So you want to design your own closet?

So, you want to design your own closet? Successful closet design requires advance planning. Spend some time and inventory all items that need to be stored. Think about how you’d like to use the space. Take accurate measurements. Draw up detailed plans. Remember to leave room for growth. The time you spend upfront will pay off for years to come as you enjoy your new closet.

Design Your Own Closet

Custom closets can be a successful DIY home improvement project that adds resale value. They can also be a disaster. It’s all a matter of taking the time to plan in advance. Use this checklist to make sure your closet falls into the former category.

  1. Start your closet design by measuring your existing closet.

    Before you begin to design, take accurate measurements of the closet space. This cannot be emphasized enough. There’s nothing worse than designing and ordering a new closet, only to find that it won’t fit in your space when it arrives. Digital measuring tools are available to help deliver accurate dimensions. Get one from your local home improvement store. It’s worth the investment. Also, remember to take multiple measurements. Even walls and floors that look straight can be slightly bowed. Measure your walls and ceiling height in three places just to be sure. Round all your measurements down to the nearest quarter inch and go with the smallest number. Also note the position of all obstacles in the closet like light switches, electrical outlets, and attic access panels. You don’t want to accidentally cover these up or restrict access when you install the new closet.

  2. Measure your closet space before starting a new closet design.
    Measuring is always the first and most critical step in any closet design. Triple check and make sure your numbers are absolutely accurate.

  3. Determine closet usage.

    Will it be a shared or private closet? Once you’ve measured your space, you can divide up the closet. Will it be 100% yours, a 50/50 split, or more like 70/30? This arrangement will be different for everyone but needs to be planned for in advance so that you know how much room you have to work with.

  4. A shared closet divided in equal halves between a man and woman
    This closet is divided evenly between his and hers sections. The closet dresser in the center is a nice way to separate the spaces.

  5. Figure out what you need in terms of different types of storage.

    This means taking an accurate inventory of what needs to go into the closet. Make a list of everything. Start with the things you plan to hang on hangers. Count these possessions and write down what you have. That way, you’ll know how much of each type of storage to include. Keep these average space requirements in mind when planning your closet:

    • 1-inch of rod space is needed per item for blouses and shirts.
    • 1.25-inches or closet rod needed for each pair of pants folded over the hanger or lady’s skirts. Also, include any sweatshirts and sweaters, whether you fold and drape them over the bar or just hang them like a shirt.
    • 2-inches of the closet rod is needed for each dress and jacket.
    • 2.5-inches are needed per item for suits, blazers, and winter coats.

  6. Sort and count your garments before you begin your closet design. This will help you plan for an appropriate amount of storage for different types of clothes. When you are finished with your inventory, add between 5-10% onto your numbers so that you’ll have room for growth.

  7. Plan your hanging space first.

    When designing a new clothing closet system, the hanging storage is always planned first. Group all the clothes that you plan to hang from a hanger according to length. That way you can accurately determine how much of each type of closet organizer you will need.

    For example: Using the numbers above, 35 shirts + 15 pants folded over the hanger + 6 sweatshirts + 5 skirts = 67.5 inches of rod space needed for these short separates. 5 short dresses + 3 blazers + 2 suits = 32.5-inches of rod space needed for medium length items. Three maxi dresses + 1 trench coat + 1 long bathrobe = 10.5-inches of rod space needed for long garments.

    If you’re having trouble separating your clothes by length, think of it this way:

    • Separates like shirts, pants, and sweaters folded over a hanger can be hung in what is referred to as “double-hang” closet organizers. This is where one rod is suspended over the other to save space. Each rod usually has a single shelf above it. Putting as much of your storage needs into a double-hang closet solution is the quickest way to increase your closet storage.
    • Short dresses (knee length and above), as well as pants, hung from the cuff or waistband, suits, blazers, or car-length jackets belong in medium-hang closet sections. Medium hang closet sections typically include three shelves above or below the clothes rod.
    • Tea-length or floor-length dresses as well as bathrobes and long trench coats belong in a long-hang section. Long hang-closet sections typically include two shelves above the clothes rod.

