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Closet Design for Dummies – 11 Dumb Things You Should Never Ask a Closet Designer

I know, I know – as your teacher used to say, there’s no such thing as a dumb question– especially if you don’t know squat about the subject (which is likely true for most people trying to figure out their first custom closet).

However, there are LOTS and LOTS of dumb things builders, remodelers and well-meaning DIY’ers do which makes closets hard to use. And I (for one) don’t want you to put up with a custom closet which is a pain in the tookas to use!

So, without being mean, arrogant, or disrespectful (because if I was, my 91 year-old mother would still want to wash my mouth out with soap……and BTW does anyone even do that any more today???), I (along with Ariane Brabant, industry expert and Business Development Manager at Tag Hardware) are going to give you 11 questions you never want to ask your closet designer, and here’s why.

It’s because they’re questions which lead to bad designs which lead to a closet (whether you have a tiny reach or an expansive walk in closet) which is hard to use.

So, let’s look at 11 – not really bright (OK – now I’m trying to go P.C. on you) questions you shouldn’t ask your closet designer. In addition, I’ll also present smarter solutions to these dumb questions to make sure you get a closet you can fall in love with (if that’s even imaginable).

And no matter what you do – don’t skip over question #3. It’ll be worth the price of admission (OK – even if the ‘admission’ here is free, you’ll still benefit by NOT making this mistake which plagues soooo many closets).

Not very bright closet question #1 – So, why can’t I leave shoes under my hanging clothes?

Well for one reason it’s hard to see shoes buried under hanging clothes.

In addition, I’ll bet you a ‘dollar to donuts’ (yes this is a stupid saying, but I’m using it anyway) you’re NOT getting any younger. And if that’s the case it can be painful reaching under hanging clothes to search for your shoes.

And here’s the smarter solution – Instead of shoes in heap below hanging clothes add adjustable shoe shelves. They can be adjusted for the height of your flats, high heels, and boots – and you’ll actually be able to find what you’re looking for.

Question 1 adjustable shoe shelves upper arlington ohio | Innovate Home Org | Storage Solution

Not very bright closet question #2 – Why can’t I use deep shelving in my 2 feet deep reach in closets?

I understand why you’re redesigning your ‘builder special’ (sarcasm intended) reach in closet. With its single rod at the top (and shallow wire or painted wood top shelf) – there’s no way to efficiently store your clothes in this poor excuse for a closet. And while this cheap system saved the builder a few bucks, it’s doing you NO favors!

And when most people are redoing a reach in closet, they’re looking for ways to add deeper shelves for jeans, sweatshirts or shoes – and possibly get in a few drawers and double hanging. And these are all great ideas.

However, because there’s a door header at the top, if you want to make shelves deeper the top shelf can’t be larger than 12” – because deeper shelves will block your ability to store anything at the top. And we all know you need to use every inch of your reach in closet. So, what can you do to ‘find’ space for deeper shelves and drawers – yet still use the top shelf?

And here’s the smarter solution – Use what us ‘fancy-schmancy’ closet designers) call a ‘reach vertical.’ This section separator board (we call it a vertical) allows you to use deeper (14” at the bottom) shelf and drawers and taper the top shelf to 12” – so you’ll still be able to effectively use the space at the top.

Question 2 - reach verticals for a reach in closet upper shelving | Innovate Home Org | Columbus, OH | Custom Storage Solutions

Not very bright closet question #3 – Why can’t I have two hanging sections meet in the corners?

Oh no, says Mr. Bill (for those of you who even know who this guy is – and for those of you who don’t I’ve included his picture below), “You should not have hanging sections meet in the corners unless you like to torture yourself or want to ‘bury’ your partners outdated clothes!”

Question 3 - Mr. Bill | Innovate Home Org | Upper Arlington, OH

This is the #1 closet design sin. I try desperately to NOT let my clients put 2 hanging sections in the corners.

Hang vs. hang (as I call it) creates a ‘Bermuda triangle’ corner where clothes come to D-I-E and never be found again.

And here’s the smarter solution- Put shelving (or a drawer section) on the wall perpendicular to the hanging. You’ll be able to see (and even use) everything in your closet corners. And you can take that to the bank!

Question 3 fixing a bad closet corner in Hilliard Ohio custom closet | Innovate Home Org | Organization System

Not very bright closet question #4– Can I put an island in my 8’ x 8’ closet?

