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March 02, 2008

Closet case: Calgary Custom Closets

Shelving small-space wardrobe worries a design of the times

Caitlin Crawshaw

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When it comes to closets, size matters. And if you can’t have space, organization is key to keeping everything in its place in the often-close quarters of a condominium.

Lana Dilling of Calgary Custom Closets says clients’ needs run the gamut, but the only real difference between storage systems in a house versus those in a condo is the amount of space. “In a condo, there isn’t a basement and there may not be a storage locker per se. So, we try to incorporate space for those sorts of things—sports equipment and general storage,” she says.

“Quite often condos have high ceilings so we are able to go up higher and include more shelving for things that are not used as often.”

Dilling says accessories like jewelry racks, built-in laundry hampers, and ironing boards are popular with clients. Other options include belt and tie racks, valet racks, and built-in mirrors. All of these features help minimize the need for extra furniture in a bedroom, freeing up more space for life.

“It makes a bedroom more livable,” Dilling says.  “You can put in a reading corner or a big chair … something else in there besides what’s holding your clothes.”

When it comes to selling a home, location can dazzle, but good storage space can help seal the deal. “Usually the lady makes the buying decision in the case of a residential purchase and usually the things that attract the family—or primarily the lady—to make a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would be the kitchen and bathroom and things like the closet, especially the walk-in,” says Bill Fraser, owner of Edmonton’s Master Cabinets Ltd.

While most of your living takes place in rooms like the living room and bedroom, well-used closet space can minimize clutter and increase livable space. And for those buying a home—one of life’s most stressful experiences—efficient and attractive storage spaces in a home can mean a more pleasant experience. “If someone can move in and just unpack their boxes and just live, that’s a huge feature to people,” says Fraser.

Because storage is such an important consideration for homeowners—especially condo owners—home builders take closet space and organization seriously, explains Derek Squirell, chief operating officer for Aspire Condo Living by Jayman.

Closet space isn’t regulated by code, but all builders work it into their designs, he says. When it comes to Jayman’s design decisions, a lot is taken into consideration, such as the width and length of clothes in a bedroom closet. In the case of a bedroom reach-in closet, the hanging bar is at least 24 inches from both the back and front of the closet (which relates to the average suit size); in the case of a coat closet, the minimum is 26 inches.
“Jackets and coats tend to have a bit more insulation, so they’re a bit bigger,” he explains.

Customers make a lot of the choices surrounding the storage options, but generally Squirell’s designs include master suite closets that are 25 square-feet in area. “That allows us to get our racking all the way around, it ensure clothes aren’t rubbing on things, like walls or doors,” he says.

However, in a smaller space, compromises have to be made. Sometimes a smaller bathroom is required for a bigger closet, for instance.

But despite the space available, every effort is taken to utilize every part of the closet—even the floor.  “When women, for example, look at a closet, one of the things they quite often look at is the floor—they ask, ‘Where can I put my shoes?’ ” asks Squirell.

Jayman’s condos include bottom shelves for shoes with space available both below and upon the shelf, so that shoes won’t interfere with hanging clothes.

Squirrel says that while walk-in closets are ideal, reach-in closets can work well too, especially with bifold doors for easy access and two rows of shelving. Since people generally don’t have many longer length items anymore (like full-length dresses or gowns), closet space can be maximized from floor to ceiling, allowing for long-term storage of rarely used items on the higher shelves.

When it comes to choosing a closet organizer, whether in a condo or house, the options generally fall within three categories: wire racking (which can be purchased from department stores and hardware stores), melamine closets (made of a wood-like material), and custom closets (generally constructed of solid wood).

Fraser, whose company offers both melamine and custom styles, calls the latter “the Mount Everest of closets,” as they offer more storage options and an attractive aesthetic.

He finds his customers generally prefer deeper drawers, friendly layouts (including separate his-and-hers areas), and convenient features like a shoe rack, belt and tie racks, and valet racking. Master Cabinets can outfit a storage system for a reach-in closet for about $300 to $1,000; a walk-in closet will cost slightly more.

At Calgary Custom Closets, a basic closet design of hanging rods and modest shelving in melamine starts at $135 a linear foot (a ten-foot wide closet equals ten linear feet), while melamine in a wood finish ups the price to $160 a foot. For custom closets, upgraded solid wood closet options start higher, at $700 a linear foot, while the sky’s the limit for accessories to add to any system—ringing in from about $60 for a tie rack, or $350 for larger add-ons, such as pull-out ironing boards.

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