Closet doors when converting closet opening in older house

needinfo1August 7, 2014

Our house is 100 years old and has the typical limited closet issues. In one of our bedrooms we have a closet with interior measurements of 31" by almost 9'. Currently there is one 28" wide door that is set 18" from one end the end of the closet, meaning it is virtually impossible to really utilize the closet because there is no good access to the hidden end. We want to open up the wall and install new doors to maximize use of the closet.

What is the best way to do this? Most sliders I've seen aren't right for this house. There is no room for pocket doors. I've never seen really nice-looking, period apropriate bifolds, but maybe there are some out there that would work. I like the idea of a double French door type entry, but if we did this, and went as large as using 30" doors centered on the wall, this would still mean about 16" of interior space on either end that is not wide open and accessible. This is a pretty upscale neighborhood, and we want to do something that looks period appropriate and is a high quality look rather than a tacky look.

To top it all off, one of the 31" walls has a small window in it. So, a standard rod can't be run wall to wall anyway. At the Container Store they told me that Elfa systems could be used because all of the mounting is done on the back wall. So, maybe this would work, but I'd still have dead space.

Have any ideas for me before I meet with my contractor? Thanks.

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I've lately wondered what using window treatments might be like in a closet situation, i.e.: a custom fit cordless blind you can raise and lower, or vertical blinds that act like sliding doors.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 9:03PM
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16" is not that deep for inaccessible space. In a closet that big you could put shelves there on one or both sides and store off season clothes or longer term storage items there.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 9:26PM
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I redid a few closets with the same issue a few years ago. I used sliders because I was able to find some 6 panel doors at our local RESTORE that (unless you look REALLY close) match the original doors in my 1930's 2 story Colonial. I CAREFULLY removed the original molding and door frames and was able to use and duplicate the original molding. Since the doors originally had doorknobs, I removed the knob assembly and just use the holes with rosettes like those little finger knobs used on newer sliding doors.
I actually built out the closet and one room and took out the old closet and built a new one. Each one, because the rooms are small got the sliding door treatment.
It's getting late here and I haven't posted in ages so maybe tomorrow I'll figure out how to get into photobucket and get some pics up for you.
Just this weekend, I outfitted the narrow space where the old closet was in one room with some dressers creating a huge storage wall.
Just posted this week on the "other" decorating board (dare I say HGTV?).
It's easy to post pics over there so I'll post pics of the finished project and give a try to here (long overdue).

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 9:54PM
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Tibbrix--good idea but too contemporary for my house I am afraid. And, I think I want something that looks more finished with carpentry.

palimpsest--I am half thinking the same thing that perhaps this isn't an extraordinary amount of dead space and wondering if I could just have shelving across the narrow ends for a different type of storage.

jaysmon49--Please, please upload the photos if you have time. I too am thinking of visiting our local salvage place. They have tons and tons of doors from vintage houses.

Thanks all.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 10:23PM
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Possible drawer front on the 18" end?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 10:28PM
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No pictures but could you use a "barn door"? I love the looks of them. Also agree with putting shelves on the inside ends of your closet for shoes, linens, purses and etc.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 2:06PM
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Why not two sets of doors? Here are two possibilities. The doors are each 18" wide. The advantages of the double doors are 1) you can store shallow items on the inside of the door, like shoes and accessories, and 2) you can have mirrors on the inside of a set of doors to give you a front and back view of yourself.
With either arrangement, you have to reach in no more than a foot to access the space behind a wall.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 4:43PM
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Seconding jaysmom's suggestion- yesterday, at an antique/junk shop, I spotted the strangest sizes and shapes of doors piled up in a corner with tags that started around $25. It's worth a look anyway.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 4:51PM
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Here's a pin board from Pinterest of closet door ideas ....

..... maybe an old sliding barn door as a closet solution?

Here is a link that might be useful: Pinterest -- pins of closet doors

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 4:56PM
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Thanks for all the suggestions and help.

Sliding barn doors are too rustic looking for the rest of our house.

The two sets of doors idea is intriguing, but I'll have to think about how much cost this would add to the project.

Now I just redid the math and figured out that in reality, if I go with a single set of 60" doors, I'd have more like 22" or 23" of dead space at either end of the closet. I'm guessing that is probably too much. Am I right?

Can any of you who have "real" reach-in closets with deadspaces at the end comment on how difficult it is to access that dead space behind the wall?

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 6:02PM
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I have a closet with 39 inches of dead space behind the door, and it is completely inaccessible. I think that 22 or 24 inches would also be really difficult. If you can possibly manage the two-door solution, that really looks like the best option.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 7:36PM
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if you do something like suero posted w/2 sets of double doors you could split the undoored space into 3 parts. 1 part for each end and 1 for the center (between the 2 sets of doors).
In the center 'part' you could put clothes you don't wear that often (like more dress up things). Maybe the same for 1 far end of the closet and on 1 end put shelves. None of them would be that 'deep' then.

I use plastic bins on shelves above my 'hanging' area for things like soft/cloth belts, scarves, cases for my glasses, spare glasses and sunglasses etc. As someone already posted shelves there could also be used for shoes, purses and a number of other irems.

I have a shelf running front to back lower to the floor on one side of my closet. I hang shirts on that side so there was a lot of unused space there. I use it to stack my sweats during the winter and my t-shirts and shorts in the summer. There's still room under that shelf for shoes.

On the other side of my closet I have a cabinet that is 5' H x 2'W and 1' deep. I use that for pjs, nightshirts and more t-shirts/shorts/long pants or sweats.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 6:15AM
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I tried last night to post pics and no luck. Will try again today.
I did post a few over on the other board.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 8:46AM
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Can you post a link to the other board? Is that allowed? I have bifold doors on my closet in my 1920 Colonial so would love to have a more attractive option!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 11:09AM
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I found Jaysmom49's thread on the HGTV board but couldn't see the pictures. Do you have to be a member and signed in to see pictures there?

