It is no secret I have a lot of clothes.
It is also no secret I sort of hate my small walk-in closet but am also grateful I have one, because I haven’t had a walk-in closet in a long time; usually just a small reach-in closet.
So I thought (as everyone has also been asking) it would be helpful to detail out the entire process from start to finish of what I used, the measurements, what I decided, what I nixed, and how I arrived at my final, beautiful end product.
NOTE! If you just want to see the closet..
Skip to the end. 🙂
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT IN A CLOSET
I have been living with this closet for about 3 years now and I finally have an idea of what would work for me and what wouldn’t. I mean, I suppose I could have tried to remodel this closet in the first year we bought the place, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted, we were busy, etc.
1. I know now, that I really like to hang things up.
I am lazy, and don’t enjoy folding jeans for instance. I’ll DO IT.. but I don’t love it. Plus it leaves little lines across the fabric that bother me, and then I have to crack out my beloved handheld travel steamer THAT NOW COMES IN PINK (ugh I have the ugly black one), and steam out the wrinkles.
I do however, still need to fold sweaters especially heavy ones as they cannot ever be allowed to hang up, or risk being stretched out of shape, or worse… that dreaded hanger mark on the shoulders where the hanger digs into your clothes *horrified*
So I really do need a lot of rail space, as I hang up pants, skirts, and would do jeans as well if I had the rail space.
2. I am also missing drawer space.
As much as I hate folding stuff, I do need drawers because my closet doubles as a mini office / storage area. I keep books, pencils, papers, sentimental cards, blank cards to write out because I am now an adult and they do things like that, and all sorts of style-unrelated things.
Drawers, would help cut down on all of these little purses I am stuffing in corners, filled with… papers and books, and eliminate/organize that whole mess.
3. I would also like some shelves.
Shelves to display my one beautiful vintage jewellery box that I keep hidden away, maybe with a few folded sweaters to the side that SHOULD NEVER BE HUNG. So yes, I need drawers for stuff I don’t want to display, and I want shelves for stuff I do want to display.
4. I enjoy having a table in there.
Strangely enough, my partner put this tiny, awkward hallway table inside my closet and I loved it. It was so handy to just dump stuff I don’t want to hang up right away, or shove packages of shopping in there until I can deal with it later, on top of a desk that I don’t need to clear off and Little Bun can’t reach.
So I wanted some sort of flat open space like a table (or a top of a dresser).
5. I still love my personal touches.
Little Bun’s LOVE artwork, and my jewellery rack? LOVE. Those aren’t going. They’re sentimental and may not go with the ‘theme’, but they’re what make my closet, my own.
Now that we have so much time on our hands (hello COVID-19 quarantine!), I decided we would embark on a full-on blasted closet makeover.
KEY ELEMENTS TO MAXIMIZING A SMALL CLOSET
I watch a ton of design shows (including style ones that have some design in them like Queer Eye), and have soaked them up like a sponge since I was in grade school (I know, weird right… Trading Spaces was my favourite show after school.. so why is my apartment all beige with barely any furniture or decor LOL)… but I know what works across the board in small spaces, as per the information designers have given me over the years, and they are:
- Use all the vertical space possible – Even the shelves at the top, you can always stand on a stool to reach items you don’t reach for on a regular basis but still want to store/keep
- Use the SIDES of things – You can hang up little hooks on the side to hang belts or scarves and use that dead wall / space
- Use the BACKS of things – Like the back of a door – install a nice rack or something, and you have a place for scarves!
- Keep it simple – The less wood and ‘furniture’ in there, the better. If you put in shelving, remember that shelves take up inches of space in … well being a shelf. The more minimal the better in a tiny space
- Declutter – Umm.. I am working on this. I have gotten quite far actually but I really do need to get rid of 25% of what I have, and as I am taking outfit shots to post on Instagram, I am seeing why I reach/don’t reach for certain items and am removing things
- Consider what you have / need – See above. I know what I like in a closet (lots of rail space), and what I am missing (drawers)
MAP OUT YOUR CLOSET DIMENSIONS
Did you know the U.S. is one of the only two countries in the world that still use the Imperial system? Unfortunately they’re also big producers of products, and they only put everything in inches and feet, NOT centimetres…. *sigh*
So put BOTH and save yourself the trouble of having to convert, etc. This is what my closet plan looks like:
(Please note, this was drawing number 7. I kept measuring and re-measuring, and drawing over the page… so this is the presentable version for the blog.)
