Building or Remodeling? How to Design your Closets

In my last post I confessed that I’ve been hanging out in a lot of closets!  I know that sounds miserable to some of you, but I’ve still been working on more closets – having more fun!


I finally put the finishing touches on Jase’s closet this weekend, when my awesome hubby took the kids to the mall so I could have the house to myself for a couple of hours!  Isn’t it amazing what we can accomplish when we have the house to ourselves for even an hour or two!


My biggest challenge in this closet is that Jase gets clothes passed down from his brother several years before he’ll be wearing them.  Right now Jase is wearing 3T clothes, yet I have 4T – size 6 and even some size 7 clothes that Carter is done with.  I have paired the clothes down to the things I think Jase will actually use, but it still ends up being a TON of clothes … summer tops, shorts, winter tops, pants, pajamas, shoes, winter wear…!  I want all of these clothes to stay upstairs so that I don’t have to constantly haul bins up and down from the basement.  I also just don’t want all that stuff in the basement storage room, so I’m utilizing his canvas bins in his closet to store clothes by type and size.


Here is his closet now…




These lower shelves have things I need regular access to, and items that he will need in the next season.  I have two shelves, with 4T clothes and pajamas on top and towels, pull-ups and sports gear on the bottom.





More white bins hold clothes that Jase won’t need for a year or two on his top shelf.




These are the super cheap canvas storage bins I’ve mentioned before from Michael’s.  They are part of the craft storage line and come in white and black.  They are just like the Closetmaid bins you get at Target, but they are less than half the cost!  At least once a month Michael’s puts their craft storage on sale and you can get these bins for $2.50-$3.00 depending on the sale.  The Closetmaid bins are at least $6.99 – if you find them on sale!




I do occasionally find the Closetmaid bins to be worth the extra money in places that the color is important to me.  For instance in Addison’s closet  – which is also a little playroom for her – I decided to spend the extra money on cute purple ones.  Let’s be honest – purple seems worth the extra money – how cute with a little pink label!  Navy blue on the other hand – not so much!  I’m pretty sure my boys could care less what color their bins are anyway.


By the way – the blue bins you see in the photos are a few I found as a set at Walgreens for crazy cheap about 6 years ago – and I’ve never seen them since. 🙁


Tucked in the back of the closet is one bin of sentimental items and one for size 6 clothes that didn’t fit on the top shelf.  I debated placing these clothes in his under-the-bed bag that he has.  However, I decided I would like to stay consistent with Addison’s layout and use the under-bed storage bag for items that I buy him in advance on sale or he gets as gifts.


So, that’s basically Jase’s closet  – he’s the unlucky 3rd child that doesn’t get a walk-in like the rest of us.  The fun part of his closet though is this Hot Wheels wall track – which I really just couldn’t bring myself to attach to the wall anywhere else in the house – even though it uses 3M strips.  I know, that is my slightly too OCD self that can’t lighten up and let him have his fun on the living room wall.  My hope is that letting him have it in his room will be a compromise and he won’t end up in therapy someday because his mom loved her living room too much to let him fully enjoy it. 🙂  But really, a toy free living room can be my saving sanity at the end of the day – that is if I have a bowl of ice cream and my hubby to enjoy it with!





I’d like to walk you through one more recent project, where I helped another gal plan out her son’s closet at their new house – start to finish.  This is a task that many of us don’t ever have to do, but it can also be overwhelming.  You may think, “an empty room to get rid of all my closet issues – awesome!”.  But in reality an empty room still has challenges, and can be really overwhelming with all of our options in closets these days.  Here is the process of planning and implementing the new closet system….


1.)    We started out by talking through what items would be stored in the closet – this is SUPER important!  To begin, you have to think through everything you want room for whether you are starting with a blank slate or a closet that is jammed packed already.  For a typical child’s closet you will have clothes, a few shoes, toys, books, sports gear, and off-season or handed-down clothing items.


