It's one of those rites of fall. The weather turns abruptly cool, and you find yourself rummaging through your closet in search of a favorite sweater. And those boots. Where did they go? The basement? And what happened to those nice opaque tights? Did they make it through last winter unsnagged? What are they doing in the drawer with the bathing suits?
For many people, the change of seasons is a time when discontent almost literally comes out of the closet. There's never enough space for off-season clothes. Shelves are jammed. Shoes are piled everywhere. The floor is invisible. Instead of being a tidy paragon of organization, your closet is merely a glorified cupboard with delusions of urbanity, a cramped vision of messy modern living.
Sound familiar? Take heart: the home-improvement industry is on the case, helping closets step out of the closet and take over large portions of American homes. The yearning for more and better closet space is being answered by interior designers, storage-component companies and residential developers. Indeed, for many of their customers, closets are the new kitchens--rooms to display status, for showing off how orderly one's everyday life can be.
"It makes me feel good every time I come in here," says Dan Rood, 41, a divorced insurance salesman in Orlando, Fla., as he surveys the vast, room-size closet he created two years ago. The 21-ft. by 10-ft. space is heavy with rich wood; a flat-screen TV is tucked behind a two-way mirror; there's a bar for entertaining and, of course, counters, as well as cabinets with room to display 39 pairs of shoes. "I have more shoes than the average girl," Rood admits. Entering the closet, he adds, "starts the day out right. It's the room I'm most proud of." His girlfriend, Rebecca Ferrer, is equally admiring: "It's beautiful. It's masculine. It's actually big enough to have a small party in."
It cost Rood $54,000 to turn a small bedroom into the closet of his dreams. A bit excessive for most folks but maybe not by much. David Weekly, a developer whose company builds moderately priced houses in six states, says his typical customers are demanding bigger closets and the attendant accessories. More than 75% of his new houses include a walk-in master closet with at least two rows for hanging clothes and an entire section of shelving. "One rod and a shelf isn't enough anymore," he says. Master closets now average about 6 ft. by 8 ft., a size more typical of an extra bedroom 40 years ago. In the low-mortgage-rate McMansions sprouting up throughout the country, every bedroom--not just the master--has the option of a walk-in closet. "The closet has typically been a forgotten space," says Michael Carson, founder of the National Closets Group, a trade organization. Now the closet is where the money is. The membership of Carson's group has seen total revenues swell from $15 million in 1999 to $100 million last year.