Cozy up, because this is going to be a long one! Deciding how I wanted to organize this walk-in closet was a very long process. I had been dreaming and thinking about it for months before I finally started making decisions. And even then, the process took quite a while. I also lived with a variety of temporary solutions as I tried to figure out the best way to use the space.
In all honesty, I wanted it to be perfect. But, as I’ve used the closet and my needs have continued to evolve, I’ve learned that that is just not possible! Instead, I have a space that is pretty flexible and serves me really well, but I make some organizational changes 2-3 times a year.
Closet Renovation Recap:
- How I Got Started with DIY
- Attic Closet Renovation Part 1: Structural
- Attic Closet Renovation Part 2: Paint
- Attic Closet Renovation Part 3: Flooring
- Attic Closet Renovation Part 4: Trim
- Attic Closet Renovation Part 5: Knee Wall Door
Deciding on storage solutions
As I continued to ponder what I wanted, I turned to Pinterest and Instagram a lot for visuals. Now, when you start searching “walk-in closet”, you get a lot of beautiful images that would definitely be considered dream closets. But, I had to work with the space that I had, and there was no chance of me spending thousands of dollars on a luxury closet. It just wouldn’t make sense!
As I mentioned in my DIY Project Planning post, collecting a lot of images and seeing what continued to pop up was really helpful. I could see that there were some consistent ideas that I really liked. It was really just a matter of what would work in the space, and with my needs.
Sources: Top Left | Top Middle | Top Right | Bottom Left | Bottom Middle | Bottom Right
Working with the space I had
This was probably one of the most difficult parts of the project. There’s a decent amount of space in the closet, but figuring out how to make the most of it was actually really tricky. I wanted to avoid bending over as much as possible, and with a sloped ceiling, that makes things pretty tight.
I also really knew that I wanted to use an IKEA Pax system. I had seen these for years at this point, and really just loved the options they gave. The only way I knew I could easily use it, would be in the very front part of the closet, where I had (almost) full ceiling height. Of course, as you can see from my inspiration images, there was the option of cutting them down and fitting them into sloped ceilings. I thought long and hard about this option but ultimately decided against it. As affordable as these systems are, it seemed a bit wasteful and more work than it was worth.
I ultimately decided that the side walls would be for hanging storage, and I would put a dresser, and possibly a shelving unit on the back wall. I haven’t installed a shelving unit, and I likely won’t because I just don’t really need it, but it would’ve worked out well if I did.
Planning how much storage I would need
I found this chart that I had created that was basically an inventory of everything that I had planned on putting in the closet. Yes, I’m a little Type A when it comes to organizing 😉
Looking at this now, a lot has changed in how I’ve organized items, as well as the type of items that I now purchase, but it’s actually not that off!
In the second column, you can see the letters A-E. These were the categories that I created that would keep like items together:
A. Work/Professional clothing
D. Athletic wear
In the third column, I designated small, medium, and large, which indicates how much room these items would take up. For example, my 20 pairs of work pants would take up a bit of real estate, whereas my camis wouldn’t. I also counted how many of each item that I had and how much space they would take up on a rack or shelf.
Is this necessary? Haha, oh boy no! This is over the top. But having a general idea would be very helpful in making some decisions.
Storage solutions for seasonal items
It took me until very recently to decide if I wanted to store seasonal items away or keep everything out all year. Ultimately, I decided to store my seasonal items in my crawl space that I access through my hidden knee wall door.
Why did it take me so long to decide? Well, shortly after I started this process, the pandemic hit. Turns out, when you don’t go anywhere, you don’t use very much of your closet! I finally feel like I’ve experienced a couple of seasons now of more “normal” use, and I’ve decided that although there is room for everything, I do like it better without the visual clutter.
Have you ever used the Ikea Pax Planner? If you’re obsessed with organizing, you’ll really enjoy it. I spent hours using this thing! It’s really helpful in figuring out what items you’ll need when you get to Ikea and making decisions on what you can actually fit in your space and the systems.
Going to IKEA
Oh, this was an adventure. We don’t have an Ikea in Buffalo, but there is one in Burlington, Ontario, Canada about 75 minutes away. So, that’s where we went! We headed out on a Sunday in January and drove back in a blizzard with an SUV completely packed full. And I mean completely packed full, as in there were boxes up the middle that meant that we couldn’t even see each other. Haha, this was not a well-thought-out plan, but we (and our marriage) survived!
