What can I do with this weird space?
April 7, 2008 7:01 PM   Subscribe

My master bedroom closet is really awkward. It has a lot of space...just not in the right direction! I need brilliant organization ideas to make use of a weird space.

Ok...here's the scoop. My husband and I bought a 1920's colonial. We love it! It has its quirks, of course, as most older homes do. We've managed to brainstorm ideas to deal with most of them. The master bedroom closet is another story. The dimensions are approximately as follows:

6.5 feet deep
8 feet high
34 inches wide

In other words, it's super deep, reasonably tall, and itty bitty on the width. To make matters worse, there are stairs in the closet. Yes, STAIRS. There are two steps that lead up to a platform. Platform is nearly two feet off the ground.

All of this makes it very difficult to figure out how to store actual clothes in there. Right now, we have what came with the house: two rods running the short width of the closet. The second rod is in back of the first rod, so they happen in immediate succession. Basically, anything in the back of the closet is impossible to get to.

I know I'm making this sound very complicated, but to me it is! I can't remove the stairs because they're there to correct for the grade of the ceiling over our upstairs downstairs staircase. I can't make the closet any wider because it shares a wall with the renovated master bath, which wasnt an original detail to the home. I have no clue what to do with all of this wasted space. We have a large basement so we don't really need any additional storage storage. Does anyone have any ideas that might make this workable as a closet space? I'm open to hearing other creative ideas for the closet as well.
posted by theantikitty to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well, you could put bunk beds in the closet, end-on, and store your clothes in the bedroom.

Could you put the front rod in some kind of mechanism such that it could be raised and lowered? Potentially, then, you could have two or three such rods, but when they were raised you could get to the rod in back.

Additional lighting sounds like a good idea, too, so that you can _see_ that back rod.
posted by amtho at 7:06 PM on April 7, 2008

Off the wall idea (pun intended). And probably not feasible...space or cost-wise. What about some wort of variation on what dry cleaners use to hang, and move forward, the clothes they clean? I wonder if you could devise a hand crank or push-button system that would somehow bring your clothes to you...maybe that's just too complicated for the problem/space...Easy for me to suggest since I don't have to figure out how to do it!
posted by mumstheword at 7:30 PM on April 7, 2008

This may be obvious, inelegant, and maybe unworkable, but couldn't you put a rod in lengthwise, suspended from the top of the closet? Is it too narrow for that?

Otherwise, the bunk beds sound quite exciting to the kid in me.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 7:30 PM on April 7, 2008

if you don't need the additional storage, how about just using the first rod? pretend the closet is 3 feet deep and ignore the back rod ;) if the problem is that you need more closet space this would be a pretty useless answer though.

you also didnt describe this in as much detail, but if your closet is how i picture it, perhaps you could put shoes on the bottom of the closet (off the platform).
posted by Xianny at 7:33 PM on April 7, 2008

Wow, that's tough. Is the useable space in the closet 8' high or only 6' high? This would only work for 8' high, but I would probably go with double height rods at the back - one at 88" or so and one at 40" or so. That would at least double your usable hanging witdh at the cost of not being able to store tall dresses, etc. Perhaps for those you could have a few small peg-type hangers (almost like coat hooks) sticking out of one of the side walls with 3-4 long clothes each.
posted by true at 7:40 PM on April 7, 2008

Ideal setup for a secret compartment, with a small closet in front.

You can run a clothing rod the other way and carefully edge into the closet to see your clothes.
Maybe if you put the front rod lower you can hang shirts on that one with longer dresses and skirts in back.

Turn part of the stairs into a shelf for your shoes and top off the former stairs with a flat surface. Don't you need some sort of dry, non-basement storage area?
posted by yohko at 7:41 PM on April 7, 2008

Something like this, only tailored for your small space? Perhaps if either one if you is handy, you could make something non-motorized that rotates by hand or via a pulley system. Most of the motorized units require a wider space than you have, but I think a good handyperson could rig something up.

