DIY Closet project

bigdonkOctober 26, 2009

I want to surprise my wife by giving her a walk in closet. The previous owner of this house had a secret panic room off the master bath. Kinda weird if you ask me. However, it is fairly large and I want to convert it into a closet for my wife for Christmas. Since it has a secret door right now, I will be able to hide it until almost being completely done.

Floor dimensions are 13.5'L x 10.5'W with a 6' ceiling that is 24" wide of 6' in the center and then slopes down to about 40" from the floor at the full width of 10.5' on both sides.

There would be room to add drawers or shelves past the 10.5'W on the bottom because the slant obviously keeps going and I could recess if needed as well.

The doorway will be in the dead center of the room about 28" wide.

I thought I could actually get 2 bars on each side, but then it would be harder to see the back row and I really have no clue on anything about closets and imagine she will want shelf space for shoes and what not so...

I just need someone creative or experience in closet design to help me maximize the space. The more I can get out of it the happier she will be. The sloped ceiling is the biggest reason I need the help.

I appreciate any and all help in this.



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I don't know much about closets but I thought that the closet in the Sex and the City movie was fabulous. I'd love to have my very own closet based on that one.

Your wife is lucky to have you, Don.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2009 at 10:42PM
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I've had landlords who would call that a bedroom! If it's 10' wide, even subtracting 4 feet for typical "hanging closet" depth, you have a 6' aisle in the middle ... marvelous.

Hanging "systems" are fabulous because they can be moved around as needs change. I would line the walls with the system hardware, set up a basic system and hand her a wrapped package of "parts" to play with.

The back wall should have an adjustable hanging system for long clothing in the center 6' section. At the sides of that, you can put more hanging system stuff or drawers.

One question: is she a "folder" or a "hanger" when it comes to storage? Does she wear lots of skirt/blouse combos, suits, or mostly dresses? 40" is enough for blouses, most skirts, and folded pants, so hanging system on the sides could be used for clothes or used with a shelf unit in front of it for folded things.

Things to include:
Full-view mirror on the back of the door.
Somewhere to sit and do makeup and put on shoes, next to the door. A small vanity/bathroom cabinet with mirror and lighting is all it needs.
Really GOOD lighting, natural daylight shade, and pale paint.
Shoe cubicles.
Drawers or shelves for storing folded sweaters. (shallow is better than deep)
A couple of shallow, divided drawers for underwear.

A hard floor finish, because walk-in closets get really dusty from the lint.

You can probably use off the shelf drawer and cabinets meant for kitchens or bathrooms.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 11:02AM
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Have you tried using an on-line closet planner?

Here is a link that might be useful: Easy closets

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 5:01PM
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OK, now we are getting somewhere :)

First of all she is a hanger not a folder whenever possible. She is a 3rd grade school teacher and mostly wears blouses and dress pants I would say, but she does have a fair amount of dresses.

I left out and realized I need to add.
She already has a huge mirror in the bathroom with a sit down area for doing makeup.

If you could give me a sample of the "Hanging" systems I would appreciate it. I don't know if you mean the white wire organizers or something else. I kind of wanted to stay with white wood if that makes sense, but I will build anything myself so I can save some money and I am very handy with tools. It doesn't have to be perfect as long as it is functional and still looks good.

I have a couple pics I hosted on my works website to show the room. Maybe that could help on better placement of rods, shelves, drawers, and I really like the idea of giving her a place for all her shoes :)

I hope this sheds a little more light on what I am working with. Thanks again for all the help.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 6:41PM
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Ditto to what Lazygarden wrote:

I know you want to DIY it, but check out the Closetmaid and Container Store web sites for inspiration pics (Closetmaid has both the white wire shelves and laminates; Container Store's Elfa system has both, too). What you really need are just the top rails and standards to get started; you could do the white laminate shelves yourself, so I think you can still do a bit DIY and save some money. At least check out how those systems work to see if you can duplicate the idea.

I think this is going to be a 2-part project: You can do the first part, putting up the basic skeleton of it, but I'm sure she will want to decide whether she wants, say, open shelving for her shoes or closed/concealed (for me, it's a dust issue).

I think what you don't want is to just place an ordinary closet rod on the back wall. That's not going to offer many customization options for her. What I can picture there, on the back wall, is using the Closetmaid system, or something similar: check the 2 websites I mentioned. They use a "rail" (also called a "track" at Container Store) from which "standards" hang. Once the rail and standards are up, anything is possible! I would do the rails the entire length of the wall, at the height where the ceiling starts to slope. Then I'd have another rail maybe 4feet higher than that, centered on the wall. The standards hang off of those and closet rods can be added to both side sections and then to the center section (the center section would give her more vertical hanging space for whatever dresses, long coats she has.)

