Working your wardrobe space – tips from a former clothes and shoe junkie

Last week when I wasn’t checking on my sick chicken (Margo this time) or maintaining my flood defences (more on that later) I was thinking about wardrobe space, because my customer decided she trusts me enough to design the interior of her new fitted wardrobes without her input. Talk about pressure. As a former clothes and shoe junkie I am well qualified for the task but I get this wrong and she’ll never forgive me, and neither will her husband because it will be him that suffers. Everyone knows the whole equal partnership thing goes out of the window when it comes to clothes space. The wife automatically gets 70% – its practically the law.

I have asked them about their clothes, (amount hung versus folded, number of long coats or dresses etc.), but I’m expecting wild inaccuracies in their answers. Women always say not that much, and the men immediately disagree. Everyone forgets how many coats they own as most are seasonal purchases, never mind the new holiday clothes we buy each year. Men are worse than women at acknowledging how many pairs of shoes they own. Mr W must have at least 5 pairs of brown casual shoes which all look identical to me, 2-3 pairs of work shoes, at least 2 pairs of boots, 3-4 pairs of trainers, plus walking and cycling shoes. The list goes on…but if you ask him he will say he has 6 pairs. So I asked the clothes questions but also probed about the activities they pursue, and rummaged in their current wardrobes! So if you ever find yourself in my position or want to design your own space here are my tips:

1. Start with the hanging space. Limit the amount of full height hanging space to what you think they need and then double up everywhere else. I’d always recommend side mounted rails. It doesn’t matter how well lit your wardrobe is you can never see what’s at the back, and if you’re like me, if you can’t see it you forget you have it. If I’m honest I also don’t quite understand the point of the rails you pull down with a hook, unless you are really short or have mobility issues. All the images I’ve ever seen of them feature average height agile looking women, its a mystery to me….

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2. Unless you’re stuck in the 80’s and still wearing shoulder pads, cropped tops and bolero jackets you need a minimum depth of 600mm and at least 1050mm height, including 50-100mm above the rail so you can get hangers on and off easily.

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3. Next think about shoes; work wear, evening wear, casual wear, summer sandals, winter boots and sports shoes. Unless your house will always be 100% female use mens shoes to calculate your requirements. The average mens shoes are approx. 240mm wide and 300mm long (if you live with a giant measure their shoes…). So in a wardrobe 750mm wide and 600 deep you could get 6 pairs on a flat side mounted pull out rack. If you have a small footwear collection or a walk in closet the back-lit cubby holes look great but they take up a lot of space. Bookshelf type arrangements are great if you’ve got a narrow hallway, shallow alcove, or room behind a door. You can also put these on the inside of your wardrobe doors if you deep wardrobe space (add 300mm onto the 600mm min depth) If you’re Imelda Marcos you might want to consider the multiple tier pull out racks, or the racks with poles you hang your shoes on.

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4. Next is shelf space. This will differ based on the climate you live in. Obviously folded knitwear takes up a hell of a lot more room than t-shirts and vests. If you are going for boxes then they need to be at least 300mm by 300mm each. If you go for open shelves then calculate the width based on multiples of 300mm so you don’t have dead space you can’t use. I went for 600mm deep shelves in my own wardrobes so that I can rotate my folded clothes based on weather.

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5. Drawers are also an option for folded clothes, but are essential if you need to store underwear in your wardrobes. For drawers I would go wider and deeper than shelves. We may start with the best intentions but most people are not neat freaks and simply stuff our underwear and socks in our drawers. If you’re going to be rummaging anyway no point wasting space on too many dividers. I would also recommend solid versus wire baskets which can look untidy.

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6. There seems to have been a boom in accessories in the last 5 years, and I would wager that most men and women have a healthy selection these days which could include hats, belts, scarves, gloves, ties and you may even need to find a solution for costume jewellery. There are lots of rack solutions available online, including pull out and over door. Hat boxes are only really necessary if you’re a fan of Ascot or fascinators!

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7. If you’re an early riser and your partner isn’t. I would highly recommend lighting if you don’t want to wind up single. Mr W went through a stint of taking 5am flights and started leaving his clothes in another room to avoid the abuse I would give him for turning on lights. Spot lights can work but only if the space below is uninterrupted. If you have a wide space then strip lighting can be better than spots. Personally I think the best thing for wardrobes are the flexible strips of LED lights you can now get. They’re relatively cheap (£5 or £6 a meter) and your electrician can cut them to fit. They also come in a range of colours if you’re so inclined.

In the end I wasn’t brave enough to give the joiner the designs without my customer seeing them (probably room for a chicken pun there), but she loved them so we’re good to go and I can go back to checking on Margo. For the last week she has barely left the coop and I’m having to put her on the perch with the others every night. I’m starting to think she’s being picked (pecked?) on when I’m not there and am considering installing a chicken cam…..As for maintaining flood defences I think I’ll get this week off as the rain has turned to snow so hopefully my streams will freeze instead of overflowing every day. My business cards should say Interior Designer, Chicken Whisperer and Drain Doctor.