How to Choose a Closet Company – 11 Factors You Need to Know to Make the Right Choice
You’ve seen the advertisements from the big national closet franchise brands. And you’ve heard about a local closet company who just completed a job in your BFF’s house. She was ecstatic with the result. She couldn’t stop bragging how she’s no longer panicked trying to find her shoes for work as she’s also rushing around attempting to get the kiddos off to school.
You’ve come to the conclusion the time if finally right, to tackle the disaster you also call your walk-in closet. Your challenge is who do you call? And even more importantly, who should you choose to do the work?
While you’re ‘kicking the digital tires’ and thinking through what companies to call, you’re worrying about the following:
- Will they be un-Godly expensive?
- Will they be able to help me make sense of this mess? Can they do the impossible and stop my spouse from being such a S-L-O-B (OK – maybe it’s asking too much for closet designers to double as miracle workers!)?
- Will they offer designs which mesh with our bathroom since you see both spaces at the same time?
- Will they be too ‘sales-y’ and pressure me to ‘buy today?’
You don’t want to spend tons of time looking over designs and combing over estimates. And because of the pandemic you barely want ANYBODY in your home in the first place.
So, how can you figure out if a closet company is right for you? Well to be brutally honest (and ‘keepin’ it real dog’ as Randy Jackson used to say) I’m gonna give you advice you won’t hear from many people leading closet (and home storage) companies (and yes – I do lead a business which designs and installs closet systems). Here it is:
Not every company is right for you. Some company’s you shouldn’t even call. And as crazy as it may sound, my company may not be the best choice for you either. Ouch! Now, there goes our family vacation plans!
Just like you and I have our strengths and weaknesses, so do closet and home storage companies (even mine). They have niches they perform best in, and jobs they have no business taking. And you don’t want to find out ‘after the fact’ you’ve made a bad choice. You don’t want to waste your time considering the wrong company for your kids bedroom closets or master walk in closet.
So – how do you know who(m) to call for a Free Design Consultant? More importantly who(m) should buy from so you don’t make a BIG ‘MITAKE’ (as my Mother in Law used to say)?
As a guy leading a closet and home organization company here’s 11 factors (and a bonus 12th factor you’ll get when you read to the end) I recommend you use to figure out who(m) to call (and then buy from) to get the perfect closet company for your job. Let’s look at these factors.
Factor #1 to choose the right closet company– Figure out, or ask, what’s your niche.
Not all custom closet companies are created equal, or are right for your job. Here’s why I say this.
Some are ‘boutique firms’ – My friend Wendy Scott of Boutique Closets and Cabinetry specializes in high-end intricate closet designs. She’s steeped in experience. She works in wood and laminate systems. She can pretty much do it all. She’s a Wonder woman of closet design. If you’re looking for the -high-high-end closet Wendy can design and install a top-notch project for you. Check out one of Wendy’s projects below.
Image Source: Boutique Closets and Cabinetry
Some are ‘high production driven’ and focus on new home builders. In my market, Columbus Ohio, there’s a company who practically owns the production builder closet business. They do wire shelving (all day long). They install straightforward laminate closets using standard parts. They do the ‘after paint package’ (the mirrors, hardware, shower doors and closets) for their production builder customers. And while this company is excellent in the high-volume builder’s world, they’re not focused on smaller jobs for individual homeowners. They don’t sell and promote into this market. They’re focused on larger, higher volume accounts. They’re web site is written to builders. A small closet for an individual owner is not their focus.
Some focus on homeowners, remodelers, and interior designers – My company – Innovate Home Org – works in this niche. We’ve worked with individual owners since our business was started in 1977 by my Dad (hey- I’m not really that old, or at least that’s what I tell myself). We’ve designed and installed various projects for over 180,000 homeowners, remodeling contractors and interior designers. Big and small jobs alike. We have the patience to work through their design questions – irrespective of job size.
Your goal is simple. Find the company which fits for your project size, complexity, and budget.
