Projects & Improvements

Before and After: A “Dumping Ground” Closet Gets a Multifunctional New Life for $500

published Jul 20, 2022
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About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Closets & Storage
Office & Dens
Organic Modern
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Before: Closet with gray walls and white wire shelves, filled with hanging clothes
Credit: Shelly

A closet is only as good as its organization. If there’s a functional system in place, it’s a practical use of space; if not, well… it can end up being a dumping ground. That’s exactly how homeowner Shelly described the closet in her spare room, where she deposited her art supplies, off-season clothes, sewing supplies, master’s coursework, and her teaching work. “It was dark, uninviting, and not a user-friendly space,” Shelly says.

Credit: Shelly

Shelly wanted to turn this closet from a messy place for stashing stuff into a more organized space that would actually be functional for her. So as part of the Spring 2022 One Room Challenge, Shelly sprung into action to give the one-time storage space a brand new life.

Credit: Shelly

Shelly started by pulling everything out of the closet and taking out the existing shelving and doors. The walls left behind required a lot of repairs, Shelly says: “That ended up being the most time-consuming part of the project.”

Once all the holes were filled and sanded down, Shelly gave the closet a new paint job — this time a soft green, rather than the cold gray that was there before. The color didn’t turn out exactly as she’d anticipated, she says, leaning a little more yellow than green. Her advice for anyone else making over a space with no natural light is to do a test run before committing. “Paint a chunk of the wall with the color you are considering to really see how it looks in that space with that lighting,” she advises.

Credit: Shelly

For her desk, Shelly co-opted a hallway table; removing the front bar between the legs allowed her to push a chair all the way under. “I am most proud of the brilliant idea to repurpose the hallway table into a desk,” Shelly says. “It fits perfectly, goes with the office chair, and cost $0!”

Here’s where Shelly’s reno gets really great: Rather than turning the whole closet into an office space and losing out on storage, she made the area do double-duty. Installing rods on the sides of the closet — which extend past either end of the doorway — helped take advantage of otherwise unusable square footage to hang off-season clothing. “I am also so pleased that I figured out a way to still have a clothes hanging area for my off-season clothes without hindering my workspace,” Shelly says.

The final touches: shelves above the desk to store office supplies, a plug-in pendant lamp to give Shelly some practical task lighting. All told, the project came together with four days of work and about $500.

Now, Shelly’s closet way more fitting for her needs, since it has both a practical storage area and a functional work space. “I love having my own space to sit down and focus on writing my thesis,” Shelly says. And bonus: She’s able to easily print from her laptop, since the printer is tucked away on the lower left shelf underneath the rack of clothes. This savvy DIYer truly thought of everything!

This project was completed for the Spring 2022 One Room Challenge, in partnership with Apartment Therapy. See even more of the One Room Challenge before and afters here.