If you’re like most of us, you’re dreaming of a spacious, well organized master closet. A walk in master closet is what most people will op for, but if you’re limited by space or budget, you might have go with a reach in closet. This week we’ll talk about the advantages of walk in closets versus reach in or wall closets, whether flat shoe shelves, slanted shoe shelves or shoe cubbies are better. And we’ll go over open storage versus closed storage, plus the different materials used to fabricate closets.
Before we get to the mini lesson, let’s go over a couple of pro terms:
Wall Hung Closet Systems and Floor Mounted Closet Systems
WALL HUNG CLOSET SYSTEMS
Wall hung closet systems are attached to the wall using a steel rail that’s secured at the wall studs. These systems do not extend to the floor. Because these systems float above the floor, cleaning or changing out flooring are much easier with this type of closet.
Wall hung closets systems are a budget friendly option. The units require substantially less material, less labor and less time to build when compared to floor mounted systems, but they can’t hold as much weight as floor mounted systems.
FLOOR MOUNTED CLOSET SYSTEMS
Floor mounted closets sit on the floor and are attached to the wall with brackets to assure that the units can’t be pulled forward. Because of the extra support of the floor, floor mounted closets will allow you to have deeper, stronger shelving that can hold more weight.
Floor mounted closet systems give you more flexibility in organization options and overall style. Since the system has side panels that extend all the way to the floor, you have more choices for shelves, doors, and drawers.
Floor mounted systems use more materials and look more like built-in furniture, so most people think these closets are more luxurious. Many of those super fancy walk in closets that you see on Houzz and Pinterest are floor mounted closets.
For the best of both worlds, you can combine a few wall hung components with a few floor mounted components. That will give you some of the luxury and strength of a complete floor mounted system, without all the cost.
Alright, let’s get to our mini lesson.
REACH IN/WALL CLOSETS
The most common type of bedroom closet is the wall closet, also called a reach in.
As we know, with a standard reach in closet, you cannot walk into the closet. Instead, you have to open the closet door(s) and reach into the closet while standing in the bedroom space.
There are several types of doors that you can use with a reach in closet. Sliders are common and are good space savers, but they’re not ideal because with sliders you can only see half of the closet at a time. One door slides over the other so one half of the closet will always be covered.
Bifold doors are also good for tighter spaces, but they work well because you can see the entire closet when both doors are open.
You can also have double doors, also called French doors—two doors open outward into the room. Double doors give a slightly more high end look, but you’ll need more clearance space to open double doors.
The minimum depth for a reach in, wall closet is 24 inches. This gives clothing on hangers a couple of inches of free space in the front and back when the hanging rod is centered in the closet. The width for a closet with two or more doors should be at least 60 inches; a closet with a single door can be more narrow.
Reach in closets are great options if space is limited and for kids rooms or guest rooms. Wall hung or floor mounted closet systems can be installed in reach in closets for greater organization.
What you should include in reach in closets:
◦ Spaces for long and short hanging items
◦ Several open shelves of varying heights
◦ An optional bank of drawers that could be used for smaller items like underwear, socks, and scarves
◦ shoe storage
◦ Optional hooks to hang ties and belts
Advantages of smaller, reach in closets:
1. Smaller, reach-in closets can help you become more minimalistic. There less space to accumulate unnecessary items.
2. Reach in closets are typically less expensive and take less time to install.
3. Reach in closets use space more efficiently, so they are better for tighter spaces. If you’re concerned with simplicity and functionality, a reach in closet will probably work best for your lifestyle.
WALK IN CLOSETS
Walk-in closets are great for master bedrooms, but it’s not unusual to put smaller walk in closets in other bedrooms in your house if your have the space. Walk-in closets feel more luxurious than reach in closets but they are less efficient because you need space inside the closet to walk in and access your clothes. Walk-in closets can be a few square feet or as big as a bedroom.
One of the simplest walk in clothes designs has hanging rods on 2 sides with a 3-foot walkway down the center of the closet. That means the optimal minimal width for a walk in closet if 7 feet. Some sources say you could get away with a 5 or 6 foot wide walk in closet, but a 7 foot wide walk in closet is the smallest one that is actually comfortable and not cramped. And resist the temptation to put a rod on the short, back, third wall of the closet. It’ll hinder your access to the main 2 rods.
