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Bringing order to chaos.

A number of closet systems and accessories--from inexpensive to high end--make it easier than you'd think

YOU CAN NEVER BE too rich or too thin--or have enough closet space. We can't help you with the first two, but there are a few things we can point out about the third. Your closet is one of the most ill-designed spaces in your house.

Bathrooms have become bastions of better planning, kitchens have become models of efficiency--even appliances are smart now. Closets, though, have remained, for the most part, just plain dumb.

But it doesn't have to be that way. There's a wealth of space-saving, put-stuff-right-where-you-want-it, drop-dead good-looking gadgetry on the market that you can install in a weekend. Home centers and big hardware stores are usually well stocked with different product lines. And if you don't want to do anything but write the check, there are plenty of talented designers out there who can help you take advantage of the numerous closet systems available. Check your yellow pages; most have listings for Closet Designers. Reconfiguring your closet without tearing off doors or knocking down walls is a project you can enter at any level. You want to do it all yourself? You really can, with great ease and little more than a drill, screwdriver, level, and hacksaw. You want to do nothing more than make a phone call? Sure, you can do that, too.

You can revamp an 8-foot closet for as little as $35; prices go up as you discover all those how-did-I-ever-live-without-them accessories.


Everything you put in your closet isn't best stored hanging from a wooden rod 66 inches off the ground or stacked on the single shelf above it. Take stock of your wardrobe, and you'll quickly realize that some items are longer than others, that some stuff is better stored folded, and that lots of things get lost. The old adage "out of sight, out of mind" could have been written about the contents of your closet.

Doubling up clothes rods is a key space-saver (in a kid's closet you can even "triple up"). Follow the guidelines below, positioning the top rod between 6 1/2 and 7 feet off the floor and the lower one 3 to 3 1/2 feet up; err on the high side. A single rod is usually just under 6 feet off the floor; you'll probably still need a short length of single rod for dresses, coats, and the like. The way to keep all those formerly lost items from disappearing again is to put them where you'll see them. If you can, position shelves, drawers, cabinets, and other built-ins between 2 and 5 feet off the floor.

When setting shelves over closet rods, don't neglect to leave a couple of inches of space; you shouldn't have to curse the hanger every time you try to remove it.

In general, closets need to be about 2 feet deep (with the rods set a foot from the back wall). You can squeeze it a little tighter--but don't. It's good to have some room around your clothes (one damp piece of clothing in a cramped space can grow all sorts of nasties before you'll ever discover it).

Little-used clothing does well to be protected from dust. Otherwise, the shoulders of your best blue suit can develop a permanent case of dandruff.

Reorganizing your closet might also make you get rid of those oh-so-slick-back-when items you really don't wear anymore (though who figured those bell-bottoms would ever come back?).


"There's no average closet--everybody is different," designer Kathleen Poer of Spacial Design in Novato, California, told us. "Most closets are an afterthought. If houses need extra space, they usually steal it from the closets. We get so many crazy spaces."

Besides closet specialists like Poer, there are stores, such as Hold Everything and Just Closets, that specialize in closet hardware and accessories. These stores often have designers on staff to help customers figure out suitable schemes.

Closet remodels are also perfect projects to check out at a home center. The most basic system--the one that's easiest to work with and offers the most options for the do-it-yourselfer--uses coated wire for rods, shelves, and accessories. Various component kits allow you to fit the system to virtually any closet; you can turn corners, stop short of side walls, even make the unit freestanding. Other widely available organizers use coated steel planks, wood, melamine-topped particle-board or MDF (medium-density fiberboard), or another material as the basic building block of their systems.

Many of the MDF-based systems sport those ubiquitous rows of holes up the sides of their panels. These "system 32" components (the European standard so named because each pair of holes is 32 millimeters from the surrounding pairs) allow each module to be fitted with shelves, drawers, doors, or anything else that can plug into the holes. The systems make a point of their ease of reconfiguration. This might be useful in a child's room, but how often are you really going to readjust a closet once you've built it?

You can have any degree of finish you like, from ultra-contemporary through purely utilitarian, up to fine cabinet-quality furniture. In fact, a well-finished closet can be one of the high points when you show off your house.
COPYRIGHT 1994 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Title Annotation:closet systems
Author:Crosby, Bill
Date:Feb 1, 1994
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