Also check out units for disabled people, you could make it into a shoe closet for yourself.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:44 PM on April 7, 2008

Can you line the long wall with retail style pegboard / slatboard and hooks? Then you'd hang clothing flat against the wall, just a few items deep, but in two or three rows across the wall.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:07 PM on April 7, 2008

Wow -- this sounds terrible! How about keep on renovating that bathroom? Make the front part into awesome shoe storage or keep the narrow closet and then bust into that space behind it and make a linen closet for the bathroom or super deep spa shower with bench or a waterproof plasma screen TV setup with all the electronics hidden behind the wall?

You could try to make a rigid, slide out closet rod with some creative materials and fortitude, maybe use this as inspiration. You'd need the closet rod and then hang that from another rod which would slide and could be fixed to the ceiling or wall somehow. It would need to have very study connections to handle the lateral stresses and weight of a bunch of clothes.

Fill it with ping-pong balls, seal it up and forget about it -- it'll make a fine mystery for some future owner.
posted by amanda at 9:19 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

What about hanging clothes on a garment rack that you can roll out of the closet to select clothes and roll back in when done?
posted by platinum at 9:26 PM on April 7, 2008

Wow! You guys are creative tonight. So I sort of forgot to mention that the stairs start halfway into the closet, which I imagine makes a big difference in visualization. So, you sort of walk partway into the closet and then the steps start. Then there's a big old platform. That's part of the difficulty I think because it means 2 rods up and down may not work. I'll have to get on in there and assault it even more with the measuring tape to see what I can get away with, but I'm pretty sure cool ideas like bunkbeds and garment racks and anything else that requires a flat continuous surface wouldn't work.

There are a few hooks and things in the beginning part of the closet but not neaaarly enough. Jacquilynne, your pegboard idea is really interesting because we may be able to add quite a few more hooks that way! Good thinking.

mumstheword, it's so funny that you mentioned the dry cleaning thing because that is EXACTLY what I first thought of when I saw the closet. Unfortunately, I think it's way too narrow to do that because two hangers probably wouldn't fit width-wise with enough clearance for the little gizmo to go around. It's such a shame too!

Zero Gravitas, it does seem like the obvious solution to run a rod along length-wise! It might work, but the real issue is the door. The rod would have to be hung pretty high in order for it to clear the doorway, which means tons of clothes right in your face as you walk into the area. See what I mean?

Secret compartment and ping pong balls are both totally awesome ideas. Ha!

Marie Mon Dieu, that closet thingie is amazing. I wish it would fit in there! Stuff designed for disabled people is an interesting angle...I wonder if they do make any OT stuff that might help in this situation.

Ohhhh amanda. Please step into my perfect world where I renovate the heck out of the master bathroom and knock down the wall to make one huge space. I'd have to be able to fit a closet in there somewhere, right? Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that's out of the budget. I wanted to just knock the stairs out until I realized that they actually made them like that out of necessity. I've been shooting dirty looks at the silly 1920's architects who didn't realize what kind of closet I was going to want in 2008.

More ideas? I'll take em! Thank you to all.
posted by theantikitty at 10:35 PM on April 7, 2008

A strip of lumber attached to the top of the rod, fitted with grooves so that the clothes hanger hangs at an angle, like parallel parking, creating enough space for passage.
posted by hortense at 10:53 PM on April 7, 2008

Okay, so you can get two clothing rods in there, one in front of the other, across the 34" space. So it's deep enough for two measured-in-dress-shirt-units front to back.
And there's still a lot of unused height? Is it 3 dress-shirt units tall? If so, then you can get a 4-rod rotating system in there. Think Ferris wheel.
Imagine a + on one wall and a + on the other exactly opposite, across the 34"space. The centers pivot. The ends of each + link across the space with a short clothing rod, like you use now. Push down on the clothes in front, and the clothes on top move down and towards you to become the front, the front becomes the bottom, the back becomes the top, etc.
Depending on whether or not you can find good sturdy pivot mounts and install the arms, you could get 4x the clothes in there, and they could have a fun ride too.
Or, you could go the easy way and have a rolling clothing rack that's as deep and wide as the space, but pulls out into the room so you can see all your clothes at once. The space on the stairs is for storage bins that you don't need to get to every day.
posted by bartleby at 11:36 PM on April 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Is there room to put a rail over the platform at the back? So you could hang some stuff there, and then have other clothes hanging flat against the walls, maybe on pegboard like jacquilynne suggested, or just put lots of hooks all over the place. I think from the width you could probably hang things from at least one wall without it getting too difficult to get inside there.
On the other hand, that platform sounds like a great place to make a den :D
posted by pocketfluff at 2:17 AM on April 8, 2008

I had a closet like that. I put in 26in floor-to-ceiling shelves that spanned the length of it, and LOTS of lighting.
posted by bchaplin at 3:28 AM on April 8, 2008

Oops -- meant to write "16in" shelves!
posted by bchaplin at 3:28 AM on April 8, 2008

Wait, what? That isn't a closet; it's an airing cupboard. Congratulations, you now have somewhere to store all of your off-season clothes and your linens.