Advantages of walk in closets:
1. A walk-in closet can be used for storage and as a dressing room.
2. Walk-in closets can serve as a space to fold clothes and store your ironing board. Some people even put a washer and dryer in their master closet.
3. Larger walk-in closets can actually accommodate more than one person, so they are ideal for spouses or siblings who want to share a closet.
4. Walk in closets feel more luxurious and they often have a greater perceived value at resale.
Moving on to open versus closed storage. Open storage meaning without doors and closed storage meaning with doors.
Occasionally, people might opt for a reach in closet without doors, but the majority of reach in closets have doors, so by definition they are closed storage.
if you want a walk in closet, you’ll have to decide whether you want your clothes to be behind doors or not.
If a significant portion of your closet is visible from your bedroom, consider going with closed storage. That way if the closet gets messy, you won’t have to look at the mess while you’re in your bedroom.
If you have a walk-in closet that is mainly out of your line of sight when you’re in the bedroom, you may want to leave off the doors. Except for a main door to enter the closet, there’s no need to build a closet with multiple doors inside the closet, unless you just like a very clean simplistic look. Some people even forgo a main entrance door and enter the closet from a simple case opening instead.
Open storage will cost you less than a closed storage closet with multiple doors. Open storage also give more of a boutique look and feel. An open closet allows you to see your wardrobe at a glance.
One of the main advantages of having a nice walk in closet is that you can stand in your closet and see all your clothes at once. If you have doors within your walk in closet, you can’t see all that you have without opening several doors. A walk in closet with clothes behind doors has a more formal look and feel. And closed storage is more expensive because you have the added cost of the doors.
If you can’t decide which you want, you can also take the hybrid approach by combining open and closed storage.
Ready to go over shoe storage?
First of all, get rid of the shoe boxes! Even if you have photos attached to the front of the boxes so you know what’s inside, keeping shoes in boxes is not an efficient use of space.
Same with shoe cubbies. Cubbies are not the most efficient use of space, plus it’s difficult to see shoes that are housed in shoe cubbies.
The other 2 options are tilted and flat shoe shelves.
TILTED SHOE SHELVES
Most people want their shoe shelves to be like those they've seen in fancy celebrity closets or in retail stores, where the shoes are placed on tilted shelves. These shelves look great and they allow you to see your shoes better. A greater portion of the tops of your shoes are visible with tilted shelves.
Tilted shelves required a shoe fence or ledge to prevent the shoes from sliding forward off the shelf. Here’s Quick tip: For really pretty shoe shelves, ask if you can forgo the front shoe fence and instead have a rod added to the back of the shoe shelf so the heels of your shoes can be hooked behind the rod. That way the rod is hidden, giving the shoe shelves a clean, uncluttered look.
The main disadvantages of using tilted shelves for your shoes is tilted shelves are more expensive and they take up more space. You usually have one or two fewer shelves per wall because of the tilt. So tilted shelves are pretty, but they aren’t the most efficient use of space.
Finally, tilted shelves are not very versatile. They can pretty much just be used for shoes. So if your shoes collection decreases in size over time, you’ll be stuck with tilted shelves that you can’t readily utilize for other things.
Flat shelves, especially flat adjustable shelves are great for shoes and many other items such as folded clothing, linens, hats, purses, storage boxes or baskets.
Flat adjustable shelves sit on removable pegs so you can make shelf space higher for boots and high heels and lower for flats. sandals and sneakers.
If you decide to go with adjustable shelving, ask about ‘notched shelves.’ These shelves have notches (or indentations) on the bottom of the shelf that keep the shelves in place. Without notched shelves, you or your kids can easily knock adjustable shelves off of their pegs. Notched shelves cost about $2 more per shelf as compared with standard adjustable shelves, but the added cost may be worth the extra safety.
With flat shelves, you’re able to get more shelves in a space than you would with tilted shelves, so flat shelves are great for smaller spaces or for people with lots of shoes. Flat shelves are also less expensive.
