This custom master closet was my largest project to date, in terms of work and reward! While I do have some experience in closet design, I had never built anything this large. Completing this project allowed me to finally unpack wardrobe boxes and settle into our master suite.
Thinking of tackling your own closet project? Keep reading to learn more about the process.
The first step is to design a plan that works for you and your space! Some things to consider:
- Do you prefer open or closed storage – open shelving or behind cabinet doors/drawers?
- Do you need more hanging space or shelving space?
- Do you need long hang space for dresses?
- Do you long hang jeans or pants?
- How much shoe shelving do you need?
Once you’ve addressed your needs, consider your space. Measure wall to wall (I prefer a bottom, middle, and top measurements because walls aren’t always square and straight), and measure your ceiling height. Consider any obstructions – doors, windows, outlets, vents, etc. – and make note of those in your plan.
Lastly, follow these basic guidelines for planning your space.
- A standard top shelf at 86″ off the floor (I went to the ceiling, but you can do anything in between)
- 40-42″ for each double hang sections
- 65″ for long hang sections
- Minimum shelf width of 15″
- Minimum shelf height of 9″
- Maximum shelf width of 36″
- Maximum hanging width of 36″
While these guidelines are meant to give you a starting point, it’s always best to measure your items. Measure your hanging items (on the hanger), your shortest/tallest shoes, etc. and plan accordingly.
The next step is to plan your materials. Here’s what I used:
- 3/4″ sanded plywood for all closet unit carcasses and shelves
- 1/4″ plywood backs for units
- Poplar 1×4 boards for cleats (these will be used for attaching each unit to studs)
- Poplar 1×2 boards for face frames (I used 1×4’s to rip my own 1×2’s)
- 2×4’s for framing the base
- 3/4″ pine plywood to cover the base
- Pre-primed 1×8 baseboard
- Pre-primed crown moulding
- Heavy Duty Closet Flange
- Heavy Duty Closet Rods
- Titebond III Wood Glue
- 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws
- Finishing materials – caulk, wood filler, primer, paint, etc.
Once I had my space planned out, I started building! I apologize I don’t have the best photos of this, but I started out by framing a base that I covered with plywood. This is an optional step, but allows for a more built-in look once it’s covered with baseboard. It also provides a stable, level base for setting my closet units.
Next, I built my shelving units. These seemed to be the most difficult part of the job, so I knocked them out first. I attached the tops, bottoms, and all shelves with wood glue and pocket hole screws. I set them in place on the bases and then attached them to studs with 3″ screws through the 1×4 cleats at the top, middle, and bottom of the units.
Next, I built the hanging units and the carcasses for the drawer stacks until each space was filled. Because I planned to take my closet units all the way to our 10′ ceilings, I had to then build smaller units to stack on top of these. Obviously this is optional, but I’m a big believer in using all available space.
All I did was build 15″ wide units and I spaced the shelves to match the width of the shelving and hanging units. Then I turned them on their side and installed them on top of the units I’d already built.
Not to scare you, but at this point, I mistakenly thought the hardest part was behind me (more on that in a bit). I did breathe a huge sigh of relief when I finished building all units. Then is was time to start the face frames!
I bought primed polar 1×4’s and used my table saw to rip them down to 1×2’s. This was much cheaper than buying 1×2’s and really didn’t take much time at all. I attached the face frames using my Dewalt 16 gauge cordless nail gun, one of my favorite tools. I always start with vertical face frames and fill in with horizontal ones. Lastly, I added the face frames that would divide each drawer space. Doesn’t it look better already?
When the face frames were finished, I got to work filling all the nail holes with wood filler, I like Dap Plastic Wood for paint-grade projects. Then I started caulking every corner. Every. Single. Corner! That’s when I realized that building was the fun part! lol! Now is a good time to point out that I use wood filler for all flush seams and caulk every corner. I never use caulk to fill holes or flush seams.
I prepped everything for finishing by sanding away any excess wood filler, vacuuming away all dust, and wiping with a tack-cloth. I also gave a quick sand to the entire project using 120 grit. You can go higher, but it’s not necessary. The sanding between coats is more important to the overall finish, in my opinion.
At this point, you can grab your favorite brush and roller and begin priming and painting as you choose. But whatever you choose, don’t skip the primer. Even if your paint claims to be paint and primer in one – don’t skip the primer. It not only covers knots, wood grain, and any inconsistencies in color, it provides a smooth surface for your paint to adhere to.
After priming, I sand with 220 grit, vacuum all surfaces, and wipe with another tack-cloth. Then I apply two coats of paint, sanding again with 220 grit between coats.
Like I said, you can do this with your favorite brush or roller (my favorites are Purdy, by the way) or you can tape everything off and use a paint sprayer. While I love the finish, this step was a lot more work than I anticipated. Worth it? Yes. Do I look forward to ever doing it again? Definitely not!
Unfortunately, after taping everything off, I remembered that I hadn’t added the drown moulding, so I had to remove and re-tape the tops. For the baseboards, I wanted to protect my carpet as much as possible. I waited to install those and then painted them by hand.
After everything was painted, I built my drawers using 1/2″ plywood and side mount, ball-bearing drawer slides. I added slab drawer fronts I made from poplar 1×12’s cut to size. I also installed the closet rods and a couple of fun accessories – a pull out tie rack for my husband and a pull-out valet rod for each of us. These little details really did take this closet to another level!
Congratulations, it’s now time to start moving in your clothes and shoes and start enjoying your new custom closet. But first, take some time to appreciate the thought, planning, and hard work that went into this project. I say it’s perfectly acceptable to sit in your closet floor and just take it all in – I certainly did! 😉