You must account for:
- Height (you may need space to shift a bookcase into, or you have to build it into the space directly if it is very tight)
- Baseboards (things won’t sit flush agains the wall)
- Measuring strange corners / what must stay as ‘free space’
- Measuring IN A STRAIGHT LINE, preferably on the floor so you can’t make a twisted mistake
That strange bump out in the bottom right section is a pillar that was covered, and then there was a strange angled wall to the left because the previous owners fked up the plans and took space from this closet to make the second bedroom on the other side, be a square/rectangular shape instead.
So…. well. It ruined the closet. I basically lost that entire wall to be able to hang anything because it is SO TIGHT if you put anything there, and blocks the door/entry way completely.
My 3 closet limitations:
- 4 feet of closet space on the only usable wall for rails
- Need space in the middle to be able to put my mobile rolling rack which gives me SO MUCH space, rail space and options
- Weird angled wall on the left can’t hold anything. That space has to be open or else it blocks the doorway.
Then I moved on to budgetary concerns:
THE DECISION PROCESS: CUSTOM OR PRE-FAB?
I set a budget of about $5000 at the start. I really wanted something nice, efficient, and to be ‘done’.
I started reaching out to closet companies, we did video calls where I showed them the space, gave them measurements… and ultimately it sort of all boiled down to the same thing in the end.
They all offered to do whatever I wanted (I don’t know what I want! Tell me what I want!), and frankly, with such a small space, there wasn’t much they could help me with versus what I already knew were limitations of my closet.
I asked if they would custom cut the shelves and wood, to make it really be fitted in the space, and of course they would, but again.. COVID-19, I am not letting anyone in this home for a long time.
So, I decided to go with a pre-fab (pre-fabricated) option, which means buying shelving already made, and fitting it into the space.
The 4 main contenders for pre-fab:
- Buying the wood yourself and cutting it down to fit your closet
- Container Store* – ships to Canada, but not IN Canada
Out of the 4, Ikea is the most robust with the most storage system styles, sizes for even narrow spaces, and frankly, DIY hacks all up the wazoo on Pinterest.
The 4th is great, if you have a saw, and a garage, etc. We had to eliminate that option as we do not, and do not leave the apartment because of COVID.
Plus, I did have a vision of what I wanted, and I started researching into what each company had.
Spoiler alert: I went with Ikea…. but here’s why:
CLOSETMAID SELECTIVES & IMPRESSIONS
They have two styles: Selectives (only comes in white) and Impressions which is their “luxe” version (comes in walnut, cherry, dark wood) that my partner said he touched in the store and it looked very expensive for the price.
They look like this:
You basically have a shelving unit of two sizes in the middle of your closet, and rods that go out.
PLEASE NOTE!.. Someone wrote in the comments that it said that the small ones fit a 4-foot closet (ClosetMaid Impressions on the far right), but when you factored in the 12″ shelving unit, it was actually a minimum size of 5-feet, as per what the ClosetMaid Selectives (second from the left) correctly states.
Basically, this unit will only fit a FIVE foot closet at a minimum unless you’re planning on cutting the rods and doing a little customization.
CONTAINER STORE ELFA, AVERA, ELFERN
Cute.. but we ruled them out because they ship to Canada but then.. import fees, duties AND they have these metal racks at the back of the wall that you install, and then put floating shelves on. I don’t… love it.
I prefer closets and shelves, but it does look very clean and neat. I suppose I am a snob and just don’t want to see the rails on the wall. It does makes sense however, as you just set up the rails and then snap on drawers, rails, shelves… it’s very easy and clean it seems.
My friend did recommend them though.
Their Elfa system is DIY, the other two are styles (modern and traditional), but you have to contact them and they’ll come in and figure it all out for you.
We finally went with Ikea. The quality is not as good as ClosetMaid in terms of the laminated wood, but the variety, the DIY hacks… it was an easier choice for us.
They have SO. MANY. OPTIONS.
