on the house Closet shelving systems by James and Morris Carey

James and Morris Carey
Friday March 15, 2002

We recently built closet systems in our homes. Our wives helped with the installation and we wanted to share our experience with you. 

Prefabbed shelving systems are a bit more bulky than most individuals can handle, so enlist the help of a friend or spouse. 

Storeowners like to spruce up their displays with the most elaborate — and most expensive — combinations of products such as: pullout tie racks; pullout hampers; pullout belt racks; built-in ironing boards; raised panel doors; clear acrylic doors; drawer dividers, and more. 

Fancy finishes can make your new closet system look more attractive and can increase versatility. Experts told us that most folks buy systems with fewer features. It does take some imagination to figure out how to use all of those whistles and bells, but once in place, a well-appointed closet system can be a pleasure to use. So, keep these features in mind as you design your own system. 

The popular combination of items requested by more than 80 percent of closet-system purchasers include three basic elements: a single-pole section for long hanging; a shelf section for folded items, shoes, etc.; and a double-pole section to maximize hanging space for shorts, shirts, etc. 

Almost all prefabbed closet shelf systems have adjustable shelves. Again, experts tell us that when visiting past customers, they find most shelves are not moved after installation. Is this silly, or what? Adjustable shelving costs more, but isn’t taken advantage of? This is where we have to disagree with the experts. Although one might not adjust shelf placement later, having the ability to initially make adjustments can be extremely important to the novice who isn’t sure exactly what to plan for. 

Also, if needs do change, the adjustable closet system can change, too. We think that adjustability is an important feature and that adjustable shelving can reduce anxiety over how one’s garments eventually will fit within the new scheme of things. Experts suggest considerable savings can be realized by purchasing and using a fixed-shelving system. Sorry, but we found that the added versatility of an adjustable system reduced our anxiety which in itself was worth the cost. However, it’s your closet and your pocket book, so you get to decide. 

The neat thing about pre-drilled adjustable systems goes way beyond being able to simply change shelf positions. With these types of closet systems the shelves can be replaced with clothes poles. In this way, the same space can be used for either hanging or shelf storage. And later, the system can be modified — without the use of tools — as either hanging or shelving space. Simply slip out the shelves and slip in the pole. In our system each module came with shelves and a pole. We mounted the pole brackets in every unit whether it was going to be used for hanging or not. In locations where we decided to use shelves, we pulled the pole out (leaving the pole brackets in place) and stored the pole in the corner of the closet. Later, if we need more hanging and less shelving, we will be able to make the change in reverse just as fast. 

Experts tell you to plan in advance for what you will want to store in your closet. We agree, planning is smart, but no one can be absolutely sure of how a storage system will ultimately be used. Therefore, we feel it makes sense to leave yourself choices. Install a shelf system that can be used either for hanging or shelving. This way, you can’t go wrong. 

A couple of other tips: 

Be careful not to box in corners in walk-in closets by placing shelving so that clothing abuts the shelf face. This might be OK when the closet is only partially full, but once clothes poles are completely filled, getting to shelves in corners can be a real problem. Corner units are available that eliminate this problem. This is where spending slightly more can get you a big return on your investment. 

Yet, there are things that cost a lot that don’t improve storage, such as: 

—Chrome clothes poles (painted ones hold equally well). 

—Glass shelves (melamine ones are easier to keep clean). 

—Exotic lighting (the good old-fashioned fluorescent kind still is best). 

Bright lighting is a good investment in any closet. Not exotic lighting — bright lighting. Lighting that can help you differentiate between navy blue and black and between dark green and dark blue is helpful. 

Tie racks can be used for ties and suspenders too. Wire drawers can be used up high for drawer storage that you can see through. And don’t forget shoe racks, dirty clothes hampers and telescoping poles that pull out (called valets) where clothes can be hung perpendicular to the clothes poles. This makes it easier to see the front of the garment while using free hands to mix and match with other pieces. 

You will never have enough clothing storage. If you are satisfied with your closet system so that it makes you giggle in the morning while you are planning what to wear, then the rest of the day is bound to smile back at you. 

For more home improvement tips and information, visit our Web site at www.onthehouse.com. 


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