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Closet Doors

Corner wardrobe closet with two types of closet doors.

Closet doors are an important consideration in when designing a closet because they are are functional. They shut out and hide the contents of the closet. Door styles also often dictate the location and type of storage that can be installed. No one wants access to their clothes and accessories blocked by the closet door. But doors can also make a strong visual statement. Due to their size, the door style can influence the whole appearance of a room. This makes them an important design element as well.

There are numerous functional in addition to aesthetic considerations when designing a closet. One of these is what should you put behind the closet door? You want easy access to the things in your new closet while maximizing storage space. The type of door used on the closet must be considered when laying out your new closet. Different types of closet doors require different design solutions for the interior of the closet. Use this guide to make sure your custom closet follows best practices when it comes to dealing with the closet door.

Closet design considerations when working with various types of closet doors:

  1. Pocket Doors for Closets:

    Pocket closet door opening.
    Pocket closet door diagram diagram
    The pocket closet door allows for maximum storage inside the closet. When installing closet organizers onto a wall with a pocket door inside, you must be careful not to drill any screws or bolts through the drywall into the door.

    Pocket doors slide in and out of the wall on a track. With most pocket doors, the door hangs from a track that is hidden inside the wall and in the header above the door opening. This offers a seamless opening and the door is invisible when open. Pocket doors can be single or double. Double pocket doors hide inside the wall cavity on either side of the door opening when open. Their greatest advantage is that they never block access to anything when open. They are one of the easiest door systems to design your closet around because there are no specail "behind the door" considerations. However, be very careful when installing closet organizers on a wall containing a pocket door. You mustn't screw through the wall and into the door or you'll freeze it up and it won't open.

    Pocket doors were very popular in the 1920s American Craftsman era of homebuilding. Although used less often now, they are still a wise choice for tight spaces.

    Custom pantry closet with a pocket door
    Custom pantry closet with a pocket door that slides out of the wall.
  2. Swing-Out Doors:

    Swing-out closet door opening.
    Swing-out closet door
    The swing out closet door allows for maximum storage inside the closet. However,t you will need to leave adequate clearance outside the closet to ensure the door opens fully.

    Swing out doors pull toward you to open. This means that it doesn't matter whether they swing left or right. Even double doors won't impede the design of your closet. They don't take up any room inside the closet because they swing out into the adjoining room — usually the bedroom or master bath. Swing out doors offer the potential for maximum closet storage space. You won't have to worry about limited access limited to items stored behind the door.

    The downside to this type of door is that you need enough space outside the closet to leave the door fully open. Depending on the size of the door, this may or may not be a problem. They can be a hindrance to furniture placement, and are not recommended in tight spaces because there usually isn't enough space to leave them open without hitting a piece of furniture, or blocking a passageway or another doorway.

    Swing out closet doors
    These double doors swing out rather than into the closet.
  3. Closet Doors That Swing-In — Right:

    Swing-in right hand closet door opening.
    Right hand Sswing-in closet door diagram
    The right hand closet door that swings inward may block left storage behind the door.

    Just like the front door to your house, closet doors are often made to swing in rather than out. This increases the open area in the room but can make closet design a bit trickier. Access to some items will be blocked when the door is open. When designing a closet with a door that swings in, we recommend putting your infrequently used items behind the door. This includes long-hang garments like your evening gowns and out-of-season clothing. But don't forget to first move the bathrobe out of the long-hang area and hang it on a convenient hook (unless you don't use it much). The good news is that although access is not as convenient as other areas of the closet, you will still be able to get at this clothing. Most closets with swing in doors are walk-ins and you can access the items when you walk into the closet and close the door.

    Right hand swing in closet doors
    This door swings into the right hand side of the closet doorway. Some items end up behind the closet door.
  4. Closet Doors That Swing-In — Left:

    Swing-in right hand closet door opening.
    Left hand swing-in closet door diagram
    The left hand closet door that swings inward may block right storage behind the door.

    The closet door that swings inward to the left has the same considerations as the one that swings to the right. In addition to putting your infrequently used items behind the door, consider using this space for shelving. Shelves behind the door have certain advantages over hanging. Garments hung from hangers need a minimum of 20-inches depth. Shelves, on the other hand, can be made to any depth, with 14-inches being standard. Depending on the dimensions of your closet, shelves may make better sense behind the door.

    Left hand swing in closet door
    Thise doors swings in towards the left side of the doorway.
  5. Closets with Bifold Doors:

    Bifold closet door opening.
    Bifold closet door diagram
    The bifold closet allows the center of the door to be fully clear. Areas on the right and left will be partially blocked as the doors stack up.

    Bifold doors are the most popular choice for reach-in/wall closets. This type of door is available in many styles and finishes finishes from wood, glass, metal, louvered styles, and more. The reason it is so popular is that it offers one of the the largest unimpeded opening to the closet of any door style. The only one that offers a greater opening is the pocket door.

    When bifold door are fully opened, the door panels fold up in accordian fashion and stand on the sides of the door opening. This obscures a small amount of storage space on the edges of the closet. For this reason, you should never place closet drawers against the back wall on the sides of the closet. If you do, you risk having the drawer bump into the bifold door. This would prevent it from opening properly. Instead, place your closet drawers in the middle of the wall when the closet uses bifold doors. This layout allows full access to open the drawer.

    closet with bifold doors
    This reach-in bedroom closet has bifold doors. Notice how the opening to the closet is slightly reduced so that the doors can stand open.
  6. Sliding Closet Doors:

    Sliding closet door opening.
    Sliding closet door diagram
    The sliding closet door allows for maximum storage on the right and left sides of the closet entrance. However, depending on how the doors stack up, the center of the closet may be partially blocked when either door is open.

    Sliding doors are very popular. After the bifold door, sliders are the most common type of door for a reach-in closet. They can be mirrored, paneled, or another style style. Laminate is an easy-to-care-for finish available on many sliding doors. Traditional closet sliding doors hang from an upper track that is concealed by trim. They slide back and forth along this track on wheels attached to the top of the door. Sliding cabinet doors and those used on floor based closet systems, on the other hand, have both an upper and lower track similar to a sliding patio door. When opened, one sliding door slips behind the other. This means you can usually only view/use one side of the closet at a time. Part of the center section is also obscurred. For this reason, you should never place drawers in the center of a reach-in closet with sliding doors. The drawers will not be able to fully open. Put hanging sections in the center and keep your drawers off to the side where they can open withot hitting any obstacles.

    Reach-in closet with sliding doors
    A corner wardrobe closet with three styles of doors including glass doors, sliding doors, and cabinet doors that open out.

Ready to lay out your closet now that you know what works best with different doors?

Always check for obstacles before designing your closet. It's just as essential as accurate measuring. Adjust your design to accommodate the type of closet door you have. Or choose a new door type based on your storage requirements. Either way, with a little advance planning, you won't get stuck with a closet where the drawers won't open fully or your favorite items get lost behind the closet door.