The extra challenge in a child’s room is that you want to stay flexible with the space, because the ginormous Batman cave will one day be gone and replaced with a  million might beans, baseball cards, Bakugans or other tiny and ever-multiplying objects!  Also, those cute little size 10 toddler shoes will one day be replaced by giant tennis shoes and space swallowing high tops.


2.    After we had an idea of what would be stored in his closet I began looking for various storage pieces to contain clutter, that would be durable over time, while still looking nice in the space, without breaking the bank. Tall order, right!!!


I began looking for a few container options that would be mostly functional, knowing they could be tucked away out of direct sight when looking into the closet from the bedroom.  Here are my favorites for that purpose…


    The Container Store – Clear Storage Bins



Michael’s – Storage Cube



The Container Store – Grey Storage Cube



KASSETT Box with lid IKEA Perfect for newspapers, photos or other memorabilia.


Ikea – Kassett Box



The Container Store – Graphite Storage Box



We also looked for a few containers that were cute, and maybe a little more expensive that we could use sparingly in the highly visible areas of the closet.

KVARNVIK Box with lid IKEA Perfect for newspapers, photos or other memorabilia.

 Ikea – Kvarnvik Box



Grey Oskar Boxes


The Container Store – Grey Oscar Boxes



3.  After selecting products that would meet their storage needs, we sat down and laid out the closet – you know the shelves vs. hanging vs. shoes storage vs. drawers…. kind of planning.


You may ask why we started looking for products before planning shelves, it might seem a little backwards.  However, regardless of whether  you are laying out a custom closet or assembling one from various pieces at your local home improvement store there are many configuration options for a closet that do not significantly effect the price.  Good, quality storage pieces in various sizes and colors are harder to come by.


For example, most closets in our homes have 12 inch shelves, which is great if you just plan to use them for books or to stack folded clothes.  However, most of our bedroom closets need storage to contain toys with small parts, extra clothes (off-season, wrong size), memorabilia, art supplies, bags…  However, outside of the 12×12 inch canvas bins out there, you can find very few 12 inch deep storage solutions that have any height or meaningful capacity.  You end up with 6inch tall bins and a ton of space on top of them, or 16 inch bins that hang over the edge of your shelf – neither option is ideal.


With this knowledge of 12 inch shelves I recommended that we broaden our storage options and go with mostly 16 inch shelves.  In some closets this might not be an option, but if you have room for 16 inch deep shelves they will multiply the amount of storage space you have, while only eating up 4 extra inches of space in your closet!


We also talked through shoe cubbies, vs. a shelf that shoes could be placed on.  I like to keep things flexible in a child’s closet, so we opted for basic shelves that were spaced very close together.  Right now her son has small feet and only needs 2 shelves for his shoes, however as he grows he may need more space.  Instead of committing to a number of shoe cubes now, they can simply add or remove shelves over time to accommodate changing shoe sizes.


I also suggested that we use storage bins instead of drawers.  I find that drawers can become bottomless pits of mismatched junk pretty easily.  They also have a very definite height, width and shape that can’t be altered.  By sticking with shelves and adding storage pieces they can use the shelf for the Batman cave now, and use a collection of smaller bins to store the baseball cards, mighty beans and small stuff in years to come.  I am all about flexibility in a child’s closet – and BONUS! shelves are cheaper than drawers!  You can even use bins to store socks, underwear and pajamas if you don’t have a dresser (which this little man does have).


Last, but not least we REALLY! contemplated how much long hanging a boy needs.  Every closet has long hang – right! – so you have to include it – right!  Girl’s need room for dresses and long skirts, but boys can just fold pants over a hanger and often don’t have anything long.  Our husband might have a suit they like to hang in the “long hang area” but how many boys living at home wear a suit every day – ok, let’s not go there!  🙂  So,  we decided to go against the grain and stick with strictly short hang – knowing that a shelf could be removed down the road if it ever became a problem.


