Classic Design: Closet Case

Your closet can be this pretty, too.
Your closet can be this pretty, too.
Photo courtesy of Pier 1 Imports

Our closets are most often overlooked as an area where we can incorporate styling and decor. How often have you taken your guests' coats and quickly thrown them into your hall closet because you didn’t want anyone to see the mayhem that ensues beyond the closed door?

Every nook and cranny in our homes is a potential target for decorating -- and that includes the places we store things. In an era of hoarding awareness we might not see that some of us are a possible candidate as the Next American Hoarder.


Joking aside, bringing life and spirit into your closets might be easier than you think. We all have to open our closet doors to obtain the goods we need. We open, grab, and close, as quickly as possible. What if we could open our closet doors and show them off? Yes!

Hall closets are a great opportunity to bring additional life and color into your home.

First, we might need to de-clutter the space so that we only have the necessary goods at hand. Once that's done, take note of your decorating in the outside areas and adjoining rooms within your closet vicinity. Put your existing style in the closet by using your same color scheme, but pump up the color. You can achieve this with paint, fabric, or wallpaper depending on your budget and personal preference.


I have often painted the inside back of bookcases with a bright color to give them interest and depth. A brighter version of your existing room colors will do the trick. Take a look at the color chart you used to chose other household colors and go straight to the top to see if it is right for the task. You also might try to use another color altogether, but one that works to really create that instant impact. A two-tone effect can also be great when you use a more muted version below the closet shelf and a brighter color above. Your existing shelf can also be a target for “color correction” since it is a visual break in your closet space. Enhance it with white or another bright color to bring it to life or you can make it fade away a bit with darker colors. You have total creative control as long as you know what colors will do within a space.

These principles and tips are also great for open shelving such as a kid’s playrooms, pantries, or library.


The concept of using fabric in the closet is the same as painting. However, fabric will give you much more depth and texture. True painting is easier but if you want to create a little jewel box of a space, fabric just might be the tool you are looking for. Some fabrics can be applied like wallpaper if they are of a heavy stock (paper backing is preferable or you can have your fabric professionally backed). Paper backed fabrics are available, but they are often available to trade (a.k.a. industry professionals) as they are a high-end item.

Consider instead applying fabric to the inside of your closet doors, which is easier and less costly. With a staple gun you can attach the fabric to the door back and then add either an edging of corresponding fabric or a line of nail heads available at most craft stores. A cotton velvet with nail heads would give a great upgrade to your inside closet door decor.


As a painter/wallpaper hanger in my earlier years, I papered many a closet and pantry. My first thought when I'd get a job was: "Okay, no problem, money and a job. What do I care if people are overdoing their spaces." However, I immediately changed my thoughts after I finished my first job: The effect of a papered closet is fantastic! Think of your big hall closet with two doors that open up into a common space with a bold “vintage/geometric” pattern that pops to life as the doors open. You'll have a wonderful visual that you don’t have to quickly shut out and hide. Contrast in pattern is key in the closet because you do have other “stuff” in the way. The bold and contrasting pattern will help give you that depth of space I spoke about earlier when talking about bright paint on bookshelves.


Our closet shelves are continually cluttered with hats, gloves, scarves, and everything in between. Let’s organize the debacle! Many of us have baskets in the attic or basement or the closet -- why not reinvent them with a splash of color? Luckily, vendors have supplied us with a multitude of colored spray paints to help us accomplish this. Continue your style and splash some color onto those tired baskets and put them on your closet shelves. If you are in need of storage baskets there are many vendors to obtain these from. If you can get baskets on clearance in a color that doesn't match your scheme, remember that a can of spray paint is probably right next door. Another way to add color and interest into your closets and shelving is to add some decorative ribbon or bows around the baskets to personalize them for you and your family.


For a large entry hall closet or other like spaces, your shelf above your closet rod is a great area to add style. Move aside the items on the shelf, possibly already in some sort of basket or organizer and add a few items that you would use on your shelves in other household areas. With the right color and lighting as a backdrop you have instantly created another element of home decor and color.


Once upon a time, wooden hangers were a luxury. Fortunately we now have vendors of wooden hangers to give organization and style a lift without breaking the bank. We may not be able to supply all of our closets with wooden hangers -- prioritize your most visual closets with a bit of an upgrade. Bedroom and kids closets may not be an option for wood hangers, but you can start by purchasing only white hangers, which will be neutral and work with any garment you hang on it. Now organize all your clothes by color to further enhance your closet color correction!


All decorating is dependent on light. Now that our closets are "color-corrected” and styled they need an additional design element to finish them off. I often go into a closet and can’t see anything. The bulb is burnt out or the pull string is gone or the batteries are dead -- which might be a blessing in disguise if your closet is a mess!

If you have chosen to enhance your closet with shelves adorned with a few decorative objects, you might want to add an accent light at the ceiling and back wall joint. An under-cabinet strip light will backlight these elements beautifully. Be careful not to over-light your closet with too much wattage. Lower wattage bulbs or a dimmer could be much more effective for a decorative and colorful closet.

MORE: Check out Doug Wilson's take on summer decor and the great outdoors!