I Renovated My Closet and Now I’m Fancy.

So here’s what happened. You know how I spent a bunch of time waxing poetic about my Antartica adventure while I was renovating the Bluestone basement laundry room? And also how I spent a month-ish underground by myself essentially erecting a very elaborate stage set of a place I saw in Antarctica? Which I completely stand by, by the way. I love that weird room so much.

Midway through that renovation, it struck me that just maybe my recent fixation with Antarctica was due in part to…needing a vacation? Because that was the last one I went on? And it was the most amazing one but also now it’s been over a year and I am so tired? Of working? All the time?

The day after I took photos of the finished laundry room, I had to be back at another job site. It was a freelance job that began months after it was planned to, then took way too long and got difficult for really frustrating reasons both typical and novel to me, and I ended up having to spend an inordinate amount of time at the end to make sure very basic things got completed to some reasonable standard, and…holy cow. I might have been tired before, but the laundry room was fun and exciting and personal, which is motivating. This was just…frustration. Non-stop, pervasive frustration until it was done and inspected and a Certificate of Occupancy was in hand.

SO. Got through that. Took a weekend. Cleaned the house. Weekend felt good. Wanted more weekend. Can weekend also be…week? I want to do that. Let me do that right now. All days are Saturday until it is Saturday again for real. I will call it Weekend Week. Not Sunday. That is for the Lord, Heathen!

I have not planned Weekend Week. And can’t actually leave due to prior engagements. Among those prior engagements is my new practice, which is going to the gym. Your eyes do not deceive: I joined a gym. Why did I do this? My friend wanted to. I wanted to want to, but did not have the energy to actually want to, but also knew I was unlikely to do it alone because, historically, I have not done it alone. So I decided to do it with him. More specifically we joined a 6-Week Challenge at the gym, which involves exercising at the gym 4 mornings a week for 6 weeks while also eating stuff that people who spend a lot of time at the gym eat. Consequently I have been to the gym TWENTY-TWO TIMES and eaten at least 7,000 eggs in the last 5 weeks. I feel and look mediocre but certainly not more so than before, so I’d say it’s a resounding success.

Now we’re all caught up. Weekend Week. The name of the game is self-care. I will gym. I will make food to put in my face hole. I will watch the TV. I will walk the dogs. I will sit in the moment and be still in my body and visualize my goals and name my feelings and also feel my names. I will relax. There will be peace, for fuck’s sake.

Only I’m not super good at finding peace and immediately got antsy and renovated my closet instead. You knew it was coming because it’s the title of the blog post. Let’s talk about it.

My bedroom has its very own closet. DID YOU KNOW THAT? If you did, thank you for paying attention. If you didn’t, also thank you for not paying too much attention.

It looked like the above two photos. I did you the courtesy of not cleaning up before I took them, because 9 years of blogging has taught me that people are comforted by knowing we all have closets of squalor. If your closets are perfect and nice, please leave now; I’ve nothing to offer you.

So. Some parts of the closet were here when I bought the house and some I actually did myself, as in, actual effort has already gone into this space. Not a tremendous amount, but some. There was a clothing rod and a couple of shelves, so I added that long shelf across the top and the narrow vertical shelving to hold…shoes? I’m not sure. It seemed practical. I guess it was more practical than no shelves. All the wood was scrap from other projects. ALSO I remember pulling up a sheet of linoleum (when old linoleum isn’t glued down, it feels like a real gift from the past), but I never took pictures evidently. That exposed the paint-splattered but otherwise super well-preserved and unsealed subfloor. Pretty!

Sometime later, while up in the attic running the dryer vent for the new laundry room, I stepped through the ceiling of the closet. Sometimes you just have to laugh, right? Oopsie. I cleaned up what I could, threw up a few plaster buttons around the gaping hole, and put up a drywall scrap cut to the rough (very rough) size and shape of the hole. Then I ignored it for a long time.

Anyway, these little “fixes” were always intended to be temporary until I could really address the closet. What qualifies as temporary? Can you still call it temporary if it took 5 years to circle back to? I don’t have all the answers. But that’s been so much of the reality of renovating the interior of this house: get a room to a place of being useable and clean-ish and able to hold furniture, combine stuff I already own in a way that feels inoffensive, move on to the next important thing, and plan to circle back someday and really do it up. To be honest, it’s kind of a deflating strategy because nothing ever feels done, but it’s also practical for my time and budgetary limitations. I’m not really sure how else I’d go about things. Someday, I will have something other than paper shades on half my windows. Someday, I will buy a nice sofa. But today? Stop that jibber-jabber. Today I need to be saving for kitchen cabinets and countertops and hardwood flooring and sinks and faucets and oh shit the expansion tank on the boiler needs to be replaced and the cornices are rotting and damnit, I own a whole other house with no walls.

BACK TO THE SUBJECT AT HAND. The closet is neither tiny (like typical old house closets, if they exist at all!) nor large, but it definitely wasn’t pulling its weight storage-wise. Notice how it only contains hanging clothes and shoes and random crap! I used to have a dresser in my bedroom, but then I swapped that for that crazy big Eastlake armoire and moved the dresser into the little nursery room. So half my clothes were hanging in the closet and half were folded in the other room, which I found weirdly very annoying. Also, let’s just admit it: old dressers with really big drawers really suck when you have to access the contents multiple times a day. Opening the drawers is a two-hand job, the glass knobs are fairly fragile (one broke off in my hand!), and the inside of the drawers always felt disorganized even though they were SUPER organized. So my major goal was to get ALL the clothes to fit comfortably and easily into this closet. In turn, I can get that dresser out of the nursery room, which is one step closer to actually clearing out and renovating that little room. Which I kind of don’t even know what to do with, but that’s a different post.

By the way, this is a very small space with no windows which makes it super difficult to photograph. I did my best. I made this handy and detailed illustration with dimensions to help you.

A little tricky, right? Your first reaction may be that the in-swing door is a problem. And it kind of is. But it’s also original to the house, and changing the swing would have created a very awkward door situation in the bedroom, and removing it was not something I was willing to entertain. Hanging clothes typically take up about 24″ of space back to front, so you can’t really just hang a rod across the whole closet because the clothes hanging toward the end would interfere with the door. You could just use the short wall for all the main storage (essentially how it was in the “befores”), but it’s less than 4′ and that felt like an ineffective use of space since there’s 5.5′ on the other wall.