A closet island (especially with a cool light fixture) is soooo elegant. They can be wonderful places to stage clothes for tomorrow (although you can also use a valet rod to accomplish this) – or to put your laundry basket when you’re putting away clothes. And let’s not forget closet islands can give you extra room for drawers or shelves for clothes or shoes.

However, here’s the problem. When you put an island in the middle of the space EVERYTHING gets more cramped. And you don’t want your closet to feel like you’re walking through a corn maze.

And here’s the smarter solution – At a minimum, you’ll want 2’ around the island (and possibly more if you want to incorporate drawers). Before committing to an island talk to a professional closet designer. I’ll be honest, I’ve talked more people out of islands due to lack of space – than islands my business has built for people.

Not very bright closet question #5 – “Can’t I use slanted shoes shelves (like I see in celebrity closets on Pinterest),” says the overstuffed closet owner with 60 pairs of shoes.

To set the record straight, I don’t have anything against slanted (AKA raised) shoe shelves. However, I rarely use or recommend them. And here’s why….

Simply put, there’s dead space behind the slanted design. You’ll get less shoes in your closet (and spend more money). And that ain’t a good idea if you’re redoing your closet to increase storage.

And here’s the smarter solution – Since you need more space (and maybe, just maybe you’re not ‘made of money’ (which if you didn’t realize it stands for M.O.M.) the better design approach are flat adjustable shoe shelves. Sure – they ain’t sexy. However, they work fab-u-lous-ly! And if you want to go deep with shoe storage ideas read, 13 Wild, Wacky, and Workable Shoe Storage Tricks You Need to Know.

Question 4 shoe storage ideas innovate home org

Not very bright closet question #6 – Can’t I just have my carpenter build my closet while he/she’s is doing other trim work? Why do I need a closet designer and custom closet company?

I’ll tell you first I’ve got no bones to pick with carpenters. They have the ability to make miracles happen with wood (and besides a guy named Jesus even did this job!). However, just like any ‘general practitioner,’ they aren’t experts in everything.

And not to act like an arrogant designer or anything, but there’s more to closet design than slapping up a bunch of drawers, rods and shelves. And it all starts with a thoughtful (and understandable) design.

And here’s the smarter solution- There’s one huge thing a professional closet designer will do – a general carpenter won’t do and it’s critical. Professional closet designers create 3D drawings!

And why’s a 3D drawing so important? It’s because most people don’t ‘see’ or understand how the closet will live until it’s shown to them. And what’s great about a 3D design – is even closet designers will see things they don’t like (about their own designs) when they put them in 3D. Maybe the drawer section is too deep – making it hard to reach clothes on the side. Or they see a light switch would be covered by a section.

3D designs aren’t just to ‘wow’ you (although they will). No, 3D closet designs help you not mess up AND make sure your closet will work with your space limitations.

Not very bright closet question #7 – Why can’t I hang on both sides of a narrow walk in closet?

Well, you certainly CAN do this…. of course, that’s if (and only if) you love fighting through a good ‘ol fashion’ ‘corn-maize-ish’ closet 2 times a day (365 days a week). However, there’s a better way.

And here’s the smarter solution – Instead of hanging on both sides of a narrow closet, try (where possible) to use shelves and drawers on one side with hanging on the opposite side. People don’t realize you can get 2 to 2.5 times more clothes in a drawer vs. hanging – and shelves generally look neater than hanging clothes and her advice is still drilled into your head to this day.

For more insights on how to design a narrow walk in closet, read 7 Powerful Tips to Squeeze More Space and Beauty Into a Narrow Walk in Closet.  


Not very bright closet question #8 – Why can’t I put hanging above a 14”, 16” or 19” deep drawer section?

Here’s a fact (told to you by a closet designer, whose been around a closet or two or three before). Most people hang more of their clothes than they should. And you can blame your mom for this (and discuss it at your next therapy session), because she nagged you as a kid to pick up your clothes and hang them up.

But all kidding aside, the reason hanging above drawer sections is bad is because it makes it hard to see what’s in the drawers.

And here’s the smarter solution – Put open shelving – or closed doors with shelving – above your drawer stacks. This design will look neater, and you’ll be able to see what you’ve got in the drawers below your upper storage.

Not very bright closet question #9 – Even though I don’t have a huge closet, I’d love to store everything behind closed doors to keep the mess out of sight. Will this work?