Factor #2 to choose the right closet company– Are they ‘students’ of their game? Are they experts in the field?
Do you remember as a pimply teenager struggling through 8th grade Geometry? Sorry to bring back bad memories! You (and your parents) knew you’d need a tutor to get you through. Becoming a nuclear physicist was NOT in your future.
While it would have been fun to be tutored by the ‘hottest guy or gal’ in the class, good looks weren’t going to help you pass this class. No, you needed the smartest guy or gal (no matter how nerdy or uncool they were). You needed the Geometry ‘expert’ to bail your butt out.
And when it comes to closet design help, the same strategy applies. You need the smartest designer who is a ‘student’ of their industry, not the best looking to help figure out your space. The question is how do you find the smartest designer in this endless ‘sea’ of companies? Here’s 3 ideas.
Idea #1) Check out (even before you call a company out) if this company is dedicated to sharing their knowledge. Does the company have a blog with useful information? One company on the West Coast who has a doggone good blog is Valet Custom Closets. And – not to toot my own horn (OK – maybe I’ll toot it a little) but the goal of my Professionally Organized custom closet blog is to educate and help homeowners, remodelers and interior designers. I want you to make better choices with closets, pantries, entryways and garage cabinetry.
Idea #2) See if they’re producing videos to get you up to speed on the project. One YouTube channel with informative closet design videos is produced by Closet Works.
Idea #3) Lastly are they members of their professional trade association? In this industry it’s Association of Closet and Storage Professionals (ACSP).
Insist on designers and companies who are ‘students of the home organization game.’ And just because the leadership of a company knows there stuff, don’t assume the designer who comes to your home knows what they’re doing (I can’t tell you the number of times I see closet designers who repeat The 7 Deadly Sins of a Walk in Closet Design I wrote years ago – and yet they are SUPPOSEDLY professional designers!
Factor #3 to choose the right closet company– Do they offer product options for your bite-sized budget?
It’s fun to drool over the ‘chichi’ closets on Pinterest owned by your favorite celebrities.
However, while you may want a ‘chichi and champagne closet’, your purse only supports a ‘budget and beer’ job. You simply need a functional design to store (and be able to find) your shoes, hanging clothes and work out outfits. You need a walk-in closet which won’t make you want to PULL YOUR HAIR OUT! But how? Is it possible to get an affordable and professionally installed closet which won’t bust your budget?
Here’s an idea to get you on the right road. Use a wall hung system. This system uses less material. It works just as well as a ‘finished cabinetry design’ which is built to the floor.
If you want to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of wall hung and floor based systems read How to Choose Between a Wall Hung and Floor Mounted Closet.
Factor #4 to choose the right closet company– What do their ‘drawers’ look like? OK…not those type of drawers!
It’s normally not polite to ask someone to tell you about their drawers (or underwear), but if you’re talking to a closet company it’s fair game. However, I’ll warn you, you may find some ‘dirty laundry’ in those drawers once you know what you’re looking at.
Drawers are one of the 3 key elements of a closet design (in addition to hanging and shelving). Drawers are the highest cost but are also a super-smart idea to improve the space-efficiency and look of a custom closet design.
However, not all drawers are created equal. Some of made of birch. Some are made of plastic. Some have slow close features or undermounted hardware. Some have more durable dovetail design.
Don’t think all closet systems are created equal until you look ‘under the hood’ (or inside their drawers).
Factor #5 to choose the right closet company– Will they make the sales process ‘painless’ and ‘low pressure’ for you?
I’m going to be blunt. Some closet companies run their sales appointments like a funny (or not so funny when you’re living through it) episode of Tin Men (for those not familiar with this movie set in in the 1970’s about sleazy sales people – check out the video below for a laugh).
They’re not going to run a ‘one legger’ (‘er this is an appointment where the ‘husband and wife’ both aren’t at the sales call). They insist on meeting at your home (even if a virtual closet design appointment would be simpler for you).
