Closets are among the most important features we look for in new homes, and probably the biggest disappointment in our current homes. We want closet space, and we want a lot of it. We have “stuff” and we need a place to store it.
As our incomes and buying habits have changed, our closet needs have changed, and we have seen these storage spaces grow from a 2′x4′x6′ armoire to an entire room.
Our great-grandparents fit all their clothes in a small free-standing cupboard with a small hanging rod and perhaps a few shelves. (On many antique armoires the shelves are labeled with titles such as “undergarments” and “sundries” and may have a small rack for ties.) This system kept a tiny wardrobe neat and tidy in minimal space, but would not begin to accommodate the wardrobe of today.
Rod and Shelf
The simple rod and shelf was an expansion of the armoire, adding much needed space for clothing at a very low cost. Often built in small spaces between rooms, the closet may have had a traditional door, but the longer closet may have had one or two sets of louvered bi-fold doors. This arrangement kept clothes well within reach and offered better storage space, with shoes on the floor and handbags and sweaters on the shelf. This is the most economical closet system available, which is likely the reason for its continued popularity.
As our wardrobe and storage needs grew, manufacturers saw the opportunity to start making closet “systems”. The shelves, cubicles, rods and racks included in these systems could be arranged to suit anyone’s needs and had a simple DIY installation. They made use of all the space in the closet with rods spaced for pants and tops, which could theoretically double the amount of clothing that could be kept in a space. The advantage of these systems was that they saved space and were fully customizable. The downside was, the elaborate systems could get pricey and as wardrobe needs changed the closet system would need to change as well.
A step up from modular units in closets, custom closets are built with custom cabinetry, shelving, drawers and mirrors, and can be large enough to include a dressing area complete with furniture. Extra bedrooms can be renovated to add this luxurious space in existing homes, while new home plans often include a room-sized closet in the home in lieu of an extra bedroom. The custom versions of these closet-rooms can be quite expensive, but stock cabinetry and flea market finds can help make this type of closet more affordable for those on a budget.