In Luxury Homes, Walk-In Closets Dazzle
In a perfect pairing, high design and haute couture have brought their fashion sense to one of the more utilitarian spaces of the house—the closet—transforming it from a storage work horse to a chic clothes horse.
This Cinderella-like metamorphosis, driven by homeowners’ desires to show off their invaluable valuables in an organized and opulent manner, has literally given the space a room of its own that’s outfitted as luxuriously as the rest of the home.
“The walk-in wardrobe is very much a statement piece, a badge of honor,” said Philipp Nagel, director and co-owner of the bespoke London-based wardrobe company Neatsmith, adding that he created a £40,000 (US$51,315) walk-in closet for a male client on Bishops Avenue, which is also known as Billionaires’ Row. “People like to show them off.”
Ryan Serhant of The Serhant Team at Nest Seekers International and a star of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York” and “Sell It Like Serhant,” concurred, adding, “It’s not so much about hanging up clothes as it is about selling a lifestyle in an Instagram world.”
With prices ranging from $25,000 to $500,000 and amenities like TVs, bars, vanities, cosmetic refrigerators, coffee makers, jewelry drawers, safes and even putting greens, some of these newly clad closets are being used as living rooms, offices, dressing rooms and entertainment venues.
Creating an Artful Display
“Even clients without much clothing still want them because they care about their possessions, and they want to be organized,” said Lisa Adams, CEO of L.A. Closet Design, which is based in Los Angeles and has done projects all over the United States and in Trinidad, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Russia. “It’s also about artful display. Everybody has something they care about. One of my clients, for instance, wanted to have a special display for her Hermes Himalayan crocodile Birkin bag.”
The ideal custom closet, according to interior designer Kari Whitman, whose namesake firm has offices in Los Angeles and in Boulder and Aspen, Colorado, “is a reflection of who the person is—whether that means jeans and a T-shirt or vintage couture.”
Generally, these over-the-top walk-in closets are sited in or near the master suite and have separate spaces or separate rooms for each user.
Susan Magrino Dunning, chairman and CEO of the New York City-based Magrino Public Relations Agency, wanted–and needed–an ample closet to store her collection of vintage and contemporary clothing and accessories.
“I share a closet with my husband, and his section kept getting diminished in a greater and greater way,” she said.
For years, she put the bulk of her wardrobe in off-site storage because there wasn’t space for everything in their Manhattan apartment.
When she and her husband were renovating the master bedroom in her weekend house in New Canaan, Connecticut, however, they included a 400-square-foot high-ceilinged addition to accommodate what she calls “the closet of my dreams.”
The room, designed by Krista Fox Interiors of New Canaan, Connecticut, and California Closets, which has 140 U.S. showrooms and a presence in Canada, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, has valet rods for uber-efficient storage and open shelving that allows the clothes to breathe and be visible.
Ms. Dunning, who has an affinity for the glamorous Hollywood fashions of the 1940s, added an Art Deco Heywood Wakefield vanity with a circular mirror, a large center island topped with Carrera marble that matches her kitchen countertops, a mannequin and a two-tiered display case for her Chanel bags.
“I consider my closet a workroom,” she said, adding that her high-profile industry requires a versatile wardrobe.
HGTV Star Scott McGillivray and his wife, Sabrina, went for the wow factor when they commissioned California Closets in Toronto, Canada, to create their 360-square-foot dressing room and adjoining 65-square-foot hall closet.
They chose a center island with drawers and a hamper, silver-patterned glass, gold hardware, a large beveled mirror, black-patterned wallpaper and a gold vanity to create their indulgent oasis.
“We opened a wall at the back of the hall closet and added an illuminated glass display case for shoes and bags,” said Cassandra Reinthaler, training and showroom manager for California Closets Toronto. “It’s like a museum display case that you can see when you walk down the hall.”
In keeping with their status as rooms instead of mere storage spaces, custom closets are expanding in size as well as function.
Ms. Adams, for instance, created a three-story closet in Bel Air, California, that had one level for everyday clothing, one level for tailored outfits and a bottom floor for seasonal wear that also included a safe room and a panic room.
In Minnesota for a jet-setting couple, she designed a two-story, $250,000 his-and-hers closet that features a glass staircase. The top level has a travel station for storage of duffel bags and travel kits, a bar with seating, a steaming station and a washer and dryer. The lower level contains everyday clothing.
“It’s a place to stage and prep and also for the wife to entertain her girlfriends,” she said.
Entertaining was the last thought a client in Aspen, Colorado, had in mind when he commissioned Ms. Whitman to make his closet, which functions as a comfort zone and a man cave, in an 1800s brick grocery store he converted into living space.
He requested that she hide the closet behind a wall that moves sideways at the tap of a key fob.
“It doubles as a safe room,” she said of the $120,000 project. “He can lock himself inside. He has five houses, and he doesn’t use this house much. But he does let family and friends stay there, and he didn’t want to give them access to the room.”
The hidden room is decorated with two mid-century-modern chandeliers. Its steel floor is embedded with vintage Buffalo Indian nickels, the walls are covered in leather and the baseboard is fashioned from old leather belts.
High-End Closets in Small Spaces
In small-space places like New York City, couture closets would seem to be counterintuitive.
“In new construction, it’s an afterthought, and we as brokers have to fight for it,” Mr. Serhant said, adding that more attention is paid to closets in townhouses.
Interior Designer Nancy Mayerfield, whose design house works primarily in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, has been called upon to create closets in small spaces. In one instance, she used a flip-down desk to add office space to a Manhattan walk-in closet.
For another Manhattan project, she created an additional closet for the husband in the bathroom. “It had drawers and a hamper, and I clad the interior of the linen/overflow closet in the same wood veneer that matched the rest of the space,” she said. “The woodwork alone was over $10,000.”
Developers in various locations are using spacious walk-in closets as selling points.
“In the last four to five years in London, developers have been dedicating space to walk-in dressing rooms,” Mr. Nagel said, “because it’s what everyone wants.”
Lately, the concept of the custom closet has been expanding.
Ms. Adams, for instance, has been getting requests to outfit every closet in the home. In Trinidad, for example, she created four for a couple in a waterfront condo–a $200,000 one for the master suite, a $125,000 one for the husband, a $65,000 one for a child, and a $35,000 one for coats.
In a Park Avenue duplex apartment in New York City, interior designer Nicole Freezer Rubens of NFR Consulting, which is based in Manhattan, gave a lift to a coat closet in the foyer.
“It was deep and narrow and ran under the stairway,” she said. “I like to do surprises, so I covered its walls in a Stark silver and black paper.”
Ms. Whitman sees the expansion of glamorous closets as inevitable. “No matter what size the closet is, people always want more,” she said.
Ms. Dunning concurred, adding that “my husband said that I’d never fill my new closet, but I did. He has just as little space as he did before we had it, and I still have some of my clothes in storage.”