Side note:  when you go to all the design centers and stores we often find ourselves working with awesome handyman types, that can build our shelves and install our shelves with ease.  By default they know closets better than the average person, so we just go with what everyone else has and what is “standard”.  I say – “think outside the box, do what works for you”.  What woman wants a man to design her closet anyway?!  Well, I’d let Nate Berkus or Peter Walsh design my closet, but I’m talking average men here!



4.   Next we got to sit back and wait for the closet to be installed and the containers to be delivered.  Here’s what we had decided on…


For storage boxes and bins we decided on…



These awesome clear bins from The Container Store…  (the same ones I have all over my house!)



These slightly cuter, but large capacity boxes from Ikea.

KASSETT Box with lid IKEA Perfect for newspapers, photos or other memorabilia.


And, BONUS! when selling their previous home we had used these boxes in her son’s old closet for “staging” and were able to utilize them as the “cute bins”.  No purchase necessary!




Our final closet plan contained two towers of 16 inch shelves, one tower of 12 inch shelves for folded clothes, two towers of short hang – providing 4 sections of short hang space.  With adjustable shelves we decided on extra shelves for flexibility, with no designated shoe racks or drawers.



5.  For layout… we placed one of the 16 inch towers of shelves directly inside the door, where you will see it from the bedroom when the door is open.  This set of shelves is the “cute” part of the closet with the nicer storage bins and a few cute books and toys – giving the closet some visual appeal.






The cute wooden boxes hold small toys.  The labels add a little style, and a lot of function – WIN! WIN!  A few good bedtime books are necessary to store, but look super cute with these decorative bookends (which his mom had bought as a souvenir for him on a trip a while back).  The shoes look great nicely lined up, and since his everyday shoes are in the mudroom they will likely stay that way.  However, they are strategically low to the floor – not in direct line of sight in case they get a little jumbled over time!






We then placed one tower with 16 inch deep shelves in a “hidden location” to hide toys and provide “functional storage”. These are the clear bins that I love! Because they come in a variety of sizes you can contain a variety of things in one space, while keeping a cohesive look.  I also like the semi-transparent plastic because kids often times need to be able to see what is in their bins, but it hides the clutter just enough to make all those toys look less cluttered.  I also love that these bins are super durable and can take some serious wear and tear – I know because I’ve used them for years and never had one break!





He has toys on the lower shelves, and room for future clothes or memorabilia storage on the higher shelves.


Between these toy bins and his “cute tower” is extra hanging space that he doesn’t currently need, but works great for storing some of those more bulky items that young kids have – like stuffed animals.  It works out well that while their clothes are small their toys are big, and as their clothes get big, their toys get small!  O.k. that sentence made me a little dizzy – sorry about that, but you get the point!!!






The other side of the closet, with the easiest access, was designed to be the “dressing area”.  There is a 12 inch deep tower of shelves for folded clothes and the largest section of hanging space.






We also added an easy access space on the bottom for his art and “school” supplies.  These are not his main school items, but things he would want to use for art and learning play at his desk located just around the corner in his room. Again, the labels make the boxes a little cuter while making this storage system much easier to maintain.






I love these plastic magazine files too!  You can add decorative paper to the inside to hid their contents, or just pop on a cute label to dress them up while keeping contents easily visible.  You can find them in the office aisle at Target for just $2.39 – you can’t beat that!!
The back of the closet door or a side wall is a great place for a few 3M hooks.  We used one to store small bags that might be grabbed in a hurry, but they are also good for hats, ribbons, sports medals….





And the very top shelf that runs around the top of all of these shelves is a great place to store off-season clothes, memorabilia, and other items that you don’t need frequent access to.






This layout allows the closet to have “zones”.  Zones are good for several reasons.  It is easier for a child (and most adults!) to keep a space tidy if like items go with like items.  If toys are divided randomly into four different locations it can be hard to remember where they go back when it is time to pick up.  It is also easier to use a closet that has everything you might need at the same time in the same space.  One area of the closet holds clothes and shoes, meaning you can ignore toys in the morning and focus on getting dressed.


You can’t beat a closet that functions well, can grow with your kids and if I may say so… looks super cute!!!





And here is what you see from the door again…