11 Smart Questions to Ask about a Custom Closet Design…so you don’t waste money!
OK, I’ve been doing custom closet designs for years so when my prospective client asked me if there would be enough room in her design for tall boots – even though I already included adjustable shelves (which would allow space for the tall boots) it dawned on me, maybe (just maybe) she didn’t ‘see’ the design like I did.
And why should she see it like me. First, I’ve created thousands of designs and second, I’m intimately familiar (and I’ll have to apologize right now to my wife Rose about cheating on her) with my design program. In contrast, my potential new customer is looking at her future walk-in closet layout for the first time. Basically, I know what I’m looking at and she’s a newbie (and may not know the best questions to ask or what to look for in the design).
And this got me to thinking (and yes, I know that’s dangerous), what other questions should a homeowner -who isn’t an expert on closet layouts (or hasn’t looked at closet design plans before) – ask so they not only understand the design BUT will help them get the best finished project for their budget?
This thought motivated me to develop 11 smart questions you should ask about your custom closet design before putting down a deposit, so you won’t waste one dime of your money. I hope these questions help you get a bigger (and better) bang for your buck whether you live in Columbus Ohio (that’s where my custom closet company is located) – or anywhere across the country. So, here we go.
Question #1) Can I see your closet design in 3D?
IMHO, 2D closet designs (like you’ll see below) should be considered closet design malpractice.
How ANYONE can see (and understand) what this design is – or how it will look (and function) after it’s installed is beyond me. Without a 3D plan how can you get an idea of the roominess, color, depth, or style of your system? Bottom line is…
DO NOT BUY a custom closet without a 3D design.
Question #2) Ask, will the depth of the closet sections work for me?
Your spouse has size 13 shoes AND you love to store bulky sweaters on shelves. And then your brand-spankin’-new closet system (with skimpy 12” deep shelves) was installed. And NOW you see how his shoes and your sweaters look sloppy and hang off the edge (not unlike the cheap wire closet shelves you just replaced). Sure – your closet company saved a few bucks using shallow 12” shelves, but you’re going to pay the price of their cost-cutting move for years to come!
Although this is a bad situation, it can be avoided. And to avoid this problem you simply need to ask your closet design company to show you the depth of your shelving, drawer and hanging sections. Understanding this ‘detail’ will help your closet live better and will help you ‘find’ space (through increased section depths) you never knew was possible).
Question #3) Can I move my shelves and rods around?
Do you think the shoes and clothes you’re wearing today will look the same in 5, 10 or 15 years from now? OK, unless you’re in a fashion-time-warp like your 5th grade math teacher – the types of boots, shoes, dresses, blouses or suits (and for those working at home now you may be asking, tell me again why you need a suit?) can and WILL change.
And if your closet shelves and rods are as fixed as your dad’s politics, you’re (literally) going to be screwed (sorry if this term offends you) into a fixed closet position. However, the good news is an inflexible closet system doesn’t have to be your world. But here’s what you do need to do…
Ask if it’s possible for your closet shelves and rods to be moved down the road. Insist on an adjustable closet system with adjustment holes.
Question #4) and this might be a touchy one, but …. Ask can I see where the ‘value’ (‘er cost) is in my custom closet?
Have you ever wondered how the heck your kitchen and bath designer or closet designer came up with your price? Have you ever thought, I think they’re charging me every penny they think they can suck out of me?
Where the value (‘er cost) is in a custom closet design DOES NOT have to be a mystery IF you’re working with an honest – and professional closet company with 3D design and pricing capabilities. With the right software your designer can change the color, texture, drawer depths, heights etc. and show you how the price was affected, up (or down), after the click of a few buttons.
And doesn’t it make sense for you to know where the value is with your design so you can put your money where it adds the most value for you? And if you’re curious about the installed cost of a custom closet read How Much Does an Installed Custom Walk-in Closet Cost?
Question #5) How can I make my closet look prettier even if I’m sharing it with a slob?
OK, sorry to be blunt, but for those of you sharing your closet with a partner you swear is THE Webster’s Dictionary definition of a slob, you know how frustrating picking up the pieces (literally) of their ‘wardrobe’ (OK – that’s not what they call it) can be. You desperately want your new closet to live neater than your old one, despite being ‘hampered’ (no bad closet storage pun intended) by a messy partner. But how can you achieve this impossible dream (short of throwing them out)?
Well –the first key to apply the C.U.S. (Closet Ugliness Scale) to your closet design. And if you’ve never heard of C.U.S. (although you’ve done it more than a few times picking up their clothes in your closet) it’s basically to design your closet by putting the ‘prettiest’ elements (like drawers and doors and shelving) on the walls you see most. Then you’ll put the ‘ugliest’ elements (usually your partners casual clothes) in the area of the closet you see the least (maybe behind the in-swing door).
The second bit of advice I’ll give you is to manage a 2-person closet without getting divorced is to read Storage Wars: 7 Essential Tips to Win the Battle of the His and Hers Closet. It is possible to co-exist with someone who isn’t the neatest (understatement of the year intended) IF you have a plan.
Question #6) How will the doors and drawers operate? What are they made of?
