For packing assistance, a 36"- or 42"-high counter allows a garment bag to be easily laid out and packed, while a pull-out hanging rod allows the client to gather items before being packed. Drawers with length-wise or cross-wise dividers can be organized so that all 3 oz. or less travel items, as well as other grooming equipment, can be easily located and packed quickly.
6. Design the lighting system.
Any well-designed dressing room will incorporate a carefully planned lighting system that not only meets building code requirements, but also makes seeing and selecting clothing easy, without producing a lot of heat.
Most importantly, understand the hazards of heat in an enclosed closet design. Any type of exposed bulbs are often considered a fire hazard by municipal codes and are not allowed in any room identified as a "closet." Designers should clarify with their local building department if there is a designated difference in code requirements for a closet and a dressing room, or if any space where garments are hung (regardless of size) is considered a closet. If so, your lighting choices are limited to enclosed fixtures with lenses.
Once you’re past the code issue, here are some helpful hints from Daniel Mattes, CLC (Certified Lighting Consultant through the American Lighting Association). He’s with the Bright Light Design Center in Wilmington, DE (www.brightlightdesigncenter.com).
- Avoid halogen or Zeon light lamps that can result in "hot spots" in closet design. Realize that high-wattage (high-lumen-output) halogen lamps are likely to burn out more frequently than their equivalent incandescent lamps – another reason they’re not suited for this environment.
- Avoid recessed can fixtures with incandescent lamps and lenses. Such fixtures installed in closets (often a second-floor installation) must also be certified to be insulated. Recessed can fixtures with lenses that are designed for insulated attic spaces will have low-wattage (lumen output) lamp maximums. They don’t deliver enough light.
- Even if exposed lamps are allowed in a recessed can fixture in a closet, avoid them unless you specify directional wall washer trims. Most recessed can fixtures are designed to illuminate a horizontal surface below them or provide directional light for artwork; they don’t "wash walls" very well. The role of a lighting system in a closet is to wash the entire wall space where items are hung or placed on shelving for storage. Mattes notes there are specialty recessed fixtures that overcome these drawbacks. Most designers find the additional costs outside the budget established for the project, but these special fixtures are worth the money. Designers just need to have an adequate lighting allowance in the estimate to specify them.
- Think about upgrading the switching system to make it easier for your client to enter and exit the closet. An "occupant sensor" is a great idea. The normal switch is replaced with a motion sensor that goes on when an individual enters the closet space, and off when the person exits.
- Use surface-mounted incandescent or fluorescent fixtures, which are functional and affordable.
Two surface-mounted incandescent fixtures (look for a fixture that has a maximum of three 60-watt lamps) will provide adequate lighting. Fluorescent lamps are also a good choice if chosen carefully based on the quality of light that will best
match the client’s lifestyle.
- You should be aware that 5,000° Kelvin fluorescent lamps, called "full spectrum lights," imitate true natural northern light, but because natural light has a bluish cast, it’s not great for skin tones. Instead, you could try a 3,500° Kelvin fixture, which is warmer and has good color rendition. It’s not only more flattering to skin tones, it’s also more appropriate for a client who dresses at the start of the day to begin that day spent under predominantly incandescent lighting.
- In small (reach-in) closets, keep it simple. Install an exposed fluorescent fixture (that does not get hot and will meet code) above the doorway, operated by a wall switch or by a hinge switch to wash the enclosed space.
- For large dressing areas, consider a three-tier lighting system. Directional surface-mounted lighting at the ceiling should be placed between the client and the racking system to illuminate the hanging clothes and/or items on shelves or racks.
A second surface-mounted lighting system illuminates the general area in front of the mirror so the clients can be well lt as they’re organizing their coordinated ensembles. A decorative fixture – a chandelier, perhaps – can then be installed
if the space is highly styled.
- Watch out for windows or skylights in closets: Clothes will be faded by direct sunlight. I try to avoid skylights altogether. And note that any windows installed need sun-blocking shades.