10 Tips for designing a walk-in closet
April 7, 2016 | 11:09 am CDT
closet design - Denise Butchko

Being able to easily see and access all of your clothing and accessories is one of the best time saving, life-organizing tools ever.  Yet, if it's not designed well, you can actually end up wasting space. And wasting space in one of the most high demand spaces in the home is a costly mistake that impacts life on a daily basis.

Be particularly attentive to the “short” walls in the closet, as
it is likely these will be “hard” measurements, with the design going wall-to-wall (versus having a “bridge” shelf that allows for the top piece to be cut-to-fit on site.

1. Wall-to-wall systems require a tight fit. “Short” walls are frequently used for double hang. So as you are looking at 
the written dimensions in your plan view, try designing the space with double hang on those short walls. Double hang also provides the biggest ROI because it literally doubles your hanging capacity from what likely existed before.

2. If the closet is wider than it is long you will, again, start the design process by putting hanging on the short walls. Then determine drawer locations; usually centered on the back wall in line with the entrance because drawers look the nicest. Build the long hang, medium hang, half and half and shelving from there.

3. Shelving that’s 14-inches deep is good by entrances because it’s often used for shoes, which are put on last and taken off first, as you enter and exit the closet.

4. If the depth of the front return walls is at least 24-inches deep, hanging can be accommodated/designed into the adjacent walls. If you have less than 24-inches between the sidewall and the entrance, you need to use shelving and drawers/baskets or
else the hanging will interfere with the doorway clearances. Translated, this means that you will literally walk right in to the garments as you enter the closet.

5. If you’ve designed double hang on the short walls, the next sections on the adjacent walls should be anything but double hang (unless you’re allowing at least 30 inches of space from the back wall to the start of the new section). While the DH configuration is one that’s used in almost every closet, it also feels like a wall of clothing coming at you when you use it both going into and coming out of a corner, so avoid doing it.

6. Be sure not to put drawers behind a door that opens into the closet.

7. You need a minimum of 24 inches for a walkway in a closet. This is narrower than ADA standards, so if the client has special needs, this dimension needs to be wider.

8. Corners are important to deal with in a walk-in closet. While more complex solutions exist, the majority of the time you can incorporate one that’s very easy. Simply allow 24 to 30 inches from the back wall before starting the section on the adjacent wall. This allows for the depth of the clothing plus a couple of inches for reaching in to get them.

9. This measurement (24 to 30 inches) is one that can be adjusted up or down based upon the space you have to work with and is referred to as a “soft” measurement. What happens in this space is a “bridge shelf” is installed, which spans the width of the space. This allows for a continuous storage shelf around the perimeter.

10. Avoid double hang as the first section as you enter because it feels like a wall of clothing coming at you, which is another reason why it works well on the back wall.

Standard placements

Rods: height to top of rod from floor
Double Hang: 40-1⁄2 inches and 82 inches
Medium Hang: 54 inches
Long Hang: 66 inches

Heights for Accessories

Valet Rail/Pole: 70 inches from floor unless otherwise specified; 60 inches from floor for children
Belt Rack: 50 inches or the length of the belt + 2 inches; 
42 inches for children – install in LH, on wall or outside of side panel
Tie Racks: 78 inches and 40 inches for two racks, one above the other; 72 inches for a single tie rack – install on wall or outside of side panel
Iron & Board Holder: 60 inches from floor or per customer preference
Mop & Broom Holder: 54 inches from floor

Source: Denise Butchko, Butchko & Co., Chicago, IL, is a design and marketing expert. For more information contact her at (312) 399-7109 or visit DeniseButchko.com.


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About the author
Denise Butchko

Denise Butchko is a design and marketing expert who teaches these concepts with the intention of helping people grow their businesses (particularly those in the design/build industries). She’s been a contributor to Closets magazine since 2003 and is a judge for the closet industries “Top Shelf” Design Competition. She's also a member of the first graduating class of Registered Storage Designers. Her design work has been featured in national publications like “Better Homes & Gardens” and The Chicago Tribune and she works with some of the top interior design firms in the country. She’s helped cabinet companies launch closet product lines and trained sales professionals in both design and marketing, including ways to leverage social media and design to increase opportunities and brand themselves as the “go to expert”. If you want to have fun while you learn and bring your “A” game to your business, Denise is the one to partner with to make that happen. You can find her at denisebutchko.com or at the above links.