Closet Design Maximizes Style & Storage

With house sizes moderating in recent years, thoughtful storage solutions become increasingly important – and that’s as true in the master bedroom suite as it is in the kitchen or bath.

Indeed, USA Today reports that the walk-in closet is a “must have” on many buyers’ wish lists, as well as a major status symbol that adds value to the home, with a whopping 60% of home buyers willing to pay extra for a walk-in closet in the master bedroom. A survey by online real estate database Zillow.com confirms this, citing walk-in closets as number two on the list of amenities home buyers most wanted in 2013.

As space planning experts, many kitchen and bath designers have found closet design to be a natural fit for their talents. Whether finding stylish accessible storage for spices or shoes, the essential design elements remain the same, with style, storage and personalization the key factors most critical to closet design.

When planning a closet system, it’s important to consider the following:

Is there adequate space?
When it comes to the master suite closet, bigger is definitely better. Even baby boomers or mature buyers who are downsizing their homes still want plenty of storage for a lifetime of collected “stuff,” so it’s a good idea to look at the entire house plan when mapping out closet space.

If space allows, consider designing in a dressing area with seating and full-length mirror to add functionality and a sense of luxury. If space is at a premium, perhaps a spare bedroom can be used to add a spacious walk-in closet and dressing area?

How does the client use the space?
We are increasingly in an age where personalization is not just desired but expected, and as a result, closets are no longer a one-size-fits-all endeavor. For that reason, it’s critical to understand how the homeowner uses the space. Does the client possess a shoe collection that would rival Carrie Bradshaw's in Sex and the City, or have a passion for designer ties in every imaginable pattern? Are outfits color coordinated with matching shoes below and bags above, or are things stored more haphazardly? Does the client have 52 black outfits and not much else, or does she favor a wide variety of colors? Is the closet packed with jeans and sweaters that would be well suited for "stacked" storage, or formal dresses and suits that require more traditional hanging space? What about accessories?

Understanding what the client needs to store, what he or she accesses most frequently and even favorite colors can all impact the closet design.

Is the space personalized for the user(s)?
Consumers often complain about lack of adequate closet space not because the space itself is too small, but because they are unable to utilize the space to maximum impact. A client who is five feet tall may not be using the top third of the closet simply because it is not easily accessed. Likewise, a tall client may avoid using racks placed at lower levels that require stooping over to use.

Sometimes the solution is as simple as moving a rack up or down six inches. Other times, motorized interior fittings that bring the contents of high racks down can “give back” enough space to make a small closet seem larger. Vertical storage, often overlooked, can provide extra space with interior fittings that bring the contents to the user – a simple design principle that works as well in the closet area as it does in the kitchen.

In the case of two users of dramatically different heights, it may make sense to create two different “zones” to better serve each party’s specific storage needs. Likewise, the client’s age may come into play, particularly with older users who have limited extended reach.

Is appropriate lighting specified to allow for easy visual access to all contents?
New LED lighting options make it easy to add lighting to any hidden space – without the extra heat that created challenges in years past. Drawers that automatically light when opened, or pull-downs that light up when accessed, can make it easier for users to locate items and match colors, even in those early mornings. Light strips can be applied to place light exactly where needed while minimizing energy costs.

Do the materials and finishes reflect the luxury, furniture-style feel that is critical to creating a master bedroom haven?
While a closet's interior must be functional, the master bedroom suite is all about fashion, and today’s closet design trends reflects this, with a host of finish options, furniture detailing and custom touches that add to the sense of luxury.

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