Pros and cons of various closet organizing systems?
April 24, 2008 6:38 AM   Subscribe

Help me set up a walk-in closet. What are your experiences with the various lines of closet systems (Elfa, Ikea, FreedomRail, Closetmaid) or DIY?

I have to outfit a 10.5x8’ master bedroom walk-in closet. Usable wall space is a “U”, with one 10.5 foot wall and 2x 4 foot sections of the abutting walls. I want to design and install it myself, I have no interest in using the services of a Closet Design Engineer, or whatever those way-too-friendly folks at The Container Store call themselves.

My wife and I aren’t big clothing people, I have my nerd shirts and pants, a suit or two, she has a few long dresses and other hanging clothes. We want to keep the majority of our clothing in the closet, including socks and underwear. We want shelves for jeans, sweaters, and t-shirts. Storage for maybe 10 pairs of shoes apiece, half of which are probably hiking boots. (those shoe-cubby things that look like wine racks won’t work for the sorts of shoes we typically wear) Other miscellaneous closety things like cameras, luggage, and the souls of our enemies.

Cost, of course, is a factor. What are some good ways to keep cost down? It’s a closet, functional is more important than pretty.

I’m not opposed to DIY with some Home Depot shelving, though I would like to have a few drawers or bins, which I’ll probably need to buy as I won’t be able to build them in a month. Any creative ideas for this?

Freedomrail and Elfa look similar. Are they compatible?

Do you have a system? Do you love or hate it? Why? What’s the quality like?

What else am I forgetting? Closet tips in general are welcome.
posted by bondcliff to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've got the elfa (pic). I like it. After about two years, I've had no problems with it. I outfitted 12 linear feet of closet space with it, plus a pantry, and I've got those sliding drawer tracks w/ baskets, shelves, hooks, and hanger rods. This handles all of our clothing storage.

When you buy the stuff at the Container Store, they basically build your closet on screen. This is actually a helpful process because you start seeing how things fit together, and may wind up changing your mind along the way (we did). It also generates a bill of materials, so they know what to charge you. I think all the closet-system vendors have similar layout programs.

Ikea has a closet system that is considerably cheaper than elfa. Can't speak to the quality.

Tips: With elfa at least, the drawer tracks are pretty expensive, but I like having them (I think between my wife and I, we have 12 drawers, which probably accounted for half our total bill). Elfa has 3 (?) different shelf depths; in terms of usability it's a good idea to do shallow shelves in the middle and deep shelves high and low. With elfa, things tend to work out best if you can keep widths to multiples of 24", but shelves and hanging tracks will be cut to whatever widths you want. I don't know if your closet gives you any options in that regard.
posted by adamrice at 7:11 AM on April 24, 2008

I have a small closet in my bedroom (around 10x8x4), and completely re-did it with help from some storage store (forget the name, and they've since closed down). The first thing they asked me was to count my clothes - which seems obvious now, but at the time, slightly obsessive. Once you know what you have (with a guess at future growth), you &/or the closet expert can start putting together a layout (pants and shirts take up about the same vertical space, dresses a bit more, etc.). I got a good amount of help from the salesperson, and put together a hyper-efficient system. I probably paid a little more that if I had gone to, say, Home Depot, but I think it was worth it.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:24 AM on April 24, 2008

I have a lot of Elfa, in closets and in the garage. It is easier than some other types because you use screws just to attach a horizontal bar high up on the wall and make sure it's reasonably level-- and after that, the vertical pieces hook onto that, and everything fits together without hardware. I've recently seen another brand of shelving that uses the same sort of method. What you don't want: vertical standards that need to be screwed to the wall separately. I used them years ago: they have to be installed plumb and attached to studs, and the slots have to line up so the shelves will be level. It's a lot of trouble, even if your studs are in just the right places. Elfa offers anchors for every type of wall, and you don't have to hit the studs, though I do try to involve at least one stud.

Buying Elfa shelving at Container Store is kind of a long process, but when you're finished, you'll know precisely how many screws and anchors you need, and what kind. You'll end up with exactly as many shelf supports as you need. The shelves will be cut to to just the lengths you need.

Container Store has Elfa sales regularly; don't buy at full price.
posted by wryly at 10:19 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm happy with the results I got from generic coated wire shelving and related products from a building supplies store. Rather than pay a lot for drawers, I got some cheap but decent-looking plastic bins that sit on one of the shelves. Underwear and socks go in the bins; T-shirts get folded and put on a shelf; everything else hangs. I did a fair amount of measuring and sketching during the planning phase, but installation was easy.
posted by PatoPata at 10:28 AM on April 24, 2008

We have the Elfa storage, it is completely as advertised and I have no problems with it.

Regarding this: I want to design and install it myself, I have no interest in using the services of a Closet Design Engineer, or whatever those way-too-friendly folks at The Container Store call themselves.

I did that and it was no problem, I would encourage you however to bring your completed design to the container store and have one of their "closet design engineers" enter it in their system to get the exact measurements (hanging bars should be 1 inch longer, top track 1.5...etc). Their system will enforce the constraints for you. It took us maybe 15 minutes since I brought in exactly what I wanted. Ask for the printout at the end and go over it carefully, they tend to include things like screws and drywall anchors so if you don't need them ask for them to be removed.

As to tips, assuming you have decent ceiling height (8' or taller) consider a section of double height closet rails (rail over rail). It'll double the usable hanging space and costs very little since all you pay for is an extra shelf and rod.

One other tip - since with elfa (and most others) the shelf supports are tilted to install into the hanging standards there's a limit to how close to the ceiling you can put a shelf or hang a rail. You can get around it but it means you have to attach the shelf supports before you hang the standards.
posted by true at 10:31 AM on April 24, 2008

If you like the Elfa look but not the price, what about EasyClosets? I haven't ordered from them, but I have had an order stored for a while until I get the chance to redo my bedroom closets, and I had a really pleasant phone conversation with someone there.
posted by catlet at 12:55 PM on April 24, 2008

We purchased a set of Ikea wardrobes with drawer units, etc. The unit was a pretty close fit for our walk-in closet. We wanted a U-shaped set of units. The last unit in the line needed to be cut down to fit perfectly. I used a table saw to cut the bottom platform, kick panel, top panel and the individual shelves. The side wall of the unit then couldn't lock in using those little twisty-lock things, so I just used wood screws - no problem since the side couldn't be seen as it was up against the wall. We had to do that with two of the units to get good fit. It really only took a few minutes - the hardest part was cutting the over 6-foot long back panel. We also bought drawer pulls from a hardware store to get a different look from the standard Ikea stuff. The whole thing cost under $1,000 and looks like a professional, custom installation.
posted by nancoix at 4:49 AM on April 25, 2008

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