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10 Steps to Take the ‘Ugly’ Out of Your Closet

If your closet is ‘butt-ugly’ raise your hand. And if you didn’t raise your, I’d like to congratulate you on that new pair of rose-colored glasses.

And if we’re being real most closets are an unmitigated (and a mitigated) disaster. Hanging clothes bunched together. Haphazard stacks of clothes. Shoes in a dumper-heap on the floor. Does this resemble your world?

It’s easy to see what’s ‘not-to-like’ about your closet. However, the real challenge is how can you methodically eliminate the ‘ugliness’ which is your space? And this is exactly what this post is about.

I (along with 2 of my closet expert friends I interviewed for this article) are going to dish up a 10-step formula to not only blow up the ‘UGLY’ (which is your closet), but to replace it with beauty (did I actually say that about your closet?) to create a space you’d even want to show off to your crotchety Mother-in-Law.

So, let’s dig into these 10 practical steps so you won’t need rose-colored glasses or a stiff drink to face your closet ever again.

Step 1 – Know the ‘Closet Ugliness Scale’ (CUS-S for short) to determine if your closet was predestined to look bad (and work even worse)

If I were to ‘dumb-down’ closet design (and I’ll apologize right now to my professional closet design friends in the Association of Closet and Storage Professionals for this comment), all closets have 3 basic elements. They are:

  • Hanging
  • Shelving
  • (and the most forgotten element) Drawers.

And the ugliest of these 3 elements are the hanging clothes. And your casual hanging clothes are the ‘worst of the worst.’ And according to Melissa Jane Veinotte, Senior Designer at Closet Envy in Ontario Canada – and self-professed Closet Geek)  told me. “Hanging (and especially double hanging) clothes add the most ‘visual weight’ to your closet. They’re not only messy and bunched together, they just don’t feel good when you look at them.”

ugly closet due to too much hanging clothes bunched together | Innovate Home Org | #MessyCloset #ClosetOrganize #Declutter #Closetsystem

And if hanging clothes are the first thing to ‘greet’ you (and yes, I’m being sarcastic here) when you peak into your closet, you’re well on your way to receiving a high (or low depending on your perspective) score on the ugliness scale.

The second ugliest element is shelving (especially 12” deep wire shelves where your sweaters and clothes hang over the edge and get those fabulous – sarcasm intended – lines on them). If your stacks don’t ‘stack up’ (yes – bad pun intended), I get it and I see all the time on closet design sales appointments.

The third (and nicest looking) element are drawers. This often left out feature not only adds style but adds space (note: you can get 2x more storage in a drawer than hanging). If you have no drawers today, your closet is uglier than it has to be, and is missing additional storage as well.

Now, think about these 3 elements. How is your ‘mix’ of them affecting how ugly your closet looks today? Could adding drawers or deeper shelves improve your closet’s appearance (and function)?

Step 2 – Identify your ‘feature wall’

If I asked you what the ‘feature wall’ of your closet is today, I’ll bet most of you would laugh and answer with the popular multiple-choice answer….

None of the above.

Even though this the correct answer for you today, I’d argue you do have a potential feature wall you’ve never thought about before. This wall is the most visible wall in your closet.

OK – it may look nasty today with crazy-amounts of hanging clothes and ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’ stacks, but it doesn’t have to look nasty tomorrow. Read on to learn ideas to transform this wall.

Step 3 – Make your ‘feature wall’ look pretty  

This is where a closet designer (like me) earns their money. And the #1 tool closet designers use (and you can also) to ramp up your feature wall (and improved organization) is to put drawer’s front and center. Then I’d recommend you follow the sage advice of Mike Carson, owner of Inspired Closets of Chicago who told me, “Mike, our business has so much fun ramping up feature walls. We’re seeing a ton of people using lighting and glass doors to show off their purse and shoe collections. What shouldn’t closets also be fun?.”

Since you’ll likely need to add hanging on this feature wall (unless you have the luxury of a huge closet)– display your fashionable hanging clothes where they’re seen they’re most. Show your partners suits, sport coats and dress slacks. Show your long dresses and evening wear. Show off the most stylish part of your wardrobe. Don’t let the ‘ugliness’ of everyday casual hanging clothes be the first thing ‘greeting’ you.

Step 4 – Add drama (no, not the type your 15-year-old daughter gives you!) to your feature wall   

If you want a stylish closet – this is where you’ll take it to the next level. This is where you’ll infuse it with ‘good drama’ (which is kind of like ‘good cholesterol,’ says this pasta-eating and ice-cream addicted Italian). So, what is ‘good drama’ in closet design you may ask? Consider these 3 ideas:

  • Idea #1 – Make the drawers deeper than the rest of the system – Visually ‘pulling out’ the drawer stack with deeper drawer boxes is not only a smart strategy to gain space, it’s architecturally more fun.  


  • Idea #2 – Make your center drawer section taller – This tip gives your closet added volume and interest, and it won’t have that IKEA-esque boxy look.

