Built-in Closets: A Satire
By Ryan Christensen, Kitchen Designer
I’ve noticed a trend. People like the word custom. In the past, that dreaded word incited the sort of disgust that meant peeling one’s wallet open to shove over more hard earned cash not as a notion of choice, but the determined result of shelling out to achieve more than just standard. But today’s homeowners are looking to make a statement. Because of the architectural controls to the exterior of the home, the sometimes overheard disparaging remarks about climbing land prices and shrinking lots, the virtue of identity isn’t made on the outside but has shifted to the interior. Homeowners have inherited as a result of this seeming community sameness the designer’s impulse: to aspire to the unique benefits that customizing one’s space can garner. It’s no longer a Cedarglen Home but your home. Built and catered to your whims, to your functionality. To your intent. Oftentimes lost in this search to engender a particular identity to your space is the form taken by your closets; it’s the forgotten function, tucked away in the shadows, lost to public consumption, the repository of so much junk and laundry the area becomes interchangeable with a hamper.
You can change this.
Your architectural plans are a series of geometric lines, looming shapes giving the 2D impression of your home its actual grassroots base. The kitchen is a pattern of boxes and dotted lines denoting the upper cabinets, and sprinkled throughout are floor cut lines broken by 2x4 and 2x6 walls; the closets are merely represented by codes. B3. B5. For all intents and purposes, the B here could very well just mean Basic, for at what stage during the development of the house are you expected to show excitement for an array of wire shelving? It’s here where the common notion is to project indifference on the closets’ function. “Ya just hang clothes here. And if I’m going to get really specific, the space is hidden by bi-folds anyway. So why beautify what’s already cloaked by plainness?” It’s a good question. And my answer doesn’t cover the benefits of beautifying the master walk-in closet, because for the sake of this article, exchanging wire for cabinetry in this space is far easier because there’s more square footage to work with. What I’m expressing could act the actual savior to redeeming the most availability out of your bedrooms.
Over the years you have probably noticed a more constrained bedroom setting. In those gentrified urban lofts so popular to city cores, every inch is re-purposed in order to best optimize any given space. With that concept of design comes the idea of modularity. Having spoken to our showhome designer, Sandi Fedorchuk, in an impromptu interview, forcing her for just the moment to cease any dreams of future interior decorating to placate the inane questions of an inquisitive Kitchen Guy, I asked what her biggest challenge is when facing the confines of a boy/girl bedroom during her thematic approach to furniture placement. I’m paraphrasing here, but it was as simple as: “the dresser, boy, it’s that damn dresser. Tryin’ to fit the hunk o’ wood in there with ‘nuff room for a bed is like trying to open a jar o’ mayo with a broken thumb. Plus, assemblin’ the damn things, ‘specially when the bed’s already pushed up as far ‘gainst the wall as I can very well get it, leaves me inchin’ my caboose along the dang footboard trying to insert plank A into slot B without gettin’ a splinter. It’s why I was so grateful for your design in the Coleman. It was brilliant. You took out those bloo’y bi-fold doors, got rid of the wire shelving, and you inserted a built-in closet flush with the wall, leavin’ the actual interior of the room untouched spare for the bed. So now the world’s m’ oyster, ‘tis.”
I had to agree with Sandi, despite her harsh Manitoban accent grating through a lit cigarette. The modular built-in closets, seen currently in our Coleman showhome in Walden, takes premium real estate and opens it up by defying the logic of what used to orchestrate the make-up of a bedroom. Instead of reserving one wall for the dresser, and thus only sidling space between it and the bed, you insert in modular fashion a pre-built series of cabinet boxes to fill the void, turning what was once a bi-fold into a flush dresser. The idea behind the Coleman design, besides optimizing the space, was to also create the thematic foundation to Sandi’s engendering the rooms; in most Cedarglen showhomes, you can expect one room to cater to boys and the other to girls. In this instance, the designs of the built-in closets were similar, composed of lower banks of drawers in order to neatly organize the delicates, and large upper doors behind which were housed hanging rods and upper shelves. But in the girl’s room I replaced the solid wood panels of the cabinet doors and replaced them with mirrors. On top of capitalizing the room’s given storage, the addition reflects the light in the room, creating the illusion of more square footage while co-opting the main bath’s function as one’s own personal vanity.
It’s common for the designer and homeowner to impart the most function, and thus space, to the master walk-in closet because as the name so implies, the room’s purpose is to the benefit of the Master whose name is most likely on the mortgage. Forgotten is the oftentimes shrinking space of the bedroom and ways to improve the reductivist design that is leaving this area rather definitive: it is just a room…with a bed. By turning the closet space, and its requisite wire shelving, into a modular cabinet built-in, you’re not just creating a consistency throughout the house that by itself lends the space a certain uniqueness, you’re actually reserving the space in the room to its primary function without losing any storage.