Honoring the Aesthetic of a 150 Year Old Home: Function and Form Must Come Together

Honoring the Aesthetic of a 150 Year Old Home Function and Form Must Come Together

Project Description

It’s easy to fall in love with a historic home or neighborhood. Historic homes have a type of charm and beauty that can’t be duplicated by modern buildings. On the plus side, you get to live in a piece of your town’s history. However, there are downsides to living in a vintage home as well. As is well known, one of the many drawbacks of a vintage home is the closet. The closets, or armoires and cupboards of 150 years ago hardly fit the wardrobe of today’s homeowners and is often one of the biggest challenges when designing a new space which compliments the architectural details of the historic home.

Closet Works is expert at designing new storage pieces that blend seamlessly with the aesthetic of historic homes. Antique homes are unique — there is no stock solution in how to best add storage. In this example, we translated our traditional product into a built-in armoire that blends nicely into the style of the 1874 Victorian. For this home, the greatest challenge was working around the original, existing moulding, picture rail, 9-1/4” T ornate base moulding, and the casings. The master bedroom contained a 5 foot wide by 5 foot deep alcove which was decoratively framed by original moulding and corbels at the end of each side of the arch. It may originally have been intended as a glamorous dressing area, but this beautifully adorned alcove was insufficient in meeting the clothing requirements of the 21st century. A new closet system was needed to house the wardrobe of two busy professionals.


Positioning a new closet into an old home is often difficult, because there usually isn’t a lot of available wall space. The east side of the room was unusable, as it was dominated by three floor-to-ceiling windows— probably designed by the original architect to bring in the most natural light possible since the home was built six years before electricity came to the area. The north wall of the room was broken by a chimney, serving the fireplace in the parlor below, which along with a radiator, juts out breaking up the usable expanse of wall space. Keeping the closet on the south side of the room with the small dressing area seemed the best location, while expanding the total storage space to include the wall next to the alcove — the only flush wall in the room — with a large, armoire style storage system.

The overall closet design is separated into his and her sections. The design is kept timeless and classic, while budget conscious, through the use of white laminate which matches the painted woodwork throughout the home, raised panel door and drawer fronts, and oil rubbed bronze hardware. The doors on the closet are comprised of two separate doors that have been dowelled together to create a single large door. This gives the closet more of a furniture look by breaking the eight otherwise massive doors into 16 smaller panels. The horizontal line created by doing this offers relief from all the verticals created by having so many door panels plus the floor to ceiling windows along the neighboring wall. However, the dowelled doors open as a single door, making it easy to hang and find clothes.

His armoire fits into the old alcove under the corbeled arch and maximizes the amount of available storage space through the addition of a generous bank of drawers and shelves in addition to a set of double hung closet rods. A large, stand alone lady’s wardrobe covers the rest of the south wall and features two double hang sections plus a separate medium hang section with shelves for purses and hats. Shoes are stored separately in a location near the home’s entrance. Her closet stops several inches shy of the west wall of the bedroom and is centered into the space. The niche left next to her closet is the perfect space to mount telescoping tie and belt organizers — out of site and unencumbered by doors. It also eliminates the issues in building a closet against another crooked wall.

The new closets in this vintage home were created with respect the heritage of the building, and are intended to add to its character rather detract from its historical past. Carefully renovating the closet space in this manner gives the bedroom fresh breath for modern living, bringing its functionality into the 21st century while simultaneously paying homage to the building’s 19th century beginnings.

Walk-in closet organization system with custom LED lighting system
Careful measuring was essential in designing for uneven walls, floors and ceilings; Closets were stopped at 90 inches height to highlight the corbeled arch; Elegant, classic crown molding that echoes the era and compliments the corbeled arch was used to trim the closet system, seamlessly melding the 19th century to the 21st century; Dowelled door panels break the extensive vertical lines with a strong horizontal and offer respite for the eyes.
Before image
Before
  • Color: White
  • Traditional crown and base molding in white
  • Oil rubbed bronze handles and hardware
  • Five under mount, soft close drawers
  • Seven round closet rods in oil rubbed bronze finish
  • One each telescoping belt rack and tie rack

Detail Views

armoire with side open
armoire with cabinets open
vertical view of custom armoire open
vertical view of armoire closed
armoire doors open
custom armoire all doors open
view with one side wardrobe doors open
armoire cabinet doors open
view of armoire with doors closed
his side of armoire with hanging space
His section with Oil Rubbed Bronze rods
view of her section in custom armoire
Her section
armoire doors dowelled together
Dowelled together doors

Architectural Details

custom crown matches corbels
Crown blends with antique corbels
view of arch with original corbels
Arched alcove with original corbels