Luxury walk in closet feature wall credit | Innovate Home Org | #CustomCloset #Organization #CustomStorage #WalkInCloset

Image Source:

  • Idea #3 – Add patterns, colors, and ‘gingerbread.’ Life – and your closet – was meant to be lived in color. With todays textured laminates and wide range of colors your design looks are unlimited. If you want to ‘one-up’ your feature wall even beyond patterns and color, install crown molding to cap it off.

Closet Envy credit Organizers Direct Custom Closet | Innovate Home Org | #CustomCloset #OrganizationSystems #WalkInCloset

Image Source: Organizers Direct Custom Closet.

Step 5 – Design the #WhatWasTheBuilderThinking, OUT of your closet!

If your closet layout makes you want to pull your hair out, I get it.

Most closets are ‘afflicted’ with 2 deadly closet plagues. Here they are:

  • Plague #1 – Dead corners – Clothes which butt into clothes in the corner create dead corners where clothes go to never be seen again. It’s your own personal Bermuda Triangle.  

Step 5 dead corners in a closet with hanging against hanging in the corner | Innovate Home Org | #MessyCloset #CustomOrganization #declutter

  • Plague #2 Lack of double hanging creates (unused) gaps at the top and bottom– If you have a ‘single rod’ closet, you know what I’m talking about. Your space above AND below your casual clothes is poorly used. These areas are fantastic storage opportunities.

These ‘plagues’ make your closet look ugly and perform worse. Fortunately, they’re simple to solve.

For ‘plague 1’ do not design a wall where clothes meet up against clothes in the corner. Have hanging on one side and shelves on the return wall as you’ll see in the image below. And another smart design ‘word of caution’ Mike Carson added which makes tons of sense to me is when he said, “Mike – whatever you do to get rid of design problems in the corners NEVER, NEVER, NEVER use those curved corner hanging rods. They’re the stupidest idea EVER! The hangers bump against each other. The number of things you can hang in the corner with that system is pathetically small!” 

For ‘plague 2’ shift from a single rod to a double rod closet system. It’ll double your space, even if it doesn’t double your fun!

Step 5 hanging on one corner and shoe shelves on the other blacklick ohio | Innovate Home Org | #CustomStorage #Organization #Shelves #ShoeShelves

Step 5 - closet corner problems Credit Closet Envy and Melissa Jane Veinotte pic 3 | Innovate Home Org | #CustomStorage #organizationsystem #walkincloset

Image Source: Melissa Jane Veinoitte from Closet Envy. 

Step 6 – Add ‘Flo’ (no, not loveable Flo from Nationwide) to your design

Closets don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re joined at the hip (or more likely at the studs) with your bedroom or master bathroom. Whether you like it or not (and today, I’d guess you don’t like it) you see your closet when you’re in these adjoining rooms. And if you’re like most, your closet is the red-haired-stepchild of your home. It looks U-G-L-Y next to your bathroom or bedroom.

The good news is…this doesn’t have to be. What you need is some ‘flow’ (no, you don’t need Flo from Nationwide to make this work).

To make the spaces flow (‘er work together) listen to what Melissa Jane said to me. She said, “Mike, you need to pay attention to the colors and patterns of your bedroom dresser drawers, and interior doors and hardware used in the adjoining spaces. Then use complimentary doors and drawer styles and hardware finishes which make sense together. And don’t be afraid to ‘mix your metals.’ This is a hot trend in interior design which can absolutely be brought over into your closet.” 

And I would also add if you like a ‘modern vibe’ Shaker or Euro style drawers will be your Zen. If traditional best describes you, then a raised panel closet drawer and door design will be what the closet doctor (or closet designer for that matter – since I haven’t met any closet doctors yet) ordered.

Step 6 shaker drawers in a new albany custom closet which compliment bathroom remodel | Innovate Home Org | #CustomDrawers #OrganizationSystem #Organize #WalkinclosetDesign

And since you closet likely has no natural light, I’d recommend lighter colors or textured closet patterns for more style points.

Step 7 – Elevate your ‘platforms’  

Although the civil-right inspired song Pants on the Ground was a viral audio sensation in 2010, ‘Shoes on the Ground’ has NEVER been a ‘hit’ in yours’ (or anyone else’s for that matter) closet.

Shoes on the ground are a pain! But since there’s no designated place for shoes in your closet today, they end up in a haphazard pile buried under your hanging clothes on your closet floor.

You need to ‘elevate’ your shoes. You need to get them up and off the ground. Let them be seen (even if they can’t be heard). And this is simple to do.

The best (and most space-efficient) way to do this is with flat adjustable shoe shelves. They’re practical, yet stylish. Note – for most closets I’d stay away from ‘slanted shoes shelves’ because they eat up too much room (unless you have a big closet – then they’re wonderful).

Step 8 – Forget what your Mama said. DON’T hang up your clothes (or at least as many of them as you do today)

Go back to the ‘Closet Ugliness Scale’ (or coincidentally called CUS(S) for short) in Step 1. Think about the single ugliest element in a closet. Do you remember what it was? Well – it’s your hanging clothes.

