Out of the Closet: Solving your storage problems
Fitted wardrobes may be expensive, but they can be the perfect answer to all your storage problems, says Eleanor Flegg.
YOU'LL never find Narnia at the back of a built-in wardrobe. At least that's what I used to think back when I loved the romance of old-fashioned wardrobes and when modern wall-to-wall storage just didn't have the same appeal.
Then I moved into a house with built-in wardrobes and discovered just how useful they are.
You shove everything inside and the room is clean and tidy. If you're a fan of quick-fix housekeeping, built-in wardrobes are your friend.
Built-in wardrobes create a false wall with sliding doors in materials that range from wood and mirrored finishes to trendy faux fur and leather.
The designs, especially the expensive ones, can make your bedroom look like a posh hotel room.
Like a kitchen, a built-in wardrobe needs to be fitted to the room, either by the supplier or by a joiner. Also like a kitchen, it can be a big investment.
At the upper end of the price range, Sliderobes has been selling fitted wardrobes for the past 30 years. A starting price of €1,500 would give you a 1.5 metre wardrobe with two doors in a plain finish. Inside, you'd find a basic interior with a hanging rail and a top shelf. The price includes materials, delivery and installation.
Dave Soden, who works with Kube, the company that has the agency for Komandor wardrobes in Cork and Dublin, reckons that you need to estimate about €500 per linear metre, with the average customer paying around €2,500 for a floor-to-ceiling wardrobe. "Komandor is not the cheapest solution out there," he says, "but I think that it's the most flexible."
Many built-in wardrobes are based on standard door sizes, and the rest of the design fits in around them. With Komandor, everything (including the doors) is made to order. "I've never yet come into a room where it's been impossible to put a wardrobe in it," says Soden.
As a former fitter, Soden is interested in the mechanics of creating a wardrobe to fit a particular space. "Every wardrobe is measured individually. We come out to the house and draw out the design on a lap-top. People like being able to see a 3D image of the room, including the windows and the existing furniture. It helps them to visualise how the wardrobe is going to work in practice."
The Komandor range comes in many different colours and finishes, but oak is by far the most popular. "The guy that makes these up says that he sells more oak wardrobes to Ireland than to the rest of Europe put together," says Soden. "It's blends in with the rest of the room and doesn't scream 'I'm a wardrobe'!"
Part of Soden's job is to help people choose a finish that they're going to be happy with over time. "A quality built-in wardrobe should last 30 years," he explains. "You would not believe the number of mammies that come in to me with a little girl who wants a pink wardrobe. I've only actually sold three of them. I remind them that she's only seven and in five years time she'll be a moody teenager. She won't want a pink wardrobe then. She'll want a black one."
Part of the design process is selecting interior fittings. "That's where you'd spend the money," says Soden. "It's like buying a car, if you want to put in loads of extras it ups the price."
If you already have a built-in wardrobe you don't necessarily have to replace it. A few storage accessories and a bit of organisation can help your existing wardrobe work much better for you. "The normal Irish wardrobe gives you the carcass," says Olive Donovan of Howards Storage World. "It doesn't give you much else."
To re-organise the wardrobe interior, she suggests installing a version of the Elfa shelving system. This is an all-singing, all-dancing storage system with everything that slides and glides as well as shelves and hangers.
It can cost anything from €200 to €1,000 depending on the features that you go for, but has the advantage that it's removable. If you're moving house you can take it down and bring it with you.
If that's a bit on the pricey side, Howards Storage World has some handy gadgets that can help optimise your storage space. These include multiple hangers (€7.95) that allow you to hang four shirts or four pairs of trousers instead of just one and a product called a Vacuum Space Bag (from €13.95 per pair).
This is a bag in which you store soft items, like duvets or winter woollies, when they're not in use. "You pack everything away in the bag and then use your vacuum cleaner to suck all the air out. It reduces the volume dramatically. Then you close the vent and it's completely sealed," Donovan explains.
You might also want to check out Ikea's Stolmen range, a wall-mounted storage system that can be fitted within an existing built-in wardrobe. Individual parts start at €2, but you can pay up to €500 for a whole system. Remember also that you'll be doing the fitting yourself.
And if you're thinking of buying a built-in wardrobe, it's well worth doing to maths to see if you're eligible for the Home Renovation Initiative (see www.revenue.ie).
Well that's my line about which wardrobe. It's not a closed door and the rest is up to you.