Before and After: I Gave My Cluttered Closet a Dramatic Cottage-Style Makeover

published Oct 13, 2023
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About this before & after
Home Type
Historic Home
Project Type
Closets & Storage
Skill Level
Rental Friendly

Want more DIY tips, tricks, and inspiration? Check out more stories featuring the 2023 Apartment Therapy DIY Collective. This content is presented in partnership with The Home Depot; it was created independently by our editorial team.

Do you have a project in your home that you’ve been ? For me it was the closet underneath the stairs of my 1912 home. This small space was what was left after my husband and I knocked out a larger closet to open up our front hallway, and over the past nine years, it had become a little closet dumping ground for shoes, hats, chairs, craft supplies, and anything else that needed a home. I would literally throw everything in there (and then shut the door when people came over).

I wanted this closet to be more functional, and to serve as a first destination of storage when I enter my house. It was the perfect size and location to hold shoes, hats, my dog’s leash, and other things I’d need to grab on the way out the door or put away the minute I stepped inside. I also wanted to make it fit the style of the rest of my house, which is a little cottage, a little vintage, and a little coastal.

Credit: Kay Volmar
Credit: Kay Volmar

A patterned paint job was the biggest change.

My project started by clearing out the closet so I could start from scratch. Then it was time to deal with the walls. I’d considered wallpaper in my home before, but to be honest, I’m a little intimidated by it. I was always afraid I couldn’t get it to line up perfectly. And with expensive wallpaper, you only get one shot to get it right. With paint, though, you can always repaint until you like what you see (and it’s a lot less expensive overall). So when I saw this patterned roller that mimics the look of wallpaper by using wall paint, I was sold.

I started by sanding down my walls to get rid of some of the texture, which would make rolling on my pattern easier. Then I painted the walls using a dusty blue as the base color. (I normally like neutral wall colors but I decided to go bold with this closet!)

Credit: Kay Volmar
Credit: Kay Volmar
Credit: Kay Volmar

A few test rounds helped me feel comfortable with my new roller.

Before using my patterned roller, I made sure to do a few test rounds on some scrap drywall. I highly recommend this step if you’re ever using a new painting technique! It will help you figure out the process before you actually get to the walls. After I felt comfortable with the process, I rolled on my pattern with a matte white paint. This step was easier than I expected, but for the couple mistakes I made, it was easy enough to use the blue paint as a cover-up before trying again.

Once the paint was dry, I installed two wood shelves which I stained using a lighter brown tone I already had on hand.

Credit: Kay Volmar
Credit: Kay Volmar

I finished the space with a DIY light fixture.

The final piece of the project was a vintage-style light fixture. I actually made it myself out of a thrifted bowl I got for just $3! I spray painted the inside with an avocado green color to give it the look of jadeite, then added in a battery-powered puck light so I wouldn’t have to wire anything. I hung it up using a super strong adhesive hook, which I let cure for a few days before using to make sure it was fully set.

Finally, I brought in some of my shoes, dog supplies, and hats! I might add baskets and hooks later, once I get a better idea of the things that I reach for most often, but even now it’s a huge improvement over the space it was before. I love that it has cottagey elements without feeling fuddy duddy. And even though I love all of the changes — including my bargain DIY light fixture — my very favorite element is the new paint. It made such a dramatic transformation! The calming blue and the bird pattern evoke feelings of being in the air and being light and weightless, which is exactly how I want to feel at home.