And I’m trying to fit drawers in here! If the closet were just a littttttttle bit bigger, I probably would have just tried to find a dresser and put that in. But it would have had to be a super weird size dresser to fit in this closet without taking up too much depth or obstructing the door which, again, I am too much of a pain in the ass to just remove.

FINALLY IT HIT ME. THE ANSWER THAT HAS SO OFTEN HIT ME IN THE COURSE OF MY BLOGGER LIFE.

IKEA. KITCHEN. CABINETS. I am positive I have bought and assembled more IKEA kitchen cabinets to use outside of kitchens than in them. They’re just so damn versatile, and simple, and easy, and the quality is great—for instance, the drawer glides on an IKEA dresser are usually kind of crap, but the kitchen drawers have high-quality hardware and glide like BUTTER. And soft close. No brag.

AND! IKEA makes their SEKTION cabinets in two depths—24″ for base cabinets, and 15″ for uppers. They must have gotten the hint that a lot of people were installing upper cabinets as lower cabinets in tight-space situations, so they started making the drawers for the 15″ depth too. So smart. God bless you, IKEA. 24″ would have been too deep, but the 15″ depth is perfecttttt for this small space.

I drew this richly detail sketch in bed one night, and was not willing to redo it for this post:

Thank you, I was classically trained as you can plainly see by my hangers.

So. Let’s begin.

Remember how there was that room built off the side of my house? And it was super far gone? And I tore it down? So. Above a dropped acoustic tile ceiling in there was that nice 4″ beadboard ceiling. Even though it was in rough shape—it’s thin stuff to begin with, like less than 1/2″, and water damage from the leaking roof had created some rot and some cupping—I tried to get it all down intact for reuse elsewhere. Where is elsewhere? No idea at the time. This was 3 years ago. But it’s pretty and old and so I cut out the rotted parts and jagged ends where they broke and squirreled it away.

Side note: See how the siding turns from yellow to blue and so does the ceiling? That’s because there was a wall there before this photo was taken! My dining room had 3 closets when I bought the house, but only one was original. 3!

I thought using it on the ceiling would be a fast and simple way of covering up the hole! I’d so much rather do a little carpentry than a bunch of dusty skim-coating work, particularly since I sleep 10 feet away. Even though the rest of the ceiling was in pretty good shape, I added plaster washers along the joists, since the beadboard should’t be holding up falling plaster down the road. Then I went ahead and face-nailed the boards (I found that I had to shave off the tongues and just butt the boards together) right to the ceiling with finish nails. Because it runs perpendicular to the joists, most of it’s just being held up by the lath. It’s so lightweight, it’s fine.

Ta-da! I added a simple bed molding crown and I think it’s hot hot hot. I primed it with Zinsser’s shellac-base primer, patched up the boards, and caulked around the crown.

I did not go nuts over fixing the walls. There were a bunch of holes from all the weird shelving stuff, and I just patched everything with a lot of 3M Patch Plus and called the rest character. A crack is only a problem when you think of it as one.

I love the old hanging rail, so obviously that stayed. I did remove the painted hooks to let them simmer in the crock pot while I worked.

The floor! It had some rough spots and paint on it, so I shut myself in there with a shopvac and my orbital sander, donned a respirator, and did the damn thing. Then I ran to the shower very quickly and shut the door behind me to let the dust settle. The bedroom stayed surprisingly clean throughout this ordeal! The hallway was crazy town though. It’s amazing how even small projects end up requiring, like, ALL the tools and supplies.

I vacuumed really well and spent a bunch of time getting old dust and hair and crap out of the joints, since poly will pretty much glue that stuff down in there for life. I used some leftover Bona NaturalSeal, which has some white pigment in it to balance out the ambering that even water-based poly will do to raw wood.

A few years ago when I was working on the bedroom, I got a nice glimpse of the original pine subfloor, which is so pretty! It was interesting to see the original wax(?) finish—very light and neutral. The yellow pine over top was probably added in the 1930s. I wanted to get something like that original wax finish, so I actually added a little white paint to the sealer just to see what would happen. Low stakes!

I went to IKEA and got my cabinets. The one on the left is 24″ wide and the one on the right is 30″ wide. The drawer fronts are the VEDDINGE, which is the second-cheapest option and my old faithful. I’m fine with it looking new and mod and efficient. I love these cabinets so much it’s appalling. Living in an old house, sometimes you really appreciate brand new things that are easy and just work and aren’t some huge massive undertaking, and the glide and soft close on these drawers practically makes me weep.

I always think of IKEA kitchen cabinets as really inexpensive, and they are—relative to most other kitchen cabinets. And especially if you just need shelves inside and doors. But those drawers ADD UP. These two cabinets with their 9 drawers were $650. So. Just know that. I definitely did not actually go through the effort of pricing them beforehand, so it was like 3x what I expected to spend. Oops! It’s OK. I love them so much and I bet this is exactly how Mariah Carey feels all the time and maybe it’s good for me to be in touch with that side of myself.

I built a little base out of scrap 1x that I took out during demo. So now that wood has gone from Olivebridge to my closet shelving to holding my cabinets up. Not bad!

I built a shoe tower thing. It’s pretty much the same process I used for the pantry cabinet build, except there’s no backing and I used iron-on veneer edging for exposed edges rather than a face-frame. It’s just a 4-sided box. Easy. I drilled out shelf pin holes with my Kreg jig. That thing is great.

Paint! I color-matched the original trim color using my nix mini sensor, and it spit out this kinda butterscotch color called Scrivener Gold from Benjamin Moore. It’s totally one of those sorta muddy old-fashioned colors I feel like every old house has or had somewhere, and I really love it! I used a satin finish, so it has a nice sheen that shows off the age of the wood but doesn’t give it that “HI, I AM RECLAIMED, LOOK AT ME!” kind of look.

