Here’s How I Faked a Fancy Closet with Big Box Products in My Rental Apartment

updated Mar 3, 2021
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I’ve always wanted a huge walk-in closet, but it just hasn’t been in the cards yet — and maybe it never will be. That’s okay; this hasn’t stopped me from settling for the builder-grade situation my apartment came with either. Like many other spaces, particularly older homes and rentals, my closet featured the bare minimum: one metal rod for hanging garments with two simple, slab-style open shelves just above it.

What my closet lacked in actual storage solutions, however, it more than made up for in storage potential. The ceilings are nine feet high, so I had plenty of vertical space at my disposal, and my closet’s fairly wide as well. With just a few key products from The Home Depot and a couple of big box stores, I was able to fake a fancy custom closet on the cheap, and these ideas can work for you, too. The best part? Most of the moves I made are totally reversible, meaning your security deposit won’t be an issue, and you can take these items with you to your next place, too.

Credit: Danielle Blundell

Work your walls and be strategic about your shoes

Many people store shoes on their closet floors, so if that works for you, go for it. I’ve found, however, that this method makes it harder for me to see what I have and find mates. So I knew I’d want to display my heels and flats stacked up to the ceiling on shelving instead, and, yes, I take the time to wipe down the soles each time I wear a pair before stowing them to keep things clean.

To max out this spot, I first added a third open shelf, which was cut from scrap wood at the home center and painted white to match the two long perches my closet originally came with. The third shelf is mounted above the others for now with nails, but I can easily patch and sand those holes when I move out so my landlord would never know.

Next, I snagged a set of two-shelf shoe stackers, which I pushed together to look like one built-in piece and placed on top of the new shelf I installed. I sorted my shoes by type and heel height then started filling the shelves with similar styles. To fit more shoes, I store pairs heel to toe so there’s less dead space around pairs. I probably could have fit one more open shelf into my setup, but I wanted to make sure I had clearance for taller boots on that top shelf during the fall and winter.

Buy: 2-Shelf Shoe Stackers, $17.99 each from The Container Store

Credit: Amazon

Buy matching hangers and colorize your clothes

Sure, it’s a little bit of an investment upfront to buy all new matching hangers. If you’re trying to utilize every square inch and make your closet look better though, you’ll never regret flocked velvet huggable hangers. They’re thin and sit fairly flush to one another, meaning you won’t waste any precious space on your hanging bar, especially if you only have one (like yours truly).

When it comes to what to hang where I’ve been hanging like items together and then colorizing those categories to create a rainbow effect with my clothing long before this move ever became popular for books. This method creates visual unity and makes it much easier to find a given garment since you know where to look for it based on its style and hue.

Buy: Amazon Basics Velvet Non-Slip Clothes Hanger, $17.43 for a 30-pack from Amazon

Credit: Danielle Blundell

Don’t forget to optimize your floorspace

Like any other surface, closet floors can become disorganized fast. To fully utilize yours, you’ll want to create some kind of lift and level system with shelving and storage here, too. My solution? A double-decker cubby unit flanked with two small chests of drawers similar to this style, which, again, looks custom-built because of the shared white finish and perfect fit in this spot. I use the cubbies to store folded sweaters, t-shirts, and pants, while the drawers are handy for workout clothes and sweats.

Whatever route you go, some kind of closed storage is always a good idea if you can swing it. Not only do drawers make a closet look custom, but they also provide some semblance of visual quietness in a small space that typically features a jumble of colors, textures, and patterns. You can get the same kind of uniformity with matching baskets and bins, too.

Buy: 2-Drawer White Chest of Drawers, $61.99 from The Home Depot

Credit: The Container Store

Add hooks for accessories

Have a fair amount of belts, bags, and scarves? Me too. That’s why I added a few metal hooks to each of the ends of my closet. Don’t bother with screw-in styles when 3M makes adhesive-backed verisons that temporarily stick to the wall and can support up to four pounds.

Buy: 3M Command Adhesive Brushed Nickel Double Hook, $11.99 from The Container Store