- ELVARLI system – Like the Container Store Elfa option with open shelving
- PAX system – This is their bestseller and for good reason
- STUVA system – These are mini-sized solutions for children
- AURDAL system – This is similar to the ClosetMaid options above
- BESTÅ storage system – Similar to Pax, similar configurations
- BOAXEL system – Like the Container Store Elfa option with open shelving
- SVALNÄS system – Like the Container Store Elfa option with open shelving
- BROR system – For the garage
- TORDH system – For the outdoors
- JONAXEL system – Tested for wet/indoor use so good for bathrooms
- IVAR system – All in pine wood
- OMAR system – All in aluminium rods
Out of the two, I only liked Pax or Bestå. They look similar to each other, frankly.
Then I went through ALL THE OPTIONS.
Every. Single. Dang One.
I had my little floor plan, and I would just search: “Dresser 40 cm“, or go through all the dressers, look at the specs, and find what would fit in the space I wanted.
I had 10 sheets of plans, measurements, and ideas of “Oh if I put that here… that could work..“.
Then my partner started getting involved.
Suffice it to say, it took about 4 days of searching and notes just to find the layout idea I think would work.
What gives me a CRAZY amount of space is this wonderful rolling rack:
This rack has to stay. I can adjust the shelving to make it taller or shorter to hold my maxi dresses and coats, but it has to stay. It is so handy.
The Side Wall with the Light Switch
I started with the wall with the light switch, closest to the door where I currently had that nice narrow table just below the jewellery rack (not pictured, I couldn’t take a photo because it is so tiny in here). Here’s a better photo of that setup:
Out of all of them, only one dresser would fit in this wall, and it was the Tarva 5-drawer chest.
Measurements I considered:
- The width from the wall would be 40cm, and that’s the maximum I can have before it would be unable to have a rolling rack clear the space to enter.
- The height is exactly 127cm which is the MAX that I could go before it hit the bottom of the light switch plate.
- The length that would be the maximum for the drawers, would be 80cm, and the drawers are 76cm, which is perfect
- It’s ugly. But don’t worry, I found plenty of hacks. More on that later in this post.
- It looks cheaply made even though it is real wood, and it is (I mean it’s IKEA!), but it will do the job.
If you see this shot, you can see the dresser would fit perfectly up to the bottom of the light switch plate, and give me 5 solid drawers in the process.
It’s basically the EXACT SIZE of this table, but in a 5-drawer dresser:
The Back Wall
I went back and forth the longest on this.
Should I do a narrow shelving option like from ClosetMaid or Ikea, and then rods on either side, with one rod for longer maxi dresses and coats?
I went back and forth with about 6 options before I decided that I needed to keep it simple. I needed lots of rail space, and my partner just said: Why not put two rails? It’s simple, and it uses up that entire space for ALL of your clothes.
The only drawback, is I have some long maxi dresses and it won’t ever be able to have just one section of a single rail for long dresses, then two for double hanging, but maybe I can find an option for that somewhere else either on my rolling rack, or I just hang them to the side on the rails at the back, but push the longer dresses behind a rail or in front.
The double-hanging would give me 246cm of rail space, which is more than what I have now, if you consider that my old closet was a rail space of 205.5cm, minus the small sections in the corners of about 2cm (for a total of 8cm) wasted because of the wire brackets.
You can see what I mean here — that part where the white metal comes down to hold it against the wall? That’s a good few centimetres on each end that I can’t hang clothes on … In such a small space, EVERY, CENTIMETRE COUNTS.
Then I could change the rolling rack I am keeping to hold longer maxi items.
I finally decided on two long rails, and then I would figure out the rest later. It would be simple.
My partner would buy two long wooden poles, I’d get him to stain them a pretty walnut colour, and then install them at the back with EZ Hook drywall inserts for the 3 screws in each wall section because that would give a lot of support (thanks to my friend Adina and her husband’s help on Instagram to learn this!)
Other wall facing the light switch
You can see my janky setup with Ikea “shelves” (organizers really), trying to hold up purses…
So the only thing that fit in there was the Billy Bookcase.
- Width of the bookcase is 80cm which fits into the 82.5cm and leaves 2.5cm of dead space against that weird angled wall (plan for that later)
- The height was 202cm but also comes in 236cm except we need a little space to be able to install brackets to screw it properly against the wall for support, so a shorter bookcase, with 34cm at the top means I can put boxes there, or maybe purses that fit, and still use the space anyway.
