Once upon a time, people opened a door in their bedroom and peered into a cramped space containing clothes, shoes, and anything else they could squeeze inside. They'd poke around looking for a certain dress or jacket, shoving garments around on one sagging rack.
Okay . . . some of us still have closets like that. But a designer can transform that cubbyhole into a space that's "highly functional and brings organization out of chaos." That's the claim of Thomas Spencer, general manager of Incognito Custom Closets, a 14-year-old firm whose six designers work throughout the Mid-South.
Closet redesigns range over several levels and prices. For example, the capacity for a small closet that's roughly eight feet wide by 10 feet high can be increased, for starters, by adding more shelving and baskets, then spaces for long garments, and double and triple rods. "By having a double-hang or triple-hang, we make all that [higher] space available and increase the overall use by 50 percent," says Spencer. Using a pull-down pole provides accessibility to higher-hanging garments.
Not everyone is dealing with small redesigns. Incognito's showroom features model walk-in closets that are as big as some bedrooms; these can be installed in new or existing homes. "With kids going off to college," says Spencer, "people are taking a five-by-six-foot closet in a kid's room and expanding it to 10-by-12-foot so they can store more items."
Among popular features that make closets more functional are transparent Plexiglas containers for socks or sweaters, a panel that hides a clothes hamper, multilevels of shelving behind a three-way mirror, multiple-sized jewelry drawers, and a rack that accommodates 120 ties. The hottest component, says Fisher, is the "peninsula island" on which owners can stack garments; it comes with storage units that contain accessories such as small ironing boards.
One closet contains a safe that's bolted down. In fact, before Incognito entered the closet-design business, it specialized in spaces for concealing safes. "The name [Incognito] still fits," says designer Pamela Craig, "because closets are usually disguised or hidden behind doors."
Craig has worked with both small and spacious closets. One, she says, was a four-foot-wide "reach-in" located in a 30-year-old home. "On one side we gave the client six feet of hanging space and on the other, we provided shelving for 15 pairs of shoes."
At the other extreme, in a home featured at the 2007 Vesta Home Show, Craig fashioned a closet that functioned as a dressing room. "It was 11-feet-by-12-feet," she says, "and had 10-foot ceilings, so we were able to use a triple-hang and we created space for all the owners' clothes, shoes, purses, jewelry, even a make-up desk."
Craig has also designed specialty closets, including a "wrapping room" with cabinets to hold gift-wrap, ribbons, and related items, and countertops to work upon. She has also created storage areas in garages, with baskets for kids' toys and hooks for garden tools and bikes, all concealed behind paneled doors.
Clients can choose from 30 colors of paneling with a smooth melamine finish, and a variety of door/drawer-pull styles. But the organization that lies behind those panels is paramount. "We aim for ease of use," says Spencer. "To be able to see and touch an item makes a big difference."