A Simple Guide to Closet Design

a simple guide to closet design

Don’t you just love watching movies and tv shows where there is an amazing house with a to-die-for dream closet? Something about the organization of closet design is so pleasing to the eye.

If you are one of those people who can’t imagine that they can have a fabulous closet of their own, I’m glad you are here! I have some incredible tips on how to create your dream closet. Read on.

Living The Dream!

Every house we have owned has had a custom-designed closet system in the master suite. Now that sounds extravagant but it’s easier than you would think and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It is one of those necessary luxuries for me to always have my closets designed to accommodate my wardrobe.

Creating your closet system is very personal. The point is to design it to fit everything you own.

Because everyone’s wardrobe is different, I can’t give you all of the particulars here but I have some general guidelines that are tried and true. With the right planning, you won’t go wrong with these steps.

First, determine what elements you need to store in your closet

This seems obvious, but I’m always surprised at how many clients I speak to who haven’t considered what is in their own wardrobe.

Take a moment and declutter your closet. With that, determine what you want to keep and create storage space for. Once you have an idea as to what clothing you need to accommodate, the elements will come through very quickly.

Separate items into categories such as things to hang, things to fold, and things to go into drawers. 

Shirts and Jackets

If you have a lot of shirts and jackets, you can easily store these on a double-hang rod.

For my clothes, I typically hang the lower rod about 44 inches off of the floor and then next rod above that 36 inches from the height of the first rod.

Be sure to measure your clothing to see if those dimensions will work and adjust accordingly. Allow a couple of inches above the highest rod and then place your shelving.

As for the width of the rods, that depends on your wardrobe.

Since you are designing this closet for you, be sure that you are allowing plenty of room for wardrobe expansion. You don’t want to go through the task of creating your closet design only to see that you have run out of room within a few months.

a photo of a closet system

Photo from Ellen Phillips Interiors archive

Long-Hang Items

Consider if you need any long hang space. Long-hang items are things such as full length jackets, long dresses, and anything that would need a full height rod to hang. A long-hang rod will sit at approximately 65 the 70 inches above the finished floor. 

Even if you think you don’t need a long-hang space, allow for a minimum of 12 inches of long hang. Something may come up in the future and you need to allow for that space.   

Folded Items

Next, you need to take into account the articles of clothing that you like to fold up but still have readily available at your fingertips for daily wear.

For these items, a cubby stacker is great. These are generally available in 12″ to 24″ widths. You may want to fold up T-shirts, sweaters, or jeans to put into a cubby. Whatever your choice, think this through so you design your elements accordingly. 

One thing I have experienced is that the wider cubbies are not always better. Sometimes they create wasted space, so consider this. Two 12″ cubbies can sometimes be more useful than one 24″ cubby. 

Drawer Space

Finally, you will want to consider how many drawers and what type of drawer space you need.

That may seem simple and you may think that two or three drawers are just fine. Since you are building your closet to accommodate your belongings, be thoughtful on what you need to store.

Drawers come in typically 5″ height or 10″ height. Five inch is perfect for elements such as lingerie, sunglasses, jewelry, and other small accessories.

Instead of installing one 10″ drawer that becomes a drop zone for all sorts of things, consider installing two 5″ drawers. Smaller drawers allow for organizing yourself well.

drawer full of sunglasses

Shoes, Hats, & Bags

Next are the items that people often overlook when designing their closet space. These are shoes, hats, and bags.

Shoes are a big one. Most people have more than four or five pair of shoes. Shoe storage is precious real estate in closet design.

 If you only a few pairs of shoes, you are a rare unicorn I must say, so plan for shoe storage.

I always like to have shoe shelves built into my closet systems. These are very easy to do but the hardware for shoe shelving is a bit tricky to find so let’s address that. 

First, no manufactured closet system will have proper shoe shelves. No need to double check me on that. I have looked, and looked, and looked. There are shoe cubbies and bins, but not shelves. I don’t know why, but shoe shelves are underrated.

I have always designed my own simply by using coordinating shelving and wall brackets. 

You will want to use an L-Bracket to attach these to the wall. L-Brackets are easy to find in stainless and bronze, but white is tricky.

If your shelving is white, the brackets should match.

Depending on your shoe size, you will also want to consider the depth of the shelf. If you have a small foot you can obviously use a smaller shelf (6″ or 8″). The smallest shelf you can get for your shoes is better as it will open up your closet.

A photo of a shoe shelf

Photo from Ellen Phillips Interiors archive

As every shoe is different I cannot give you measurements on this area. Here is reference you can follow:

  • Consider how you want to have your shoes sitting on the shelves.
  • Measure the height of the tallest shoe as a guide.
  • Allow a good 3 inches above that for your shelving clearance.

If you really have a lot of shoes that you need to fit into a small space, you may want to just have 2 inches clear. That’s pretty tight though.

If you have a lot of space (it’s rare, but it happens), consider using 24″ cubbies with glass doors for your shoes. Maybe you have a few special pair that you want to keep behind glass.

Well, now we are talking about an amazing feature! 

closet organization

Photo by Chastity Cortijo on Unsplash

If you have a lot of bags, suitcases, and other totes you will want to create a space to store these as well. I typically find the shelving above my rods to be perfect for this.

We create a lot of dust from our bodies just from walking around. Bags and purses are the perfect space for dust to settle and accumulate. By having bags up high, there will be less dust that will get into them.

Finishing Accents

After you have a space for everything and everything is in its place, see if you have any leftover areas to fill. If you do, here are some more options to consider for an absolutely luxurious closet design.

Cedar Lining

Consider cedar lining at least one wall.

I have had cedar lining in most of my closets and it really does help to keep the space fresh. That is especially true if you don’t have a window in your closet.

Cedar is readily available at home improvement stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Be aware that cedar can warp easily in different climates and this installation is not a quick one. You do need to “massage” the installation as you go to get the planks to sit properly.

The good news to this is that you will probably cover most of the cedar with your clothing. With that, any imperfections of your installation will be hidden. Th perfect place for a cedar wall is right behind your shoe shelf and behind your hanging rods.

Framed Wall Mirror

Another nice element is having a full mirror on one wall. If you have an empty wall to spare, then your closet is large enough that you should install a mirror. 

You can find a wide variety of beautiful mirrors at stores such as Home Goods without spending a fortune. Be sure to measure your wall space and think about how tall you are so that you get a mirror that works for you.


Finally, I like to include a bench or an ottoman inside a closet where space allows.

If you decide on adding an ottoman, consider getting one with storage space. This will allow for extra space to store small purses bags and other accessories.

Having a seat or ottoman in your closet gives you a place to sit down and put your shoes on. It is also nice to lay your clothes out as you put an outfit together. Perfection!

I hope you find these tips helpful and are inspired to start designing your own closet for an amazing storage system. If you start your project and need assistance, let me know

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Ellen Phillips

Living a Beautiful Life

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