Of course, when you go to Ikea, you have to go through the showroom to check everything out. Even though I had a plan going in, this all went out the window once I saw how they used the brown accessories in the white frames. I was smitten. Unfortunately, most of the accessories were out of stock, so I only left with a couple of the pieces that I wanted. But, the small accessories ship for pretty cheap. The actual frames do not ($99 to ship these!). So, I was ok with leaving without everything and then could order the rest at a later time.
How to cut down an IKEA PAX
The first thing I started doing was building the frames. These were relatively easy once you get the hang of things. Surprisingly, I’ve built a couple of furniture pieces from scratch, but tend to struggle with building Ikea (or similar) furniture. However, once I had both built, I hit a snag. The second one just barely scratched the sloped ceiling enough that it wasn’t going to fit, so we’d have to cut it down.
This was really frustrating, but it was pretty easy to do. I was more frustrated with the fact that I had to take everything apart, which was more difficult than putting it back together. Those dowels don’t come out easily!
I didn’t have a table or circular saw at this point, but luckily one of our good friends does. He let us come over, and we basically shaved off about 2 inches in height. We didn’t need to do that much, but I wanted to be safe.
To do this, you’ll take the two side pieces as well as the back panel and run them each through the table saw, cutting off the same amount from each. Because of the screw placement, I decided to cut off from the top. Once everything was cut, I just had to reassemble it all and stand it up. In hindsight, I probably should’ve cut them both down to match, but ugh, I didn’t want to take both of them apart!
The current tour
And, here is what the PAX system currently looks like! I originally didn’t have any hanging storage options, but I’m glad I decided to add them. I actually use the rod on the left-hand side to hang my outfit for the next day. I played around with the shelves and drawers quite a bit, but I think I’ve finally got a great setup and am happy with it.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they make the brown accessories anymore! So, even if I wanted to make changes, I wouldn’t really be able to without having it be mismatched.
I had two options when it came to where the dresser would go. The knee wall, where it is now, or the left-side sloped wall. It really just came down to where I would want my hanging clothes. In the end, I decided that I wanted a cleaner look when I first walked in, so putting it on this wall just made the most sense
I actually bought this dresser when I got my first professional job and was living in Miami circa 2013. I didn’t have a lot of money and wasn’t sure how long I’d be in my current place, so this dresser and the matching bed seemed like a good option. Fast forward 8 years later, it’s still holding up great. Honestly, it just needed a fresh new look, and the black was way too dark for the new white closet.
Contact Paper vs. Paint?
I wanted the makeover to be as simple and affordable as possible, so I debated between using white contact paper and covering it or just painting it. I knew that painting it would require several coats, so I opted to try contact paper first.
This didn’t go very well haha. I know that some people just have what it takes to get the contact paper on really smooth and straight as they go. I’m not one of those people. I really struggled with this and it didn’t look good at all, so after applying, I ripped it all off.
Next, I tried painting. Painting Malm furniture can be tricky if you don’t do it properly. I followed these steps, and it’s held up great over the past year.
How to paint IKEA laminate furniture:
- Sand. You can just use a sheet of low-grit sandpaper by hand to rough up the edges. I used an 80 grit sponge and just did one good pass. After it’s all sanded, make sure that you wipe everything down again. I like using tack cloths because the stickiness helps pick up all the lingering dust.
- Prime. You’ll want to use a good primer that works on laminate. I opted for the Zinsser BIN primer. I also like to use these small foam rollers because it gives the smoothest finish. I did one pass over the top and sides, then moved on to the drawer fronts. Immediately after finishing, I did a second quick pass to really make sure I had a good coat. This step definitely isn’t necessary, but it’s relatively quick and gave me some added assurance. Once this was dry, I did a quick sanding with a high-grit sanding sponge to smooth it out before painting.
- Chalk paint. Chalk paint tends to work great with laminate furniture because it has high adhesion. I chose Rust-Oleum chalk paint in Linen White and am happy with how it turned out. I applied this the same way as the primer, with two back-to-back coats. You can recoat in 30 minutes, and that’s about how long it took me to do each coat. You can do a top clear coat for added protection, but I didn’t think this was necessary. I did another quick sand with the same sanding sponge just to give it a smoother finish.
The Malm dresser doesn’t require hardware because the drawers are angled at the top allowing you to easily open them. However, I thought this would dress it up a little bit, and I found these really affordable dresser pulls so I figured, why not?