For the walls I had a half can of White Dove in matte, which is what I painted most of my Brooklyn apartment! With plaster walls that have a lot of character like these, a warm white in a matte finish is always a safe bet. I think it makes all of that imperfection so beautiful, and I just wanted something clean and neutral since the clothes themselves are a lot of pattern and color. Because FASHION.

ANYWAY. Finishing touches here and there and everywhere and I HAVE SUCH A NICE CLOSET OMG. I really wish I could take better/wider pictures of it because I am so pleased and so smug.

Hello sleepy Bungee! He’s a very good boy. Which reminds me that another pupdate is probably in order!

But the closet. The closet! It fits all my clothes! It feels so organized and nice! I am so fancy!!

The plan really worked out well, I think. It’s a nice mix of old and new that you know I like, and it fits everything without feeling cramped or cluttered.

And all the original bits of the space got to stay, which I’m so happy about! I love the simple hook rail so much. The hooks had been moved around over the years, but it was pretty easy to tell where they were originally mounted—so seeing them all cleaned up and spaced like they were 150 years ago feels nice! Also yes I have been repeatedly informed that they look like little erect penises.

Man, this post has everything. Gaping holes. Cracks. Erect penises. Don’t @ me.

I sort of thought I’d always look at this ceiling and feel lazy for not fixing the original plaster, but I ended up preferring it! It just adds some richness and interest and texture. And, of course, I really love using defunct parts of the house to fix other parts of the house. Not only does it legitimize my hoarding but it’s also free and unique! I can’t just go out and buy beadboard like this, and I’m so glad it’s in my closet and not in a landfill.

The little light fixture is probably from the 30s, and used to be above the sink in the upstairs kitchen! I moved it to the spot above the sink in the first floor kitchen during that initial remodel, and now it’s here. It’s a cutie. I’m glad I had the good sense to have the electrician put a light in this closet during a really early round of work years ago. It’s an exciting day when you get to finally replace the keyless utility light with a real fixture!

CAN WE TALK ABOUT MY DRAWERS. I went from 4 super big awkward heavy drawers to 9 perfect new gliding drawers and it is magic. It feels so…adult? All I know is, getting dressed and putting away laundry are pleasant activities now.

Did a very very tiny Japanese lady re-teach you how to fold all your clothes? Did you roll your eyes at the mere suggestion and then dip your toe in and then move ahead full-force and never look back? I did. Marie Kondo, you’re nuts and I love you so much and you really were right about the folding thing.

Knowing that the interiors of my drawers are tidy is pretty much the only thing that makes me feel like I have my shit together. Don’t take this away from me.

The drawer pulls are kind of special to me! They came off this big mid-century-ish shelving unit thing that I grew up with. It held toys and VHS tapes and art supplies and basically everything I cared about as a kid. My parents sold it with the house when they moved several years ago, and EVIDENTLY I decided the new owners could find their own damn knobs and took those suckers with me. Don’t leave me unsupervised is the lesson here.

I ain’t sorry.

The floor is so nice now! I think I have a little rug that would look cute in here, but for now I’m just enjoying the refinished wood.

For the top of the dresser, I used birch plywood, iron-on veneer edge banding, some franken-stain from the basement and a couple coats of amber shellac. I love shellac. Did you know it comes from beetle butts? Did you know it’s also the coating on jelly beans and lots of other food products? I’m a wealth of information.

The shoe shelves feel real fancy. I used scrap plywood and face-nailed 1.25″ pieces of scrap red oak to the fronts to beef them up a little. I painted them the trim color because white sounded like something I’d regret down the line.

OH YES HE DID. A while ago, my pal Ashley at The Gold Hive sent me several leftover push-button switches from her amazing renovation, so I put one in here! For most rooms in the house I’ll want the dimmer version of these switches, but these are just on/off so this was a perfect place. The plate is unlacquered brass from House of Antique Hardware, so it should patina over time.

A while ago I ordered a few of these little wastebaskets, and I’ve been super happy with them! I like having a little trashcan in most rooms, and these are cute and well-made, and I think look a little nicer than metal or plastic.

I’m still getting used to not having the laundry baskets in here. I have never developed good habits around this…yesterday’s clothing can usually be found on my bathroom floor or on the floor next to my bed. I’m not sure what’s so hard about putting it directly into a receptacle, but I tend not to. I bet I could find a nice vintage hamper that would fit nicely in here, though, or use some of the hooks for a hamper solution like Kim and Scott have. Feeling it out.

While I had the supplies out, I finally got around to staining and sealing the shelves for the big armoire! Remember that little project? Well. Told ya I’d get to it.

As ridiculous as it might sound, I think the closet is pretty much now the ONLY space in the house that just feels…finished. It doesn’t need a Phase II renovation/decoration and that’s a nice feeling. I’m excited for more spaces to start to feel like that! I think a big key to making that happen is really trying to focus on storage—I actually don’t think I have THAT much stuff, but I do have a lot of stop-gap, ineffective storage solutions that make it feel like I do. I started 2019 with building the pantry cabinets, and now this closet…so I think that’s the theme of the year! Which works out nicely because bluestone cottage is the main priority, so I need my own house projects to be relatively small.

Speaking of relatively small projects, I really want to deal with this wall now! It appears to have originally had a mantel (this is the wall directly above the living room wall where I installed a mantel to replace another missing one!), and I’d really like to put one back. I think I’ve scrounged together the majority of the supplies I need—including the antique mantel!—over the last couple of years and now I’m all excited to make it happen. I’ve never felt like the bedroom is really working—the rug isn’t the right size, I kind of hate the bed, somehow I don’t even like the bubble lamp in here—so maybe getting that project done will help unstick my brain a little.

Oh also! I thought it might be fun to document this closet makeover on my Instagram stories as it was all happening! Consequently I took a lot more process videos than photos. I saved the more relevant parts to highlights, so you can watch it unfold in about 20 minutes if that sounds fun for you. And hey, give me a follow while you’re there! It’s a nice way to keep up between blog posts and I sure would appreciate it. You can find me at @DanielKanter!


