“That’s all you need in life, a little
place for your stuff.” — George Carlin
Coveting closets is a fairly recent development. Until the middle of the last century, even the wealthy had fewer belongings and only a few changes of clothing, so built-in storage was much less abundant. From colonial times into the early twentieth century, people hung clothing on pegs along the wall or placed garments in a freestanding wardrobe.
Only in the 1950s did larger, deeper closets start appearing in new homes. These popular additions arrived just at the time people began increasing their belongings, and proved alarmingly easy to fill. Eventually closets became essential for more than just bedrooms. We discovered we needed a coat closet by the front door, mudrooms by the back door, linen cupboards, bathroom cabinets, walls of kitchen cabinets, shelves in the pantry, and built-in cabinetry for our books and entertainment systems. Even our brooms have their very own closets.
Through the years, the industry has continued to grow as we demand more and more sophistication in home storage solutions. Packaged Facts, a provider of consumer market research, reports that U.S. manufacturers’ sales of home organization products reached $8.5 billion in 2014.
When it comes to residential storage, our needs vary based on individual styles, life stages, interests, and professions. Sara Falci started designing storage solutions at Closets by Techline in 1995, and a year later she purchased the company. Prior to closets, Sara worked as a retail merchandiser where she mastered the presentation skills she now uses to organize our stuff.
Sara understands that each of us has unique storage needs, and values the personal interchange that is part of her work. The process begins with a meeting to measure and assess space, present samples, and take a broad inventory of your closet contents. A discussion of your habits helps her develop a plan that will arrange items you use on a daily basis so they’re easily accessible. “A great closet design lets you start your day on a good note,” Sara says.
A new closet often serves as motivation for organizing and paring down. Whether you decide to purge items or simply prioritize, Sara will match your goods with the drawers, shelves, and hanging rods needed to display everything properly and protect them year-round. She creates a design concept personalized for your needs, reviews it with you, then produces the CAD drawing from which crew members work. The company’s “shop in a truck” van allows them to perform installations with maximum accuracy and efficiency since they cut every piece on-site.
Closets by Techline works directly with homeowners and often gets referrals from interior designers, remodelers, and builders. Sara’s company specializes in residential storage, but we all know that can encompass a wide variety of needs. She regularly updates both walk-in and reach-in closets, and creates storage for dressing rooms, pantries, laundry rooms, mudrooms, garages, home offices, craft rooms, and nurseries. In the kitchen, she frequently helps homeowners and kitchen designers with island storage and pantry areas, often creating more affordable options.
Sara’s first advice for your closet improvements is good lighting, well-positioned outlets, and a fresh coat of paint. SolaTubes work very well in closets, allowing in natural light. Additional lighting should be centered and not too close to the clothing. For a reach-in closet, a fluorescent bulb positioned on the header works best. She recommends the light switch be just outside the closet door to save interior space. Too many outlets can also be detrimental, so it’s usually best to limit yourself to one unless you happen to have a closet large enough for an ironing board or plan a phone charging station in your closet—then you want a well-positioned outlet nearby.
Rick Hoekstra owns Kitchen Ideas Center and agrees there’s increasing appreciation for well-built storage spaces. He listens carefully to his clients and designs accordingly. In the case of one customer, Rick even visited the client’s previous home to review what worked and learn what improvements the new home could offer.
With kitchens as a specialty, Rick is at the forefront of the changing parameters for appliances, and offers a wide selection of specialty features, such as drawers that slide out to lift professional stand mixers to counter height. Many kitchens include built-in desks, fully featured islands, racks for wine or cookbooks, and carefully planned pantries.
Each person’s lifestyle and individual pieces have a strong influence on Rick’s recommendations. After viewing a sewing or craft room Rick creates, it’s hard to imagine making do in a spare bedroom or, worse yet, on a kitchen table. Kitchen Ideas Center builds attractive and finely detailed wine cellars, and libraries for CDs and books that make browsing fun. Rick has crafted custom display solutions for everything from a valued collection of china to a set of custom-made model aircraft.
In family rooms and great rooms, Rick now often incorporates home automation and technology into designs, adding space for a Wi-Fi printer, a hidden charging station, or audiovisual equipment. Bars are another popular room addition, and might include display space for liquor bottles and essentials, like a sink and icemaker tucked behind cabinetry.
Though Rick gets involved with larger projects via an interior designer or remodeler, he also works with customers who contact him via the Kitchen Ideas Center showroom on Stoughton Road in Madison. Almost any home offers opportunities for improvements. In newer homes built in the last 10–15 years, improving the original, standard-issue closet systems with better quality equipment increases storage and improves appearance. In older homes, a professional designer can reenvision the existing closets to include shelving and drawers that help maximize space.
Improving your home’s storage spaces turns out to be a good investment. Most prospective buyers have more storage on their list when choosing a new home. Randy Lenz of Realty Executives says, “Maximizing closet and storage space gives a homebuyer a highly valued option to keep their stuff. Every thoughtful upgrade a homeseller can make to accommodate the buyer’s needs just makes a home more attractive.” Adding the cabinetry and systems to use your closets to their fullest makes your life easier now, and could make your home easier to sell later.
Yvette Jones is president of designCraft Advertising in Madison and serves on the board of NARI Madison.
Trust a NARI Professional. These NARI members appeared in this article.
Closets by Techline
Kitchen Ideas Center
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry, or NARI, represents people who work in and with the remodeling industry. NARI professionals are expected to be licensed and insured, educated about current industry standards, ethical, and dedicated to excellent customer service. Contact the NARI Madison office at (608) 222.0670 or at narimadison.org .