Sometimes I think back on the days when I was single and lived alone and maintained a spotless organized apartment and I laugh at what my past self would have thought when visiting our house now.   Oh… my… gosh… the dirt, dog hair, and clutter that come with a family and pets in the house. Keeping our house clean and tidy is a constant battle now that I usually feel I’m losing, so I’m always looking for ways to more efficiently use our space and make things more organized and easy to clean.

As I mentioned in our house tour, our master bedroom has a sitting room that was originally a 4th bedroom before previous owners knocked out part of the wall. I toyed with the idea of using it as a full size dressing room, but decided that probably wasn’t best for resale. In the meantime I’ve been using our small-ish walk-in closet for our clothes, and the sitting room closet for our shoes.  I get lots of “you have a whole closet for shoes!” comments from friends who are sweet enough to overlook what a disaster our walk-in is 95% of the time. Part of the problem with our walk-in is that it’s relatively squarish and has too many corners with overlapping wire shelves. Corners as such a pain when designing closets to be fully efficient. Also, our wire shelves didn’t have a separate clothing bar that you could slide clothes on, so putting clean clothes away was always a battle with trying to find an open little square.

We also had lots of open wall space, but not enough shelves for Montana who doesn’t have as many hanging clothes as folded. Usually this meant his “folded” clothes would end up in a haphazard heap on some old closetmaid drawers we brought with us from the condo. I’m ashamed to admit that other than the 5% of the time RIGHT AFTER I organized, our closet looked something like this…



For a long time I’ve struggled with wanting to put built-ins in the closet, but wanting to wait until we refinished or replaced the very worn hardwood floors in the bedroom. Also, I wasn’t positive that  when we eventually remodel the bathroom that I wouldn’t want to tear into some of the closet walls and move things around. So, our mess continued to wreck havoc.

There’s some great closet systems out there but they can get very pricey, very fast. I’m a big fan of the PAX System from IKEA because it can look really beautiful with a little added molding and lighting, but I’ve seen it in people’s homes where it started sagging almost immediately.  For our size closet, with the rough design I wanted, it came out to $1040. That’s a lot of money for something made out of particle board in my opinion. On the plus side, its ready made and I’m sure could be put together in a day or two tops. Also, IKEA has a very convenient planner tool, so as long as you know the measurements of your space its VERY easy to play around and design exactly what you want.


The week after Christmas I got an email from Ikea mentioning that their ALGOT system was going to be on sale 25% off until the end of January.  The ALGOT system is much cheaper than the PAX system even at full price and is very similar to the Container Store’s ELFA line (that is about $2,500 for a walk in closet).  I don’t particularly love the look of it, but I thought that we could do it for pretty cheap and it would go up super fast.  Here’s a sample design. algot-wall-upright-shelves-rod


After browsing through some of their pre-designed sections and I found the prices to be very reasonable I convinced Montana that we should get an ALGOT system to harness our clutter for at least a few years until we decided what to do with the master bath and the floor.  Then we could always take it out and use it in the laundry area or sell it on craigslist.  Designing the ALGOT system is pretty time consuming because a.) there’s no planner and b.) you can’t just take the length of the shelves or drawers and add them up if you’re making an exact plan since the rails fastened onto the wall add a certain length on the inside and a different length on the outside… UGH… Unfortunately, after hours of drawing up different plans to get the maximum efficiency out of the wall space the plan I came up with was almost $400…enter the deadpan from Montana.

Back to the drawing board, literally… I stayed up until 4am New Years Eve drawing multiple versions of plans for built-ins that we could make ourselves and that would use every inch, while still letting us easily access stuff in the corners.

Based on what we currently hang in the closet, I thought we probably needed mostly half-wall height hanging space for shirts/skirts/pants, and only a small section for full size hanging my  dresses. Montana needed more shelves and drawers. To make the closet as symmetrical as practical I decided to put the double closet rail across the entire back wall of the closet. Then Montana and I would each get a 2 foot wide tower with a combination of drawers and shelves which would go in the middle of the side walls. Right inside the door I would have a full size hanging section that mirrored a 1 foot wide tower with shelves on his side.



I used plans from two of my favorite bloggers for the towers and drawers: Ana White and Sandra over at Sawdust Girl.  Ana White great plans for building almost anything with very basic tools, nothing fancy needed.  Most things you see on the pottery barn website, you can find on her blog in a build-it-yourself version. Sandra tends to have slightly more advanced plans, or plans that require a few more tools. She has some literally awe inspiring build projects on her blog that you must check out.

Here are links to the specific plans we used or modified to fit our space:

Another thing that I wanted to change about the closet was the lighting. This is a bad picture, but the only light was just a bulb screwed into the wall above the door. It definitely did not scream sleek or pretty, but it was technically functional.


I thought about putting in track lighting or rope lighting in each tower before I finally chose Utilitech White Swivel Recessed Lights to install in the ceiling around our attic access that could point in different directions. Montana has become quite the master electrician in the last few months and was excited to get to tear apart the ceiling. I chose the swivel type so that we could point each bulb directly at the section of the closet we wanted to illuminate.

Lastly, we decided to add some cedar to our closet. Cedar is popular because it keeps bugs from eating little holes in your favorite sweater, but it also smells nice and fresh and is especially great for masking smelly boy shoes. Home Depot sells a brand of cedar planks called CedarSafe which are meant for lining closet walls but we decided to use the planks instead for the floor.

Cedar Safe Closet Liner Planks

I was a little afraid to try the CedarSafe brand on the floor because it had very mixed reviews with many people saying their boards were warped or cracked, but it was cheap, and I figured if it didn’t work, then in a few years when we refinish the floors we could easily replace them then. My parents used cedar closet lining for all of their closet floors about 20 years ago and they’ve held up fine.

Next up, building!



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