HOME: Closet Envy

The old saying goes, “Show me a man's library and I will tell you who he is.” But now most people's libraries are virtual ones, squirreled away on their iPad or Kindle, and the saying needs an update. So, “Show me a man's closet, and I will tell you who he is!” works even better, especially today, when the custom closet has become one of the most coveted spaces in the modern home.

Closet space is vitally important, and the walk-in closet is a room that all homeowners daydream about ““ a place where all our things can be organized, readily accessible and easy to see. It's irresistibly attractive.

Teresa Kennelly, from Misani Custom Design (misani.ca), transformed unused attic space in a 25-year-old home into a closet lover's dream.

“We spent a year just designing the closet. It was a major piece of work since we were opening up dormers that were not insulated, and dealing with sloping ceilings and odd shaped walls. All of the cabinetry had to be designed to fit into this unique space.”

The result is a massive, beautiful dressing room that feels light and spacious. “You could have a party in here, no problem!” says Kennelly. “The closet is the size of two kitchens.” In addition to the closet and dressing room, there is a master ensuite bath and spa area, with a fireplace and TV on this floor.

This is a clean-lined space with a contemporary feel. Kennelly calls it “transitional”, not strictly contemporary or traditional. “The rounded edges on the doors were custom designed, dictated by the shape of the drawer pulls, which are rounded. That's kind of backwards for how we would usually do a design, but that's the way it played out.”

There are plenty of mirrors, good lighting, and a large sitting area. Hardwood floors, dark wood counters and trim add to the clean lines. Lighting, ventilation, cooling, heating and humidity control were all things that had to be factored into the design of this attic space.

“Everything is in the planning” explains Kennelly. “This took us a year to design, but we have more than 75 drawers in this closet, and they hold everything without looking cluttered or crowded. Utility and functionality are the foremost consideration, but it is of course important to retain the aesthetics.”

“We worked closely with the clients to make sure that the space matched their needs, which we determined after a mutual overall needs assessment, and made sure that the design suited the rest of the house. It is important to respect the client's taste, as well as meet the needs of practicality.”

Clients today are really customizing their closets. This one has a clothes steamer in one of the closets, and clients are interested in having ironing boards and laundry hampers designed into the space. Some closets have speakers for music, roll-out shelves, specialty make-up mirrors and variable light options, including chandeliers and wall sconces.

Professional organizers will tell you that organizing your closet will decrease your stress levels, help you de-clutter other areas of your life and leave you time to dream of other things. Just a few more reasons, if you needed any, to turn your closet into an inviting retreat.

Samer Rahwanji, of Closet & Storage Concepts of Canada (closetandstorage-concepts.ca) helps homeowners create their dream closets, and knows how to guide the process. “The first consideration,” he tells me, “is available space. How much area can be devoted to the closet?”

If there is generous space for the ideal closet, perhaps an island in the room can be the best configuration. An island can provide storage space, a place for a lamp or mirror, a make-up area, or a work space. “It's very popular right now to build islands in closets, but the island has a big footprint. You need to be able to move around the island easily, without crowding, and you need to consider, as well, that sometimes the drawers will be open and there must be room to move around them and access them.”

“If an island won't work, sometimes a peninsula will.”

Another important decision that clients must make is a needs assessment. “Each client is different. There are long hang, double hang, medium hang and single hang configurations, dependant on the client's clothing styles. Is there a lot of formal wear that requires long hanging? How about shoes, jewellery, handbags? These are the factors that will determine the closet shelving design.”

One of his recent closet installation for clients involved taking an existing mirror that the clients loved and incorporating it into the closet. The cabinetry was also designed to match the furniture and trim in the master bedroom, with flooring, wood finishes and trim done to match.

This was a traditional classic style closet, done in dark wood, with a granite-topped island. The pots lights were supplemented with lamp lighting on the island. Shelves and cupboards were custom designed to organize the wardrobe requirements of the clients, with tie, belt and scarf racks to keep things in their place. A bench provides seating.

It's a classically formal retreat, a dressing room as well as a closet, worthy of “bespoke tailoring” and a personal manservant.

Rahwanji knows that homeowners today are very interested in expanding their closets but has some advice. “First of all, call an expert to advise you. They can help you avoid costly mistakes in design. The client should decide on finishes and style, but you need someone who really knows about closet space and organizing systems to make the space work well and to maximize the storage space while keeping it user friendly.”

“And clients need to be realistic. Sixty pairs of shoes and dozens of handbags won't fit in a limited space.”

The hottest items in closet design right now, according to Rahwanji, are more contemporary colours and styles, with straight lines and glossy, textured finishes. A drawer with a charging station for iPhones and iPads is a popular addition, as are mirrors that fold away, hang rods with built-in lighting, built-in safes and custom-designed jewellery drawers. Cedar is becoming a desirable wood to use, especially when humidity is a problem.