Who wouldn’t love to hide messy hanging clothes behind doors. This way your spouse or partner’s blown up ‘closet organization system’ (sarcasm intended) would not be in plain (or complex) sight. Out of sight, out of mind, as they (whoever they are) say.

Well – while this would be swell, very few people have the budget – let alone the room for this. And the reason you don’t have the room is hanging clothes behind closed doors sections need to be 23” deep. In addition, you also need room for the doors to open AND space to stand behind them. And unless you’ve got a ‘celebrity-sized’ closet – this ain’t gonna be your reality.

And here’s the smarter solution – You (and whomever you’re sharing your closet with) need to make your open hanging look nicer. Here’s 3 ideas to make this ‘impossible dream’ happen:

  • Idea 1) Put pants at the top and shirts/blouses at the bottom. Then it’ll be easier to use (and see) the shelf below your pants.

Question 8 pants on top in double hang section

  • Idea 2) Pair clothes together (pants in one spot, casual shirts in another etc.).


  • Idea 3) Use matching velvet hangers. Velvet hangers save space and look waaay better than cheap wire hangers from the cleaners or ugly (and space-chewing) plastic hangers.

Not very bright closet question #10 – Why can’t I DIY this closet and save a BUNCH of money?

Who doesn’t want to save money? However, the problem with DIY closets is most are ‘modular’ systems. This is code-word for they’re designed in standard sized sections. And although that sounds good – the problem is your closet walls aren’t designed around standard modular closet sizes. And besides when you look at the value of a professionally installed closet – only 10 to 15% of the cost is labor (the balance is materials). So that’s why you aren’t saving too much when you diy this project.

And here’s the smarter solution – Simply put – get your closet professionally installed. It’ll not only save you a lot of aggravation – but you’ll also get peace of mind when it’s done right your system WILL NOT fall off the wall. And I’ve seen fallen closet sections countless times! And it’s also nice to know you’ll get a guarantee.  

Not very bright closet question #11 – Why can’t I put my drawers at the entry of the closet?

While it might be nice to have drawers available by the door, it’s rarely practical. You see if you have an in-swing entry door it can bang into the drawer if it was left open. Or if your spouse is rushing around and you leave the drawers open they may bump into it.

And here’s the smarter solution – Put your drawers on your ‘feature wall’ (which is the wall you see when you walk in). This is usually away from your door. This design adds style – and functions better.

Question 10 feature wall with drawers away from closet door | Innovate Home Org | Organization Solutions

So, have these ‘dumb questions’ – and smarter solutions – helped you develop a more effective design? How can I, my team, or Ariane help you next?

In reality this article was certainly NOT about making you feel dumb. However, it was about making sure you don’t end up living with mistakes you can’t undo.

So, did these ‘not very bright questions’ help you eliminate bad closet design ideas you don’t be dumb enough to put in your closet?

And if you’re still having a hard time putting it all together, I get it. You’re not a closet designer, and you likely don’t play one on TV, and I can understand that.

But if you need help – and live in Columbus Ohio – me and my team would love to be there for you. Call 614-545-6888 or request a Free 3D custom closet design.

And if you want expert insights on closet hardware, accessories and systems, contact Ariane Brabant (from Tag Hardware) at 631-875-2252.

And if you don’t live in Columbus (which is likely most of you)– I can refer you to a friend in the industry across the country. Comment below with your location and I’ll see if I can get help for you.  

Thanks for reading,



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 (8)

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    Hi! Thanks for so much great information.


    • Avatar

      Mike Foti


      Lizzie – I’m glad you found the information helpful! There’s more to learn about closets than many people realize. I was happy Ariane was able to provide me with such great input as well – Mike


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    Hi! Can you recommend someone in Columbia, SC? Thanks!


    • Avatar

      Mike Foti


      Kelly – I’d recommend you go to – this is our professional trade association and you may be able to find someone there. Thanks for reading my article! Mike


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    Melodie Villiers


    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and practical advice.


    • Avatar

      Mike Foti


      Melodie – I’m glad it was of assistance to you! Mike


  • Avatar

    Linda Latimer


    Please give me a reference in South Florida (33067). Thanks.


    • Avatar

      Mike Foti


      Good morning Linda – while I don’t have a specific recommendation for you I would recommend you look up the Association of Closet and Storage Professionals and they should have someone for you. Thanks for reading – Mike


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