113 Comments

  1. So much inspiration from such a tiny space! Love the ceiling color and ikea cabinets in a closet. All the best on staying fancy:)

  2. I watched all your closet vids on insta when it was happening and I still loved this post, even though it was a recap. If you ever get bored of being at your house and fixing the small stuff, a cute 1890s mill house in Atlanta would love to have you do small projects there… just throwing it out there :)

    • Haha, boredom seems unlikely!! There are about 30 other projects about this size nagging at me, and that’s just the interior! BUT winters are cold…and I hear ATL doesn’t really have that problem… ;)

  3. I can’t believe that I’m just learning now, like 5 years after the fact, that you stole the hardware out of our old house. I hope we’re past the statute of limitations. You devil you. Now your whole audience knows what it was like raising you. Pure joy.

  4. What the heck is the matter with you? Would it be so much to ask for you to post once a week? Your blog is my favorite and you’re making us wait way too long! It isn’t all about you! What about us? Seriously, I couldn’t love the closet more. And doesn’t it feel SO good to do annoying stuff like the shelves in the armoire? You’re amazing. What is next? Can’t wait to see.

    • I have asked myself these same questions! And I just keep trying! Maybe I’ll figure out the whole editorial calendar thing now that we’re in YEAR TEN of this nonsense!! Or I’ll just keep stumbling along, haha. Thank you so much for the kind words! :)

  5. Wanted to say that I enjoyed the videos very much and enjoyed this post, too. Looks great!

  6. Love everything about this closet! Go you!

  7. Wonderful closet makeover. I think there’s something to be said for “circling back” to things. I prefer to think of it as “moving the ball forward,” which seems more positive somehow. Then one day all those baby steps add up, just like they did with your closet, and you have something wonderful and a tiny bit unexpected.

    • That IS a much better way to think about it Christine, thank you! I will practice that for real. It’s not always possible/practical to achieve THE VISION in one shot, but I never regret small steps forward if they make my life/living situation even slightly better in the meantime. Thank you!

  8. Nice Job Daniel!

    What a great use of the awkward space by thinking outside the box and having IKEA now offer drawers for their shallow cabinets for the win.

    I actually like the bedroom, as is, but I can see why you want to think about redoing it.

    HOWEVER, if you decide you don’t want that bubble lamp, I’d be glad to take it off your hands as I have the perfect spot for it in MY house, my living room currently has a cheap ceiling fan that is not terribly effective either direction I set the switch so it just hangs there off these days so the Nelson bubble lamp would be perfect in there, just sayun’. :-)

    Keep it up and will look forward to the NEXT project you blog about.

    • Thanks John! I like my bedroom too…I just feel like it’s SUCH a nice room (all those windows! the moldings!) that I feel like it’s gotta rise to the occasion a bit. Little changes over time, it’ll come together eventually! What really kills me is that I actually bought that bed new from CB2, and I pretty much never buy new furniture but felt so sure about that one…and I don’t like it!!! It’s a nice bed but I don’t think it’s right for the space. Of course I don’t really know what I DO want, ha!

      I don’t think I’m ready to send off my bubble lamp…WHAT IF I NEED IT FOR SOMETHING ELSE?! I may have a small lighting problem.

  9. I am SO jealous. Organized drawers in my closet would feel like PEAK ADULTING.

  10. Looks amazing! I would love to put those kind of drawers in my closet, looks so organized, and yes to Ikea kitchen drawers being far superior to their dressers. Also, amen on the Marie Kondo folding! I started it reluctantly a few years back after I read her book, and have never looked back.

    • Thanks, Sara L! I still cannot believe I was persuaded to re-learn how to fold my clothes. It took about a year from when I read the book to actually looking up a youtube video and seeing how it was done, because I was just like…no, never, not gonna happen. And then that was it! I do, however, still fold my socks over each other like little potatoes (I feel like a hole always wears through the heel before the elastic ever has a chance to stretch out?! AM I CRAZY?), and I made up my own method of undie folding that totally sparks joy.

      • Oh yeah, I tried the sock folding thing she does, and it just didn’t work for me. My socks were always a mess, so I went back to my “fold the tops together to keep them together” method. They definitely wear out on the bottom before the elastic gives in. Maybe that only doesn’t happen if you are an elfin Japanese woman.

  11. Your closet looks really pretty and functional! I know the feeling when it comes to dirty laundry. The only thing that I recently discovered works for me (unfortunately not for my boyfriend though), is to have the laundry hamper either in the bathroom (where you take off your clothes before you get into the shower) or somewhere between the bed and the bathroom (so you can put the dirty laundry from the floor next to the bed in the hamper on your way to the bathroom first thing in the morning). So far, my apartment is nearly completely free of dirty laundry that has evaded the hamper! And PS – a pretty hamper really helps! Keep up the good work!

    • Yes! I put one of the baskets in the bathroom and I’m actually pretty good at using it. I also realized that a standard laundry basket is kinda huge just to collect dirty clothes (a truly full basket would be too much for a single load!), and I could totally get away with something much smaller/narrower that could fit nicely instead of super awkwardly. Keeping an eye out for the right thing!

  12. Bravo! Doesn’t being organized feel awesome? I love your ceiling solution. xx

  13. Awesome closet. Just awe. Fits well. Works well. Lives well. Good for you!
    I use a beautiful flowerpot as a trashcan in my closet. I couldn’t bear to put dirt in it because it was so pretty.
    I also bought a house with a closet for me that I can stand in and close the door…which means, you can leave your clothes on the floor when you undress if you want! I have hooks too so I put anything still kinda clean (I’m talking to you dressy workpants and jeans) on the old hooks and keep a small laundry basket (not even a hamper, who needs to move the dirty clothes from the dirty clothes place twice?!) for the rest.
    One thing I am not sad that I did was get a super plush nursery rug (for outside a crib) to stand on while getting dressed (it’s Miyazaki, I spoiled myself). It feels extravagant to stand on and get dressed without giving up my wood floors. And it’s washable. And if my belt bangs it, I am not crying.
    Enjoy your weekend week! You should brand and market that. You’d make a fortune. I’ll take two!

    • Yeah, that’s what I do with my hooks, too! It’s much nicer than having yesterday’s still-pretty-clean jeans forever on the bedroom chair, ha! Imagine that!

  14. Your blog makes diy seem so achievable, even when you’re having a horrible time with missing walls, that it inspires me. And when I say inspires I mean I I actually do some. It also really cheers me up.

