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Get Your Dream Closet: Clothing Storage and Closet Space

I love a beautiful, inviting closet. Nothing is quite as satisfying as rows of uniform hangers with pristinely hung clothing. I adore ample space for sweaters folded next to shoes and handbags organized on a shelf.

Of course, not everyone has a big walk-in closet or the floor plan in their home for a dream closet. But there are still many ways to make the most of your clothing storage with some smart strategies for organizing and storing everything in your wardrobe.

a sconce in a neutral painted closet

Ideas for a Perfect Closet and Dressing Area

What are some closet ideas to get that polished, easy-to-navigate space? First of all, it's far more essential to keep the space in good order than to have lots of room. The challenge is keeping a small space neat, but you can certainly achieve that goal with the right tools and effort.

The ideal clothing storage is:

Organized: Above all, the ideal closet space is organized so you can see what you have at a glance. The more organized your closet is, the better it is for clothing storage. Clothes need room to hang and protection from moisture, dust, and pests. You may prefer a built-in "closet system," but there are other ways to access your clothes easily.

Uniform: Clothing storage should be uniform. A set of high-quality hangers is one of the best investments for clothing storage. Look for wooden hangers or those with velvety grips to avoid indentations on the shoulders of your blouses and harsh fold-creases on pants.

Spacious: The spaciousness of your closet, armoire, or other clothing storage isn’t always something you can control, but generally, the more space you have, the happier you will be with your clothes storage. Even if you have to explore alternatives to traditional closets, consider the roominess and storage capacity. It's important to have enough space to keep clothes from getting crushed. Get a little help from closet organizers to use the full range of empty space.

a wood panelled closet with an upholstered ottoman

Design: Tess Interiors | Photography: Nick Glimenakis | Styling: Paige Wassel


The Anatomy of a Great Closet

A great closet has room to try on clothing or is adjacent to dressing areas. It should be adequate for holding the clothing that you currently need to access (plus extra wiggle room for longer-term storage). At a glance, you should be able to see what you have. From my own experience, if I can’t see it I never wear it.

The key to the perfect closet is that it requires regular upkeep. You can have a beautiful antique armoire or a spacious walk-in, but the clothing storage will feel messy and overwhelming if you don't maintain it.

I'm not a fashion expert (although I love clothing), so I don't want to dole out wardrobe advice, but for me personally, I've found that it's very important to regularly "weed" my wardrobe. If something doesn't fit, is out of style, or doesn't make you feel great, don't hang onto it. No matter your wardrobe storage, you'll love your clothing more when it fits and flatters you. Keeping up with regular cleaning is a great way to make it feel less daunting, too.

light wood stained closet with storage bins

Design: Marie Flanigan Interiors | Photography: Julie Soefer

A closet should have both hangers and clothing-friendly storage options. Look for containers that gently protect your handbags, shoes, and sweaters. Shelving shouldn’t have rough edges or places that could snag clothes. You may also want to store handbags and shoes in protective bags (often included with the item) to keep them safe. If you have extra space above the hanging rod, it's a nice spot for less-used small items.


For most people, clothing-friendly storage requires hanging rails at different heights. You can hang all your clothes at eye level, but if you need to maximize your storage space, you may want to go with two hanging bars—one slightly above eye level and one lower to hold pants and shorter tops. Adjusting a closet rod height makes a huge difference.

Lighting is a crucial component of any closet as well. It’s worth choosing flattering but bright light so you can see anything amiss, like a stain or loose thread (or navy blue versus black). Direct natural light can fade clothing over time, so good window coverings are a must if there are windows in your closet.

If spaciousness isn't an issue, you can include many great extras in your dream closet: a dressing table, bench, vanity, and more. Seating is a wonderful luxury in a closet. There are mixed opinions about having a washer and dryer near your clothes (too much moisture can present an issue), but having an ironing board or steamer in your closet is a worthwhile luxury that will keep you always looking fresh. We have retractable garment rods similar to these in our closet—and while they may seem small and insignificant, they are incredibly convenient and useful for hanging items!

I love a closet that has a few pretty touches. These might be in the form of accessory storage—jewelry organizers and trays atop a dresser or an eye-catching scarf rack. You may also want a table with a small catch-all for frequently used jewelry and smaller items. If you have room, a lamp, fresh flowers, or even a cool piece of art can make your closet feel like a room in itself.

One of the best items to have in your closet is a mirror. If you have the wall space, a full-length mirror gives you a chance to check your look before you go on with your day. Of course, even if you don't have the available space in your closet, you can keep a mirror on the back of a door or in an open space adjacent to the closet.


Clothing Storage for Any Space

So, what are you to do if space is a premium in your home? What if you have a tiny closet (or no closet at all)? In many older houses, closet space is often pretty darn tiny. But take a clue from fashionable New Yorkers who live in very small apartments—make do with your space. You could even convert a small bedroom into clothing storage in a pinch.

