Storage: The next best thing since Formica

There’s a trend in home design that is the next “must have”. Years ago countertops were made of wood. Then along came linoleum and wood instantly became outdated. I remember that in my house growing up had linoleum countertops and then Mom remodeled the kitchen she had the newest thing installed –“Formica”. Our house was the envy of the neighborhood.

That was in the late 50’s. Then in the 90’s and the early part of this century if you had granite counters and stainless steel appliances you were considered at the forefront of home design. In fact there was a study done in a residential condo market where units A had Formica counters and units B had granite. Everyone wanted units B. Well, not to be outdone, the A units installed granite counters and added closet organizers in the bedrooms. That started the war. Now everyone wanted the A units. Yes, the next best thing in home design is indeed closet organizers.

In the 1800’s very few homes even had closets. Then small narrow closets were installed in some homes. They were about 12 inches deep with mostly pegs for hanging the clothes. Then in the first half of the 20th century the “standard closet” was introduced with one rod and sometimes a shelf above. That design lasted throughout the entire century. Most likely that is the closet you remember in your home growing up. Probably it is the closet you have today.

Well, as they say, baby things have changed. Closet systems are available today that literally “grow” with you and/or your child.

Check out the systems at the Big Box stores. They have literally hundreds of options. The ones with the hangers that you fasten to the wall are the most flexible. The problem you might have is deciding what you need and how to begin.

Let’s say you have a standard closet. A good rule of thumb to begin with is to have 50% of the closet with double rods (one above the other). Then 25% should be for hanging long items and the other 25% for shelves and drawers.

Ok, now that you have that settled, you need to begin. But (and there’s always a but), you need to decide what to store. Yes, I know, you have clothes, shoes, and whatever that has accumulated over the years stuffed in there. Part of this exercise is deciding what to keep. The idea is not to find a place for everything, but to find a place for everything that matters.


Let’s declutter the closet. A good starting point is to try on all the clothes. Let’s face it, if it doesn’t fit, we’re probably never going to get to that size. I have also heard that if you have not worn it in a year, most likely you will not wear it again. Then there are those articles that are just out of date. I know these are hard choices. We all have memories of some articles of clothing and want to hang on to it for some reason. But the reality is that we will probably not wear it again anyway. Just take a picture and put it in your scrapbook.

Now that we have the “stuff” we actually want to keep, take measurements of the clothes. This is the amount of hanging space they require. Then decide what will go in drawers and shelves, take measurements of the closet, and head to your favorite big box store. You can even go online and look at the options and design your own closet space.

In the end, you will have the “next best thing” in home design and be the envy of all your friends.
DAVID H. WULFF, AIA Emeritus is an architect living in Lake Lure.

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