  15. I loved getting to see this project on insta and I love the final reveal. Great job!!

  16. Wowee! It looks incredible. Our houses are about the same age and my closet looks a lot like your “before,” and I often (weekly, daily?) think, “Hmmm. What a difference it would be if I patched the plaster, painted or wallpapered.” Maybe I’ll move this to the to-do list in the next year or so and not the never-to-do-list.

    • I will say, I learn more and more that breaking up bigger projects (or freelance projects) with smaller projects on my own house feels REALLY good. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by the big stuff that takes forever and costs a fortune (and sometimes doesn’t really change the way you live, like a lot of the exterior work on my house which mostly stops feeling amazing as soon as I’m inside!), but being able to quickly do something that makes your day-to-day easier or more pleasant is so motivating!

  17. Your blanket collection is swoon worthy! Love the closet :)

    • Thank you! It’s rapidly moving into the “too many, what is wrong with me?!” zone, but when you see a really beautiful blanket…I mean…what is the appropriate reaction?! LEAVE IT THERE?!

  18. So, so beautiful, Daniel! I too (shamefully) end up with piles of yesterday’s clothes on the floor next to my bed or closet. This may be the inspiration I need to re-organize and change my ways. Maybe…

    • Let me know if you find a system that works for you! Doing the daily sweep for dirty laundry that could have already been in a hamper always makes me feel like I’m chasing my tail.

  19. I love everything about about your new closet, all the reused elements, the crisp Ikea drawers, the odd vintage looking BM paint colour, everything. Well done, sir. You inspire me to knock some sense into my husband’s closet.

  20. LOVE the closet reno! and LOVE the idea about the IKEA kitchen cabinets. I have a couple IKEA low dressers in my closet and love how it’s worked out, but the glides are crap. :-)

  21. Now I need to rip out my perfectly okay storage in my closet and invest in IKEA cabinets. Everything looks so good! I really like the ceiling and the drawer pulls.

    Can’t wait to see what is next!

  22. Omg Daniel, thank you. I am in the process of trying to figure out my closet design, while at the same time planning an Ikea fauxdenza with 15″ deep drawer units(!), and it never occurred to me to use the Ikea in the closet, but that’s straight brilliant. I love it! I also love those pups!

  23. Awesome job as usual! We recently turned our trunk room into a closet/dressing room, and it makes me so happy. We did hanging rods and shelving all the way to the ceiling. I’m over drawers and want to have four shirts and see exactly which shirts are at the ready as soon as I walk in. Can’t wait to see the bedroom mantle installed!

    • Nice! I waffled for so long on trying to do something like that with the nursery room off my bedroom, but it’s just not the right kind of space for it. Dressing rooms are so dreamy!

  24. Love your closet reno, small project, big impact <3

    Also, love mom ! Ha!

  25. You never disappoint, Daniel! Great transformation. You come up with such brilliant solutions. I so miss Ikea as I would so copycat this and make my closet so much more useful. And then be able to get rid of the hunking dresser and have massive amounts more space in my bedroom. Alas. I shall live vicarious through you. BUT, If you ever need a Hawaiian vacation, I’m your girl!

  26. I love this! The ceiling/rail color actually reminds me of Bluestone’s basement – it’s got that same old timey Grandpa feel to it. Wonderful Ikea hack – makes me want to tackle my own small and badly laid out closet.

    • Long live old timey grandpa colors! I’ve got a soft spot for them.

      • I’m still an outlier, in that I don’t like this butterscotch any more than I liked the basement paint colors – but I’ve decided that it is possibly a light issue, and maybe they all look fine up there in Upper Hudson light. Over time, I’ve realized how different the light is in all the various places I’ve lived, and that colors look very different in them. I haven’t lived up the Hudson, but I’ve been hiking up there enough to know that the light is completely different than it is in, say, Brooklyn, which itself has very different light than other places I’ve lived. The time this struck me with the most immediate force was when driving in the countryside outside of Arles, I realized Van Gogh didn’t exaggerate his colors at all – the sky and grass and vegetation colors there really look exactly like they do in his paintings.

  27. I have been contemplating how to make my closet more useful – I was thinking of putting a small dresser in one side under the shorter hanging clothes and even went so far as to rescue an oversized night stand from the curb to try it out! But after seeing your setup, I think Ikea kitchen cabinets are a more functional idea, so that I can effectively fold everything like Ms. Kondo and not have drawers get stuck because stuff is too tall! (I’m with you, Daniel – I thought it was silly, now everything is folded this way!)

  28. Loved all your instagram photos leading up to this post, as well as the post itself! I hope tackling things like the hole in the ceiling is leading you away from your previous funk & providing you with peace of mind and new motivation.

    If you are looking for new post ideas in all of your copious free time (joke), I’d love to hear your viewpoint from a few-years-post-house-purchase of how you would have tackled projects differently in retrospect. Would you have done something major earlier (like the kitchen), or do you wish you had tackled smaller, day to day organization things like the closet first? Moving into a house with lots of projects is always so much crazier than you think it will be, so I’d love to hear your insight on how/what you would tackle if you were doing it all over again.

    Keep up the amazing work!!

    • Thanks Caitlin! I’ve actually been meaning to get around to a series of posts like that! I’ll work on it! As you can imagine I have a lot to say, haha.

  29. It’s so TIRING watching you do all the work.

    That’s a handsome looking closet :)

  30. OMG, dead > “I love shellac. Did you know it comes from beetle butts? Did you know it’s also the coating on jelly beans and lots of other food products? I’m a wealth of information.” I’ve been reading your blog for years, and LOVE everything that you do, and who you are as a person…you’re funny as hell – brightens my day after reading a post. :-) xoxo

  31. Yes, yes, YES to all of this, Daniel—the getting it done, the details, the cabinets, the feeling of accomplishment, the usually leaving projects once they’re serviceable and moving on to the other things. So many reasons I find your blog informative, entertaining, refreshing, inspiring, and real. Damn.

    ALSO, what are the details on that artwork? The one that looks like black and white tiles, I mean. As a modern quilter and amateur collector I found it mesmerizing! Would love to know more about it. (Apologies if you have explained it before and I’ve forgotten.)

