I constructed a room for a walk-in closet, but a walk-in closet is just a room until it has been packed with custom hardware to accommodate the orderly storage of everything one wants to keep in it.
I looked at seven alternatives for furnishing the closet (see Competitors below). Early on I ruled out wire shelving as inferior to solid shelving. Since I was willing to install the hardware myself I couldn’t justify the expense of using full-service California Closets or Closets-By-Design — even after taking advantage of their substantial room to negotiate down from their list prices (it appears that they have a nearly 40% margin to play with). I had one corner to include in the design where I didn’t want to lose any space. Most of the competitors made some tradeoff between using that corner efficiently and keeping it accessible.
In the end I went with EasyClosets.com. I started on their website by requesting a professional design. I provided the room’s measurements and general descriptions of what I wanted the layout to look like and accommodate. A day later a designer had a custom design done which I was able to inspect and tweak myself with their web application. For the difficult corner he had specified radiused corner shelves (which can’t be done with their online app), and he put shallow drawers and shelves on each side to maintain easy access. Using their web app I further tuned the height of vertical panels to ensure that some odd wall receptacles remained accessible. When I was finished I had him check it over one more time. He promptly reconciled a few of my measurements and took my order.
The closet arrived five days later, consisting of 550 pounds of hardware packed in 17 clearly marked boxes. It was no more difficult to assemble than any other laminated wood furniture I’ve done. Everything starts with a horizontal metal track that gets anchored to the walls six inches below the top of the shelf panels. As long as this track is secure and level (which is easy to ensure with a good laser level) everything else falls into place. Granted, that is followed by a whole lot of screwing — cam pins, drawer rails, drawer faces…. A few of the parts I received were damaged, but one quick phone call to their hotline had replacements in my hands two days later. Here’s a picture of the finished closet.
Important note: Costco gives members extra savings and free hardware upgrades at EasyClosets.com, so either access their site from Costco.com or else ask them to apply the Costco concessions for free. (If they won’t, it’s worth the $50 to join Costco, and you can cancel your membership for a full refund later.)
- California Closets, also a Costco affiliate, offers on-site design and installation, but seems to be the most expensive service.
- Closets by Design offers on-site design and installation that seems to run a little cheaper, though be prepared for a harder sell.
- Ikea has several closet systems, though it can take some serious research to figure out exactly what fits with what. I considered their Pax system. Since I am within driving distance of one of their stores it would have been a little cheaper than EasyClosets. But I decided against Ikea not only because their corner solution wasted some space, but also because everything has to be built around their modular frames, which push the closet almost two feet out from the wall. If you want to put doors on everything this is essential, but I wanted a more open walk-in closet.
- The Container Store’s Elfa system might have been competitive while on sale, but their designers couldn’t find a reasonable solution for my corner. Non-sale prices are too high.
- Closetmaid and Rubbermaid have the advantage of selling components in every Home Depot and Lowes, but their solid shelving systems apparently offer the least versatility and even though they claim to offer design assistance I was never able to get a response from inquiries.