Dressing Areas Offer New Opportunities

Master suites are our sanctuary, an area away from the stress of daily life and work, and we are seeing sitting rooms, morning kitchens (or at the least a coffee maker) and luxurious master bathrooms becoming standard requests to complete the suite. We're also witnessing an evolution from the common walk-in closet to the extraordinary custom dressing area.

While a walk-in closet provides storage for clothes, a dressing area expands on this concept, not only creating a space large enough to dress in, but also providing room for storage of clothes as well as items to assist in the dressing process. Where the closet is for storage, the dressing area is a living space that includes this storage.

Another difference is the relationship of the dressing area to the rest of the suite. A walk-in closet typically has one door, through which a person walks in, selects items of clothing and walks out. A dressing area works with the circulation and traffic flow of the suite from the bathroom to the bedroom and back again. The dressing area is to the bathroom and bedroom as the butler's pantry is to the kitchen and dining room. The room is often open with no doors, and we are seeing a trend where the line between the dressing area and bath is becoming less defined.

A dressing area includes all of the necessities from head to foot literally. The first and most important component of the dressing area is storage. While standard-depth closets can be included within the room, the open layout of the dressing area provides an opportunity for built-in cabinetry and furniture pieces with personality, such as an antique armoire.

Incorporating an island of cabinetry similar to a kitchen island provides a work surface without interrupting the traffic flow.

One of our clients incorporated a walk-in cedar closet at one end of the dressing area so that there's no need to haul clothes from the attic every season.

In addition to storage, you should allow 42" clear floor space for dressing, a full-length mirror and a plus a bench, when possible, for putting on socks and shoes. Often, a dressing table or make-up counter is positioned to take advantage of any natural light. We've even seen bath lavatories or additional lavatories placed in the dressing area.

Lighting is critical in all components of the dressing area. Fluorescent lighting is recommended for interior closet lighting, with its minimal heat generation, and incandescent or natural sunlight is the choice for the best color rendition.

For clothes maintenance, the dressing area might also include a steamer, ironing board or other appliances that remove odor and wrinkles from clothes. Although not as common, front-loading or stacked laundry equipment in the area is a great convenience.

In addition to overhead task lighting, plan for a lamp and possibly a magnifying glass than can be repositioned as needed. Ventilation should not be overlooked, since air flow, odor and moisture control are important in the preservation of clothes, especially if the dressing area is open to or adjacent to the bathroom. A vent with multiple intakes and low cfm is often a good choice for removal of excess moisture from the room and to help prevent mildew.

Personal Storage
Programming procedures for planning a dressing area are similar to the kitchen and bath if you ask detailed questions about daily routines and storage preferences, the result will be an unlimited opportunity to customize a space for your client. The height of the hanging rod depends on the height and reach range of your clients and their common clothing lengths.

Some standards we use can be adjusted as needed for individual needs. Long dresses and overcoats may be as long as 60", and medium length dresses and slacks hung by cuff average between 48" and 56" long. Comfortable rod heights are 60" to 64" above the floor for women and 64" to 68" for men. These heights allow room below often used for shoe storage.

A typical installation for short hanging items such as dress shirts, blouses, suits, sports jackets, blazers, and folded slacks is to layer the rods at 80" and 40" above the floor. This installation maximizes linear footage, and it places more items between 15" and 48" above the floor, the universal reach range.

Your clients may prefer folded storage, and the same components and hardware features used in the kitchen and bath can be used for folded clothes storage.

Pull-out basket for belts, drawers with full-extension glides and dividers for socks, roll-out shelves for folded dress shirts and sweaters, and pull-out work surfaces for folding clothes are all good choices. Adjustable shelves are popular for their flexibility and visibility; 12" deep might be too shallow for folded clothing items, so consider 16"- to 18"-deep shelves.

To avoid an "avalanche" of falling clothes, some experts plan on stacking no more than two to four sweaters per shelf and three to five T-shirts or thin knits per shelf. Look to store merchandising equipment for storage solutions. Many manufactures offer grid-like wall systems that have a variety of storage accessories such as rods, hooks and shelves.

Hafele America provides accessories specific to the wardrobe. There are literally unlimited tie and belt rack accessories that slide, swing, rotate, pivot and telescope. Other space-saving accessories include pull-out trouser systems and tilt-out shoe cabinets. A typical problem, especially in bedrooms with over 8' ceilings, is accessing hard-to-reach overhead storage. A creative solution is a lift mechanism that swings a rod and its hanging contents overhead. A wand attached to the rod is used to bring the storage down within reach.

As the role of the master suite grows in importance, the line is blurring between the master bath and the closet. The result can be a dressing room where there's a place for everything and every need is met. Any room where space is dear and storage is needed is another opportunity for kitchen and bath designers to exercise their skills. .