    • Thanks Sacha! I don’t know much about the art! It’s signed Reizner ’79, and is actually 1/2 of a diptych that are supposed to hang side-by-side! Which would make it 8′ long and too big for this wall so I just put up half, haha. I know my grandparents bought them probably not long after they were painted, and they used to hang in the house I grew up in, much to the dismay of my grandmother who hated them (which presumably is how we inherited them in the first place). Truthfully I can never really decide if I think it’s great or terrible, and I have a thing for art that I feel that way about.

  32. THANK YOU for including a diagram with measurements. I know it’s crazy but your closet looks so big now and the measurements help with scale. I’ve realized that my closets are mostly full of stuff and clothes that I don’t use or wear and all the shoes and clothes that we do wear are stored outside the closet – that’s not a good use of space is it. I want a shoe tower like yours and adjustable shelves? brilliant. Our bedroom closets are deeper than modern closets but not 8′ wide like modern closets so figuring out how to use the space isn’t as easy as looking at a California Closets ad.

    • Totally! I spent so long looking at different closet organization systems from Elfa to California to EasyClosets to Rubbermaid to Closetmaid and on and nothing really seemed to work for my situation. Small spaces are tricky!

  33. I am soooo going to copy the bitch out of your closet!
    Spank you,
    Kelley

  34. I saw this reno on your instagram. This follow up post fills in the final result. It is so beautiful. Marie Kondo
    has changed a lot of closets.

  35. I loved watching your weekend-turned-just-over-a-week closet project unfold in real time on Instagram. I hope you consider doing that again on another sameish sized project (maybe when you decide to finish off your pantry cabs, or something small outside). Even though this post was a recap (for me kinda since I watched it real) I loved it. You’ve got me excited about what you have next, and how I can make some of these small improvements to my own house. My daughter’s closet is in need of love and we have all the pieces, now I just need to get my ass in gear.

    • Thanks Miranda! Yeah, the stories are fun! Working on the house can feel a little isolating, and it’s kinda nice to be interacting with people while it’s going on. Thanks for letting me know! :)

  36. Dear Daniel,
    Maybe you would like your bed better if it were black?
    I love everything you do, and I’m not worthy to even suggest anything to you, but hey, I just wanted to reach out anyway!
    xo

    • Haha, you are worthy!! I think I would like it better in black, actually, but I don’t think that would actually make me love it, you know? I think the style and height just don’t really work well in this space, and I kind of miss having a solid headboard. Oops! I was so confident when I bought it, too. So, keeping an eye out for something else, but obviously a new bed falls pretty low on the priority list!

      • I think your bedroom isn’t working for you because you are going old house style in your choice of furnishings for it now – the armoire, and the mantel – so you need an old style bed (likely wood, preferably antique, but old-style iron if you like that – I prefer wood). That’s why your bubble lamp isn’t working in there for you – it contrasts too much with the armoire, too modern. You need something antique (or antique reproduction), or vintage like the ceiling fixture you put in the room next to this one. Keep the bubble fixture – you’ll find another place it will work.

      • Maybe the bed will work great in your guest room – maybe you’ll feel like doing a more modern style in there when you get it done.

  37. I loved following along in real time but seeing this post brought me even more joy! I legit laughed out loud at the closet of squalor. #teammessycloset. If you don’t have one (or had one before you Kondo’d) then I don’t believe you are human.

    My teeny-tiny 50s closets are so jealous of this beauty!!

  38. I watched this unfold on Instagram and loved it. And I loved reading about it again. So, if you ever wonder if people won’t like duplicative content… know that at least I AM HERE FOR IT. Love it. Love you. Love those sweet puppers.

    • Oh good, haha! I’m sort of alarmed that I can make enough 15-second videos to equal half an hour of footage, plus write 4,000 words and post like 35 photos all about the same 20 square foot space, BUT HEY. I JUST HAVE A LOT TO SAY I GUESS. :)

  39. Watched it as it unfolded and was hanging on every moment. And I still enjoyed this post. So much enjoyment from your hard work. And I have a house that has several closets to finish so a bit inspired as well.

  40. I have one closet that is perfection and everything else is a hot mess or a work in progress. Love how yours turned out!

  41. It looks so nice :) And I totally love it when your Mom comments!

  42. I just love your writing Daniel! I laugh, I cry, it is better than Cats. You are a gift.

  43. Loved the Insta-Story documentation of the process. And also really appreciating the foray into color!

  44. Great post, as usual! A question: why the poly on the floor? Wouldn’t wax be more authentic and easier to mantain over a long time? I’m not a pro or anything, so I’m genuinely curious. I would have thought that in old houses, where you are restoring a >100y floor, hopefully to be used for at least 100 more years, poly would eventually peel, so wax was better. Again, I’m not saying you are wrong, I have no idea what I’m talking about. :D

    • It’s a good question! Mostly, just because I had it in the basement, I’ve used it before, and it dries really fast so I could quickly get back in and keep working. You’re right that a hard wax or oil might have been better options! But Bona is from my understanding one of the best in the business for water-based floor poly, so it should be good for a long long time. When it’s not, a little sanding and it could be refinished with anything!

      • I’m surprised you didn’t want to put down some old pine over that subfloor, so there would be no visual change in flooring from the bedroom. I get that you like the look of the subfloor – I do, too, on its own – but I find it jarring next to the bedroom pine floorboards in the photos.

        As to the wax v. poly issue, for such a small, utilitarian space, I’m not sure the extra work would be worth it, as wax needs removing and reapplication sometimes over the years on wood floors. I find poly applied well and not subject to a lot of abuse – like wet shoes on a main floor, or spills in a kitchen, or baking in direct sunlight – doesn’t tend to peel.

  45. I have followed your blog almost from start, when your home really were a Manhattan nest, but I don’t think I’ve ever commented on any post. I just want you to know that I check for new posts every second day, even periods when you didn’t post anything for a long time. This blog is probably among my 5 most visited websites. And every time there’s a new post I wait for when I have some alone time, make myself a cup of tea and take the time to read the whole thing in slow tempo. I love it! Thank you!

