Thursday, February 27, 2014

Gain Closet Efficiency by "Removing" a Window

So...we added another project to the list.  We've never felt our master closet was an efficient use of space, but then another section collapsed over the weekend and this project jumped to the top of the list!

This closet was initially built as two reach-ins, but the previous homeowners converted it to be a walk-in.  Making the nook a walk-in meant that there would be a window in the closet, a problem they solved by covering the window with a blackout roller shade.  There is also a floor vent that can't be covered up.

Here are the "before" photos.  Keep in mind the closet had just collapsed!!!  The closet felt cramped and wasn't efficient.  Plus I couldn't even reach the long hanging bar on the back wall.  The part that collapsed had been holding my knee-length dresses.

Left Wall

Back Wall

Right Wall

The roller shade successfully blocked the light and gave privacy, but the window treatment didn't match the others than can be seen from the front of the house.  Tacky!

Not only did we need to rearrange the closet for better efficiency, we also needed to fix the window situation.

Keeping the window useable would mean losing a LOT of space.  We would also have to be careful about sunlight hurting our clothes, and making sure the window treatments would allow for plenty of privacy.  It was a tough choice, but in the end we chose function over form and decided to "delete" the window.

We decided to use an Elfa system for the closet.  This presented yet another challenge because the standards would have to hang in front of the window space.  They need to be flush to the wall, so we had to get creative!

So that the standard could lay flush to the wall, we cut notches in the top and bottom of the window frame.

Jumping ahead a little here, but here's what it looked liked once the Elfa was installed.  See how the notch allows the standard to be flush with the wall?

Now to fix the tacky window situation.

We bought 2" plantation blinds to match the blinds in our bedroom (I've used Just Blinds for years and am happy with their service, pricing, and quality).  There wasn't space to be able to install and use the mechanical system, so we cut the blinds off of the support bar.  We screwed the tapes to the top of the window frame so that the blinds would lay flush inside the window.  Even with the blinds were closed, light still penetrated, and could possibly fade our clothing.  We cut the blackout shade off the roller and stapled it to the window frame.  No more light!

The blackout shade isn't very pretty, but clothes will be hanging in front of it, so we decided it wasn't worth the extra effort to make it look nice.

Now all the window treatments look identical from the outside of the house. 

The previous owners had attached 1x4 boards to the wall to shore up their closet bars (which actually didn't work - this part of the closet collapsed the day we moved in).  We damaged the wall in the process of removing the boards, but four skim coats later we were back in business.  Tommy also touched up the paint here and there to make everything fresh and pretty.

So, what about the design of the new closet?

The old closet had a double rod on an entire wall, plus 48" of long hanging that was split between a rod I could reach and one that I couldn't.  The new design kept the 48" of long hanging, but placed it low enough for me to reach.  It also allowed us to add a 31" double rod, or 62" of additional hanging space for short garments.

The dresser does partially block access to some of the hanging space, but we'll keep off-season and lesser-worn clothes back there.  Like all my non-maternity stuff!!!

We installed the Elfa system according to the directions - it went up really easily with two people working on it!

Here it is all installed and ready to go.  What window?

Finally we loaded it up!  I separated Tommy's stuff by type - polos, dress shirts, sweaters, and outwear.  Right now, my stuff is organized by whether it fits my pregnant belly or not, so I had plenty of items that could be moved into the hard-to-reach areas.

The laundry basket tucks nicely under my knee-length dresses, and I bought a folding stool to help us reach those upper shelves (but that tucks away when we don't need it)

Back Wall

Left Wall

Right Wall

I also sorted everything by color to make it look less jumbled.  I've successfully gotten us out of using wire hangers (the ones from dry cleaning get put into a box for recycling), and now I'm working on getting rid of the plastic hangers in favor of the velvet huggable kind.  It looks so much less cluttered and is much more enjoyable to use when all the hangers are nice.  I think he's set for blue dress shirts for a while!

Was it worth it?  We spent $200 on the Elfa system and $50 on the plantation blinds.  We reused the blackout roller shade, and already had the joint compound and white paint, so those were "free".  This project took us about 8 hours total, but much of that was spent patching the wall.  It would have taken only 2-3 hours if we had been able to skip the wall patching and just focused on the blinds and closet installation.  We had to be really creative with the window treatment situation, as well as devising a way to get the standards to be flush to a wall, even over a window.  Thankfully, it all worked out great, and now we have a super efficient closet that doesn't look tacky from the outside of the house!

You might also be interested in these posts:

Removing textured ceilings
Extra long (and cheap) curtain rod

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