- There is a pillar in the corner, that is 31 cm x 30 cm, so I needed something to fit in there that would be under 30cm so it would look flush against that section, while accounting for 2.54cm for the baseboards, and since the bookcase is 28cm + 2.54cm, its 30.54cm, and pretty dang close.
I also planned on hacking the bookcase to make it look cuter. More on that later.
Last weird angled wall
Leave it. I was going to put a mirror there, but if I am using a rolling rack, I could very well knock it off the wall as I roll it in. So I am leaving it blank and open.
Final Plan with Measurements:
I sat down in my empty closet and I mapped it out with painter’s tape. It all fit perfectly in there and looked great in my mind. I would lie there before sleeping at night and dream what it would look like in my head!!!
Why I decided not to wallpaper or put wall decals on the actual walls
I had an idea to do that wasted weird angled wall with a gorgeous peony decals or wallpaper like this, coming down from the doorway:
Apparently after painting if you didn’t put TSP to clean the grease off before you applied primer and paint, you’re hooped:
“…assuming the paint is good, and that you were painting over another coat of paint, and not new walls, which require a good primer coat before you paint a finish coat, it is my hope that you cleaned the walls thoroughly with a trisodium phosphate solution. Trisodium phosphate, or TSP, is a wall and ceiling cleaning agent used by most professional painters and it will strip the dirt and grease off your interior walls and ceilings.”
Otherwise, it will tear the paint right off your walls apparently even if they are ‘removable’.
Now, I have two items to hack: Ikea Tarva 5-drawer dresser and the Ikea Billy Bookcase.
HACKING THE IKEA TARVA 5-DRAWER DRESSER
I knew I would do something to it, but I didn’t know what. I finally settled on this mocked up version of what I wanted it to look like (I did this in Photoshop):
Why I chose this look:
- Staining over painting because it shows some of the wood (which I feel looks nicer), and won’t be so ‘painted’ which I am not a fan of
- The staining of the dresser in walnut would also match the staining of the poles for the rails at the back, and tie in all the elements in the closet together
- Changing the hardware to sleek handles. They need to be 17-5/8 in. (448mm) to fit in there perfectly, and these handles fit perfectly.
- The original Tarva legs are 6″ or 15.24cm.
- Changing the legs to match the handles. I find them ugly. I’ll just do away with them but there are other hacks that made them look very cute. I found a company called Pretty Pegs that makes hardware JUST for Ikea and their Theodor 120 legs was my favourite of the bunch.
- I wanted brass/gold hardware, as I think it wouldn’t look strange with a white bookcase in the corner I don’t plan on doing anything with except hacking the back of it.
The legs look like this:
They had other options, and I mocked up a few other looks:
I liked all of them, but I think a thicker leg looks nicer with the style of the dresser. I also didn’t want them to be too tall and skinny because I feel like it doesn’t match the style either.
They come in various woods as well (not all the styles have all the woods), but you can stain them as you wish.
Here are some other Ikea Tarva hack ideas I liked:
I found this post by Palms to Pines EXTREMELY helpful with the pictures of the actual drawer assembled, so I could study what the legs looked like, how it was put together, and their step by step process.
Their hack turned out beautifully:
Here are some others I liked but for various reasons did not feel fit into my theme:
Tarva DIY Cane Dresser (House on Longwood Lane)
Moulded Front Tarva Ikea Hack (Hunker)
West Elm Ikea Hack (Diana Domesticated)
Mid-Century Hack (Sarah Sherman Samuel)
And from the same person above, Sarah Sherman Samuel, this beautiful white and gold option:
Ikea Geometric Front Hack (Erin Spain)
You can see SO MANY MORE here in Pinterest – Ikea Tarva hack ideas
I saw ones where they removed the drawers from the top and it was an open shelving area up top and it became a TV storage stand, and others where it was dark navy blue with gold… gorgeous colourblocking. Lots of ideas.
In the end, I decided to leave the floor empty and not have a dresser at all because I am leaving anyway, and I didn’t want to buy any furniture as a result.
HACKING THE IKEA BILLY BOOKCASE
I definitely wanted to put a wallpaper background on the bookcase, and went through a billion options. I knew I wanted gold/brass something to tie in with the dresser, as I planned on keeping the bookcase white.