    • Well shucks Leila, thank you! That’s very very nice to read. I’m that way about certain things in my life, and it makes me so happy that this blog could be that for someone else!

  46. Fancy! Fabulous!

    Your weekend week really got your mogo going again! Very funny post, AND informative! I took notes! (Plaster buttons! I’ve never heard of them, but I think my ceiling might need some. I’ll check with my brother.)
    And I’m always happy to see the dogs in your photos!

  47. I love it!!! Somehow I was starting to think maybe you had gone for a month to some mental health beautiful place to reset, but now I think your new closet IS that- a beautiful mental health space that helps you hit reset. Love your writing, love the project. Love the reuse of things you already had. So much character that can’t be found in new items. Those little pulls are SO fab. Awesome for you for nabbing them before the house sold. Wish you had time to blog more but always worth the wait!

    • Thanks Susan! I do still feel like I need an actual vacation, like, to a place outside my home, but this certainly helps! It’s so nice not having that jumbled mess in my bedroom space anymore. Stuff like that stresses me out!

  48. Yay, I was hoping you’d post about this! I was following on IG stories, but I can’t hear you even with my good headphones and I wanted to know all the details! One question– your tip about using a paintbrush to brush caulk into the beads of the beadboard was super interesting. How do you clean the brush afterwards? Or is it instantly trash after that?

    • Sorry about the IG videos—I really have to figure out a captioning app and start using it. It’s so annoying that instagram hasn’t built in a captioning feature! 300 gifs of Kim Kardashian but no way to caption on a phone that I can give verbal commands to? I will experiment with what’s out there!

      For the brushes, just warm soapy water! Same clean-up as paint. Silicone caulk would be a different story, but I try to avoid it unless it’s really necessary for something like a shower.

  49. I must confess that while I don’t like the ubiquitous kondo hype, I too started folding my sweaters that way and it is so much better. Now that you’ve validated that, I no longer feel guilty… Thank you and congrats on your classy closet! I am always squeaking while reading your blog, you’ll get me fired one of these days! Definitely NSFW!

    • Haha! Don’t get fired!! I cannot be responsible!!

      Ya know, I find the Kondo hype annoying too, especially after the TV show came out which of course I watched every episode of in like two days. But I felt like the show and the post-show-general-conversation-about-Marie-Kondo kind of diminished the message of the book and what she’s actually teaching, which isn’t to get rid of all your stuff! To me it’s really about having a connection to the things you own and evaluating whether or not they’re things you want to bring into the future with you or if they aren’t. I have to admit that it represented a shift in thinking that really did help me stop holding onto things, and that does feel good! Liberating! Fresh! The result is often minimalism but I don’t think that’s actually the explicit goal, and I feel like that was really lost in the TV show format. Even though I feel like that book coulda been cut down to about 12 pages, I still think it’s worth reading!

  50. This is great, I loved following along on Instagram. Stylish, organized, charming. I just did a big closet clean out and I still have about three times as many clothes and shoes as you. A couple of years ago I moved from my own house with custom closets to a rental apartment with one big closet that I share with my husband. My storage has changed but my wardrobe hasn’t caught up yet.

    I came up with a genius (according to me) hamper/laundry sorting plan. I bought three matching containers (waste baskets with handles, I hang them from hooks on the wall) that are approximately the size of one load of laundry. One is for dark, one is for light, one is for ‘revisit’ (stuff that shouldn’t just be dumped in a regular load, hand wash, things that need a little repair, etc). I keep a pre-treatment and a bunch of mesh laundry bags near the baskets and use them as stuff goes in to the bins. By the time something hits the baskets it’s ready to go in the washer. When a basket is full, it’s easy to lift it off the hook, carry it to the machines, and dump it in the washer. By doing all the prep bit by bit upfront, I’ve eliminated what were, to me, chore roadblocks. I don’t mind laundry anymore.

    • Nice! That sounds like a great system! I’m terrible about separating things by color, so I like this idea. I also started using the old plastic waste basket from the “before” closet as a stop-gap hamper, and I’m surprised how perfect is it for that use! I never really realized how big the laundry baskets were, relative to how much laundry can/should actually fit in a load. When that waste bin is full, that’s a good full load of laundry!

  51. It always feels nice when you get a closet totally organized – and takes even longer to get there when you actually have to build the stuff in. My last two places had closet organizers already built into two closets when I moved in – the white melamine ones, nothing fancy, but they were great for organizing clothing, and such a change from having to find small dressers and cabinets and shoe stackers and shelves to put inside my closets. The first had lots of smaller shelves (like your shoe shelves, only somewhat wider) that were great for organizing shirts and sweaters (the key was to have the shelves closely spaced, so you don’t end up with stacks of clothing that are too tall so as to be unwieldy when retrieving something to wear), and the second place had closets with some drawers up to chest level and then shelves above that.

    Most closet organizer drawers (I think) fall somewhere between your 15″ deep ones and the full 24″ deep ones that you find in kitchens, and such drawers are perfect for holding a LOT of stuff – I like them better then narrow 15″ ones generally – though I get from your diagram why 15″ deep ones were perfect for a smaller space where deeper ones would be a problem with the door swinging in. For people with the space, the slightly deeper drawers are usually a good clothing storage option. Though the narrow ones you installed also make your closet still feel like a walk-in closet, or so it looks like from the photos – which the highly organized closets I had in my last place did not – they were larger than your closet, but so built up with the organizers that there wasn’t much free space left to stand in the closet, so maybe there’s something to be said for less deep drawers even where there is space in the closet for deeper ones.

    Your build-ins look great in that closet, and that shoe tower is making me think I need to install something similar – though I’m still thinking of figuring out how to store all (or most) of my shoes in the foyer – either in a piece of furniture or in the foyer closet – since that’s where I most often put them on (and off) going in and out. (I figure why fight it – I usually take my shoes off when entering, long before I get anywhere near my bedroom closet, and only look for shoes to put on when I’m going out.) In my last place, I never did solve the foyer shoe organization issue to my complete satisfaction, but I did find that the foyer was the best place to put my largest dresser, like yours, the one that was widest and with deep drawers – the dresser looked great there, and was great for holding hats and scarves and gloves, which are useful to store near the door, as well as the smaller hiking, biking and kayaking equipment – so it was all right there by the apartment entrance, and I didn’t have to go rummaging around in the back of closets for that stuff – which was a game changer when getting out the door early in the morning for a day out of the city. So I’m sure you’ll find a place to use your dresser where it will look good and be useful, though you may want to rethink the knobs if they fall off, and if the drawers don’t slide easily, you may need to rub some paraffin wax on them to help help them move easier.

