If you’ve ever watched a show on HGTV, you are probably well aware of how a great closet can make or break a house design. Architecture magazines love to give us glimpses into the luxurious closets of celebrities. 

But seeing elaborate designs on television and in magazines can make a beautiful closet seem unattainable. However, custom closets come in such a range of sizes and prices that you can absolutely design a closet you’ll love on any budget! Read on for our tips and tricks, as well as the major mistakes to avoid. 

Before You Start

Before you start designing your ideal closet, there are a couple of steps you should take. These “pre-planning” steps will help you cut through the noise and focus upon what you really want and need. 


The very first step is to purge your current closet! That means take everything out and decide what you want to keep. Purging your closet will help you determine what kind of space you need. Maybe you used to wear a lot of formal clothes for work, but now that you’ve switched jobs, you mostly wear clothes you keep in drawers. In that case, you may opt to cut down on hanging space in your closet and opt for more drawers. 

Purging will also allow you to get rid of ratty or old hangers, along with the ratty or old clothes. Once you see how many hangers you actually need, you can select matching hangers to add a more finished aesthetic to your new closet design. 


Once you’ve cleaned out your closet, you can start planning. Consider the space you have now. What do you like? What would you change? If you share a closet with a partner, make sure you get their input, too! Your plan should include utility (how you will effectively use the space) and design (how it will look). Consider materials and finishes, and create a “must-have” list as well as a “nice-to-have” list. Set your budget. 

Tips and Tricks to Design a Closet

Once you’ve set your budget, it’s time to dive in on the planning! You can start doing your research on your own, by searching online and in magazines. Seek out inspiration images and compile them. This way, once you call in the pros, you’ll be able to show them exactly what you have in mind. 

Create Sections

Since you’ve already whittled down your wardrobe, it’s time to group every item by section. For example, break your clothing into groups: pants, long sleeve tops, sweaters, sleeveless tops, etc. Which items will need to be hung up? Which items will go in drawers or sit on open shelves? Take notes of how many items you have for each section, so you can divide your space most effectively.  

Make Use of Space

The number one request for closet re-designs is to maximize space. ALL of it! Thus, you should plan to make use of the dreaded dead space above the top shelf. It’s best to design the top shelf to be just 12 inches from the ceiling, instead of 24 inches. This will give you enough space for suitcases, a moderate-sized stack of clothing, or shoe boxes. At 12 inches, the amount of storage space above the top shelf will be “just right.”

As you plan out your closet sections, remember that this top-shelf space should be reserved for your lesser-used items. This could include seasonal clothing, fancy clutches, or other keepsakes. Tuck a small step stool away in a corner of your closet for easy access to those top shelves.

Measure, Measure, Measure

Measure your closet. Then measure it again! When you hire a company to build your custom closet, they will also take measurements. But if you’ve already measured, you won’t be caught by surprise. Keep in mind that some closet systems make require space you hadn’t considered. 

When it comes to drawers and shelves, make sure you consider how much storage you will need. For example, make sure your shelves are deep enough to contain your folded items or shoes, or whatever you will be using there. If you have a ton of scarves you’ll be stuffing in a drawer, make sure you account for that space need. 

Consider Door Options

There are essentially two types of closets: those you can walk into and those you can’t. Reach-in closets tend to create more issues with space and access, but all closet designs should include consideration for doors. Closet doors can be swing-in or out) doors, like a traditional room. These doors can provide some additional storage space if you’re savvy. Bifold doors, sliding doors, and accordion doors are also popular options. 

Mistakes to Avoid

As you design a closet you’ll love, keep an eye out for these mistakes. With so many details to keep track of, you won’t want to make these errors. 

Forgetting the Shoes

Shoe storage is an important part of your closet design. And it’s very personal to your specific needs! For example, if you own a lot of boots, you will need a taller shoe space than someone who only owns sneakers and dressy flats. Shoe displays can also add a great aesthetic to your closet, but if you’re tight on space, you may want to consider something more practical than elegant. 

Overlooking the Benefit of Adjustable Spaces

Styles change. Your closet (and clothing) will change with them. However, if you’ve installed a permanent closet solution, you may be stuck with an outdated design. Instead, opt for an adjustable system. That way if you find yourself changing your style, such as for a new job, you’ll be able to adjust your space to match the change. With an adjustable system, there are tiny holes on the sides that allow you to adjust rods, shelves, and drawers up and down.

Sitting in the Dark

For a closet to work, you have to be able to see what's inside it! Natural light from skylights or windows is a plus, but most closets are not designed this way. Plus, sunlight can cause fading, and windows can eat up a lot of space. That’s why good artificial light will be your closet’s best friend. 

Keep in mind that with artificial light, it has to be between you and the contents of the closet. That’s because if the light is behind you, you'll cast a shadow on what you're trying to see. Not helpful! Additionally, you must consider heat risks. Incandescent bulbs can be a fire hazard in the tight, enclosed confines of a small closet. Thus, fluorescent lighting is often the only code-compliant solution.

Assume a Custom Closet is Too Expensive

Remember when you set your budget at the beginning? Whatever your budget is, you can absolutely find a closet solution. There are a lot of variables that impact the cost of a custom closet design. For example, the size of the closet, if the system is floor-based, wall-hung, or a combination of both, if you add drawers versus open shelves, and which finishes you select. Luckily, a professional closet design company will give you a free estimate and present you with variables and options to fit your needs AND budget.  

How to Get Started on a Closet You’ll Love

If you are ready to update and beautify your home’s closets, a custom design is the way to go. And when you use a TrustDALE certified professional, you're always protected by Dale's trademark 

$10,000 Make-It-Right Guarantee

. So start looking for a trusted custom closet company in your area today!

Dale's New Book:
Don't Get Scammed: Get Smart!