If you have a small closet, you can find other beautiful and functional ways to store clothing. You probably know that hanging isn't the best for knits and stretchy fabrics anyway. A dresser, shelving, wardrobe, or armoire can offer multifunctional storage for some of these items.

light-filled closet with vertical storage

Design + Image: Studio McGee

Hanging isn't a great solution for small, strappy items, either. The delicate straps on camisoles and lingerie can easily be damaged when hung up for long periods. Store these smaller items neatly in a drawer. You can use shelf paper or specially divided containers to help keep socks, underwear, bras, and other such items well-organized.

Formalwear and heirloom pieces should be properly stored in dark, dry spaces. Closets are ideal, but a storage box is also an option. Above all, make sure that everything is clean before storing it. Clean clothes are a must! Body oils, sweat, food particles, smoke, and other hazards can break down and degrade fabric in a short time. So get your precious, rarely-worn items cleaned each time you wear them if needed.

As for shoes, they can quickly become the messiest part of your closet and eat up valuable floor space. Clear shoe boxes are the best way to protect your shoes, but that's not always realistic if shoe storage space is at a premium. You could also look at the standard shoe racks, hanging racks, and cabinets to see what will work best in your space. Like clothing, shoes will last longer when they're as clean as possible. It may help you to keep boots and workout shoes in a coat closet or your workout space.

Similarly, seasonal clothing can take up a lot of valuable real estate in your closet. Items like bulky sweaters, outerwear, and cold-weather clothing items use a lot of storage room. It's a great idea to store seasonal clothes and bulky items in storage containers that take up less space. When the seasons change, you can bring this type of clothing back out for a shorter time.

bedroom with vintage cabinet storage

Design: The Interior Collective | Photography: Lindsay Brown


Should You Consider a Wardrobe or Armoire for Clothing Storage?

What about using a wardrobe or an armoire for clothing storage? (What’s the difference between a wardrobe and an armoire anyway?) Simply put, a wardrobe is an external closet—a cabinet for storing clothes, usually with a built-in bar for hanging.

An armoire is a version of a wardrobe. Typically, armoires feature both an area to hang clothes and some shelving, drawer space, or other storage spots for small and folded items. You can find some really stunning older armoires, and it’s well worth the effort to search for a piece that complements the room’s style.

When deciding on a wardrobe or armoire, look for good construction. Seek out items made from natural materials like solid wood or bamboo (as opposed to pressboard and other manufactured materials that present an off-gassing concern). Many build-it-yourself wardrobes and clothing storage solutions are made of particle board, laminate, and plastics, which may be less healthy for your home.

The advantage of buying a vintage or antique armoire or wardrobe is that they’ve likely already done all the off-gassing needed and are safe for your home. When storing items that will touch your body and skin, choosing as non-toxic solutions as possible is always a good idea.

rich wood closet with glass cabinet and stool

Design: Light and Dwell | Photography: Chris Mottalini

Choosing a Dresser or Chest of Drawers

If your closet has the space for a dresser or chest of drawers, and it fits with the layout, it's a logical spot for added clothing storage. Built-in shelving and drawers are also wonderful if they're a possibility for your closet. If you don't have open shelves in your closet, dresser drawers are the next best option.

Do you always need a dresser for clothing storage? It depends on the other storage in your home, the convenience, and personal preference. Dressers usually feature a mirror, whereas a chest of drawers is simply that—a taller stack of drawers typically without a mirror.

When choosing a dresser or chest of drawers, apply the same philosophy as wardrobes and armoires. It's always best to go with the most natural materials. Look for well-crafted, solid construction. Some drawers use cedar, which can deter moths and other clothing-hungry pests.

Be sure to choose a dresser or chest of drawers with adequate space for your clothing and accessories. Use drawer dividers to section off miscellaneous items and keep the drawers manageable. Simpler is almost always better (and easier to keep in order).

If you find a beautiful dresser with a not-so-functional antique mirror, it may be worth replacing the mirror. Personally, I prefer the dresser and mirror never to match so as to avoid the matchy-matchy feel of a furniture “set”. The same goes for great "bones" with scratches or marks. Good furniture restoration companies will know how to return a dresser, or a vintage chest of drawers, to its former glory. A well-made chest of drawers can become an heirloom that will last decades.

light and airy closet with blue cabinet fronts

Function is the Key to the Best Wardrobe Storage

The biggest key to great clothing storage is functionality. A beautiful closet is great, but a functional closet and clothing storage system are the most essential factors in making dressing a stress-free activity.

I've seen many creatives (especially in those petite Manhattan apartments) who have found beautiful ways to store clothes, even with minimal space. Hang a pretty robe in your bathroom or on the bedroom wall. Look for a vintage valet stand or "butler" to plan your clothes for tomorrow.

Keeping your clothing storage organized and well-managed will help you create a space where you love to get dressed and ready for the day. Rely on great storage solutions like bins, quality hangers, shelf dividers, and hanging racks to help keep everything in the right place.

What is your dream clothing storage solution? Do you love a big closet, or are you more of a vintage armoire type? Let me know in the comments!


X Lauren

closet blog post Pinterest graphic


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