The secret’s out: closets are in and the bigger the better

Elaborate, spacious areas to display wardrobes and accessories have become the most sought-after features in new homes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 June, 2016, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 June, 2016, 9:01pm

At a home currently under construction in the hills above the famous Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, designer Kirk Nix is overseeing his workmen as they hollow out room for a closet that will accommodate the owner’s 1,000-plus Chanel bags. In a special alcove that can only be accessed with her fingerprint, she will store her prized crocodile Birkin bags.

In Oklahoma, Nix is building a 3,200 square foot closet for a male client that is twice the size of that of the woman of the house – and will provide enough room to house a collection of 5,000 ties.

Closer to home, at a house in Guangzhou, Hong Kong designer Clifton Leung furnished a 1,000 sq ft closet to resemble the clothing store of the home’s owner.

Elaborate, spacious closets have become among the most sought-after features in new homes, with existing properties being revamped to accommodate larger spaces for storing clothes. In fact, some architects say that they have been asked to scale down the size of a master bedroom in order to increase the allotment for closet space.

And it is not necessarily just because people have more dresses, shoes and suits to store. Closets are also being adapted to become lounge spaces of sorts, featuring comfy seating, espresso machines and small refrigerators holding bottles of Chardonnay.

Such amenities are a true luxury in Hong Kong, where space is at a premium. But, designers say, that does not stop homeowners from trying.

“It’s a woman’s dream to have a large space with a sofa, coffee machine and fridge where she can meditate on her shopping list,” said Jason Yung, co-owner of Jason Caroline Design in Hong Kong.

But given that size is an issue, Yung says he works with clients to make the most of what they have by creating that sense of luxury from details – not square footage.

“A closet is something that you will touch, so different textures and colours from outside to inside are very important. And how you experience the searching process (for clothing) is exceptionally important as well.”

When working with clients, Yung looks at factors like how easily the closet is entered – the size of the door, the shape of the handle – or how it lights up, and the temperature of the light source. The background colour against the clothes makes a difference, as does the layout of drawers and hanging systems for the clothes. In his company’s repertoire are secret compartments for pricey accessories, like those Birkin bags.

“Sometimes, when I see what clients are asking for, and paying for, it blows my mind,” said Lisa Adams, chief executive and designer of LA Closet Design in Los Angeles. In the sprawling estate-style homes she has worked on around Los Angeles, she has installed in closets such delights as seating areas, flat screen televisions, a breakfast bar.

“It’s one of the things people don’t necessarily do for resale,” she said. “It adds emotional value.”

Outside the premium closets, however, she has worked on much smaller projects where a space can be made more attractive with just a few tweaks.

“Good lighting, teak cabinets, change out the knobs – it can still feel luxurious,” she said. “It’s just a matter of scaling things down.”

Leung, founder of Clifton Leung Design Workshop, is all too familiar with that principle, often forced to work with compact spaces owned by people with lots of clothes. But still, he draws the line at having clients use up more of a bedroom to expand a closet.

“I won’t sacrifice room space,” he said. “There are other ways to squeeze in more room for a closet. Maybe combining closets together to make one larger one.”

For a project in Guangzhou, Leung did not have to grapple with those challenges of space. The house was 10,000 sq ft, owned by a couple with a fashion business in Hong Kong and the mainland. The 1,000 sq ft closet incorporates some of the cabinets used in his clients’ stores.

“The whole house is like a gallery, very minimalistic,” said Leung. “We extended that to the closet.” He installed oak flooring, ceiling-high mirrors, simple racks against a wall to easily display the clothes. White chairs – one for the woman’s make-up table, another for the man’s space – were imported from Italy.

“I think no matter what the size of the house, everyone would like a walk-in closet,” said Leung. “Now, when I work with people who are buying a house, I tend to tell them to tear down the closet and redo it.”