Someone (probably male) once wrote that anyone who thinks women are the weaker sex has never tried to get the duvet off them. When it comes to personal comfort, we ladies can show a steely resolve. The same goes for wardrobe space. Women need many more clothes and accessories than men do. So we need far more clothes storage space than our male partners. Obvs. So a 50/50 division of wardrobe space wouldn't actually be fair. Two thirds? Now that's more like it!
There's something about sharing a wardrobe that turns the most reasonable of us into a selfish cow. But that argument won't work with a female partner, will it? And how about sharing a wardrobe with a stylish man who demands equal opportunities for belts, ties and cuff-links? Let the wardrobe wars begin!
A survey on wardrobe space conducted recently by The Panelling Centre indicates that 63pc of Irish couples have to share a wardrobe, and almost all of these were unhappy with the amount of space their partner took up. Forty-one per cent admitted that sharing a wardrobe resulted in arguments and 33pc were frustrated by the way their partner stored their clothes: unfolded, thrown into the bottom of the wardrobe, or dumped on a bedroom chair.
Part of the problem is clutter. Of the survey respondents, nine out of 10 admitted to holding on to clothes they don't wear and 40pc described themselves as hoarders. To my mind, complaining about your wardrobe space and the way your partner uses it, when you haven't organised your own belongings, is simply unfair.
A wardrobe, especially the built-in version, is a big purchase. It's not as disruptive as changing the bathroom or the kitchen, but more so than buying a new sofa. So it's worth thinking carefully before you commit to buying a new one. You may just need fewer things.
Tidying can be difficult. As Marie Kondo, organisational consultant, says: "The process of facing and selecting our possessions can be quite painful. It forces us to confront our imperfections and inadequacies and the foolish choices we made in the past." Aspirational jeans fall into this category. So do far-too-expensive frocks in the wrong colour. Both inspire a twinge of guilt. So you never became a size 10 and sometimes spend unwisely? Big deal. You will be better able to live with your failings when not confronted with reproachful garments.
A word of warning here. Don't try to do this for your partner. Wardrobe wars may be an affectionate tussle, but reminding someone they haven't been able to do up the buttons on their flowery shirt in five years could be a recipe for divorce. Once everyone that uses the wardrobe has streamlined their possessions, then you can address the capacity and layout of the space.
One of the interesting things about the survey was that 75pc of respondents prioritised "handy and practical storage solutions" over actual space. Sixty-nine per cent were unhappy with their current wardrobe arrangement. Three-quarters of these blamed "poor storage options and lack of shelving"; more than half said their wardrobe was too small; and 30pc wanted something more stylish.
For Beth Maxwell of Sliderobes, the most common mistake that people make is not making the most of the available space, especially the awkward inches above the wardrobe. "Usually that's wasted space, but if you fit the wardrobe up to the ceiling, you create a space that can be used for storing suitcases or winter duvets," she says. "Because all our wardrobes are bespoke, we can fit them into awkward spaces and negotiate sloped ceilings.
"When someone gets in touch, the first thing that we do is encourage them to come into the showroom so that they can see the quality. You don't really get a sense of that unless you see it in person. Then we ask if they want a designer to come out to the house and measure the space." This is a free service that carries no obligation, but getting a designer to look at the room may help them to guide your choice of finishes and help you to co-ordinate the wardrobe with the furniture that you already have.
When Sliderobes went into business in 1983, their selling point was their system of sliding doors. It still is. "Hinged doors eat into your available space," Maxwell points out. More recently, the company has focused their attention on creating wardrobes that also look stylish. "People want to be able to close the door on their clothes. We have beautiful smoked glass doors - they look stunning - but most people want something opaque, especially if they're not the tidiest. They like to know that the inside of their wardrobe isn't on show."
Wardrobes from Sliderobes start at €2,500, but this is a high-end product and you can spend a great deal more than this, should you choose to do so. If you can't, Ikea is a good source of affordable storage solutions which, although they will never fit an interiors space as snugly as a bespoke fitted wardrobe, incorporate a lot of flexibility in the design.
The Pax wardrobe, for example, has sliding-door options. A pair of Sekken sliding doors in frosted glass (200 x 236cm) costs €305 and are designed to give "a subdued view of your things" and create "a more spacious feeling compared to solid panels." You'd want to keep your clothes tidy - Marie Kondo style - as a subdued view of internal chaos could be disconcerting.
Ikea offers excellent value, but it does throw the responsibility of fitting it all together firmly on the customer's shoulders. Those frosted glass sliding doors would fit a pair of Pax wardrobe frames (€140) with the shelves, rails, hinges and interior fittings as separate purchases. This is where it becomes befuddling. Ikea has 207 objects in this category ranging from €5 to €100. The system works, and the nice co-workers make an effort to make it easy, but it requires a level head and careful consideration of how much strain the transaction is going to put on your relationship.
Ikea wars put wardrobe wars in the shade. It's probably worth carefully calculating the cost, including delivery (if you can't access a car with roof rails), and comparing the price with that of a local cabinetmaker who is prepared to do all the thinking for you.
Wardrobes at The Panelling Centre start at €230, with most customers spending between €1,400 and €1,900.
See panellingcentre.ie, sliderobes.ie and ikea.com/ie.