4 New Uses For the Tiny Clothing Closets in Your Old Home

By: Elaine Vitone , Contributing Writer
In: Home Improvement Tips

Hello, all. My name is Elaine Vitone, and I’m the winner of last month’s blogger contest. Very first, I’d like to express my gratitude to everyone who voted for me. Thanks to you, I was offered a contributing-writer gig for OHW, which I was thrilled to accept. Really looking forward to getting to know my fellow old-home enthusiasts a little better here on the Old House Blog.

Better Half and I live in a 1921 Victorian fixer-upper we affectionately call The DIY Mess. Much as we love it here, we’ve been frustrated by our impossibly tiny clothing closets. Our biggest one measures a measly 14” deep. Each has two hanging rods that run front-to-back, with room to hold, say, a couple of housedresses and a couple of church dresses. Period. A single shelf near the top barely accommodates enough pairs of shoes to count on one hand (shudder).

No ma’am. Not gonna fly for this 21st century gal.

It’s a common problem in old homes. If you’re lucky, you can find a spot elsewhere in your house to carve out a new storage area, like the space Mark Clement uncovered during demo work last month (kudos, Mark!). Still, the question remains: What do you do with your original, old-school miniclosets? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Rip it out and start over.

Yes, it’s messy—a hole straight through the ceiling, a nasty shower of coal dust—but it frees you up to reshape the space for your needs. For example, in my office, we ripped out the old closet that was to the right of the fireplace, and installed custom bookshelves in its place. We then added a second set of shelves on the other side of the fireplace to balance it out.

2) Ditch the hanging rods and install more shelves.

These shallow little spaces make great linen closets. Here’s the before and after of our formerly useless guest room closet, which we updated last weekend. (No more big box of bedding cluttering up our floor! Hooray!)

3) Make a mini utility closet.

On the back wall, mount a mop/broom hanger, a fold-out ironing board, or a pegboard to hold up your recycling bins, like in this Martha Stewart article. (For more nifty ways to use pegboard, check out this Apartment Therapy post.)

And finally, my favorite comes from Heidi Kenney, a.k.a. My Paper Crane (via this Design Sponge post):

4) Turn it into a display case.

Heidi removed her closet’s door, wallpapered the back, installed shelves all the way up, and turned her tiny, oddly shaped old closet into something to be proud of. Props, Heidi!

And what, dear readers, would you add to this list?