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7 Powerful Tips to Squeeze More Space and Beauty into a Narrow Walk in Closet

Do you feel you have to go on a diet just to walk through your narrow walk in closet?

You’re fighting hanging clothes which are spaced as closely together as weeds in a jungle.

Your single closet rod is under so much pressure you think ‘this baby could blow at any moment.’

Your scarves live in a jumbled mess on a flimsy wire hanger you inherited from the cleaners.

Your sweaters resemble a leaning Tower of Pisa on the rickety wire top shelf.

And oh – don’t mention the piles of shoes lurking in the deep dark crevices on your closet floor.

Your narrow walk in closet will not be winning the Kim-Kardashian Cool-Closet Award (if there is such a thing) any time soon.

Given these challenges you may be asking yourself, how is it possible to create an organized closet out of this mess? I’m here to tell you – don’t give up.

There are ways to ‘cure’ the narrow closet storage challenge and make it stylish at the same time. Imagine that.

In this article I’m going to present 7 powerful tips to squeeze more space and add beauty to your thinner-than-you’d-like closet. At the end, I’d love to hear which of these ideas would make sense for your Columbus, Clintonville, Westerville, Upper Arlington (or anywhere for that matter) closet.

Tip #1 – Find your ‘feature wall.’ Don’t get caught without your drawers.

Narrow closets are not generally a thing of beauty. They are often equipped with one long hanging rod and one lonely shelf at the top. There’s no place to store underwear or panty hose. There’s no effective place for ties. There’s no place for jewelry.

One reason for this problem is there are no drawers to put your underwear, socks, ties and jewelry in. Without drawers you can’t get fully ready in the closet. You have to turn on a light in the bedroom to get ready in the morning. You wake up your grouchy partner to get what you need out of the dresser. Not good.

It’s nice to know there is a solution to this problem. The solution is…

Add a ‘bank’ of drawers on the most prominent wall in your closet. You may be asking yourself, “Mike – why do I need drawers? I’ve never had them before?” Here’s 3 powerful (and practical) reasons why:

  • Reason #1) You’ll get more stuff in drawers. Here’s a little-known fact. You can store 2 to 2.5 more things in drawers than hanging up. That’s free, newly-found space for you.


  • Reason #2) Your closet will be neater. When you cut down the ‘jungle’ of hanging clothes your closet will look more organized and uncluttered (even if there is a mess lurking inside the drawers…shh….I won’t tell anyone).


  • Reason #3) You’ll add a touch of elegance. When you add a finished cabinet-style closet drawer system on a wall with the best sight lines, you’ll actually be proud to use this space. Imagine that.

Drawers in a custom closet for an elegant touch | Innovate Home Org | #ClosetDrawers #WalkInCloset #StorageSolutions

Tip #2 – Don’t create a ‘wall’ of clothing with your closet rods

Assume you’ve got a 5’ wide by 9’ long closet and you’d like (‘er OK – you NEED) to use both sides of the long 9’ walls. Since the hanging clothes come out 22” from the wall, if you hang clothes on both sides you’ll have a total of 44” of hanging space in an area which is 5’ (60” wide). Doing this you’ll end up with a waaaay too tiny (18” total) area to walk through. Not good.

Keep this advice in mind. In a narrow closet smart designs have hanging clothes on one side only. On the other side use shelving or a series of hook boards. This will prevent your closet from feeling cramped – while still getting the space you need.

Tip #3 – Say hello to your little ‘fre – the height of your closet

While I’ll never been a violent guy, I admit loving when Al Pacino (AKA Tony Montana in the movie Scarface) pulls out a shotgun gun in one scene and shouts, “say hello to my little ‘fre.” I don’t think I’d categorize a shotgun as a little friend, but it’s still funny…to me.  

Not sure what your closet has to do with this movie scene? Well – in a narrow closet your new ‘little ‘fre’ can, and should be, the height (i.e. cubic area) of your space. Since the top shelf is often set at 6’ (in an 8’ high closet) and the single hanging rod is only a few inches below that, there is wasted space above the top shelf and below the hanging rod (with your shorter hanging clothes like blouses and jeans folded over). You NEED to claim this space. Here’s how.

Move your top shelf up 1’ foot to be 7’ from the ground in an 8’ walk in closet. Included 2 rods below the shelf (this is also called double hanging space). This magic trick makes a huge (or hugely as Trump says) difference to create an efficient closet design.

Double hanging to get more out of height of a Small closet | Innovate Home Org | #DoubleHanging #NarrowCloset #DreamCloset

Tip #4 – Look for hidden storage opps on (and behind) your door

A big space-gobbler in a narrow closet is a door which swings in. Unfortunately, in most cases, it’s not practical to get the door to swing out. Because of the direction the door swings you don’t have enough room to hang clothes or even use closet shelving behind this area – in many cases.  

So, what can you do about it?

Here’s 2 ‘thin-storage’ opps which work:

  • Hang a shoe storage unit on the back of the door. Yes – they don’t look too snazzy, but they can get your shoes from being an annoying heap on the floor.


  • Install a hookboard on the wall behind the door. These boards are perfect places for scarves, belts and long necklaces.

