Sunday 20 October 2019

Out with the closet...

Streamline your wardrobe contents and free up precious space in the bedroom


Caroline Foran

Dare I say it - the days of built-in wardrobes are drawing to a close. This is happening for a few reasons. Firstly, we're becoming collectively more conscious about the amount of stuff we're amassing in our closets. How much do we really need in one floor to ceiling, wall to wall wardrobe?

Encouraged by books like Marie Kondo's The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up and Anne Marie O'Connor's The Happy Closet, there's a shift towards smarter wardrobe concepts that focus on a selection of key staples. When we go from 17 pairs of jeans to a healthy four, it turns out we don't need as much storage space as we once thought.

The second reason why we're moving away from built-in wardrobes is because they take considerable square metres off your bedroom. Instead of keeping bags of clothes you'll never wear hidden away, wouldn't you rather free up that space for a more functional dressing table or your very own reading nook?

Lastly, there's a certain blockiness to built-in wardrobes that no longer serves the minimalist aesthetic towards which we gravitate. Inspired by the 'less is more' lifestyles of the Scandinavians and Japanese, here we look at wardrobe alternatives. Be warned; a clothing cull is essential before you ditch the wardrobe.

Free-standing rails

The free-standing rail is the kind of thing you'd find in a stylist's studio, but if you're passionate about your clothes, it's the perfect way to keep them on display while at the same time creating the illusion of space in your bedroom. Invest in some robust hangers and hang your favourite pieces - or those that need to be hung. Preparing your rail will also help you to make more ruthless wardrobe choices, sending much of what hasn't seen the light of day in the last six months to the charity shop. Certain rails, come with shelving for shoes built into the bottom, ensuring you don't veer towards the dreaded 'floordrobe'.

Suspended rails

Another option, if you want to hold onto your floor space, is to hang a rail from the ceiling or fix a rail onto your wall. Again, this can be quite an aesthetically pleasing feature. You'll style it much the same as you would your free-standing rail, but with this alternative, you create more space on the ground. You just need to make sure, when installing it, that you leave enough space between the rail and the wall for clothes to hang appropriately.

chest of drawers

Think about it; there's a lot in your wardrobe that prefers to be folded away than hung up - T-shirts, jumpers and jeans won't suffer from life in a drawer. Chests of drawers have returned as the ultimate statement furniture with gorgeous mid-century options from West Elm (available at Arnotts, and contemporary options from Michael Murphy ( If your space allows it, go for low and deep drawers. This will give you back plenty of wall space for mirrors and prints as well as a surface to style with books, lamps and fresh flowers.

Screens & Room dividers

If it's cost that's putting you off a proper wardrobe, but the idea of having your clothes on display gives you palpitations, enter room dividers. Once considered very French and elaborate, there are plenty of contemporary and non-fussy options available today. Though they were originally used for private undressing purposes, they're now used to zone rooms, but also, to hide your clothing rail. Choose wisely and this can be a style statement in your bedroom.


Lastly, you'll notice more love for the free-standing wardrobes and chifforobes (part wardrobe, part shelving) we once thought so little of. Yes, they can be bulky, but if you're reducing the amount of your belongings that need storage, you needn't go huge. When compared to built-in wardrobes, this will free up space on either side of the unit. If you continue with the classic mid-century theme (carrying over from your chest of drawers), you'll find gorgeous Narnia-like options on the high street. For a more understated simplicity, IKEA ( is your friend.

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