From the April/May 2014 Issue:

Closets That Click

    Writer: Mary Vinnedge |

Make your day … with a custom storage system


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enlarge | Adjustable shelving allows the user to reconfigure storage as needs change—for instance, with the purchase of several sweaters or pairs of boots. Courtesy of California Closets
The ideal closet is “the gateway to your day,” says Seth Rappaport of Contemporary Closets in Farmingdale. “It’s a one-stop shop.” When you step out of the shower in the morning, all of your clothes and accessories (belts, ties, jewelry, scarves) are handy—hanging on rods, folded on shelves and in drawers, and stowed in cubbyholes. And these closets serve you in the evening equally well, with a hamper where you can toss everything you wore during the day plus PJs at the ready.

Most coveted is the closet on steroids: the dressing room, say Nadine Holtz of Closets by Design, Northern New Jersey, in Carlstadt, and Melanie Statlander of California Closets in Fairfield. Holtz explains that people want only a limited amount of furniture in their bedrooms, so storage of all clothing, even small and folded items, is moving into closets to achieve quiet efficiency. If one spouse sleeps late, the other one can completely prepare for work without turning on lights and noisily opening and closing drawers in the sleeping area of the bedroom.

Dressing rooms are so desirable that some homeowners will annex space from other rooms and build on to the house to accommodate them. One of Holtz’s clients even furnished his dressing room (once a spare bedroom) with a television, coffee machine and sofa.

Statlander and Holtz say an island is often the centerpiece for dressing rooms and large closets, such as the 30-by-30-footer Statlander recently designed. One Closets by Design client, whose work requires frequent travel, requested an island at packing height for his luggage; the island stores the luggage when he’s home.

Of course, space is a consideration when planning a closet with an island. A closet should be 12 feet or wider to allow the requisite 2-foot-minimum traffic lanes around it, Rappaport says.

And if you don’t have space for a dressing room or closet island? No sweat. Closet outfitters have amenities that will boost function for walk-in and reach-in closets of any size (Rappaport once designed a 16-inch-wide closet for medications and cleaning supplies). For example, maybe you would like:
• Jewelry storage, which Rappaport says is his most-requested perk. Drawer trays—often velvet-lined and sometimes stacked two-deep—keep earrings mated and necklaces tangle-free. False bottoms in drawers can hide valuables.
• Valet rods for dry-cleaning or the next day’s outfit.
• Belt and tie racks.
• Charging stations in drawers or on shelves for cellphones, tablets and other electronics.
• Mirrors that pull out and swivel around for a last check before you greet the world.
• Ironing boards that pop out of drawers or hang on side panels.
• Drawer dividers for socks and underwear. (Never again wear one navy and one black sock as a “pair”!)
• Plastic boxes that keep shoes dust-free. Holtz suggests affixing a photo of the shoes to the outer edge of the box for easy identification.
• Tilt-out hampers lined with bags that move to the laundry with ease.
• Lights for shelves and cabinets; motion detectors so lights turn on automatically.
• Small refrigerators for high-end cosmetics or medications that need to be kept cool.
• Two- and three-tone systems for jazzy styling. Perhaps drawer fronts of one color and vertical elements another, Statlander says. You also can amp up style with see-through door inserts that add decorative elements or textures such as ribbed glass.
• European styling—systems with strong hori­zontal lines and frameless cabinetry—are a growing trend, Statlander says.


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enlarge | A pull-down pole allows easy access to clothing that hangs overhead.
Special-Needs Closets
Closet designers can satisfy many requests that fall outside mainstream consumer wish lists. Consider these special options:
• Older homeowners may need safe, no-stepladder-required access to clothes hanging on a high rod. One option is an easy-to-use pole that can lower a high closet rod, says Melanie Statlander of California Closets in Fairfield. After you’ve retrieved something from the rod or hung something on it, you push the pole up to return the rod to its usual position.
• For customers with allergies or the desire to be as green as possible, environmentally friendly materials are available, although they cost somewhat more, says Nadine Holtz of Closets by Design, Northern New Jersey in Carlstadt. These products, which contain zero urea formaldehyde and are available through most closet design companies, look exactly the same as the more common low-formaldehyde counterparts.
• Baby boomers who move into adult communities — very popular developments in Central New Jersey — seldom want to downsize their possessions, says Seth Rappaport of Contemporary Closets in Farmingdale (Closets for Life bought Contemporary Closets in Farmingdale in 2013 and now goes by that name). The key is to add storage for infrequently used items all the way up to ceilings, which are often 9 or 10 feet in adult-community housing.