    So, you’re only somewhat more than half there – organizing the clean clothes, and to be worn again jeans and stuff – organizing where to put the dirty laundry is always a whole ‘nother task. No matter what laundry hampers or organizers I buy, I also tend not to just not use them – my dirty clothes end up on my bathroom floor or in my bedroom. I’ve realized that the ones I won’t wear a second time (the shirts, undies, and socks) tend to end up on the bathroom floor, and the ones I’ll wear more then once – the pants and sweaters – end up in my bedroom. I’ve recently moved, and will need to solve this problem in my new place (yet again, every time I move, space is different) – I love your hook method and may eventually install some version of that for the “wear again” stuff – I had closets with rails and hooks years back that I used for that.

    I long ago decided that I won’t fight my natural patterns, and that if I ever had a non-tiny bathroom again, I’d find places to store the dirty clothes I leave on the bathroom floor IN the bathroom. I now have a big wide vanity, and I think I may put in some slide-out bins behind the doors to corral the laundry that ends up on the bathroom floor – that would be progress. (There’s a closet with shelves in the bathroom that I think I will use to store bathroom stuff – I don’t really like getting down on the floor to rummage around for stuff inside deep bathroom cabinets with doors any more than I like doing so in similar doored lower kitchen cabinets – drawers, while more expensive, are so much easier to use!!! – so I don’t think I’ll miss using the vanity for anything but laundry.) I’ve rarely lived with vanities anyway, since I like living in old places, and much prefer the pedestal and wall-hung sinks that often still exist in those when they haven’t been renovated to death. I think you still have an upstairs bathroom to renovate if I remember correctly – so maybe you can build some laundry storage options in there when you do.

    The Kim and Scott solution is nice – but it works because it is IN the laundry room, which is I think off their bedroom. You’ll have to figure out whether you’d actually walk into your laundry room to deposit laundry if you put hampers in there, or not. Having largely ignored the various laundry bins I’ve bought over the years, I’ve found it’s all about finding places for laundry hampers so that you will actually use them – I’m still getting there. I actually have a W/D in my new place for pretty much the first time ever since I was a child (except for some months in one temporary place), so I’m still getting used to the fact that I could do laundry more often – a load any time, really – very different from when I had to set aside a 3-4 hour block of time to deal with doing laundry when using laundromats or my buildings’ basement laundry rooms. If I get to doing that, then I won’t need as much storage space for dirty laundry, as when I would go weeks between finding the time to do the wash.

    Though my W/D is in its own room, it is basically in a not-very-large closet, so I don’t think I’ll be able to find room in there for laundry bins, other than for kitchen towels and dishcloths and rags – it is closer to the kitchen than my bedroom and bathroom, so I’m not sure I would actually use any clothes hampers I might put in there even if it had room for them – too much out of my usual undressing pattern. (For those who think we sound like slobs, with clothes ending up where they will, this is an issue, I find, only when living alone – I am a considerate person and never leave my laundry where anyone else would encounter it lying around when I live with roommates or a partner – maybe that’s the real solution to creating order, not living alone, as long as you are a considerate person and also don’t end up living with a true slob.) You’ll figure it out as you continue renovating – is your laundry room staying where it is permanently, or is there a possibility it will move again once you get to working on your bathroom and back bedroom?

  52. The closet is great, congrats. I’m STILL working on my little laundry room renovation, but the roof hasn’t been fixed yet which means the ceiling can’t be taken down yet, which means blahblahblah. You will be finished with both your house and cottage before I get a simple 5×7 space done. I’m writing all this as my roundabout way of saying you are accomplishing so much and are hopefully so happy with what you have achieved. Suresuresure there’s more to do, always will be, so enjoy the achievements. Also anyways, yes I took your advice from some posts ago and will beadboard my laundry ceiling, which in my imagination looks fantastic and very much like your closet ceiling. So fun to see how this worked for you, especially the molding you used in a small space.
    AND PLEASE DO A POST ON THE FIREPLACE. I have a mantel that is currently deployed ever-do-fakely in my tv-projects-whatever room, sorta/kinda propped against a wall, and I desperately need ideas of how to build this in, or add a gas click-on fireplace or just do something “real” with it. Geez, this comment is all over the place. Upshot: love the closet, love your house, love your cottage, love your blog, please build a fireplace. Thank you.

  53. 1. So happy to see a new post.
    2. Glad you took a vacation. Even a stay action. You deserve it and it is so necessary for the artistic side of your endeavors. You can force your body to slog through the labor but you can’t force creativity
    3. I was looking at the photos before I read the text and thought “He’s KonMari-Ing!L. And I was right!
    4. I have found that the awkward behind the weird door spots can still be useful storage. I have one of those spots and I store my stepladder behind the door and my Christmas wreath hanging from a wreath hook on the back side. Behind a different one I have an oversized piece of artwork I have no place for yet.
    5. I suffer from similar hamper issues and have just put an attractive open hamper next to my bed, Now all dirty clothes make it in right away! (Clean clothes that have to be hung up, not so much)

  54. What an improvement! Did you ban all your old shoes? The reveal shows nice new ones :)

  55. Well, that did it. I had followed along with you on Stories but now seeing the whole thing, I’ve finally got enough motivation to overhaul my similar closet– similar size, still has a hole in the ceiling from at least 30 years ago, no light, regrettable 90’s teenager’s paint job…

  56. The closet looks AMAZING (those floors!!!), you are hilarious, and you’re a fabulous writer. So glad I found you through Ashley at The Gold Hive!

  57. Oh Daniel

    You never disappoint. This is awesome. I have to reread this several times , got to do my closet in a very (like yours) old house. Plus, you had me laughing like always

  58. Daniel, I seriously enjoy your writing style, and I loved watching your process on insta stories!

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