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Closet AFTER


fix habitat
Create more space
Need more living space? If a major remodel is out of the question, read on. This is an easily implemented, inexpensive and construction-free solution to creating more living space from an ordinary built-in closet.

writer: Cornelia Russo, photographer: David N. Seelig


A plain, empty closet with bi-fold doors, shelves and closet poles.

Open your closet and discover more space. Start by removing any poles in the closet and the two bi-fold (sliding) doors. Don’t throw them away; they can be used to add decoration to the room. Turn one or both upside down and position them flanking each side of a nearby window or place one in a corner. Paint them a statement color to add a bold, complementary feeling.

Furnish the area inside and around the closet as if it were the actual, original room space.
Position the closet doors elsewhere and paint them a bold color, as attractive accents to the design.
Paint the inside of the closet, shelves and all; pick up on a color from elsewhere in the room.


Paint the inside of the closet, shelves and all. Choose a strong and/or contrasting color for the back wall. Select that color from an object elsewhere in the room: a rug, a fabric or a piece of art. The side walls and shelves should be painted the color of the room, to carry through on the illusion that the room is bigger than it actually is.

Furnish the area inside and around the closet as if it was the actual, original room space rather than reclaimed closet space. A chair, books and magazines, personal mementos and art are just a few great additions. If necessary, add more shelves. Let this newly found area be functional, but also full of design and imagination.

The all-important aspect of lighting needs to be addressed; otherwise, your new space will be dark and gloomy, like a closet. In the “after” example, small-scale track lighting was hidden on the upper inside wall to highlight the art and add ambient mood lighting. Or, you might just place a floor- or wall-mounted lamp, small table lamp or accent light in the area.

When arranging accessories, several points need to be addressed. First, variety and coordination are key. For example, different sizes, shapes and textures can be displayed on different planes and turned in different directions. With this space we used large landscapes, a medium textured pillow and a small metal key; some accessories were pulled forward, some to the back. Second, odd numbers in groupings are more visually interesting than even numbers. Third, small open areas are not only OK, but also necessary. The eye needs a place to rest. Finally, accessories on the upper shelves should face downward because they are viewed from below. For example, turn greenery on its side allowing it to hang over and down.