Closet Hacking, Part 1

Hope you don’t mind, but this week I’m skipping my usual weekend inspiration post to fill you in a bit on what I’ve been up to lately. My all-consuming project has been improving my walk-in bedroom closet. For a while now it hasn’t been working for me. You can tell by how sloppy I let it get. Here’s the before:

My closet, pre-makeover

So I’m giving it a makeover. It involves a bit of construction, and some serious Ikea hacks.

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First, I’m super grateful for how luxuriously roomy this closet is. It’s basically a small room, and it’s literally the best closet I’ve ever had. The part I’m making over now is only the right half of it. The other half is the mirror image on the other side of the room, and it needs a bit of work, too, but not as much as this side. So what’s wrong with it?

Well, the fact that it’s so big is partly why I didn’t really put any effort into maximizing the storage when we moved in. I did remove the side doors, paint the walls, tear out the disgusting, stained carpet, and paint the floors, but I didn’t do much else. Here’s the gross before, when we bought the house:

Try not to let that neon blue burn your eyes. See this post for more details on the closet’s gross beginnings. The improvement was vast after I removed all of the carpet and painted everything white (Icicle, by Benjamin Moore).

white closet 1

Here are the details on painting the floor.

See that light socket on the ceiling? Funny story about that. It just looked like a tube with a wire sticking out of the end of it, and we thought it was a defunct light fixture that we would eventually get around to replacing. After living in the house for several months, we had to have an electrician come out to do some other work, and he asked whether we knew that was a live wire sticking out of the closet ceiling. Um, NO! I don’t want to think about how narrowly I may have missed electrocution while I was working in the room. Don’t worry, I fixed it soon after that scary discovery.

Anyway, back to the closet history. It was more space than I needed, and I wanted to get unpacked, so I kind of just shoved my stuff in after the paint had dried. I’ve made some efforts since then, adding some shoe organizers, a shelf, and Ikea freestanding drawers, but it really has not been living up to its potential.

For one thing, I can’t actually get fully dressed in the space, because I don’t have enough drawers. There is a lot of hanging space, but that doesn’t work for things like socks, underwear, and sweaters. My pajamas, bras, and underwear are all in a dresser in the main bedroom.

Another problem is that the drawers I do have are rather janky. They’re Ikea metal mesh drawers, and the frames are wobbly. Plus, one of my cats thinks it’s fun to clamber into the drawers to nap on my sweaters. Sometimes she’s a princess about it, and decides the situation needs a bit of rearranging before she gets in, so she pulls the clothes out with her claws and throws them on the floor. Also, the drawers are not pretty. No offense if you have the same drawers, but they’re rather utilitarian and ugly.

My closet, pre-makeover

The other big problem with my closet space is that because it’s on the top, attic floor of my house, the back walls are sloped. Obviously I can’t change that, but I can work with it a lot better. When we moved in I left the closet rods exactly where they were because I didn’t want to take the time to try to figure out a better arrangement. But since then I’ve realized that moving the closet rods could help make my attic closet a lot more usable. The closet rod on the side I’m concentrating on here is really low to the ground, meaning that I can’t even use the top shelf of my shoe rack because the hanging clothes knock the shoes off.

So to summarize:

Problem 1: Not enough drawers. Solution: Add more drawers.

Problem 2: The drawers I do have suck. Solution: New, sturdier drawers.

Problem 3: Sloped attic walls limit closet rod placement. Solution: Figure out how to move closet rod to work with angled walls.

The third one is the problem I tackled first, because it has a big impact on how the rest of the space is laid out.

First I did a lot of googling to try to figure out how other people deal with angled walls in a closet. If you’re not concerned about how it looks, and depending on the wall situation, it may be possible to just stick a standard bracket onto a sloped well like this. But I’m not a fan of the aesthetic, and it limits the rod placement options. People have come up with all kinds of other creative solutions, though. Here are some of the best ideas for sloped closet walls that I came across.

Ideas for dealing with a closet with slanted or sloped walls.

Clockwise from top left (couldn’t find sources for most of these):
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

I was trying to keep this as quick and simple as possible (famous last words!), so I tried to find brackets to hold the closet rod. The first solution I came across for closet rods on sloped ceilings were these. The problem is that they’re not very attractive, and, at over $30 for one bracket, rather expensive. For some spaces they might be the only option, but then I found these brackets for $8 for a set of two. I wasn’t 100% sure that they would work with my space, but I ordered a pair knowing that I could return them if necessary.

After the brackets arrived, I took everything out of the closet, and took the old rod down. Here’s what it looked like:

Closet before

The horizontal boards on the right are, I think, helping to support the wall that makes up the entrance to this side of the closet. That wall doesn’t even have drywall up on the inside of the closet, it’s just framing studs. But wanting to move the closet rod up without buying a new, longer rod meant that I needed to match the length that the rod spanned, so I cut a piece of scrap wood to fit the new configuration. There’s another piece on the other end. closet during makeover

I slipped the bracket on the rod and attached it to a stud, and then I just needed to patch the back, where I took off the old bracket, and paint the wood. The new bracket meant I was able to move the rod up about six inches, and back an inch or two, which made room for the other improvements I want to make, so it was totally worth it. You might notice that this means that there’s no shelf above the closet rod now. That’s fine, because I prefer drawers to shelves, and due to the ceiling slope, that shelf wasn’t very useful anyway. Plus, I only used one of the two brackets, so I can use the second one on the rod on the other side.

Now I’m working on solving problems one and two, by adding nicer drawers. Basically I want the closet to be clean and contained, like one of these sleek Ikea closets. But the Ikea Pax wardrobe system that those closets use wouldn’t fit in here, so I’m making my own built-in boxes for the Ikea drawers. I think I’m finally on the home stretch with it, but of course it has taken way longer than I expected. It’s coming together quite nicely, though, so hopefully I’ll be able to share a full reveal very soon!