Demand for flexibility shaping closet & storage design
By Brian Dougherty, Vice President of Sales, ClosetMaid - Building Division
June 6, 2023 | 10:55 am CDT

Builders are responding to consumer demand in the multifamily market by integrating flexible closet systems as a selling point. 

Photo By ClosetMaid

The multifamily housing sector is currently facing a split between consumer demand shaped by the post-pandemic market and a need for more multifamily housing. The need for multifamily housing inventory has led to an increase in the number of studios and one-bedroom apartments on the market today. 

However, while the demand for more space has led to a slight increase in the average size of new apartments from 2020 to 2021, apartment size is now on a downward swing. According to a recent RentCafe study, the largest year-over-year decrease in average apartment size took place in 2022. Last year, the average size of new apartments across the U.S. was 887 square feet, down 30 square feet from 2021.

Despite this decrease in the average size of apartments, storage space continues to be among the highest-valued feature for owners and renters alike. In fact, we’ve seen various studies over the years that show renters are willing to pay a premium for features like walk-in closets. With apartment sizes decreasing, the design must get smarter. It’s vitally important that storage in multifamily housing is optimized with closet systems to meet consumer demand and stay competitive in the market. Today, more builders and designers are aware that a single shelf or a single rod in a closet is not sufficient storage for residents. In response, builders are integrating flexible closet systems, which can be used as a selling point in addition to separating them from others in the market. 

Closet solutions allowing residents to easily modify shelving are popular.

ClosetMaid has experienced a substantial increase in the number of multifamily projects that are engaging our services in the early stages of the design process. We have prepared designs and bid packages for hundreds of new projects that are either under construction now or into 2024. This reflects the growing value placed on thoughtful storage design and the demand for optimized closet systems across the building industry.

Remote work and the need for flex space are other prominent consumer trends impacting closet and storage design.  

While there are different projections on the future of remote work, we’ve seen this growing workforce trend greatly influence consumer demand for features in multifamily housing. The addition of communal workspace was a suitable response to this demand, but many residents are now turning second bedrooms into their remote workspaces. As a solution, we’re seeing secondary bedroom closets that are being designed with shelving systems to accommodate office supplies and items. This translates to deeper shelving, increased weight capacity, or the ability to integrate drawers and adjustable shelving.

Overall, there is a greater demand for flexible organization systems that give multifamily residents the freedom to reconfigure and customize their closet systems to fit their needs as they change over time. Consumers want flexibility in how they can use spaces in their homes – very similar to how second bedrooms are being repurposed for office space; other people may want a gym, meditation, or hobby spaces of their own. To meet this demand, the multifamily sector is looking for innovative solutions that allow areas to be used as both a practical everyday living space and storage. For this reason, ClosetMaid’s ShelfTrack product line is one of the most popular products of choice for multifamily sector clients. This system allows residents to easily modify shelving, both vertically and horizontally, providing high performance and the ability to use across any storage area or application – from pantries and laundry rooms to reach-in and walk-in closets.

Despite decreases in average apartment sizes, storage space continues to be in high demand and a prized feature for owners and renters.

On the higher end of the rental market, we are seeing storage upgrades increase premium value. Designers and builders are offering more custom upgrades for wood and wire closet systems to provide a more refined and tailored look. The most in-demand storage spaces are walk-in closets, pantry-style storage in the kitchen and entryway, and linen closets. In bedrooms, some of the more popular closet accessories include shoe shelving, corner hang rods, belt racks, and hamper or laundry organizers.

When it comes to closet design and finishes, we’ve seen a return of deep natural wood tones and wood-grain style finishes. This trends with the consumer demand for connection to natural elements in the home space and the desire to add personalization to the space. To contrast these natural tones, consumers favor bold accents like modern hardware in black, chrome, or even gold. Both modern and shaker drawer fronts are among the most popular styles today. Another closet design trend on the market, applied more often in luxury or loft-style units, is black cabinetry adding a bold, modern, and sophisticated look to the space.

Regardless of the amount of space or location, people want to make the most of their living space, and this isn’t going to change anytime soon. That means simplifying use and maximizing storage space with flexible storage systems to give multifamily residents the ability to make the changes they need.  

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