Cramped Closets? Before You Build,
Read These Walk In Closet Design Tips

by tracy on September 16, 2009

When building or remodeling a home, you should design closet space from a functional perspective. Often, emotional in-the-moment decisions can lead to long term frustration once the project finishes. Take time and plan your closet design. If needed, enlist a closet designer.

Today, we’ll look at closet design tips for walk in closets:

Walk-in Closets:

Minimum width: In order to hang clothing on opposite walls of a walk-in closet, the closet must be a minimum of 72 inches wide after drywall (75 inches is even better). A 72-inch width allows space for clothing to stick out 24 inches on each side and a 24-inch walkway down the center.   A center aisle that was any narrower would be extremely difficult to navigate; nevertheless, I’ve seen many sets of house plans showing hanging space on both sides of a walk-in closet, regardless of whether the closet size supports that possibility.

Closet Door Location: While you’re reviewing the walk-in closets on your plans, notice the location of the doors. Do they swing in or out? If they swing in, is there enough room on the wall behind each door for either shelving or handling space? If not, can you adjust the door location or door swing in order to access the storage space behind it? In many situations this change isn’t possible. If you are able make this little adjustment, Walk in closethowever, you could gain a few linear feet of precious storage.

Closet Island: Do you have your heart set on an island is the center of your closet? You may be surprised to hear that a closet containing just a 2 foot wide island needs to be 10 feet wide (inside measurement) at the very minimum. This is based on hanging clothing on the side walls requiring 2 feet of depth, a 2 foot wide walkway on either side of the 2 foot wide island.

Closet Peninsula: A closet with a peninsula instead of a freestanding island, as shown in the photo to the right, will provide even more storage space; however, the closet will need to be 12 feet wide to accommodate the hanging clothing in the island.closet_peninsular

Closet Rod Height: It is important to know the rod heights in order to coordinate with window heights and other features / obstacles that may be part of your closet area. For example, do you have windows in your closet and plan to hang clothing under them. In order to accommodate an average man’s shirt, the bottom of the window casing will need to be a minimum of 44″ from the floor to accommodate a hanging rod under a shelf.

Have an experienced closet designer review your storage areas prior to completing your plans. He or she should be able to make suggestions for small adjustments that can make a big difference.

Placing hanging rods at the wrong height is a common error. If the hanging rods in your closets will not be adjustable, let your builder know the heights at which you want them placed. Otherwise, you may have clothing on the bottom double-hung rod dragging on the floor and clothing on the top rod hanging over the clothing below. Here are some rules of thumb for closet rod heights. To know what’s best for you, measure your longest shirts, dresses, and pants from the top of the hanger to the bottom of the garment.

  • Double-Hang: Top rod at 84 inches from the floor and bottom rod at 42 inches from the floor.
  • Long-Hang (calf-length dresses): 66 inches from the floor.
  • Formal-Hang (floor-length dresses): 72 inches from the floor.
  • Medium-Hang (pants hanging from the cuff and knee-length dresses): 54 inches from the floor

For functional reach in closet design tips, read the first part of this article here.

Building or remodeling your home? For even more closet design tips and hundreds of practical ideas for planning and building a better home, pick up a copy of my ebook, visit

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