Just like you judge a new car, truck, or SUV’s quality by how the doors feel when you shut them, the same ‘quality control tip’ works when evaluating the performance of a custom closet.
When asking about a custom closet system find out if the drawers boxes (‘er the guts of the drawer) are made from wood or plastic. Ask if they use a slow close operator which will save wear and tear.
And if you really want to dig into the ‘nitty and gritty’ to make the ultimate closet drawer selections read, 11 Secrets about Closet Drawers Even Most Closet Designers Won’t Tell You.
Question #7) How can my closet design work around obstructions (light switches, outlets, windows, air returns, access doors etc.)?
Sometimes your plan for a perfect closet design is foiled by an air return, window, access door or sloped ceiling in the darndest place. And this is exactly where a seasoned closet designer (and no, this doesn’t mean they have to look old) can be worth their weight in gold. Simply put you need smart closet design solutions to work around the craziness which IS your closet.
And to get a few tips to design around your unusual closet, read How to Organize Your Odd-Shaped Closet which also has Outlets, Windows, Switches and Access Panels in All the Wrong Places.
Question #8) Is there a way to use shallow walls (or areas behind inswing doors) for additional storage?
Let’s face it – if you’re like most people whose name IS NOT Khloe Kardashian, your closet is waaaaaay too small to fit your stuff. And because of this you need to ‘find’ space where none existed before. Simply put, you need creative products to use every inch of the wall and floor ‘real estate’ you have.
And here’s 2 fun (and functional) ideas to take advantage of under-utilized shallow walls.
- Idea 1 – Install a hook board – Hook boards, like you’ll see below, are simply a series of hooks you can use to hang robes, baseball caps, or frequently used coats.
- Idea 2 – Glam up your closet with a decorative wall organizer – This adjustable wall organization system is so bougie – it’ll not only give you space for your cool shoes and stylish jewelry, but it’s also so luxurious that it can become the focal point of your closet!
Question #9) How can I make sure the closet works within the context of the surrounding rooms?
While many closets have doors which can be ‘closed’ off from adjoining spaces – like it or not – you still ‘see’ them together because the door isn’t always shut. And given the closet’s proximity to your bedroom or bathroom, there should be some ‘visual continuity’ (OK – now I really DO sound like a bougie designer – ha! ha!) between spaces.
And here’s 3 things you can (and should) do to make sure your closet ‘works with the surrounding rooms.
- #1) Pay attention to the drawer colors and door styles in adjoining rooms. Are they traditional, transitional, or contemporary?
- #2) Make sure your closet colors or pattern will work with your flooring. You don’t want a deep wood grain patterned closet which clashes with your bold wood floor.
Question #10) What accessories will make my closet live better?
Even though I lead a custom closet design company in Columbus Ohio, I’m man enough to admit for many people closets are a royal pain in their rear! And the reason for this is you have to ‘do battle’ with this ‘room’ a few times a day. You have stinky baskets of laundry in your closet. You deal with ties and belts which fall on the floor. Many of your shoes have come to their ‘final resting place’ in a haphazard pile buried underneath racks of overstuffed clothes.
And if this describes you (like it does many others) – you want to eliminate these pains when buying a new custom closet. And you may be wondering if there are some accessories to help you minimize these pains. And the answer is yes. Here’s 3 I’d recommend:
- #1) The laundry hamper – Why smell (and see) the ugly plastic laundry tub when you could disguise your dirty clothes behind a fold down hamper?
- #2) The tie, belt, or scarf rack – Hanging ties and belts over a hanger is a makeshift ‘solution’ – which results in many slipping off the hanger and onto the closet floor never to be found again. Consider a pull-out belt rack, tie rack or scarf rack.
- #3) The jewelry drawer tray – You love your favorite necklaces, rings, and watches but finding them is a pain. This is where a velvet lined jewelry tray inside a closet drawer is a godsend.
Question #11) and this is a question I love…. How can I make sure my new custom closet continues to look great for years to come?
Even if you spend a pretty penny on a custom closet system this DOES NOT GUARANTEE it’ll look neat and pretty as the years go on. However, following these 3 closet storage tips will keep your closet in tip-top shape (while costing you little to no money – yah, you!).
- Tip 1 – Group like items together (pants with pants, blouses with blouses etc.)– Your clothes will be more unified – and simpler to find.
- Tip 2 – Put the pants on the top, shirts on the bottom – Since pants (folded over on hangers) are shorter – and not as deep as shirts and blouses, when you put them on the top of a ‘double hanging’ section, your closet will not only look neater, but you’ll be able to use the shelf under the hanging pants you didn’t even know existed.
- Tip 3 – Use slim-line velvet hangers – I just love these hangers because garments don’t slip off and they take little room.
How can I – or my team – help you with a custom closet design?
While I know these questions can help you along your journey to buy an efficient and effective custom closet – they don’t necessarily answer the specific questions you have about your job (or how much you’ll need to spend to get your ‘dream closet’ or to get a closet which DOES NOT want to make you want to scream!).
And because I know most of you reading ARE NOT from Columbus Ohio, ask for a referral to a professional closet designer in your town in the comments below. I’ll do my best to connect you with one of my friends in the industry.
Thanks for reading!
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