Although you can adequately see shoes that are stored on flat shelves, you can’t see shoes quite as well as you can with tilted shelves.
The most versatile shelf depth is 14 inches. A 12 inch deep shelf is often used as a standard, and that’s fine for most shoes, but if you want flat shelves that you can for shoes or other items, request a 14 inch depth. Fourteen inch deep shelves aren’t much more expensive than less versatile 12 inch shelves. A depth of 14 inches is enough to have folded items on shelves without the items hanging off the edge.
So, what materials used to make closets?
Solid wood is often thought of as the top of the line, but not all wood species are equal. Softwoods, such as fir, might warp if used to store heavy items. Oak and cedar, on the other hand, are more resilient. Hardwoods are more expensive than softwoods. Wood is widely available and can be sealed, stained, or painted.
Plywood is often used for closet shelving material. It can also be painted, stained, or left untreated. Plywood comes as precut pieces or it can be cut to a custom size. It is, in general, sturdier than MDF, but plywood shelves still need to be reinforced.
MDF, or medium-density fiberboard, is also often used for closets. It is sold in precut units or in large sheets that can be cut to custom sizes. MDF is heavy. but it's not as sturdy as plywood or solid hardwood. It can be prone to sagging, so it needs structural support at regular intervals. MDF can be painted or left unpainted and sometimes is manufactured to resemble other materials, such as wood. Look for thermally fused MDF which is stronger than cold pressed MDF.
Melamine products are an attractive and inexpensive alternative to wood or plywood. This closet material is made of particleboard with a tough, factory-applied melamine finish. Melamine looks kind of like a plastic laminate. Melamine is about half the cost of cabinet-grade plywood and available in a variety of colors. Be warned, though, this product is not as durable and strong as the other options that we’ve talked about. A limited budget is the main reason you’d want to choose melamine.
Fairly inexpensive and widely available, wire closet shelving options come in predetermined lengths, widths, and sizes. Wire closet shelving systems tend to be fairly durable and are typically coated in white, although other colors exist. The main drawback of a wire closet system is that items can fall through the gaps in the wires.
The wire shelving that you buy at big-box stores or that builders often use for closets, is usually 12” deep. Remember 12 inches is not deep enough for towels, sweatshirts and bulky sweaters. Those items will hang off the edge, making you closet look disorganized.
Finally, let me give you a few quick tips for a better organized closet.
1. Choose uniform hangers in all the same style and color. This helps your eye to focus on the clothing.
2. Put a hamper in your closet. Use a tilting or pull out hamper drawer that blends right into the closet cabinetry.
3. Only plan for a closet island if you have a fair amount of space on all four sides — 3 to 4 feet all the way around. If you don't have that much space, a peninsula dresser is the next best thing. It floats out from the edge of the closet cabinetry.
4. Request L shaped or angled corner shelves or hanging rods to give you accessible storage in the corners of your closet. They “turn the corner” and provide more depth for clothing.
5. Put one or several electrical outlets in your closet for irons, steamers and other electric items you might need. Also make sure you have adequate lighting within your closet, including some natural light if you can manage it.
Before we finish up, let’s do a couple of quiz questions
1. True or False: The smallest comfortable walk in closet is 4 feet wide.
That’s False. The smallest comfortable walk in closet is 7 feet wide. Two feet for each side of the closet and a 3 foot walkway. Some sources say you can get away with a smaller closet, but it won’t be very comfortable.
2. What are the advantages of flat adjustable shoe shelves?
A. They are less expensive than tilted shelves
B. They can be used for items other than shoes
C. You can get more flat shelves in a space as compared to tilted shelves.
D. All of the above
The answer is D, all of the above. Those are the advantages of flat shelves. The advantages of tilted shelves are that you can see your shoes a little better and tilted shelves give a more stylish boutique feel.
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Well, that’s all I have for this week. I hope you learned as much as I did. Let’s do again next week. I hope you come back for the next episode of Build Your House Yourself University--BYHYU.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete, it’s subject to change and it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.