Already got that? OK. Still, there is nothing that is magically going to make a 34" space work as a master bedroom closet. Even with an internal swing system, it isn't really going to be wide enough to walk past.

So, I say: insulate and block off the rear feet and turn the front two or three feet into shelving and maybe one or two layers of drawers on the top half, and shoe racks on the bottom. Use free-standing wardrobes in the bedroom to actually hang clothing.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:55 AM on April 8, 2008

Can you create access to the closet from the master bath (or whatever else might be on the other side of one of the walls)?
posted by winston at 4:37 AM on April 8, 2008

Can the stairs and platform be ripped out? You'd still have a long, narrow closet to deal with (I have one myself and meant to AskMe about when I got to decorating that room, so thanks for posting this thread!), but it would open up your options.
posted by orange swan at 5:58 AM on April 8, 2008

So if I'm visualizing this correctly, it's a very narrow walk-in closet. You could get away with hangar rods running the long way, but the combined width of you + clothes would get awkward. You want your hangar rods running perpendicular to the long wall.

I like the pegboard idea, or some variation on it. I'd also look into hanging an elfa system in there, and seeing what elfa has in the way of attachments that would act as stub hangar rods running perpendicular. I've got elfa in my closets and its nice to be able to adjust things on the fly.
posted by adamrice at 6:35 AM on April 8, 2008

This sounds like the closets in my house...deep and narrow, although mine are all under the eaves so I have to contend with a sloping ceiling.

Anyway, in my bedroom closet I put a rolling garment rack (a cheap one from Target that was height-adjustable and had a rack on the top) across the closet, at the end. It just fits at its lowest height with the rack removed, and it works well for shirts and pants. Behind it the ceiling slopes to the floor so it's dead space, although I can use it to store stuff if I want. On the left wall I have some closet organizers, also from Target. A shoe-cubby, a small cabinet with doors, and a two-cube shelf thing. They are only about 12" deep so I can squeeze past them as needed, although this closet is only about 4 feet deep so I mostly stretch out and reach for stuff.

The original rod is still there at the front of the closet and I use the right end of it (opposite the organizers) to hang the few dresses I own. This works for me because I have very few dresses or other long items that require a full-height closet rod.
posted by cabingirl at 7:10 AM on April 8, 2008

wow. what a suck situation. i'd say, use it for more storage (or seal it up and insulate) and then get some of those standalone closets that you put against the wall (i'm blanking on what they're really called). i would never ever use the closet if i had one like yours. ugh.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:21 AM on April 8, 2008

We have a large closet that was designed by a crack head. It's about 30" deep, but extends 4' on the right side and about 6' on the left side of the door. It's a narrow door. It's like it was designed for a sliding door, but at the last minute they built a wall and a tiny door instead.

Our solution: pack crap we need to store into the edges of the closet, shoes go on the floor in front of the door, and the few clothes that you can easily access get hung up in front of the door. Then we're getting a wardrobe from Ikea to go in the bedroom to supplement space for clothes.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:28 AM on April 8, 2008

Along one wall, place two levels of 12" to 18" closet rods reaching across the width. So, on one side of the closet you have room to maneuver, and the other side you have clothes hanging layered and accessible parallel to the wall.

Closet rod may not be the best because it would be hard to install and support, but I've seen long hanger supports made to be mounted to a wall.
posted by ShooBoo at 10:15 AM on April 8, 2008

Check out Thomas Jefferson's clothes closet hanging solution here - a central pole from which 'forty-eight projecting hands' provided rotating storage for his clothes. Very clever, and maybe useful to you!
posted by amtho at 7:50 PM on April 20, 2008

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