Also some things to think about:
--Open or closed storage for her shoes? For me, how much dust I can deal with is the deciding factor. I would try to find short bookcases with glass doors that could fit on one of the sidewalls. If an Ikea is near you, they might still sell the Billy bookcases with glass doors. Discount cabinetry is also an option, if you have those places around you. If you think she's not bothered by a little bit of dust, I would do a line of short bookcases (white laminate) on a side wall, with adjustable shelves to hold shoes, purses, maybe some decorative boxes for all those other things women need.

--Is there good lighting in there?
--Will you add a rug? (the point about hard floors making it easier to clean lint is good, but I want it cozy for my tootsies in the morning!)
--Do you plan to do anything to cover the ceiling? You have to make the space pretty!
--Since there's lots of space, I'm sure she'd love a bench so that she could lay out clothes or dump shopping bags on (I'd leave this until later, but I'd reserve the space for it).
--For drawers, I think just plain cheap white laminate chests would be fine. I think that even Target and WalMart sell these now (but I'd be at Ikea in a heartbeat! no, I don't work there; the crowds would drive me bonkers)
--Even tho there's a mirror elsewhere, I still think one in the closet is very useful, when she's pulling out an outfit and holding it up to see if it "works."
--And maybe one of the most impt things: Do you think she hides Christmas presents in that "secret room"? You don't want her stumbling on HER present!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2009 at 1:24AM
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check out some online sites for california get an idea..and then count the things she has to put in it..count her shoes..purses..hats..coats..long things..slacks..etc..and use the design a closet ideas on some sites (google design a closet) figure out what components you best need.

put the hanging at the far end..and make sure that she can reach the top bar easily..and use double bars if there are not a lot of long hanging things..set up a separate long hanging thing for car coats and dresses

    Bookmark   October 28, 2009 at 11:39AM
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This may be bad, but I never heard of ikea till a couple weeks ago when a helped a friend move their cousin from Chicago to Cleveland and she said she had to goto Pittsburgh to goto ikea and buy stuff for her apartment. Now when you mention them I look them up and see that I may be able to get a bunch of stuff from them. I could line the whole side with the 41" height billy shelves and then even put them on the far wall as well and then put rods on the other wall or maybe in front of the cabinets on the wall as well. Just slide some clothes out of the way and bam...more storage :)

Pittsburgh is only about 2 hours away so thats not a big deal to me. Plus I travel for work and go right through there anyway.

Thanks for the Christmas reminder on if she would go in there, but she can't even remember how to get in the room LOL! You have to pull a screw that is attached to a wire that unlocks a door that looks like a wall. Only 24" x 36" I would say on the door. So I don't have any worry of that. I just have to cut the door opening last.

Actually I was thinking about the mirror thing. Do you think if I put a 6' x 28" mirror as the opening into the new room and it would just slide open. and have mirror on both sides so if she closed it she could use it inside the room as well? Need a womans point of view on that.

I will keep you posted on how I decide to go. I did find a site that did a free design & quote and it gave me some ideas. One thing I have to do is put in a station to iron clothes.

Does anyone have experience with those steam things? Are they better than ironing or even worth it?

THanks again,

    Bookmark   October 28, 2009 at 5:48PM
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Hi Don,

I don't have any other suggestions than all the good ideas you've already received. I just want to say what a great idea you have to do all this work & what a great guy you are to want to do something so nice for your wife!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2009 at 6:49PM
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What a wonderful Christmas surprise!!!! A steamer doesn't take the place of an iron. If I need something steamed, my steam iron works just fine. Don't waste your money on a steamer. Good luck.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2009 at 8:54PM
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My daughter swears by her steamer. She thinks it's one of the best items she's ever purchased. Personally, I've only used a handheld steamer for cleaning the house.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2009 at 9:01PM
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I can't add anything in terms of what to put in there, I think others have covered it. I can only add that doing my research and having a small budget (well, no budget actually), I found the HD closet wire organizational system very sturdy, flexible in design options and inexpensive. I like that the shelves and drawer components are easy to change around if the need changes.

Did someone mention a nice chandelier? That will send her over the top. LOL One preferably with crystals and sparkle. Doesn't have to be large, just gorgeous and capable of putting out enough light.

You're a very thoughtful husband. The world needs more like you. Good luck.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 1:29AM
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If she prefers hanging, I'd do most of the closet in rods. I'd make the aisle width equal to as wide as you can hang a rod 65" from the floor. This is for her dresses.

Then I'd hang half-height rods at 36" along the sides and use the remaining height for shelves for shoes, purses, sweaters, etc.

If she does not do lots of folding, more folding space would be wasted.

I wouldn't try to use the full width of the room simply because the ceiling slopes. If she has to bend over to get to her things, it won't be very pleasant. MUCH better to leave "dead" space behind the clothes on each side. Then, she can use it for off-season clothes (if she ever gets than many!!!) or for luggage storage or other things.

Two IKEA Malm dressers should be able to hold all her folding drawer things.