They want you to CONFORM to their ‘process.’ It’s not about making your life easier (and safer) with a ‘lower touch’ appointment. Their sales process is driven to make a sale – FOR THEM!
Now more than ever, you need companies who tailor their sales approach around you. Would you like a ‘virtual design’ to get a feeling about cost. Would you like your significant other to help you make the final decision but getting the 2 of you together is near-impossible – so you’d like the flexibility of a virtual video conference so you can both agree on the design (and not feel pressured to buy RIGHT NOW).
The bottom line is you want the appointment and buying process to be more ‘Burger King’ (‘er having it your way), without the calories. You want the closet design and buying process to be friendly to you, your partner, and your C-R-A-Z-Y schedules. To make sure this happens do the following.
Look at the company’s web sites you’re considering. How do their designs and sales appointments work? Are virtual appointments an option? Will they let you see their designs before buying? Will they work WITH you, or force you to succumb to their process?
Factor #6 to choose the right closet company– Can you ‘see’ what you’re buying beyond a fancy brochure?
There’s the old saying, seeing is believing. You know how true this saying is if you’ve ever bought a dress or jewelry online which looked fabulous. Then you were sorely disappointed after you opened the package.
Buying a custom walk in closet is a big decision. It’s seldom a $1,000 job.
You want to know what you see on the cool brochure will exceed your expectations in real life.
Towards this end you want to know there are multiple ways you can experience the products your closet company has to offer.
Find out if your prospective company’s have a showroom where you can feel how the drawers work and the thickness of the shelves. See if they have a YouTube channel which highlights products, how they’re used and the benefits of them. Seeing the product, helps you make the right choice.
Factor #7 to choose the right closet company– Are their designers thorough and inspiring?
As a guy who runs a closet organization company, I’ll tell you it’s doggone hard to find a good closet designer. Here’s why.
A good designer possesses a ‘strange’ combination of skills.
First, they’re left-brained. They’re good with numbers and technical details. They’re careful to measure where the outlets, windows and other ‘obstructions’ are and expertly work around (and with) them.
Second, they’re also right brained. They’re creative and help you with a design and vision beyond your expectations.
You want a designer whose talented enough to use both sides of the brain. But, how can you know when you’ve found this type of person? Here’s what you can do.
First, see how they do the in- home presentation with you. Do they have a laser measuring tool which is accurate up to 1/16”? Do they measure the top and the bottom of the wall (note: the reason they should do this is because walls often aren’t square, yet your custom design may go from wall to wall)? Do they write down the ‘obstructions’ (light switches, outlets, register grates etc.) and put them in a 3D design program so you can see how this space will work? The reality is…
You need a ‘left-brained’ (technically oriented) design professional.
Secondly, do they take the time to learn about you (and whomever else is using the closet). How tall are you and who(m) you’re sharing the closet with? What things are you looking to put into this storage space? Would lighting enhance the design? Do they bring up creative ideas you never thought of yourself? The reality is….
You need a ‘right-brained’ (creative) design professional.
Image Source: Boutique Closet and Cabinetry
Factor #8 to choose the right closet company– Do they show you a 3D design so you can visualize what you’re getting?
I don’t know about you, but most people would have no frickin’ idea how to visualize the drawing below (note: this is a hand-drawn 2D drawing of a closet only a closet nerd like me can ‘see’ without viewing it in 3D).
This design creates 2 dead corners with hanging sections against hanging sections in the corners. Fortunately, my client DID NOT BUY this design. However, she didn’t realize it was a bad design until I showed it to her in 3D and explained how the corners would become Walking Dead storage space. Here’s the improved design in 3D (without the dead corners).
IMHO – if your closet company doesn’t do a 3D drawing you should report them to the CPD (‘er the Closet Design Police). It’s design malpractice! Don’t buy what you can’t see. Otherwise you may end up owning what doesn’t work for you.
Insist on a 3D Closet Design – ‘nuff said.
