Sometimes Strange Closets are the Coolest

Strange Closets sounds like name of a Michael Jackson expose, but it seemed an apropos title when I started writing my interiors blog two years ago, because strange closets and I go way back.

Growing up, I had two, room-sized walk-in closets: inside the first was a full-sized door to a second closet built into a dormer. At first I used the cozy space as a little comic book library, but in high school, it became a regular speakeasy, complete with a neon Leinenkugels sign and black cherry wine coolers. (Sorry, Mom!)

I’ve toured dozens of homes for my Strange Closets Open House posts, but ironically, most people ask me not to photograph their closets. Which is too bad, because the space can be far more interesting and luxurious than just a place to hang clothes. Consider the following approaches to make your closet better (and possibly stranger).

Organize it
Cluttered closets equal cluttered thoughts, but there have never been more options for attractive, customizable and inexpensive storage systems. Companies like Closet Works offer a consultation to take measurements and an inventory of clothing. “People don’t understand that they can have so much more space in their home,” says Closet Works Marketing Supervisor Azra Kulasa.

Decorate it
Chicago-based interior designer Stephanie Wirth, of Leo Designs, wants everything in her Ravenswood home to feel special—even the closets. Rather than buying an off-the-shelf storage system, Wirth went with an oversized antique armoire that she lacquered white. She also added framed black and white family photos in the windowsill, seating and a mirrored vanity.

“I’d rather invest in a beautiful piece of furniture than standard melamine closet shelving,” Wirth explains. “It feels more like a dressing room.”

In her 6-year-old son Reed’s closet, Wirth displays toys, games and clothes neatly on wood shelves and cubes she had her contractor build.

“I often leave that door open, because it’s so cute and whimsical,” Wirth says.

Transform it
With people working remotely, home offices are key, but finding the space can be difficult. Chicago designer Dave Hopkins helped his client Matthew Rice create a functional office space in the hall closet of his former Gold Coast co-op apartment (which he bought from celeb designer Nate Berkus).
“His job required that he work from home, and he didn’t have room to devote to a home office,” Hopkins says. “When he was done for the day, he could just close the door.”