I’ll argue most people waaaaaay overuse hanging. And maybe it’s Mama’s fault (oops I’m in for a lickin’ now). After all she was the one who nagged you for years to hang up your clothes. I’ll argue Mama gave you bad habit of using too much hanging.

If you want a prettier (and more space-efficient) closet hijack your hanging. And here’s how you can do this….

  • Stack your jean on shelves.
  • Fold your yoga pants, shorts, and t-shirts. Store them upright in drawers.
  • Role your partner’s ties in your closet dresser drawers.
  • Donate stuff you don’t wear.

Step 9 – Bump off your spouse or partner (OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh)

OK – I’m not recommending you become a ‘hit-man’ or ‘hit-woman’ for a prettier closet. But if I’m a betting man I’m guessing there’s been a time or two or ten you wished you could enjoy a neat closet WITHOUT having to look at your partner’s side.

You know they’re a S-L-O-B! And even they know they’re a slob.

Sharing a closet with a spouse or partner who isn’t neat (and that’s a P.C. way to put it) add TREMENDOUSLY to the C.U.S (Closet Ugliness Scale). The question is, what can YOU do about it?

I’d recommend BEFORE considering bumping them off (and the resulting capital punishment charges) read Storage Wars: 7 Essential Tips to Win the Battle of the His and Hers Closet. There you’ll get the ‘non-violent’ ammunition for a better his and hers closet, or his and his closet or hers and hers closet. 

Step 9 His and hers closet design strategies Columbus Ohio | Innovate Home Org | #Storage #OrganizationStorage #StorageWars

Step 10 – Know your closet won’t make you sing if you’re struggling with your bling, doo-wop, doo-wop, doo-wop

As you know accessories make the outfit. However, when you can’t find your favorite ring, and your necklaces are as knotted up as 5 bras coming out of the dryer, you know your bling doesn’t make you want to sing (although it does make you want to shout!).

And this lack of jewelry organization adds to the stress which is your closet and is your life. But, before you give up, I’ve got a few fun (and functional) solutions for you:

  • Solution 1 – Jewelry drawer trays or stackable boxes – Velvet lined jewelry drawer trays keep your rings, sunglass, bracelets, and necklaces organized and free from dust. And if you don’t have space for drawers, stackable jewelry boxes are the next best way to store your bling.

Step 10 solution 1 Velvet lined jewelry drawer boxes in a luxury custom closet in Columbus Ohio | Innovate Home Org | #Customstorage #jewlerytrays #drawers

  • Solution 2 – Hook boards or wall organizers – If you’re not sure what to do with the dead space behind your in-swing door, a hook board behind the door is a perfect place for hanging jewelry.


  • Solution 3 – Slide out necklace drawers – This fun closet organizer solution is classy and keeps your necklaces in order.

Step 10 solution 3 Slide out jewely area for necklaces columbus | Innovate Home Org | #Jewlery #JewleryStorage #CustomStorage

How can me and my team and my closet industry friends help you ‘right’ your ugly closet?

If your closet looks ‘butt-ugly’ don’t fear, it’s usually because the original home builder slapped in some cheap wire shelves with no design plan in mind. This not only made your closet ugly, but unworkable.

This situation doesn’t have to be.

The key to turning your ‘ugly duckling’ closet into a swan is to first have a closet design plan. And while you could (as a closet newbie) develop your own plan, why ‘experiment’ on your own space? Call a closet design professional (OK – I’ll warn you this is where the shameless plug comes in) like our company in Columbus Ohio. We’ll do a Free 3D closet design to rid you of your ugliness problem.

And if you’re not in Columbus Ohio reach out to my home organization buds like Mike Carson of Inspired Closets Chicago at 630-422-1336 or Melissa Jane Veinotte of Closet Envy of Burlington, Ontario Canada at 289-635-2001. If they also aren’t in your area, ask for a referral in the comments section below. I’ll check with my closet association friends and see if I can come up with someone for you.

Thanks for reading…AND putting up with my humor!



If you’d like more information on closet organization, a custom closet with built in dressers and interior design (with a little wackiness thrown in along the way) follow me on LinkedIn @MikeFotiLinkedIn (and you might even ‘like’ me better on LinkedIn because you’ll get a more ‘buttoned-up’ business guy version of me there!).


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 (4)

  • Avatar

    Ajit Mehra


    The best website on the subject of walk-in closets by far.
    Are you able to recommend anyone in the Bergen County,New Jersey area
    for a home in zip code NJ 07417


    • Avatar

      Mike Foti


      Ajit – thanks for your nice comments – most appreciated! Yes – I have a friend out your way – Wendy Scott of Boutique Closets and Cabinetry who can help you. I’ve put the URL to her site here (and I’ll also email you) – Mike


  • Avatar



    Any recommended closet design companies in the Sarasosta/Venice Florida area?


    • Avatar

      Mike Foti


      Rebecca – I just reached out to my closet design association to see if I can find someone for you – Mike


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