Dream, Baby, Dream

High up on the “dream list” for many people concocting their fantasy house is a walk-in closet. But is it a want or a need? Trying to pull out clothes and select the best shoes and bag for the day is hard work coming out of just a little closet. You need space to spread out, sit down, and gaze in calming admiration at the carefully arranged treasure-hoard of dresses, blouses, pants, shirts, shoes, bags, and hats you’ve amassed.

Movies take a lot of credit for inspiring our dreams. We don't know about that, but when it comes to walk-in closets, it's apt. In recent memory, just the two Sex & the City movies alone have inspired people to take on a walk-in closet project in their own home. Mr. Big's surprise walk-in closet for Carrie was a highlight in the first movie; in the second, their shared walk-in closet showed how a dual-gendered one can be just as magnificent.

                     Mr. Big and Carrie Bradshaw's walk-in closet from Sex & The City 2 // From Elle Decor "Stylish Interiors from 'Sex and the City 2'"

In this post, we look at what considerations should be taken into account when bringing your own dream closet to life.  

What, Where, Why?

What to include? Well, that depends on the size—both of the room and your wardrobe. Looking at about as many drool-inducing walk-in closet pictures as the human mind can bear in researching this post, a few things stood out.

  • Lighting 
  • A place to sit
  • Maybe something to put your feet up on?
  • Organizational strategy
  • How much will be displayed?
  • Ironing board?
  • Hidden laundry disposal
  • Vanity?
  • Carpet? Wallpaper? Paint colors? 

First off, you need a place to sit for a moment. After all, that’s a staggering amount of clothes, bags, hats, shoes, and accessories you have. How are you going to take it all in on your feet? 

Seating serves a few functions. This may be a place where you collect yourself before going out. In a shared closet, it may be a place where you and your partner relax and talk before and after social events (and put on impromptu fashion shows?). Trying on and taking off different shoes, on top of all these factors, makes a seat essential. 

Not that it has to be a chair. You could set a stool or ottoman in your walk-in closet and drape it with a throw blanket. If you have an island, with drawers for accessories and valuables, a temporary seat could be installed into it, with a cushion.

Wellington Kitchen & Bath Designers / Planning and Building, Inc
From Houzz / Featuring Corbett Graffiti Pendant

To spruce up the glamour, add a small acrylic chair with a pillow. A chair like this goes great with a vanity.

Speaking of which, the walk-in closet makes a superb location for one.

Vanities require thoughtful lighting choices for the best possible application of make-up. The right lighting also evokes that sense of glamour you desire. If the desk is against a wall, flanking the mirror with sconces looks great and provides adequate light. If it stands in the midst of the floor, you will need a table lamp on it or floor lamp next to it.  


And there is the where of the closet itself. Some ingenious folks have installed one into their bedroom while others have transformed a small in-between space into an inky walk-through closet.

Once inside, the question becomes what to display and how? Are you the kind of person who loves to color-code and organize? Does everything have a place? Do you periodically go through your wardrobe, culling and curating? Then hanging things out in the open might work best for you.

If you have a lot of things, not all of which look great in the open, you may want a combination of wooden and glass doors. Wooden doors and central islands provide opportunities for hidden retractable ironing boards and laundry baskets. Cool stuff, for sure.

                                                                     Hudson Valley Lighting's Clifton pendants in this warm, masculine walk-in closet.

Light It Up

But the most important choice is how you light your walk-in closet.

And, as usual, the matter is both aesthetic and pragmatic. On the pragmatic side of the issue, there is the issue of colors and bringing them out best—getting a sense of what you are going to look like in the light when you are out in the day or in brightly-lit interiors. On the aesthetic side, how do you want to feel when you enter the space?

On Pinterest, we saw some luscious examples. No matter how narrow or small the walk-in closet, there is room for ceiling-mounted light—pendant, chandelier, or semi-flush mount—to augment a sense of glamour. After all, this is the place where you celebrate your fine taste. What better place to add a dash of panache?

                                           Clockwise from upper-left: Alpine, Harriman, Waterloo, and Coolidge.  
                                                 These are the semi-flush mount versions of each of these Hudson Valley Lighting families.
                                                 Each one provides elegance, visual appeal, and ambient light to walk-in closets with
                                                 limited room or lower ceilings.

Ceiling, ambient light is a given. The choice there is simply how much beauty do you want to add to the space? Ambient is only one of three layers of light. With only ambient light, a walk-in closet is merely satisfactory.

What's the difference between a good walk-in closet and an exceptional one? Picture lights. The passionate sartorialist knows the importance of their clothes in their day-to-day lives, as well as the way they approach art on occassion. So treat them like the treasures they are! Picture lights cast a hallowed glow on your curated collection. An ideal combination might be hidden LED tape lighting under the shelves and a picture light atop the whole unit.


                              Chicago Interior Designers & Decorators / Claudia Martin, ASID
                                         From Houzz / Featuring Troy Lighting Bentley

In the image above, accent light brilliantly illumines an encased shoe collection to be reckoned with, while Troy's Bentley provides ambient light. In a similar set-up, task lighting could be added through the addition of a pendant or two above a table or island for applying jewelry, bringing out maximum sparkle. 

Any worthwhile article about boutique closets underscores the primary importance of the lighting. In an interview on SFGate, Lydia Marks, set decorator for Sex & the City, gave some tips to those inspired by the four main characters' digs. Her first point, applicable to walk-in closets as well, was this:

"Lighting is one of the most important things to consider. Great lamps are sculpture and can change the feel of an entire room."


We love her notion that lamps that are truly great are sculpture. An employee here at Hudson Valley Lighting who bought the last of a table lamp we used to make commented on how heavy it was when he received it and how solidly it assumes its place in his living room, quietly asserting its presence as a work of art. Marks is so right: certain lamps can affect the way the room as a totality is perceived.

Above, our Holden robustly embodies a mid-century organic sensibility. Beneath it, the mixed materials and interesting base of our Concordia have sculptural qualities. 

A walk-in closet is usually a rather small room, and it is filled with clothes and accoutrements. There is not a lot of space to assert a specific style. Lamps and central ceiling lights will do most of this work. At the same time, they ensure you see yourself in the best light.  

In Conclusion

An organized space leads to an organized mind. Walk-in closets reinforce order. Clothes in need of laundering quietly disappear into hampers that pull out of a cabinet. Jewelry returns to its place in drawers that whisper out from an island under a glamorous pendant. Shoes await in ordered rows. Bags line the shelves, poised and hoping to be picked.

Boutique closets are magical places. You don't have to be in a C.S. Lewis novel for your wardrobe to provide a bit of fantasy. They definitely enhance life and make it a bit easier to live.

Since they represent a significant investment, it is worthwhile to significantly invest in the lighting fixtures that provide the space its illumination as well as much of its glamour.




What would you want in your dream walk-in closet? Did we forget any important considerations? Let us know in the comments below.