When Ron Ginsburg set about building a new house in DC’s Forest Hills, he put a premium on closet space, especially in his bedroom. “I wanted there to be room for a lot of things, but I wanted it to be organizable,” he says. And because you have to pass through the closet area to reach the master bath, the space had to look good.
He approached designer Vincent Sagart at Poliform Sagartstudio in DC for help with the closet. Architect John Coplen of the Alter Urban Design Collaborative was designing the entire home.
Having created large closet systems for years, Sagart knows intuitively how men and women dress themselves—and he designs accordingly.
“Women need to mix and match every day,” he says, so every component of an outfit needs to be within view. “Guys want to dress every day in something they know—it’s more cerebral,” so the shirts don’t necessarily have to be hanging next to the jackets or ties.
Sagart built a space that not only worked for Ginsburg but could also be reconfigured as circumstances changed, which they did when Ginsburg’s partner moved in recently. Now there are more double-hanging spaces to accommodate additional suits and dress shirts, and the shoe racks were switched out for sweater shelves.
“The last thing I wanted was absolutely fixed shelving and absolutely fixed hanging materials,” Ginsburg says. A built-in dresser was also crafted for two people, even though Ginsburg was single at the time. He was thinking about resale, but the dresser has come in handy now that he’s part of a couple.
Sagart accomplished with Ginsburg what he sets out to do with every project: “We always strive to create a dressing room or closet that does not look like a storage room full of stuff,” he says. “We want a space that is just enjoyable to be in.”
In Ginsburg’s case, Sagart designed the space as a sort of gentleman’s lounge. Dark wood and soft lighting illuminate not only the neatly hung wardrobe but a comfortable ottoman in the middle and, on the side, a dresser that would feel at home as a sideboard in any other room—decorated with Ginsburg’s collected art and artifacts. The homeowner specifically asked for sturdy, beautiful materials in his closet that wouldn’t get “chipped and nicked and dented and scratched.”
Says Ginsburg: “I wanted it to be comfortable and masculine. I wanted it to be something that would stand out.”
- Purge. You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: Take everything out of your closet, and put back in only those items you’ve worn in the past year, architect John Coplen says. Give everything else away. A good time for this exercise is when you’re switching out clothes for a new season.
- Examine how you live—and be honest. If you’re home with the kids and no longer wear business suits, don’t spare valuable real estate in your closet for them. Think about more racks for casualwear instead.
- Have a goal. What do you hate about your closet now? What would make it better? Designer Vincent Sagart says, “Make it an experience that is enjoyable, not driving you crazy.” For women especially, he adds, a closet should be designed so they can see clothing, accessories, bags, and shoes all at once, allowing them to create an ensemble easily.
- Get help. Retailers and companies at all price levels can design a closet system that maximizes every inch—you just need to provide the closet’s dimensions. Poliform resides at the high end, but Coplen also likes the Elfa products at the Container Store for more budget-conscious organizers. In between this high and low, he recommends California Closets and ClosetMaid.