They don’t have a walnut option for the laminated wood, but I think white also looks nice because it will blend into the wall (which I will paint a satin white).
So I decided on these gingko / maidenhair leaf decals meant for the wall, but I will put on the bookcase back instead:
And the mock-up is this:
The process to apply the decals or wallpaper:
OPTION 1: Build the entire frame first
- The back of the bookcase comes in two sections that sit on top of each other, not length-wise panels, so if you wanted to wallpaper them, you could buy the wallpaper for both of the panels and do it before you put it all together
- Don’t put the shelves in
- Apply wallpaper/decals inside that frame
- Now put in the shelves
I liked this option the best because I didn’t have to deal with the grooves and it would look just like this.
OPTION 2: Apply the wallpaper/decals first
- The back of the bookcase comes in two sections that sit on top of each other in two big squares, so not long length-wise panels, so if you wanted to wallpaper them, you could buy the wallpaper for both of the panels and do it before you put it all together
- BE MINDFUL OF THE GROOVES. The sides / frame have to slot into the back of the panels with little grooves and if you wallpaper over them, they won’t slide in.
I had other options and ideas, some of which I mocked up, but I realized I did not love it all being too dark or bold:
I also really liked the large peonies, but they’re too sweet for me, ultimately, so what I chose is what is really ME. Dark, sexy colours but with a nice white background as well to help the bookcase blend in a little.
You can find so many options on Etsy. Just search: “Wallpaper peel and stick” or “Wallpaper decal“. You will find TONS of options, even cool ideas like this to have an ocean, beach, Japanese temple pathway, or this forest scene:
Again, as we are leaving this apartment and buying another one, I won’t do anything to it that is too personalized, so I am leaving everything as vanilla as possible for the next owners.
NOW THE PROCESS BEGINS
Tuesday June 23rd 2020
I started cleaning out the entire closet and moved it all to the second bedroom:
Wednesday June 24th:
My partner removes all the racks and cleans out the entire space.
Thursday June 25th:
My partner only goes out every 2 weeks because of COVID. He picks up spackle for the wall to patch up the holes, EZ anchors for the screws, and all this other stuff we need.
Friday June 26th:
I order the Etsy maidenhair decals.
Saturday June 27th:
I measure out the plan for the Billy Bookcase, and create an idea of where to place everything.
I am not entirely sold on the sweaters being on the shelves here instead of just leaving them on the rack:
The bookcase is 202 cm in total height.
We need to account for 2cm for the top shelf, and the bottom is 10cm, so my usable space is 190cm.
Each shelf, also has to account for that space at 2cm, so the plan, adds up perfectly to everything being what I need.
- BOXES – I already have boxes with adulting greeting and birthday cards and other things, so that has to go at the top
- SWEATERS – The next shelf COULD hold sweaters, or something else, maybe a purse display.
- DISPLAY – I definitely want a smaller shelf for displaying a few beautiful jewellery boxes and maybe ring dishes… Ideally I would put all my jewellery in my closet so I stop going back and forth to the bathroom
- CLUTCHES – This is to hold my jewellery pouches that are vintage obi clutches
- SWEATERS – Another shelf for ‘sweaters’ or jeans, or whatever. I may hang up my jeans however. I like things hanging up.
- BAGS – Smaller bags with handles that don’t fold down
- BAGS – Tall ones that have handles that don’t fold down.
I am set on this layout, but the two shelves with “Sweaters” is up for debate to be Jeans, or something else, maybe displaying a purse like my vintage Chanel instead.
The very very top of the bookcase, will hold my large summer hat, and a smaller fedora because I need space for that without putting them into a hat box.
Monday July 13th 2020
You’ve all missed nothing. Nothing has changed since 2 weeks ago, except the wire shelving finally came down.
Reasons cited from my handyman? “Unavailability of products at store to do said job” … Sigh.
But he says he got enough and will get started this week.
The other day he walked into the closet…
Me: I get so excited when you walk into the closet (as in I think he’ll get some work done)
Partner: It’s why I do it.
… then later on in the day, he says: “Hey I’m going into the closet again. Want to take a picture?” … I’m getting trolled LOL..
Wednesday August 19th 2020
The first part of the closet is done! The rails! You can watch the entire video here.
