Design a dressing room you'll never want to leave
Wardrobe bursting at the seams? Kiss goodbye to clutter with the ultimate indulgence
It should be on every woman's bucket list - a dressing room with a lock on the door. So far, I've only experienced them as part of an occasional hotel upgrade. But imagine the bliss! Every garment would be in its proper place, with neat hanging racks, tidy drawers, and a destination for every shoe. There would be no more cupboards, no more clutter, no more overflowing knicker drawers, and no more dubious piles of socks in the corner. In this fantasy, by the way, I'm a neater, tidier person than I am in real life.
In Irish homes, dressing rooms are relatively rare. Few people are lucky enough to have them and those that do consider their dressing room as a bit of an indulgence. "Most of the people who convert spare bedrooms into dressing rooms are empty nesters," says Lorraine Stevens of Lomi Design. "They find themselves with the space to live a little more luxuriously." The traditional box bedroom, often adjacent to the master bedroom, is a sitting target for dressing-room conversion, but she has also noticed that a lot of Irish new-builds now come with a dressing room.
The way that we think about our homes is changing. Not so long ago, an ensuite bathroom was the ultimate extravagance. Now, they're fairly widespread. In a house of a certain standard, people expect the master bedroom to have an ensuite. It could be that future generations will take their dressing room for granted too.
The dressing room has a simple purpose. It's designed to store your clothes and to allow you the space to take them on or off. That, to my mind, is where a dressing room differs from a walk-in wardrobe, which offers clothes storage alone. Walk-in wardrobes are a fine thing, but you can't get changed in there without bumping your elbows. A dressing room is more spacious. You can walk out of there transformed and ready to face the day. The first step is to allocate the space in the house. If there is no spare bedroom to convert, and your bedroom is larger than you need, considering erecting a partition wall at the foot of the bed. This creates a kind of corridor space that can be furnished as a dressing room. If you have an ensuite, placing the dressing room between it and the bed can create a welcome buffer zone. I've seen this done effectively using a three-quarter height wall, which maximises the sense of space.
Professional advice at the planning stage will save you money in the long run, and most interior designers offer a one-off consultation process which I would highly recommend, even if you're contracting the work out yourself. But, as a rule of thumb, imagine that you will need at least one metre clearance around the edge of the bed and the same distance on either side of the false wall. Allow for at least 60cm depth of hanging space (that's the width of a clothes-hanger) and then think about how much space you'll have to move around.
Then, once you've allocated the space, the next step is furnishing. Without an adequate clothes-storage system, a dressing room becomes a dumping room. Sadly, furnishing a dressing room is no less expensive than buying a wardrobe with doors.
"There's a preconception that it's cheaper because it has no doors but that's not the case at all," Stevens explains. "When everything is open, everything is on display. It has to be fitted to a much higher standard than in a closed wardrobe. Every item is a finished piece of furniture." That said, a dressing room doesn't have to commit to open storage. Many of her clients choose to include a wardrobe with doors, which protect delicate and rarely worn items from bright sunlight.
The Jesse range of dressing room furniture from Lomi Design starts at €1,100 per linear metre - that's a one-metre-wide section including shelving and a hanging rail - with most clients spending between €3,000 and €10,000 on furnishing their dressing rooms. Other systems from Novamobili, which is also available from Lost Weekend, and Cinquanta are only marginally less expensive. But don't despair! The same principles apply to more affordable solutions, right down to Ikea where you can buy a Pax wardrobe unit adequate to the needs of one person for between €300 and €600. Ikea also has an open wardrobe system called Elvarli which comes in sections (from around €189) which is well suited to dressing rooms or walk-in wardrobes. And in the middle, you have wall-hung Swedish storage systems like Elfa, available in Ireland from the Organised Store, and the String storage system from Inreda, where a bedroom unit costs around €1,210.
Aesthetically there's no comparison between the brands. The Jesse range is made of solid oak, exquisitely finished, and drop-dead gorgeous. The Pax will get the job done. And both the Elfa and the String are very minimal in design. All of these solutions have one thing in common. They're modular and can be customised to suit your requirements.
"People come in thinking that all dressing rooms are the same," Stevens says. "They really aren't!" Some people like hanging and some people like folding. Some store their shoes in boxes and others prefer them on a rack or in drawers. And the usual gender clichés don't always apply. "We once designed a dressing room for a couple and he was a shoe collector. He needed more space than she did!" In a shared dressing room, the allocation of space tends to be equally divided between couples, but the two sides can look very different. "In general, men want trouser wracks and tie wracks and women want hanging space, drawers, and shoe racks, but it's very individual."
If you have the space it can include an island unit in the centre. This works a bit like a kitchen island, offering counter space and storage. Some also include a seating area beside the shoe rack. In an ideal world you would contemplate your outfit for the evening while lounging on your ottoman. But, Stevens concludes, not even the most luxurious dressing room can make you change your habits. "You still need to be tidy," she says. "Not everyone is up to that."
See lomi.ie, lostweekend.ie, ikea.com/ie, organisedstore.ie, and inreda.ie