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Working with Odd Shaped Closet Spaces

How to Maximize Storage in Your Most Challenging Closet Spaces

The standard closet space is a simple rectangular cube that comes in two configurations — walk-in or reach in. The walk-in closet is basically a small room. Typical sizes range anywhere from simple 6-foot x 9-foot spaces to expansive rooms with vaulted ceilings that have a tremendous storage capacity. Access is in the form of a small door to one side of the closet. All walls can be equipped with rods, shelves, cabinets and drawers to maximize storage potential. The reach-in closet, on the other hand, is a narrow rectangular cube approximately 24 inches deep. It is accessed from one large door that spans the front of the closet. Various closet organizers with hanging, shelving, pull-outs and cabinets are available to span the back wall of the closet in order to maximize the storage potential of this type of space. When your closet space doesn't meet these standard configurations, however, it can be more difficult to find solutions to meet your storage needs.

If you have one of these challenging spaces, you will most likely need some customization in your overall storage planning to make it work.

5 Challenging Closet Spaces and Their Custom Storage Solutions:

  1. Antique/Historic Home with no Closets: Many very old homes were originally built without closets. People had fewer clothes when everything had to be handmade from scratch. The few garments that a person owned could be kept on a wall hooks or in a small armoire. Ready-wear off-the-rack clothing changed all that in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. Now homeowners want and need built-in closets to store their wide selections of clothing. A new wardrobe closet is usually the best solution for an old home that lacks closet space but may have plenty of unusual nooks. A custom-built wardrobe can be made to fit any odd alcove or space in the house. A tall wardrobe closet will take advantage of the high ceilings that many old homes offer to maximize storage space. Crown moulding and decorative woodwork can be incorporated to make the new closet look like it has always been there.
    before and after for odd shaped alcove closet in historic home
    Before and after for an old Victorian home.
  2. Extra Narrow Walk-In Closet: An extra narrow walk-in closet can be like having a reach-in closet with the door on the short side wall rather than across the front. The space can be very difficult to access, especially as hangers are 17-20 inches wide and will require 20-24 inches of space in order to swing freely on the clothes rod. If the closet is at least 40 inches wide, you can still arrange traditional closet organizers with double hung rods to create maximum space for hanging clothes. Storage should be arranged along one long wall and possibly the back short wall only. If the space is narrower than 40 inches wide, you are better off organizing with an assortment of shelves and hooks. 14 inches is the standard shelf depth, but custom shelves can be cut to any depth needed that will fit your space. Items that must hang can be either be arranged on short rods along the small back wall, or by using folding hanger holders instead of traditional closet rods so that the clothes remain flush to the wall when you don't need them but can be extended out when needed. This maintains enough open space to be able to walk past the clothing, keeping the space true to its nomer — walk-in closet.
    odd shaped extra narrow and deep walk-in closet with l-shaped alcove
    Extra-narrow walk-in closet with and odd, small L-shaped alcove used for a built-in clothes dresser.
  3. Steeply Sloped Ceiling: Whether it's under the stairs or in an attic, closets with low slanted ceilings present a challenge to homeowners and storage professionals alike. To maximize the space, the storage must follow the pitch of the ceiling. Hanging rods can be incorporated in the higher areas or mounted to the ceiling using special brackets made for this purpose. Use a cleat behind the rods and brackets for added strength.
    attic closet with steeply sloped ceiling
    Attic closet with very low, steeply sloped ceiling.
  4. Shallow Reach-In Closet with Deep Return: A return is the part of the reach-in/wall closet that is not open to the doors. It can be fairly inaccessible unless handled right. The best way to use the space in the return is to place your closet organizer against the short wall. This will ensure maximum storage and accessibility. If the closet is at least 24 inches deep, you can arrange the hanging areas against the back wall of the closet in front of the doors and use the return for shelving. The shelves should be installed at a right angle to the hanging and parallel to the short wall of the return. If the closet is extremely shallow, however, it won't be deep enough for hangers to swing freely if the hanging storage is placed against the back wall. Instead, put shelves against the back wall and put the hanging in the return area. This will give you the maximum amount of accessible storage in this type of closet.
    reach-in closets with deep return
    The reach-in closet on the left is 24 inches deep and has a deep return used for shelves. The back wall is organized with closet rods used for hanging clothes. The closet on the right is only 18 inches deep. It has a deep return with double hanging rods installed against the short wall. The back wall is used for shelving.
  5. Curved Wall: No buts about it, a curved wall is always a difficult challenge — difficult to construct, difficult to furnish, and difficult to use for closet storage. However, it can be done. If it's a gentle curve, use 18-inch-wide closet organizer units and place them to follow the curve of the wall. Any gaps between the vertical panels between the units can be covered with decorative trim. A curved wall is also a good place to incorporate a closet mirror. A three-way mirror is a particularly good solution for a curved wall, because there is already natural curvature through the placement of the mirrored panels. If the curve in the wall is fairly tight, it probably won't be a practical area for hanging or shelving. A tight curve is a natural place to use hooks for storage. Hooks are not just for bathrobes. Don't be afraid to use a lot of hooks in your closet. In fact, it's impossible to have too many hooks. A good quality closet hook can hold up to 50 pounds and offers a sturdy solution for storing certain types of accessories as well as clothing (or bathrobes). Put all your grab-and-go items on eye level hooks like the backpack or the purse you use every day. Higher hooks can be used for items that receive occasional use.
    closet with curved wall
    This closet with a gently curving wall features shelves on either end with a three-way mirror between the shelving units.

Customize your awkward spaces with functional closet storage

It's often the awkward spaces that are the only places left in a small or older home where you can add storage. Efficient use of these spaces is essential to maximizing the home's storage potential. Make a storage plan or hire a closet designer to make one for you. Whether it's a low sloped ceiling, curved wall, extra-narrow space, deep return, or simply a total lack of closets, there is a closet organizer solution awaiting you that can definitely increase if not double the storage in these areas.

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CLOSETS FOR CHALLENGING SPACES:

wardrobe closets add storage to old homes without built-in closets
This alcove in an old Victorian home probably once featured a screen to conceal a dressing area and a few garments on hooks. The original beautiful corbels were retained and the new wardrobe closet was added to provide a modern closet with hanging, shelves and drawwers.
See Project >



increase storage potential in an attic closets with sloped ceilings
This attic closet doesn't have a lot of ceiling height in many places due to the slope of the roof, bit the space was outfitted with closet organizers that maximize the storage potential in this home.
See Project >



bedroom closet with deep return used for hanging space
The deep return in this baby's room closet turned out to be the perfect way to separate the clothing for two children, giving each their own space.
See Project >







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