We installed two rails and a shelf above that, for the maximum use of space:
And then I filled it with my items, tanks, tees, long-sleeve shirts, then blazers, skirts and shirts on the bottom:
THE FINAL REVEAL
Then a long time passed, I got the bookcase, and my partner only just got around to doing it one day in late October, after a bit of needling because I was starting to get irritated that it wasn’t done and I couldn’t play around in there.
Wednesday October 21st
We finally finished it!
I procured a Billy bookcase, he lugged it upstairs, and he installed it right away after fixing the bottom because we didn’t account for the mouldings on the bottom of the floor not fitting it perfectly, just off by about half an inch, so we cut off the bottom and then put it on top of the moulding.
It is the best that could be done in this tiny space, and we tried to use as much space as possible at the top especially. I should note that we wanted to also put a shelf above the Billy Bookcase, but the wall slants very oddly on the right, so there’s no way to do that without some custom carpentry.
You can see the full video of the reveal here:
The rails at the back look great and hold a lot more clothes than I expected:
And this is the side with the bookcase that I am in the process of styling and re-styling:
The bottom of the bookcase, I have decided is two shelves for purses, on the side so I can fit more, and I used a few shelf dividers:
The middle of the bookcase I have decided to leave it as a jewellery / display shelf to add some beauty to the closet rather than having it full of only clothes and things.
The shelf above is jeans. On the far right are all my distressed pairs, and on the left, non-distressed pairs.
I also added all of my jewellery in obi bags at the top so I can finally display these beautiful purses, and see them. It’s the perfect nook for them rather than hidden in a drawer.
Little Bun loves playing with my jewellery too:
He says this is his favourite one because of the pretty pink flowers and the crystal button:
If you’re interested in the jewellery box to the right, it’s from Stackers and its video review is here and the blog post review with the tray options and all dimensions.
The video below shows all of the jewellery box trays I have, and goes through each of the trays, my themes for them, and what jewellery I keep in there.
The top of the bookcase are a few artfully displayed sweaters (my favourites), in neutrals because I didn’t want to spoil the aesthetic of the closet, so I kept it in greys and ivories, and tried not to stack too many.
The Home Edit acrylic shelf divider is in between, and I am using that empty gap as a valet hook to put hangers on, or to hold items as I am coming up with outfit ideas. I really would love a valet hanger (a proper one) in my future closet, but for now this will do.
The last shelf I didn’t want to overload with things because it could tip the entire thing down, so I put my vintage Chanel on display (and out of grubby little baby paws who like to grab at pretty things and turn the turnlock), and a sunhat.
I decided on two display vignettes of a sort, trying to show fashion books, with a vintage Chanel perfume bottle, and some notecards from The Lust List (her work is great), that I could display and swap out (I have 4 of them, and lots of duplicates if anyone wants to buy some, just email me.)
I have really been having fun playing around with the display, thinking of how I would add things to the shelf, or remove them, and so on. I am making the most of the space, and Little Bun loves spending time in here, he has his own little spot underneath the clothes. Watch the video to see what I mean!
- Fictionally Fabulous – What characters like Carrie Bradshaw would wear, fun illustrations
- Women in this town – Street style
- The Cool Factor – One of my favourite style inspo books with LOTS of full colour shots
And the rest of my clothes, are on this rolling rack that gives me a super amount of space for clothing:
I roll this rack into my closet (which takes up the space), and it gives me lots of extra space as a result.
This is the side with the coats hanging off:
On top of that:
I also fold my millions of sweaters on the racks, as I have no drawers or extra shelves:
My coats hang off to the other side as they’re longer, and I need to have the space here for my indoor clothes (loungewear, cashmere sweaters) and my yoga wear:
And now the back of the rack, I hold things I need often but don’t want to be in reach of Little Bun like scissors. I also add a rack with belts and slips hanging off it:
And that’s how I eke out extra space in a closet. It isn’t the prettiest option but man.. I needed that third rack. Even a fourth one, really.
And that’s my closet!
FINAL BUDGET COSTS: $231.07
- Paint, Wooden Poles & Screws, Shelving and Brackets: $162.08
- Billy Bookcase: $68.99 – I paid an extra $5 to do a pickup
TOTAL = $231.07
The rest was decorative, you didn’t need to buy my Stackers jewellery box for instance, or cards.