  8. Examine the clothes you plan to hang in your closet
    Sort all your hanging clothes by length so that you can plan your closet design properly. Include the right amount of each type of hanging closet storage in your design.

  9. Calculate your closet shelving needs.

    Figure out the overall amount of shelving you need by counting the number and types of items to be stored on shelves. Only you can determine what you want to fold versus hang. Hanging is more convenient, while folding protects the clothes better and keeps them from stretching. After you decide on what gets stored folded, plan on placing folded clothing into 12-inch high stacks. Also, make sure to select shelves that are at least 14-inches deep from your closet manufacturer or lumber yard. Otherwise, your clothes will be left hanging over the edge of the shelf.

    In addition to shelves filled with folded stacks of jeans and sweaters, think about footwear. Shelves are the best way to store shoes. Keep these numbers in mind when planning your shelf storage:

    • Men’s shoes need 9 to 10-inches of shelf space per pair. Women’s shoes need 7 to 8-inches per pair.
    • 18-inches typically holds two pairs of men’s shoes or two side-by-side women’s folded shirts.
    • 24-inches typically holds three pairs of women’s shoes or two stacks of folded items.
    • 30-inches typically holds four pairs of women’s shoes or three pairs of men’s shoes or three folded women’s shirts or two folded sweaters.

    Shelves can be left open for convenience or covered by doors. Covering your closet shelves with doors turns the shelves into cabinets. It’s a nice look, but doors add cost.

  10. Folded sweaters and shoes on closet shelves.
    Closet shelves should be 14-inches deep to ensure that clothes don’t hang over the edge. Don’t allow your stacks of sweaters, jeans, etc. to exceed 12-inches in height. It’s better to have more shelves with shorter stacks than just a few shelves with stacks of folded clothes piled too high.

  11. Plan for your wardrobe accessories and laundry.

    Will you store your underwear, belts, ties, laundry, etc. in the closet? If the answer is yes, how many of these items are there? You’ll probably want to add closet accessories specifically designed for these items. Features like drawers and baskets, built-in laundry hampers, or racks for belts add convenience and save space in the long run.

  12. Walk-in closet with closet accessories.
    Walk-in closet with a built-in closet dresser. Other features include a slide-out hamper, accessory drawers with soft cloth sides, two pull-out pant racks, and a tie organizer.

  13. Seek out resources for your closet design.

    Don’t be shy or too proud. Seek help when you need it. Use a closet design tool that can help layout your closet. Easy-to-use online closet design tools are available that take you through the steps and calculate prices as you go. Or work with a professional closet designer. If your closet has a tricky slanted ceiling or unconventional angles where your walls meet, you might be better off seeking assistance from a pro. This help is FREE from

  14. Seek closet design assistance online.
    Closet design assistance is available online. Use a reputable closet design tool to render your ideas and bring them to life. Seek help from a professional closet designer if you have a tricky closet or are not comfortable with the software.

  15. Insist on quality construction.

    Proper construction methods and quality materials will make a difference in the life-span of your closet. Do your homework on this and don’t skimp on materials or hardware. You want furniture grade. Some companies offer a product that looks nice on the outside but is made from hollow panels that won’t bear much weight or last very long. Others offer panels that are a little thinner or shelves that are only 10 or 12-inches deep in order to shave off some cost in material. Don’t place your order unless you are certain that the product will meet your long-term needs.

  16. closet panels are checked for quality
    Furniture grade closet panels are checked for quality as they come off the CNC machine.

Closet Design Can Be Fun and Rewarding

Design a closet that will last a lifetime! A little advanced planning is all it takes to ensure success. And don’t forget to seek professional help when it’s needed. You’d be surprised at how many resources are available free of charge. Closet design is a skill that improves with practice like anything else. But it’s a skill the handy homeowner can master. Use this checklist to get started. With a little time, energy, and maybe some assistance, you too can have the closet of your dreams!

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