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enlarge | Consumers often want the finishes and hardware in their closet to complement other cabinetry in their homes. The Classic Collection could be just the ticket, offering glass inserts in doors plus crown and base moldings. Through Closets by Design, Northern New Jersey. 
Skimpy closets? Gotcha covered!
For homes with tiny closets, wardrobes—furniture-like storage attached to walls—are hot options, say Melanie Statlander of California Closets in Fairfield and Nadine Fox of Closets by Design, Northern New Jersey. Skimpy closets are common in vintage homes and in young professionals’ condos in northern locales such as Hoboken, Weehawken and North Bergen.

Sometimes Murphy beds are incorporated into the wardrobe designs (Murphy beds are also popular in multipurpose storage systems designed for guest rooms and home offices), the women say. Wardrobe systems can incorporate lighting and the same amenities as regular closets, including short- and long-hanging sections, jewelry inserts and drawer dividers.


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enlarge | California Closets’ Virtuoso Line and Classic Line combine in this closet, which features light-up shoe shelves.
Strategies and Tactics
To perfect your closet, check out the following advice from our three experts:
• Melanie Statlander recommends that you winnow your wardrobe before the project starts. As a reality check for your wardrobe, Seth Rappaport suggests this tip he learned from HGTV: Turn every hanger in your closet backward, with the opening in the top hook facing you. After you wear clothes, reverse the hangers. In six months, cull the clothing on hangers that are still backward.
• If you’re building or remodeling, consult a closet designer early. “Sometimes we have to tell them, ‘If you had gone only 1 foot bigger, we could have given you this,’” Statlander says. A poorly located door can waste 2 to 4 feet of storage, Rappaport says; plan ahead so you won’t have to move it. Nadine Holtz says a consultation can stop the installation of moldings that would have to be removed to make way for your system anyhow. Closet designers also can advise on lighting placement and wall color.
• Do research on closet companies’ websites and Pinterest to gather ideas for what you want, Rappaport suggests. But also listen to designers’ advice—you’re paying for that expertise.
• The things you use most should be at a height between your knees and your shoulders—no bending, Rappaport says.
• For a nice flow in the interior design of your home, you may want closet built-ins that harmonize with cabinetry in adjacent spaces such as the master bathroom.
• Shoe shelves can be flat or slanted for a showier display. Flat systems offer more room for shoes and cost less because they don’t need a rail in front, Rappaport points out.
• Dark colors absorb light. So if you choose rich, deep wood tones for your closet system, you may want to beef up lighting.
• Once you have estimates, meet again with closet design finalists. Let them compare their designs to competitors’, explain the merits of their designs and/or tweak them to guide you toward the best possible layout.
• Even if you aren’t sure you’ll stay in your home for many years, a closet system will add resale value in the future and enhance your life in the present.


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enlarge | New Jersey closet designers say jewelry trays for drawers are must-haves for their customers. Microsuede fabric covers this two-level insert from California Closets.
Not Just for Women
When Seth Rappaport of Contemporary Closets started designing closets roughly a decade ago, about 80 percent of women homeowners and 20 percent of men cared passionately about the projects. But the guys are coming on strong, Rappaport says, with the percentage about 60 percent women and 40 percent men nowadays.

Mary Vinnedge is Design NJ’s social media editor and regularly contributes features to the magazine and its website. Catch up with her on Design NJ’s Facebook page or through her websites, EditorForRent.com and WritingGenie.com.