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Closet Islands

A closet with closet island on the beach of a tropical island.

Given the chance, who wouldn't want their own private island? For most of us, unfortunately, that luxury is out of reach — unless you're talking about a closet island. Closet islands are within reach of most pocketbooks as long as you have a walk-in closet with sufficient space. So why not add this luxury to your own home?

When you conjure an image of a luxurious, high-end closet in your mind, chances are it's a big walk-in space with an island in the center. Closet islands have become nearly as desirable as kitchen islands in the world of high-end storage design. They're what many dream of when thinking of their ideal closet. And their popularity shows no signs of abating as homeowners continue to seek ways to increase the comfort factor in their homes. Even better, the extra storage and countertop space offered by closet islands are a highly sought-after feature that increases ROI at resale. Properly designed, they exude feelings of luxury into the closet space. The key is having the right size, spacing, and features to give it the most function and style.

Closet Island Ideas and Implementation Tips!

There are several essential requirements of a good closet island. Everything thinks about how many drawers, shelves and cabinets it can have. Or they dream of a countertop made from exotic stone to visually anchor the space. These are some of the features that draw people to a closet island. But considerations like length, width, height, and empty space left around the unit for walking are equally, if not more, important.

  1. Leave Enough Empty Space

    Small closet island
    This walk-in closet features a small closet island in the center of the room. The small island includes a built-in bench on the side near the window to put on shoes. It also has a built-in hamper and jewelry drawer on the opposite side. This is achieved by using the smaller ends of the island for the storage components. The closet is longer than it is wide, and this narrow island construction ensures there will be enough empty space for walking on all sides.

    Closet islands require a lot more space than you might first suppose. The number one concern is making sure that there is enough room to walk around the island after installing it in the closet. You need to leave a minimum of 36-inches empty space on all sides island in order to walk freely around the closet island and access its storage. That means you need eight or more empty linear feet in either direction (minimum 64 sq. ft.) in the center of your closet after you allow for storage along the walls. If the closet includes hanging storage on all four walls, you are generally looking at a minimum 12' x 13' empty room size to build a closet with a small double-sided island (drawers, cabinets, or shelves on both sides). For a single-sided island, the room can be smaller, but not much because you must allow 24-inches along the walls for any hanging areas in addition to the empty 36-inches for walking. If your closet space is smaller than the recommended 12' x 13' and you really want a double-sided closet island in the middle, consider making one wall of your closet all shelves. A wall of shelving could be narrower than 24 inches, allowing you to get an island into that smaller closet.

  2. Closet Island Dimensions

    Closet island with drawers and shelves
    This closet island features 24-inch wide drawers on either side of a central shelving section that is 17-inches wide. 30-inch wide drawers are used on the back side of the closet island. By keeping to standard closet drawer widths of 24 and 30-inches, the owner has the possibility of adding organizing inserts for jewelry, lingerie, and other items without having to go custom. The odd left-over space is given to shelves. In this case, they are left uncovered by cabinet doors for quick and easy access to the towels stored there.

    Most people want at least a few drawers in their closet island because they use it as an island dresser. The advantage of this is that you can eliminate the traditional clothes dresser from your bedroom. After considering available space, the size of your closet island will be at least partially determined by these drawers. It is best to use standard closet drawer sizes of 18-inches, 24-inches, and 30-inches width with either a 14-inch, 16-inch, or 22-inch depth. This will allow for the most flexibility in choosing drawer organizers later on and will eliminate the added expense of buying custom size drawer boxes. Odd widths can be allocated to shelves. Either leave the shelves open or cover them with cabinet doors as preference and budget allow.

    Using these standard drawer depths, the minimum depth of a two-sided closet island with drawers on both sides is 28-inches. This size allows for 14-inch deep drawers on both sides (the smallest depth standard drawer). The 16-inch and 22-inch deep drawers can be used on larger closets. If your space requirements will not allow for 14-inch deep drawers on both sides, consider making one side shelving or going with a single-sided closet island.