Hookboard to get better usage out of a thin closet wall | Innovate Home Org | #HangingSpace #SmallWalkInCloset #HookboardCloset

Tip #5 – Replace your ‘hodge-podge’ (does anyone still say that?) of hangers. Understand consistent and thin are in.

Most closets look ugly (and perform worse) because they’re filled to the brim (remember the tag line ‘filled to the rim with Brim – a blast from the past isn’t it?) with a menagerie of hangers. Thick wooden hangers for suites. Chunky colored plastic hangers you got at the Dollar Store. Thin wires ones you inherited from the cleaners. I’ll give it to you straight. This mix of hangers not only making your closet look ugly, they’re taking up precious space you don’t have.

When it comes to a narrow closet, be strategic with not only what you’re hanging (a dose of decluttering is always helpful), but with what you’re hanging your clothes on.

One quick-win in hanging efficiency (besides getting rid of that ugly dress your Grandmother bought you 6 years ago you can’t stand to donate or the slacks which are 2 sizes too small you swear you’re going to wear after a few sessions at Jenny Craig) is to slim down your hangers. To do this effectively choose only one type of hanger for the whole closet. Make it a thin one. I love, love, love the velvet lined ones because they’re not only thin, but the clothes stay on. 1/8” thick metal hangers also work well.

Tip 5 Velvet hangers | Innovate Home Org | #VelvetHangers #HangingSpace #SmallCloset

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Tip #6 – Reduce visual clutter. Use closet accessories and containers which pull out, slide out and keep things neatly tucked away.

Since narrow closets, by definition, lack width, the worst thing you can do is leave too much ‘hanging out’ (no, I’m not talking about you – I’m talking about your clothes). You need to find ways to minimize how many of your clothes you hang, while making sure everything is simple to find. Here’s two ideas to cut down visual clutter:

  • Go to Bed, Bath and Beyond and get some baskets. Baskets are a budget-busting alternative to drawers. They give a tidy, uniform look and provide storage for your yoga pants, t-shirts and sweatshirts. They can be bought in 12-14” depths which fit on shelves (and don’t stick out like hangers).


  • Add pull out belt racks, scarf racks and mirrors. These accessories can slide out of a laminate closet system, but stay neatly tucked in their space when you’re not using them.

Belt rack for pull out storage in a walk in closet | Innovate Home Org | #BeltRacks #WalkInCloset #StorageforBelts

Tip #7 Add joy and ‘YOLO’

Who wants to enter a drab closet jammed with racks of clothing, scuffed up white walls and bent and bowed wire shelving? Not anyone I know.

Don’t settle for a drab closet when it’s something you use at least 2 times everyday. Add a dash of fun. Add a dash of ‘YOLO’ (you only live once). Here’s some ways to get a closet you’ll enjoy (even if it’s narrow):

  • Behind the ‘feature wall’ discussed in tip #1 make this surface pops with interest. Consider a reclaimed wood backdrop or a bold coat of paint. It can make the space come alive.

Feature wall with reclaimed wood for a closet | Innovate Home Org | #FeatureWalls #DecorativeWalls #ClosetStorage

  • Add a small bench seat for a ‘dressing room’ feel. It’s a practical place to slip off your heels after a long day at work.
  • Install a chandelier and declare beauty can (and does) exist in small spaces.


Creating a space-efficient and cool-looking closet in a narrow space is not impossible, but it does require you to be smarter and have an eye for fun elements.

You’ll need to be smarter and think beyond shelves and hanging space to include drawers. You’ll need to be smarter to use the back of walls and the height of your space to your advantage.

You’ll want to add fun by dressing up your feature wall, including a decorative stool, or even a dramatic chandelier.

If you need help with a custom closet design in the Columbus (or any of its burbs or urban areas like the Short North, Victorian Village or Nationwide Arena areas) call me or my team for a  free 3D closet design at the numbers below.

Do you want more help?

For assistance with a custom closet design in Columbus or Cleveland Ohio call Innovate Home Org at 614-545-6888 or 216-658-1290.


Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Foti or our companies’ @InnovateBuild and @InnovateHomeOrg for more insight on closet designs and remodeling.

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.

Comments (5)

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    Can you purchase rod brackets that the center fir the rod is less than 12”?


    • Avatar

      Mike Foti


      Theresa – I don’t know what you’ll find in retail stores regarding the sizes of rod (and the brackets for the sides) – but if you contact in a custom closet company in your market they will usually buy rods in 8′ lengths which are then cut to size (no matter how small it is) and the brackets are put at the ends. Hope this helps – Mike


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    Is it wise to use the full height of a small closet? I have one that is 10 feet long on one wall, 68 inches on the opposite wall, 78 inches wide on another wall but only 48 on the fourth wall (also door on this wall), but the ceiling is 10 feet high. I’m thinking it might feel claustrophobic if I go right to the ceiling.


    • Avatar

      Mike Foti


      Sonia – unless you use something like a ‘library ladder’ going all the way to the top may be difficult to reach. I might suggest to put the top of your system about 90 – to 96″ maximum from the floor – Mike


      • Avatar



        I would use a library ladder, I’m just thinking that it might feel closed in going the full 10 feet. I could sure use the space because it’s an awkward layout but not sure if I should.

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