The amount of storage and amenities your closet provides is partially determined by whether you have a walk-in or reach-in closet. Walk-ins are generally larger, however, a reach-in closet can be designed to span an entire wall, offering as much or sometimes even more usable space than a simple walk-in closet. Therefore, size alone cannot be the determining factor in closet design and configuration. Use the guidelines below to help decide on the best closet design and amenities for your space and situation.
Do I Have a Walk-In or Reach-In Closet?
Most closets are typically box-like in shape. If the box is large enough to walk into the space like a room and it includes storage on more than one wall, it is considered to be a walk-in closet. Closets where you must stand outside the opening/door to the closet and reach-in to put things away are considered to be reach-in closets. Reach-ins are generally rectangular and wide, while walk-ins are deeper and more box-like. In addition to the size and shape of the closet, there are closet size standards that determine the type of closet you have and what you can fit inside of it.
Minimum Closet Size Standards and Dimensions
Dimensions for closets vary by their purpose and the type of door used on the closet. For example, while the minimum walk-in closet size for a bedroom closet is approximately four feet by four feet, a walk in pantry closet can be smaller because the depth of the shelves will be shallower than than the depth needed for hanging clothing on hangers. Bigger is often better, but general guidelines for the absolute minimum closet sizes, excluding space for the door, are as follows:
Minimum walk-in bedroom or coat closet:
4'D x 4'W
Minimum walk-in pantry or linen closet:
32"D x 32"W
Minimum reach-in bedroom or coat closet:
22"D (standard reach-in closet depth is 24") x 36"W
Minimum reach-in pantry or linen closet:
17"D x 19-3/4"W (standard shelves come in 14", 16" and 21" depths)
Is My Closet Big Enough?
Closet organizers can increase the amount of usable storage in any size closet. However, even a tiny closet outfitted with closet organizers has its limitations. Use these closet size standards and spacing guidelines in order to determine whether your closet can fit all of your "stuff".
Blouses and Shirts:
1-inch* of rod needed per item.
Folded Pants and Skirts:
Allow 1-1/14-inches* of rod per item for these separates.
Dresses and Coats:
2-inches* of rod needed per item.
Suits, Sport Coats & Blazers:
2-1/2-inches* of rod needed per item.
Shoes Stored on Shelves:
Allow 9-inches of shelf width for each pair of men's shoes and 8-inches for each pair of women's shoes.
Folded Clothing on Shelves:
Most stacks of folded clothing including sweaters, jeans, and men's shirts require 12-inches of shelf width if they are folded neatly. Women's T-shirts are usually a little smaller and can be folded into 9-inch wide stacks. Don't let your stacks of clothing grow to more than 12-inches in height, because they may topple over if too high (shelf dividers can help with this).
*Assumes typical wooden hanger used.
Closet Size Standards for Hanging Sections
No matter whether your space is walk-in or reach-in, most closets intended for clothing will include clothes rods for hanging clothing. Unless you are working with tiny baby garments, your hangers will require a closet with at least 22-inches of depth in order to swing freely on the rod. The rods must also be hung at prescribed distances from the floor and ceiling because they must accommodate the various lengths of clothing found in typical wardrobes. Garments can be grouped by length into three categories — long hang, medium hang and double hang. Heights for the clothes rods are as follows:
Rod positioned at 64-1/2". Great for overcoats, dresses, formal gowns, coats, and other long garments.
Position the rod at 52-1/2". Use for blouses, long skirts, and car length coats.
Stacking the hanging space with double hang is the quickest and easiest way to increase storage in a typical bedroom closet. Put the rod at 40-1/2" and use it for shirts, blouses, folded pants, and other garments.
Drawers and Pull-Out Baskets
If you have a lot of small items to store inside your closet, you should consider including drawers and/or pull-out wire baskets. They are available in standard widths of 18, 24, and 30-inches. Both come sized for standard 14-inch deep closet panels, but drawers can be made deeper if desired while baskets cannot. Position your drawers and baskets carefully in order to make sure you will have enough room to open them without hitting a door or other obstacle. Fully opened baskets extend 26-inches from the back wall of the closet. Drawers need an extra 1/2-inch due to the handle.
Size Standards for Closet Islands
The installation of a closet island requires a lot of empty floor space in the center of the closet. Closet islands have their own set of space requirements and size standards. Allow a minimum of 36-inches open space on each side of the island in order to walk freely around it. The 36-inches will also provide space to open cabinets or drawers built into the island.
Designing a closet involves a lot of measuring. Take measurements of the actual closet space to determine whether the closet is best designed as a walk-in or reach-in. Review the space requirements for the accessories you would like to include before purchase and the space needs of your wardrobe. Most importantly, a little upfront planning goes a long way towards the success of your project and overall satisfaction with your closet design.