The hardest part of this was figuring out where to drill the holes. This can be really tricky to get and messing up can be a pretty big headache. I’ve since learned how to create a template (I’ll talk about that in a future post when I discuss my kitchen cabinets!). But, for this, I just did A LOT of measuring and marked my spots with a pencil. I wanted the pulls to be in the center of each drawer, both vertically and horizontally. I measured from the top to the bottom, then marked the center. After that, I measured the distance between each pull and marked that. I then checked to make sure everything was level and began to drill. This method was really time-consuming, but it worked out in the end.
You’ll want to use a drill bit that is about the same size as the screws. Don’t go bigger, but you can go slightly smaller if necessary. Once you have your holes you’ll insert the screw on the inside, and secure it to the pull. My screws ended up being way too long, so I did have to replace them with shorter ones, but this is an easy fix.
How I use the dresser
I do regularly change out how I use this dresser just based on the items that I need to store at any given time. As I mentioned earlier, these needs do change over time, unlike I had originally thought, and being flexible is really helpful.
Since the right-hand side is slightly easier to access because of the way the room is structured, I put my most used items in here. On top, I have all my bras, sports bras, and camis. The middle holds my undies, socks, and PJ shorts. On the bottom, I keep all my sweat pants.
On the left I store comfy/PJ tops on top, hoodies in the middle, and all my Buffalo Bills attire on the bottom. I also use these Ikea Skubb boxes to keep things compartmentalized. These fit perfectly with the Malm dresser, so they work out really well.
Living with temporary storage solutions
Before I made any final decisions, I did live with some temporary solutions for a little while. I used the same free-standing storage system that I originally had in our guest room before I moved into here, and it surprisingly worked pretty well. I was able to configure them however I wanted. However, they aren’t the most visual-pleasing systems, so they weren’t a permanent solution.
It did help me figure out a couple of things though. First, I decided that I didn’t like hanging pants by folding them over these hangers. This meant that I would either need to fold them or hang them the long way. I decided to hang my dress pants, but fold my jeans on the shelves I would put above the rod. I actually recently changed my mind about the jeans and started hanging them too. I just felt like it took up less space, and helped a bit with wrinkles. These hangers have worked perfectly and I love how slim they are.
I also was able to designate the different sides of the rooms to different purposes. Since I do have more work clothes, I decided that having them on the right-hand side would be better, since there is more space. The left-hand side then became my casual side. This just visually made sense and makes it easier when I’m trying to put together outfits for work.
Lastly, I did end up putting all of my cardigans and blazers in the PAX system. Honestly, they just felt too heavy with everything else and it created visual clutter for me.
Clothing racks with Pipes
For a while, I played with the idea of creating free-standing wardrobe systems out of pipes. I liked the look of it and thought it would be pretty cost-effective.
I created the sketch below to get an idea of how many pieces I would need so that I could start adding up the cost. (Yes, that is the Pythagorean theorem! Turns out you use quite a bit of geometry in DIY). In the end, I did find that it was going to be quite a bit more costly and work-intensive than I would’ve liked, so I nixed it.
What I actually chose
I was a bit wary of installing any type of shelving that would require drilling into the walls. I had just finished off the space, and I really cringed at the idea of damaging it. It took me a while to be comfortable with the idea, and honestly, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest anymore!
Once I pulled the trigger, I decided to go simple, and just hang some rods with shelves attached. This ended up being a great solution and I think it looks pretty clean. I chose these brackets since they included the rod holder with them. I used my favorite screws and drilled them right into the studs. This rod ended up working out great and I like that it’s thicker so it’s more heavy-duty. Lastly, I chose these shelves because I liked the lighter finish. I only needed two, and just cut them to size with my miter saw.
I actually don’t have that much on the shelves, which I don’t mind. I do consider myself to be somewhat of a minimalist when it comes to clothing and accessories, and I regularly purge my items so that it doesn’t get overwhelming. I like the fact that I have room to grow and that I’m not bursting at the seams!
Whew, I told you that this one was going to be a long one! There were a lot of decisions to make in this closet, but this one definitely took the most brainpower. I’m very pleased with how everything came out, and that my decisions created a flexible space that I could rearrange as needed.
My final reveal post will be coming soon and will include a full tour with links, and a budget breakdown. Remember my initial quote of $5500 that only included drywall installation? Wait until you see what this closet ended up costing me in the end! You won’t want to miss it!