Honoring the Aesthetic of a 150 Year Old Home: Adding New Armoire Closets to Mimic a Free Standing Closet — Looking Like They've Always Been There

Designing a New Custom Armoire Wardrobe for an Old House: The Story Behind the Project

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 custom armoire wardrobe 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 closets 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 standing 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 custom armoire wardrobe 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 custom armoire wardrobe in this vintage home was created with respect the heritage of the building, and is intended to add to its character rather detract from its historical past. Carefully renovating the standing 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.
room before custom armoire wardrobe was built
armoire closets with cabinets open
This home is listed with the National Register of Historic Places. Working on historic buildings presents unique challenges for both the remodeler and the homeowner. Closet Works designers are experts in adding unobtrusive storage pieces to historic buildings and experienced in dealing with historic renovation. These armoire closets are made to look like vintage built-ins but are fully modern inside. Adding a custom armoire wardrobe can be tricky due to the sloping floors and walls, but the results are well worth the effort — rejuvinating the old Victorian Painted Lady so that she can service the needs of a 21st century family.
  • Color: White
  • Traditional crown and base moulding in white
  • Oil rubbed bronze Emerald cabinet handles and hardware
  • Five under mount, soft close closet drawers
  • Harmony closet drawer and door fronts
  • Seven round closet rods in oil rubbed bronze finish
  • One each telescoping belt rack and tie rack for interior of the husband's free standing closet

Details That Mimic a Historic Free Standing Closet / Armoire

vertical view of custom armoire closets open
vertical view of armoire closets closed
armoire closets doors open
custom armoire closets all doors open
view with one side standing closet doors open
armoire closets cabinet doors open
view of armoire closets with doors closed
his side of armoire with hanging space
His section with Oil Rubbed Bronze rods
view of her section of the custom standing closet
Her section
armoire doors dowelled together
Dowelled together doors

Armoire Closets Architectural Details

custom crown on standing closet matches corbels
Crown blends with antique corbels
view of arch over standing closet with original corbels
Arched alcove with original corbels

Also of interest: Closet Drawers 3 Ways to Add a Pantry Closet to a Kitchen Refer a Friend & Receive a FREE Gift!