Personally, I'd prefer a freestanding ironing board because you can move all around it and it's easy to iron clothes on than a built-in. A small false wall about 18" wide for hanging it and the iron would work well. There is not enough ceiling height to move around a permanently placed ironing board without interfering with traffic, anyway.

If she would use it, the space is large enough for a sit-down vanity. Many women would love it; many others wouldn't be interested at all.

Consider a jewelry armoire, too.

Whatever you do, allow her to be standing straight as she looks through her clothes, selects, and hangs them. DO NOT make her bend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I know you're really wanting to use every square foot (with your talk or recessing), but uncomfortable square feet are wasted square feet.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 2:58AM
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Looking at your picture, this would create a 4' central aisle--essentially, creating the illusion that the depth of the close is 8-9' rather than 10.5'. Believe it or not, you'll actually get MORE storage out of this because you'll have greater vertical space.

With a dress rod of 4' across the back, which looks like what you're going to get, you would then set the rods for the sides back 1' or a tiny bit more on wither side. Put in shelves that come to 1' beyond the half-height side rods. Add vertical dividers where needed, and put two IKEA Malm dressers near the entrance and a jewelry armoire and the ironing board storage wall across from each other about halfway down, and you have an ultra-organized, extremely usable solution.

Once again, I caution against any design that makes her bend over to reach her clothes!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 3:09AM
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Is it too off topic to ask why have a "Panic Room"? Considering this forum, maybe this is where you throw all the junk when doing a quick cleanup for unexpected guests. Do you have any idea at all who would make such a big and SECRET room?

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 10:23PM
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We'd call it the "scoop and stuff" room if that were its function! And it wouldn't look this empty most of the time!

I have an upstairs attic that shares that roof profile, and it is really tough to make good use of the space. You can make the best use of the short walls if you have a chair to sit in while contemplating whatever is stored there.

The other thing I would think about are rolling racks and shelves. For example, you could put shelving all along the stub walls, and then in front of them put maybe three tall rolling racks for hanging things the length of pants/dresses. These could be moved around to allow access to whatever part of the shelving she wants to have - to be moved with the seasons, perhaps. Obviously you need one empty rack space at least to move the racks TO when you want to get in behind it.

Making a lot of stuff mobile means the room can be more multi-purposed.
And come to think of it, the chair could be on wheels so she could scoot as she searches for the perfect shoes. Otherwise, have more than one chair in there.

The other thing I'd warn about is that you're unlikely to get it perfect the first time - I don't know if I could even design that for myself perfectly the first time. So be prepared to move some stuff - maybe build with screws rather than nails :-)


    Bookmark   November 2, 2009 at 3:18PM
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Well its been a little while and I have been planning and am about to start going on this. I found google sketchup and let me say it is absolutley amazing. I should have the basic design done in a day or so and I'll post the sketch pucture here so I can get some feedback from all of you. Google sketchup is free and was very easy for me to figure out using the help and wait till you see the picture. It almost looks real.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 7:06AM
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I love the chandelier idea, but with a 6' ceiling it might not be practical. We have a similar room in our house with low clearance and we went with recessed lighting. But, there are attractive recessed lighting fixtures; a little glam won't hurt. Pretty sconces (some have chandelier-style arms) would be good too, but it sounds like space on the flat walls may be too precious for that.

I'd be concerned about using an iron with a steam feature or a steam iron in an unvented room where I store nice clothes and shoes. You don't want to encourage mold and damp. Perhaps plan another place for ironing.

Depending on the size of the aisle in the middle, consider a bench with plush top and storage underneath. I would get one long enough to lie down on if there's room. Not that I'd ever take a nap in my closet, lol, but just that size would look really luxurious. Tiny benches look skimpy. Bench storage with a lift lid is not great for everyday items, but convenient enough for off season clothing or blanket storage.

In my son's closet, there is a spot with double the depth of a normal rod. I'm deliberately planning rod storage there (instead of shelving) so that we can push things aside and get to seldom used items behind the rod. With your depth, there might be a spot where you want to do something like this as well.

I love my billy bookcase with glass doors, can't wait to get more.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 8:58AM
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They call them "vaulted", oooh la la!

Not necessarily the best use of space (I haven't analysed it), but when I saw it I thought of your project and just thought the pics might be useful somehow. The second thumbnail shows how they staggered the units to handle the slope.

Here is a link that might be useful: vaulted closet

    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 10:06AM
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"Is it too off topic to ask why have a "Panic Room"?"

Saw one in a Street of Dreams house once. It is a safe space one could go to (if enough time) in the event of something like a home invasion or intruder. If it is set up correctly, it will also have a phone inside to call the police.


    Bookmark   November 13, 2009 at 10:55AM
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I could also imagine a panic room being very helpful if you have teenagers you just can't deal with anymore! (You decide if it is you or them to go into the room.)

    Bookmark   November 28, 2009 at 8:38AM
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If the OP is still around, I'd love to see the finished closet.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 8:12PM
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I agree. I too would love to see this. What an awesome gift!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 2:20AM
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