Closet Design Tips for Challenging Spaces

closet design tips

Organizing your closet can be a challenge – made even harder if your closet is an attic or unusually shaped space.  My husband and I ran into this issue when we remodeled our upstairs bedroom, which was a converted attic space.  Some of the design challenges we faced included an under window air-conditioning unit, a large access door to a crawl space and major height restrictions from sloping ceilings.  If you have a challenging closet space, hopefully some of these closet design tips will help you too have the closet of your dreams.

Take full advantage of vertical space

closet remodel installing shelving

closet organization - utilizing different ceiling heights

Two rows of hanging rods will double your clothing storage so maximize the use of your vertical space whenever possible.

We only had a three foot section of wall that we were able to install double high clothing rods on.  Utilizing this vertical space became our first design priority.  We then we worked with the rest of the outside walls fitting in additional clothing rods where we could. The top shelf is very high, but I to use it to display some of my handbags and sky high heels that I don’t wear everyday.

Maximize the use of your walls by creating more height

closet floor plan

Moving a wall in towards the center of the room will create more usable shelving and hanging space.

What looks like a really big space, really isn’t because the sloping ceilings eliminate so much head room.

We had the builder move the wall 12″ towards the center of the room.  It seems counter productive to make the room smaller but it actually gives you more room for storage.

Utilize unusual spaces in unusual ways

closet remodel installing shelves

closet organization - boots

Display items of different heights in wedge shaped areas.


Use low baskets in tight areas to store items such as, purses, belts and hats.

The baskets pictured are the Savannah Utility Collection from Pottery Barn.  I mostly store hand bags and scarves in them.

No more wire hangers!


Investing in a supply of matching hangers decreases visual clutter.

closet before

closet organization tip - arrange by color

Pretty amazing difference huh?

hangers on rod

These hangers also slide past their support brackets, creating one long continual clothing rod.  

Yes, wood hangers are a bit of a splurge.  We waited until we were married a long time (I’m not going to say how long) to get them.  But the clothes hang better on wood hangers and it changes the appearance of your entire closet. From now on I’m thinking my wedding gifts to young friends and family will be a big box of matching wood hangers.

Arrange clothes by color

closet organization - use wooden hangers

Oh what a difference this makes.  Even if you aren’t remodeling a closet I suggest everyone do this.  Grab a glass of wine, put on some fun music and have a closet color organization party!  It’s so worth it.

Don’t just cover it, emphasize it

closet remodel - a blank slate

ikea malm vanity

If you have a window or challenging feature in your closet – emphasize it!

I spent a lot of time stressing about having a window/air-conditioner unit in our closet. We wanted to be able to change clothes in there – but to enjoy the window would have meant opening the blinds, closing the blinds and opening them again daily. We also knew we needed to maintain access to the air-conditioning unit because we didn’t want to spend the extra money to run a duct from the other side of the room just to condition the closet. 

I couldn’t bear the thought of covering the window with closet rods, so I decided to emphasize the window by making it a feature. By adding a vanity table  it meant the air-conditioning unit could still function when necessary. The mirror covers the just lower half of the window for privacy and we still are able to leave the mini-blinds open to let in the sunshine.

Now I have a wonderful place where I can sit down to do my hair and make-up and feel like a movie star every day! Don’t want a make-up vanity? Add a bench, chest or install a window seat with storage inside.

Make your closet storage flexible – put it on wheels!

dresser on wheels

Access panels and attic doors can be a pain, but just because they exist, doesn’t mean you can’t put something in front of them.  By adding wheels to furniture you can easily access attic crawl space openings and access panels when necessary. 

We chucked the spindle legs that came with this Ikea Sveio 5 drawer chest and instead installed wheels. That way it’s easy to pull out when we need to access our attic crawl space.

The basket is from Bed Bath and Beyond

shoe trolley shoe organizer end view

We also added wheels to our DIY Shoe Trolley Shoe Organizer above, to allow easy access to the back side which has additional shoe storage.

And lastly – the best closet design tip ever, amazingly from Trip Advisor.

Who would have thought I would have found closet design tips on Trip Advisor.  Last year I was researching how to pack for a vacation in France using only one suitcase.  I ran across a thread discussing how French women tend to dress better but generally have smaller closets and fewer clothes.  The author (which I wish I could credit here, but now I can’t find the link) was an American living in Paris.  Her observation was that French women buy fewer clothes, but buy better clothes and clothes they love.

The big difference seems to be that American women look in their closets and think, “I wore all of this last week.  I have nothing to wear and I need something new.”  French women look into their closets and think “I wore that last week and looked fabulous – I’m wearing that again.”

This was mind opening to me and since then I’ve tried harder to think through my clothing purchases.  I have also finally “let go” of large piles of clothing that I felt I needed to keep, but was not wearing.  The donation freed up closet space and has enabled me to see more of the clothes I enjoy wearing.

I hope these closet design tips are helpful.  If you have any additional tips – feel free to share!

Items Shown:

The adjustable shelving unit is the 16″ wide unit from the ClosetMaid “Selectives” collection, purchased from Home Depot.

The shelving system we used is the Closet Max heavy duty shelf and rod bracket purchased from Home Depot.

The hamper is the Apricot Natural Hamper purchased at Bed Bath and Beyond.

The wood hangers were purchased from Hangers Direct.


Click the pics – DIY Shoe Trolley and Makeup Vanity

good morning make up vanity and hair caddy DIY shoe trolley DIY shoe organizer


  1. Great post and I am kind of timid in admitting that I cannot stand wire hangers… I love the idea of gifting a nice set of wooden hangers to friends! Maybe throw in a few lavender or cedar sachets and a bottle of wine and that’s one heck of a great gift.

    Other style things I learned from my French women friends:
    1) buy high quality clothing staples when you can afford it and get them tailored. They love how they look in pieces because of these things.
    2) Buy all of your clothes in three or four of the same color families (black, navy, cream/white and a pop of color). That way, you can invest in higher quality pieces and use accessories to trenderize (stay current with trends).

    As always, a wonderful post! Just pinned it

    • Great additional tips Sarah! Have you done a blog post on your French women friends? Because I would soak all of that information up! And yes, yes to the lavender sachets, which I love to make anyway. Fabulous suggestions! Thank you! Karen

  2. Julie Foster says:

    That is the interior architect coming out of you! I love these tips.

  3. this is such a great post! pinning!

  4. Wondering if you could tell me what shelves you used above your shelf/rod brackets and their depth? Thanks!

  5. Sorry, one other question as well. Perhaps you used the shelves that coordinated with the Selectives closet kit. If so, What was the longest section of top shelf that you used? We have an 89″ long closet and I’m wondering how you would connect several of the 48″ shelves along the brackets. Thanks!

    • No problem, we struggled with this as well. The melamine shelves we used from Lowes for the were 8′ long and 24″ wide. (Which were a bit of a bear to deal with and take home.) We end butted the shelves together (kind of straddled) over one of the rod brackets. We were able to strategically place it near the corner, and honestly we don’t really notice it. I can send you a picture if you would like.

  6. Great post. Using some advice for a client’s closet. :)

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