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 2:52PM
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Yes, you must be signed in. Since photobucket will let me sign in but not post, anyone have another site I can use. Can't link, get an error message.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 3:36PM
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Ok, here goes..directly from my computer-don't know if it works.

This is a shot of the bathroom door which shows the flat molding and the six panel doors which are all through the house.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 9:30PM
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First, I'm embarrassed because the left door looks yellow but IRL they match. So here's the closet doors in the 3rd BR, I still need to fill in where the hinges went and re-paint but you get the idea.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 9:40PM
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straight on

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 9:49PM
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So here's the deal. The 2 doors above are the original doors off the 2 closets from BR 2 & 3. The next 2 shots are a pic of the closet in BR 3 where I just found storage pieces to fill where the old closet was. Finally, the RESTORE doors in BR 2.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 9:52PM
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and the RESTORE doors on BR2 closet. Still wonder why I couldn't post this way the past 2 days LOL!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 9:55PM
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Look into Johnson Hardeware full access closet door hardware. It is a special pivoting hinge that gives you much better access to the sides of your closet.

Here is a link that might be useful: Johnson full access hardware for closet doors

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 6:38AM
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jaysmom49--Thanks for making all the effort to post those photos. What a great idea you had!

kswl--Thanks for the link to the Johnson Hardware site. It has some great inspiration photos and info.

I am going to have another conversation with my contractor tomorrow.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 2:32PM
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Believe me, I understand where you're coming from. I was here 15 yrs plus when I finally figured out how/where to deal with the closet situation!
I also looked at the Johnson Hardware hinges but since the rooms are SO small, sliders made more sense. While sliders are don't make the entire closet accessible at once, it's a huge improvement over what I had before-2 5' closets with a door on each end that were so narrow you couldn't hang a hanger on the rod.
Good luck and post pictures when you're done.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 3:21PM
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While surfing tonight, I came across some photos of reach-in closets with the type of dead spots I thought I'd have on the ends of the closet. This one is actually a very good use of the space on the ends and something I will definitely consider doing. If anyone else is facing this dilemma, take a look. The closet has a rod mounted parallel to the narrow ends, so that would be about 20" or so on the inaccessible end, and then the middle section rod is mounted parallel to the long wall. This seems like really an optimal solution when using double doors.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 11:22PM
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It is really too bad you can't get that window's light to access the rest of the room. Any chance of shortening the closet, or moving it to another location in the room?

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 11:32PM
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The option we are now most strongly thinking about is making the closet shortened and putting a divider wall in the closet space to create a small desk nook at the end where the window is. This way I can have a fully accessible closet, but it will be smaller. And, we benefit from the light and get a small desk area.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 9:39AM
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All the closets in my house have French doors that open and then dead space on either side like you describe. Anywhere from 20 inches up to more than 30. The closets are simple with just a bar across. At some point I would like to add shelving units. At that point i'd put shelves in the dead space for sweaters and jeans. Right now I hang stuff that isn't worn as often in the "dead space" (My wedding dress,The bridesmaids dresses I paid too much for to throw away, skinny clothes id like to fit in again, light jackets-heavy coats have their own closet but if they didn't I'd put them there, etc). I've never seen the dead space as a problem. I didn't realize it was "dead" space until I read this post. Most likely bc I really enjoy being able to swing the doors open and see most of the closet since we have French doors and not sliders. I was so happy about that, the dead space was just an opportunity to hide things I don't need to see every day.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 9:36AM
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This is so, so helpful because I now think we will just stick with my original idea of using the entire space as closet rather than trying to carve it up into a closet area and a separate desk nook area.

I have some questions for you. How deep is your closet? If you stand in front of the closet with the doors open, and the rod is full of hangers with clothes on them and you pretend you instead have shelves across the end, would you be able to fairly easily reach things on those shelves, or would the hanging garments interfere with being able to access those shelves pretty easily? My closet is 30" deep, and I am concerned about whether with the double door opening I'd truly be able to access that shelf space on the ends of the closet or if I'd get tangled up in clothes on hangers.

Thanks so much.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 10:12AM
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The closet in my master is 29 inches deep. Then I have 3 other closets upstairs like this in my sons' rooms and the guest rooms. Those closets are 22, 23, and 24 inches deep. I'm standing in front of them now and thinking that if I had shelves on the sides and a bar across connecting them....well, if they were jammed packed like I have some of these closets then it might be annoying trying to move past the hangers to reach the shelves. It depends on how much stuff is in there.
Looking at it now, I think I have actual "dead space" above my bar. There is so much room between the shelf above the bar and the ceiling that if I was to change my closet right now I might just keep the bar across and add cubbies above the bar for my bulky sweaters.
I really don't find reaching into the side space to be that annoying. I noticed in my husbands closet he has his suits in the side space. He only wears suits at weddings and funerals. He also keeps the ironing board in there. We don't iron often. Apparently I never do bc I just now learned that's where we keep it. Lol.
I don't think that little bit of "wasted space" is worth such a huge overhaul. As long as it's lit well and the doors are good (I can't say enough how much of a difference it was going from sliders and bifold doors in my last house to doors that swing open). And we have good lighting in the closet which makes it easier to see all the way into the side space.
For the record, I hang 90% of my clothes. I only fold sweaters and undergarments. So having just hanging bar isn't so bad for me.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 7:33PM
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I am changing the single door out for a double because one end of my current closet has 58" of dead, inaccessible space. That is why I am trying to look at configurations.

In the event anyone is reading this in the future trying to figure out similar solutions, I found this fabulous link with lots and lots of different ideas.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 9:38AM
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