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Build Your Dream Closet!

10 closet organization tips for creating custom closet systems

By Christine Porretta

Thinking about building a custom closet from scratch or even customizing an existing one with personalized features? How much you spend will depend on the vendor and materials you pick, as well as how much or how little space you need.

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Say you want a cabinetmaker to match the wood in your bedroom furniture to create a custom master dressing room. Depending on the size of your space, your expenses could be quite high, says NYC-based interior designer Elaine Santos. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you might just want to cull bins and shelves from different houseware stores to fit and organize your particular closet space.

As a mid-range closet organization option, you might choose a closet system from a company with a slew of price points, such as California Closets, Clos-ette, or The Container Store, Santos says. Other options? PAX at IKEA, allen + roth at Lowe's, or ClosetMaid at HomeDepot. Each lets you customize shelves, bins, racks, and other storage containers.

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Whichever solution you choose, these 10 top tips from Santos will help you dream up your perfect closet.

1. Section off items. First things first, advises Santos, is to think about what you own and group like belongings to determine how you will need to divide the closet space and allocate locations for dresses, blouses, skirts, shoes, bags, etc.

2. Create clear views. Glass panels allow you to see what's behind doors while creating a sense of depth in a smaller closet space, says Santos. Get cabinet doors that feature glass within wooden frames if you like a more traditional look, she adds.

3. Make the most of mirrors. Use antique mirrors as cabinet panels, because they'll provide a vintage-looking charm while reflecting any natural light that's entering the closet to make the area look bigger, explains Santos.

4. Put shoes on sliding shelves. Footwear is more than a wardrobe essentialit's a defining accessory, and many women love lots of accessories that scream signature style. But where to put them all? Pull-out shelves are the perfect solution, says Santos, because you can have multiple rows of shoes that you can easily look at when you need to pick the perfect pair for an outfit, as opposed to deep cubbies where what's in the back gets forgotten. 

5. Set up special compartments. Scarves, ties, and belts that can't be found can be a big frustration when getting dressed. Don't toss them in a deep drawer where they can become a tangled mess, and don't hang them from hooks and rings where the colors blend into one another or the items fall off and get crushed, says Santos. If you coil them up into shallow, felt-lined compartments, she explains, you can quickly see all your options. The felt can either be neutral toned, or it can introduce a hue that pops, she adds.

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6. Add reflective surfaces to islands. Putting a mirror on the top of an island in a walk-in and hanging a light fixture above it creates a luxe, illuminated look that mimics a boutique experience, says Santos.

7. Assemble ensembles with valet rods. Whether you have a walk-in closet or not, you can integrate rods into your closet setup to help you lay out your clothes, says Santos.

8. Put handbags into cubbies. They take up too much horizontal space, but by standing up handbags in cubbies, there's more room to organize bags and they won't become flattened, notes Santos.

9. Illuminate your wardrobe. Add LED strips under shelves to shed light on your folded clothes. Your favorite camisole will never go missing again! And no storage area will be so deep that you won't be to spot what you tucked away, efficiently using every inch of every space, as well as every corner, creating a more spacious feeling, explains Santos. 

10. Work with a professional. Even if you're not building a custom closet, you can seek out expert advice, suggests Santos. There are also some no-charge services available for organizational feedback. For example, if you choose to get the elfa system at The Container Store, you can use their design services, and a professional will ask you questions about accessing your inventory versus the square footage of the area to maximize your storage based on your individual needs.

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