Factor #9 to choose the right closet company– Do they offer phony discounts to ‘get in the door’?
I’m going to admit I’m not a fan of 40% ‘buy today’ discounts. Especially with the ‘purported’ 40% off sale happens week after week and year after year. Sure – this marketing trick has been along for eons in our country. However, in the closet biz it’s simply a come-on to get a sales appointment and create a sense of urgency to close deals.
‘40% off companies’ may even give you an ‘extra discount’ (after they’ve called their manager (even though they may be dialing their cat at home for all you know) if and only if, you sign on the bottom-line tonight.
When it comes to figuring out the best value for you, you need to take price into consideration, but don’t feel pressured by ‘special deals.’ As my Dad used to say (and he was a master negotiator), “Michael, don’t be afraid to walk away from the bargaining table today. A good deal today will be a good deal tomorrow.”
Find out the true ‘net cost’ from every company you’re considering. Buy the best value for you (on your time schedule, without feeling pressured).
Now that’s the end of my pricing PSA (Public Service Announcement).
Factor #10 to choose the right closet company– Are your closet sections precut to size?
Would you rather buy parts which are cut by hand in your garage (or on the front lawn of your home) by a guy with a saw in freezing cold or scorching-hot temps or a CNC manufacturer part precisely made to fit your space?
Let’s face facts, CNC manufactured parts are not only more precise, but they allow the company doing your job to spend less time in your home. You’ll find some closet systems (and the companies who sell them) are only made in standard sizes and then the ‘custom cuts’ are made at your home. This will result in projects which take longer to complete, and the finished quality simply isn’t as nice.
Insist on machine manufactured parts.
Factor #11 to choose the right closet company– What’s their guarantee? Is it simple to figure out?
It takes confidence to stand behind what you sell. The more loopholes (or ‘fine print’ – which is usually not ‘fine’ for you) in a guarantee, the more ‘wiggle room’ it gives a company to tell you ‘hey lady (or dude) that’s not our problem.’
Read the warranty. Make sure it’s simple. See if the company has the longevity to stand behind the guarantee.
Bonus Factor #12 to choose the right closet company– What’s their personality (‘er culture)?
I have to be real and tell you I (and my company) are not for everyone. If we’re doing our job right, I’d want people to say we’re thorough and thoughtful (irrespective of the size of the job). I want them to say we’re open and honest (and will tell you what you need to hear, even if it isn’t what you want to hear). For me personally – I’d like them to say I’m fun and funny (OK – I may be delusional here!).
With this being said our style, or personality (or you can call it ‘culture’ if you want to go ‘corporate’ on me) ARE NOT the perfect fit for everyone. But here’s what I can tell you.
We know who we are and aren’t afraid to admit it (warts, pimples and all).
Are we the right company for your custom closet in Columbus or Cleveland? I can’t say. But, if we are, I’ll be honored to meet you.
How can I (and my team) help next?
I know I’ve given you a lot of factors (12 to be exact) to think about in choosing the best custom closet company for your project. In the end though it boils down to who(m) you trust. Who offers the best quality and value (price in relation to quality) for you?
Recognize all closet organizer companies are not created equal. And they’re not all perfect for you (even my company may not be perfect for you – imagine that!).
However, no matter if you’re in Columbus or Cleveland Ohio (where our company does business) or anywhere in the United States I’d like to help you find the best company for you. So – if you’re in my regional area and read this article (and my wacky humor hasn’t turned you off), and think we’re the right fit for you – please call the numbers below (hey – I still need to put my daughter through college).
If you’re not in my area I can recommend some wonderful buddies of mine through the Association of Closet and Storage Professionals who can help you as well.
Here’s how to reach us
If you’re in Columbus or Cleveland Ohio and want to learn more ‘custom closet’ and/or get a Free 3D Closet Design, me and my team would love to help. Call 614-545-6888 or 216-658-1290.
And if you’re on LinkedIn connect with me @MikeFotiLinkedIn. Thanks for reading!
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