New year -- new closet

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 14, 2012 - 12:34 PM

Time for a closet makeover? Today's choices range from DIY to hiring a pro, and from basic steel shelving to elegantly appointed walk-in dressing rooms.

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Every morning for 10 years, Tina Arend hunted for matching shoes, and her husband, Chris, dug through overpacked clothes rods in their walk-in bedroom closet.

"I would wonder if the rack was going to fall down," said Chris, a reference to the time the flimsy wire clothes rack came crashing to the floor, spilling shirts and pants.

The couple were weary of the disorganized, disheveled and endlessly annoying closet in their Eagan home.

"I told Chris that all I wanted for Christmas this year was to organize our closet," said Tina, who coveted a co-worker's tidy and functional new closet, which was decked out with drawers, shoe cubbies and adjustable clothes rods.

The start of a new year is prime time for closet makeovers, from simple decluttering projects to full-blown installations with new shelving and built-ins. Like many home-related industries, closet and storage organization companies experienced a monetary hit during the recession. But the Association of Closet and Storage Professionals estimates that last year the industry took in $75 million and has been stabilizing over the past 18 months.

"People are staying put and spending money on improvements," said Janice Gaut, owner and designer at the Closet Factory in Plymouth, which reported an increase in residential projects last year. "One of the biggest is to organize their home."

The Arends considered several options: Visit a big-box store and buy closet organization components that fit their space, then install them themselves, or enlist a customized closet designer and installer. Already busy with full-time jobs and a family, the couple decided to call the Closet Factory for a free in-home estimate, which is offered by many closet-organizing companies.

Gaut measured the closet size, as well as the length of Chris' shirts, and counted every pair of shoes, then offered ideas on storage solutions, accessories and possible upgrades, such as wood-grain melamine shelves to match their home's millwork. Gaut's bid for the 11-by-6-foot closet came to $3,400, which included their desired features and the installation.

"I was surprised by the price," said Chris. "But Tina said yes because she liked the design, and the Closet Factory was referred by her co-worker."

Tina felt it was a worthwhile investment because the couple use the closet repeatedly each day. They were able to eliminate the dresser in the bedroom after consolidating their clothes in the new closet. Even better, their morning routine has been transformed from chaotic to calm.

"I can see and reach everything now," said Tina, pointing to a shelf cubby just for scarves and shawls. "It's a lot more fun getting dressed."

Upscale organization

Custom closet-design firms say their clients want functional closets that maximize every inch of storage space. In addition to reach-in and walk-in closets, companies make over home offices, pantries, garages, entertainment centers and mudrooms.

"You can easily increase the usable space," said Jim Myers, owner of Twin Cities Closet Co. in Minneapolis. "And you save time because you can find things quickly and easily."

Typical space-saving components include hanging rods, adjustable shelves, roll-out pant holders and baskets, tilt-out laundry baskets, drawers and shoe cubbies.

Some homeowners are also combining efficiency with high-style design, turning a walk-in closet into a luxe dressing room that matches their home's decor. Shelving styles can range from basic white melamine to faux wood and real wood. There's even a huge selection of finishes in clothing rods.

"We've done projects with floor-to-ceiling stained wood cabinets, crown molding, granite countertops, glass doors, a storage island and accent lighting that cost $10,000-plus," said Brandy Ward, designer and marketing manager for California Closets in Edina.

Myers' company is designing a $25,000 master walk-in closet for this spring's ASID Showcase Home on Lake of the Isles. "It's going to be beautiful," he said. "It's a fully custom-painted wood system that maintains the look of the historic house."

All these upgrades, as well as the size of a closet, contribute to the final cost. A standard size reach-in closet system with basic components typically costs about $700. A standard size walk-in closet can be outfitted for $2,000 to $3,000, depending on accessories and materials. Several Twin Cities closet organization companies also have showrooms where customers can inspect materials, quality and how easily a drawer opens.

DIY closets

The Container Store in Edina is set up for customers who want to save money by installing Elfa brand storage systems themselves.

"People come in because they're tripping over shoes and can't squeeze another shirt on the rack," said manager John Urbin. To get started, you can either download and fill out the Elfa closet makeover guide from the store's website (www.containerstore.com) or bring your measurements to the Container Store design center. The store also holds closet organization demonstrations on Saturdays and Sundays.

The staff will draw up a design with storage options for your size of closet and help choose components, which are displayed in store vignettes. There's even a wallboard display where customers can practice drilling holes for the support track and assemble shelf brackets.

The company also offers professional installation and compares that cost with the DIY cost on store signs. To capitalize on the "get-organized craze" at the start of each new year, the Container Store is holding a 30 percent off sale, on Elfa products and installation, through Feb. 13.

Storage components are an important part of building a better closet, according to Urbin, because they provide two essential ingredients: "Visibility and accessibility -- the two keys to closet organization."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619

  • related content

  • Chris and Tina Arend demonstrate how they use their new closet system at their home in Eagan, Minn. Their closet organization system is from the Closet Factory.

  • Is clearing the clutter and getting organized on your 2012 to-do list? It's worth the effort, said professional organizer Nikki Havens, owner of Seriously Organized in Bloomington. "By living with less stuff, you save time, money and hassles," she said. Here are Havens' tips: • Sort before you purge. Find out how many extension cords you have, for example, before you start getting rid of them. • Question each item. Do you use it? Does it work? Did you know you owned it? Does it fit in your plan? • Give yourself time to do a good job. "Do one project at a time but do it well, so it's a permanent fix," she said. • Go online to cut down on paper and time. Bills, bank statements, magazine articles and other materials can be found on websites. • Buy a label maker and use it. "Every professional organizer has one," she said. "I like the Dymo hand-held one." • Color-code the home. "My family each has a color for their storage bins, files and even water bottles," she said. • Order in the bathroom. Fill labeled containers with beauty supplies, soap, razors and band-aids and store in the vanity or closet. • Think double-duty. "Buy one expensive set of quality pots and pans and get rid of the quesadilla maker, rice cooker and other kitchen gadgets," she said. • Follow the 30 percent rule. When organizing an area, try to leave it 30 percent empty to make it easier to find items and provide space for new stuff. • Stick to one brand. Storage containers and organizers will all fit together. • Less is more. "You don't need 30 photo frames on a table. Five is fine," she said. LYNN UNDERWOOD
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