Design Decisions

In our discussion about clothes storage, we have focused on capacity and clearances, for both clothes and the activities, such as dressing, that might occur in or near the closet area. Now it is time to make some design decisions.

Putting all the clothes storage requirements together, the goal is to maximize storage capacity, provide convenience of access and use, but minimize the total area devoted to clothes storage. Many storage accessories available today can help achieve this goal (see Figure 9.10).

Closet storage systems provide double rods to increase storage capacity in the same floor space. Shelves, drawers, bins, turntables, pull-out or swing-out racks, and other storage devices can be put above, below, or next to hanging rods to make sure every space is used while increasing the visibility of, and ease of access to, stored items. Mechanized systems, such as carousel rods and sliding racks, can increase storage capacity by increasing access to items stored in what would otherwise be dead space.

New materials used in closet systems can increase storage function. For example, plastic covered wire mesh drawers, shelves, and bins provide good ventilation and visibility of stored items. Other systems that incorporate chrome wire or slatted wooden shelves offer similar benefits.

Think about adjustability. Wardrobes change with the seasons, and as fashions and lifestyles change. The mix of clothing may vary. Therefore, think about adjustability of rod height, and the ability to increase or decrease hanging rod space. Adjustable height shelves are another plus.

Closet accessories may be desirable as well. Extra features can include a mirror, a place to sit while dressing, storage for luggage, or a place to rest a suitcase while packing.


Closet doors are an important part of the design. Think about the width of the door in relation to access. Although many experts recommend a 24 inch (610 mm) minimum, a 32 inch (813 mm) clear doorway (2 foot,10 inch door; 864 mm) is better to allow for universal access. Wider doors provide better visual access.

For any type of closet door, select good-quality, durable hardware, handles, latches, tracks, and/or hinges. Closet doors get daily use, and lots of wear and tear.

If a hinged door is used, consider where the door swing will be, and the potential for interference with circulation through the space. Bypass sliding doors eliminate the problem of accommodating the door swing. However, one panel of a bypass sliding door always covers the closet opening. Triple-panel sliding doors are available. Pocket doors are similar to by-pass sliding doors, except that they slide into the wall. This type of door can provide good access to a closet, as long as there is adequate space in the wall cavity for installation. Verify the placement of plumbing and electrical connections if a pocket door is considered.

"Barn style" sliding doors slide on an exterior track above the door opening and outside the closet. This style door would provide full access to the closet doorway and no limitations from door swing. However, there needs to be adequate wall space for the door to slide out of the way.

Bi-fold doors come in different widths and styles. Because the door panel is hinged and folds out of the way, the space for a door swing is reduced. Accordion doors have multiple folds to move out of the way of the door opening without blocking the walkway in front of the closet door. With both bi-fold and accordion doors, some space in the door opening is lost to the stacked door in the open position.

A louvered door provides ventilation. Mirrored closet doors can provide a dressing area mirror and visual expansion of the space. Another common door, a flush door, permits storage accessories to be hung on it. However, a hollow-core flush door may not be adequate to support accessories, and reinforcing strips or a solid-core door may be needed. In addition, heavy-duty hinges may be needed to help support the weight of items hanging on the door.


A closet will need to be well lit with convenient switching. The lighting can be switched to come on when the closet door is opened or to respond to a motion sensor. It is important that the light sources give an excellent color rendition to facilitate coordinating of clothes. Some people like to have lighting in a closet area similar to their work place to assure color matches.

Open, exposed, or pendant lamps are generally prohibited in closets by building codes. The dis­tance between the light fixture (luminaire) and the storage area is determined by the type of light source (such as incandescent, LED, or fluorescent) and the mounting or installation. Verify the lighting design with the specific local code. Consult chapter 7, "Mechanical Planning," for more information about lighting.

Updated: October 10, 2015 — 6:40 pm