to get worse!

Here’s some magical tips to grow your storage without growing your space:

  • Tip #1 – Add drawers – You can fit 2x as many clothes folded upright in a drawer than if they are hanging up.
  • Tip #2 – Use double hanging sections – Instead of using one rod move your single upper rod down to add a second rod above. You’ll instantly double your space.
  • Tip #3 – Add a ‘shoe shrine’ – No I’m not talking about having a religious experience with your spiritual connection to your shoes. A shoe shrine is a thin steel shelving system where you can get more pairs of shoes in a small 12” wide span. It’s a smart solution for a small reach in closet where you want to get shoes off the floor so you can see them.

Closet with a Shoe Shrine | Innovate Home Org  | #ClosetDesign #ShoeStorage #ShoeShrine


  • Tip #4 – Get a ‘wall to wall’ storage solution – The problem with standard store-bought storage systems is they come in standard widths. This will leave gaps at the end of your closet (unused space). Get a custom-sized wall to wall system to use every nook and cranny as Mrs. Thomas (is there actually any Mrs. Thomas who makes English Muffins?) might say.

Reason #3 for a functional closet design – You, your spouse or significant ‘utter is cheap

If you (or whomever your sharing your closet with) lives by the following motto if Jeff Foxworthy was here he would say, “You might be a cheapskate.”

“The easiest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it in your pocket.” Kin Hubbard

With this being said, if you can no longer stand the mess which is your closet, and something MUST be done about it a ‘functionally designed’ closet will price out better than a high fashion one. If you do need a closet which works, but you need to squeeze the daylights out of the budget here’s 3 belt-tightening ideas you’ll need:

  • Belt tightening idea #1 – Use white laminate or a wire closet system – I hate even mentioning using wire closets, but it you need the ultimate cheap-out system it’s the lowest cost (that’s why builders ‘throw it in’ production homes). Another cost-effective idea is to use a white laminate closet system. It’s adjustable (unlike the wire), but it also looks nice. If you want to compare the advantages and disadvantages of a wire vs. laminate closet read 7 Factors to Compare Wire Shelving vs. a Laminate Closet System.


  • Belt tightening idea #2 Use flat shoes shelves vs. raised shoe shelves – Flat shelves are not only cheaper – but you’ll get 60 to 70% more shoes in the same space.


  • Belt tightening idea #3 Use a wall hung system – A laminate wall hung closet (this is one where the vertical support sections are mounted onto a rail and don’t touch the floor) uses less material than a floor-based laminate system. Since you’re able to get the same amount of clothes into a space without the support sections reaching the floor you’ll save money.

Closet Wall Hung System | Innovate Home Org | #ClosetSystem #WallHungSystem #ReachInCloset

The Case for a Closet (or Wardrobe) Design Driven by Fashion 

Why should you always be practical? We all live one reality. We’ll leave this world the same way we came into it as a baby- with nothing. It’s the in between part we have some ability to affect. Why not pamper yourself along the way? It’s the enjoyment of life which motivates people to take advantage of a fashionable closet.

Below you’ll find 3 reasons a stylish closet makes sense and ideas to turn an ordinary storage space into an extraordinary closet.

Reason #1 for a fashionable closet design – A ‘YOLO’ life through an inspirational dressing room vs. a boring closet

Why should a room you use to get ready every day only be about organization and efficiency? When you go to Nordstrom’s do they simply set out shoe boxes in nice neat piles? Not any Nordstrom’s I’ve been to. They elegantly display products to make them more appealing. Why shouldn’t your closet be an aspirational, beautiful display? Not sure how to go about this? Here’s a few ideas:

  • Idea 1 – Use raised shoe shelves vs. flat shelving – If you simply LOVE your shoes, why not proudly display them? Raised shoe shelves are the way to accomplish this goal. They make your closet more elegant and it’s easier to find your shoes.

Raised shoe shelves for closet | Innovate Home Org | #ClosetShelving #ShoeShelving #DreamCloset

  • Idea 2 – Add lighting to highlight the extraordinary – Creating a dressing room (not just a closet) is about drama and interest. Highlight what matters to you using lighting. Yes – it could be an extravagant chandelier, or simple LED’s can also do the trick. Don’t keep your dressing room in the dark.


  • Idea 3 – Incorporate an island – An island is not only beautiful, but it’s also a useful place to stage your clothing for tomorrow, fold clothes and add more drawers and shelves. If you’re not sure if you have enough room to make a closet island work read 6 Awesome Tips for a Walk in Closet Island.

Reason #2 for a fashionable closet design – Fashionable has become more affordable

In the old days a fashionable custom closet was painstakingly built by an experienced trim carpenter who knew a TON about custom woodworking. However, they know little about closet design. In those cases, you got an elegant looking closet with corbels, crown molding, fancy trim, but it often had limited ability to be adjusted to fit your changing needs.

What’s cool today is you can get an adjustable and textured laminate system which not only looks like wood, it performs better than wood, at a lower price.

Get this:

It’s fashionable and more affordable! Wow!

Textured Laminate for Fashionable Closet | Innovate Home Org  | #WalkInCloset #ClosetStorageSystem #ShelvingStorage

If you haven’t heard about textured laminates which look like wood and think this concept is too good to be true, read about the cool design trends I saw from the 2018 International Builders Show (check out 7 Hot Interior Design Storage Trends to Ramp Up Your Storage Spaces in 2018.)  

Reason #3 for a fashionable closet design – It will be designed to compliment your tastes, needs and décor

Why should your walk-in closet be treated like the red-haired-stepchild of your home? Is there a reason it should be relegated to be an ‘appendage’ which is covered up behind closed doors? In most cases the master walk in closet is visible through the master bathroom. If you’ve remodeled your bathroom with upgraded Shaker cabinets with matte nickel handles, why not have the master closet compliment this look?

Today you can dress up your closet doors, hardware and even add a functional and stylish library ladder if you’ve got tall ceiling to make your closet a useful showplace.

Don’t you deserve it?


 At the beginning of this article I told you my goal was to make the case for both functional or fashionable closets. What’s more important to you? What features in a functional closet have you found make it super useful I did not discuss? What fun features in a fashionable closet are you enjoying today?

I’d love to hear your comments below.

How can I (or my team) help you with closet organization solutions?

If you’d like to learn how to create a functional or fashionable closet and get a Free 3D design contact Innovate Home Org in Columbus at 614-545-6888 or in Cleveland at 216-658-1290.

If you’re a Twitter fan please connect with me @Mike_Foti or my companies @InnovateHomeOrg or @InnovateBuild for information on home organization and interior design – and possibly a bit of bad humor thrown in along the way.

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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