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Home Front: Organise your closet (and your life)

Cate Burren of Angel and Blume Interior Design reflects on the restorative power of organising your wardrobe

Plain English Design (54748837)
Plain English Design (54748837)

We have recently moved house and, as many who have done it will testify, packing and unpacking your belongings can be a sobering experience. I found the inevitable review and reflection of my wardrobe the trickiest – a fundamental lack of interest (I am no fashion guru) and in addition the task is long overdue. So I start life in our new environment with a strong desire to get some basic control of my clothes.

I will skip over the very real emotional baggage that comes with a wardrobe clear out (for me it stems mainly from the inability to admit that I will never lose the stone I would like to and also that I have made some quite serious purchasing errors in the past) and focus on the place in the home for your clothes, whatever your collection is like.

It will sound odd but the first thing to consider is where your clothes storage is going to be. We automatically assume the bedroom, which makes sense as this is where you would normally get dressed, but it is worth considering whether there is anywhere for a dressing room, or a dressing space. There is something very lovely about having a bedroom that is free of masses of storage so it pays to ponder the options at the outset.

A true dressing room can have the massive advantage that you can (if you want) utilise open storage so that you can actually see what you have got. You may also be lucky enough to have space for a dressing table, a laundry basket or an occasional chair. But if you haven’t got that luxury, you may have part of a room, a landing or a big enough cupboard to create something that has a nod to a separate space.

If you are tight for room, or have a lot of clothes, or both, it is worth working out what you need to have to hand every day and what could be filtered out and put into other areas of the house (evening wear, coats, sports gear for example). It is preferable to have everything together, but rather than having cupboards bursting with clothes, using wardrobes in guest rooms, or storage in other areas of the house, may be a better bet.

Once you know where your main wardrobe area is going to be, it is worth looking at what you want to house and working out what type of storage will not only look good but will also work best for the clothes you have. What is best hung versus folded, either in drawers or on shelves, is not universally agreed on - Marie Kondo may show us how to fold almost everything, but not all of us will actually live like this - and how you personally are going to use the space is all that counts. Honesty about whether you are naturally messy or neat is paramount – your personality shouldn’t have to change so that your closet works.

I am afraid to say that when it comes to storage, planning is everything. Before you design your wardrobe space, try to know fairly precisely how much you want of hanging, drawer space, shoe storage and also think about smaller things such as scarves, hats, underwear, jewellery and so on. It is also good to consider where clothes might end up in the house – for example, do you really take your shoes off and put them back in the wardrobe? You might, but you might also leave them by the front or back door. If so, some shoe storage in that area is all part of the planning.

On this note, a related thing is those half-used clothes – you know, the trousers that are not ready for the laundry basket but it’s not a great plan to put them back in the cupboard. These are the items that end up slung on a chair or on the floor and if you find you often have items like these, a place for them should be in the design. Normally a few hooks take care of this but it is worth factoring it into your plan, as is the laundry basket, for when those clothes really have reached their smell-by date.

Once you know what storage you need, you can start to have some fun with the appearance of cupboards and furniture. They don’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, purely utilitarian. Whether you decide on freestanding furniture or bespoke joinery, think about the appearance of your storage so that it adds to the room.

Custom joinery is not only a wonderful storage device because, if designed well, it will hold a lot, it allows you to specify exactly what you want it to look like. The devil really is in the detail so make sure you consider size, detailing, colour (inside and out), hinges, handles and so on, so that you end up with something you really love.

If you are opting for a freestanding piece, there are a lot of options available, so hunt down the right item of furniture for your own taste - contemporary or antique, mid-century or shabby chic. If you really love it, it will be with you for years and don’t be shy of making changes to create something marvellous – whether this is restoration, painting, lining your cupboard with wallpaper or simply changing the handles, the effort will pay off.

One last thing that I would urge you to consider is lighting. I love the house we have moved to, but the lighting is strong and the sockets are scarce, and it has made me remember how incredibly important lighting is for good storage. However well organised you are, if you can’t see what you have got, a trick has been missed. Plan this well and remember that bedroom lighting and storage lighting are most likely to be two different requirements, so you may need different types of lighting in the same space.

Moving everything in my wardrobe to a new location has been an eye opener but I am personally hoping that a full storage review in my new environment will make my home look rather marvellous, and will make it work well, even if the effect doesn’t make me into a fashion aficionado anytime soon.

Angel and Blume will soon be moving from 17 Emmanuel Road, Cambridge to Fordham House Court, Fordham CB7 5LL. See angelandblume.com for more information.

Picture: Beautiful joinery provides space for clothes that not only offers the opportunity to be organised, it also can give a home a beautiful look - see plainenglishdesign.co.uk.

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