    Closet island height is also important. 40-45-inches is the standard height of a closet island. Use your drawers to help determine your end measurement. Standard closet drawer height is either 5-inches, 7.5-inches, 10-inches, or 12-inches for the drawer fronts. The actual drawer box will be somewhat shorter. Stack your drawers and shelves in the closet island to a total height between 36-inches and 39-inches. This leaves 1-inch for the countertop and 3-inches for the toe kick, bringing the total height to 40-45 inches.

  3. Accessories

    Closet island with accessories
    This large walk-in closet has a central closet island that features jewelry drawers and special cubby shelves on the end for the owner's belt collection.

    Everyone thinks of closet island accessories as a bunch or knickknacks strewn across the countertop, but this is not the case. True closet island accessories are built-in features that add additional functionality and storage. Take advantage of special velvet jewelry drawer inserts, drawer dividers, and lingerie organizers to elevate your closet island to the next level. If you have a special collection of belt buckles, antique clutches, favorite shoes or other accessories, why not highlight them with a built-in display along the side of the island? Mirrors are another a possible accessory for the side of the closet island that doesn't have drawers or shelves.

    The most common accessories used in closet islands are various types of drawer organizers coupled with security features like locks and safes. Use locks to secure the drawers and doors. They can be visible or hidden. The closet safe should be concealed behind a cabinet door for best security. Other possible accessories include built-in ironing boards that fit in a drawer, pull-out shelves, and unique lighting for inside the drawers and under the countertop.

  4. Built-In Seating

    Closet island seating
    This closet island includes a built-in cushioned bench on one end. The bench is a convenient place to sit down and put on shoes. It also features a deep drawer under the cushion that is used for storing bulky sweaters.

    Many closet islands feature built-in seating. This is usually in the form of an attached bench on one end. Under the bench, there is often additional storage for bulky items like sweaters. The bench should be about 18-inches high. This is a little lower than a traditional chair seat. This height allows the bench (and island) to be constructed on a 3-inch high toe-kick/base.

  5. Countertop

    Deluxe closet island countertop in transluscent stone with lighting underneath
    This deluxe closet island countertop is made from translucent stone that is lit from underneath. It illuminates the closet with a soft warm glow. And nothing placed on top of it will ever have a shadow!

    Think of the countertop as the crowning glory to your closet island. The material sets the tone of the space and will cover up the individual cabinets and boxes that make up a two-sided or multi-section island. There are many materials that can be used. Stone and laminate are the most popular choices. But glass, concrete, wood, and just about anything you can use on a kitchen countertop are also possible. Let your imagination run wild and your personality shine with your choice of countertop.

  6. Lighting

    Closet island drawers and cabinets with interior lighting system
    A closet lighting system is installed inside closet island drawers and cabinets. The lights automatically come on when the drawer or door is opened to illuminate the contents.

    Lighting can take your closet island from ho-hum to spectacular! Illuminate the insides of your closet island cabinets and drawers so that they automatically light up when opened. The lights run on low voltage LEDs that are safe to install without professional wiring. The convenience of having the contents of a drawer light up every time it's opened takes the closet island to a whole new level. No worries about rummaging around in the dark when the drawer lights up. Lighting can be incorporated into any closet drawer, shelf, or cabinet, but is especially effective for jewelry drawers. Depending on material, the countertop can also be back-lit from underneath. Translucent countertops (glass or some stone) that are back-lit provide a soft glow inside the closet and an instant WOW factor that simply feels luxurious.

Still Dreaming About Closet Islands?

Dream closet with huge L-shaped closet island.
Dreaming of a big custom closet with space for all your favorite outfits? This one features an L-shaped island in the center with built-in seating that's perfect for a shoe lover.

By spending some time organizing these three clutter-attracting areas, you will greatly improve the look and feel of your home. When everything has a place to go, it is much easier to put things back where they go, even for children. Just tackle your problem areas one-by-one. This will increase your overall organized storage slowly but surely. Stick to it and eventually you'll be clutter free.