Before and After: A “Crusty” Storage Area Becomes a Luxe Entryway Drop Spot for $100

published Aug 18, 2023
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Closets might be utility-driven spaces, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also be beautiful. In fact, sometimes creating a beautiful closet actually makes it more practical and usable. Take this closet makeover from Liz Malm (@elizabeth_malm).

The makeover was one of the first that Liz did when she and her partner, Jack, moved into their 1911 Craftsman in Portland, Oregon, this year. The storage area — located right off the kitchen — started as a dark, dingy spot that was somewhere between a closet and a pantry.

Credit: Liz Malm

“Every time I walked by, it made me cringe, and it just looked dirty and old,” Liz says. “Previously, there was a curtain hung on a tension rod, and it was in rough shape with holes in the walls, peeling paint, and beat-up wood trim.” And with rickety wood shelves, the storage spot didn’t even work well for storage — making it more of an eyesore than anything else.

Liz didn’t need to use the space as a pantry, as the previous owners had, but she did need a coat closet where she could stow her things when coming inside. Inspired by the chic, open closets at boutique hotels, Liz decided to transform the small space into a drop zone that could store coats, shoes, and bags.

Credit: Liz Malm
Credit: Liz Malm

The space inside the closet frame was, in Liz’s words, “crusty.” That needed to be remedied before any additional work could be done. She first removed the shelves, and then patched all the holes in the walls and removed old screws and the peeling paint. At this stage, she also took the time to caulk all the trim and molding, which was full of gaps, thanks to the inevitable settling of an old house — this was a step she’d go back to again and again as she discovered new gaps as the project progressed.

The wood trim around the closet was in poor-enough condition that Liz didn’t feel confident she could save it and also showcase a natural finish. She opted to keep it, but cover up all that damage with paint. And before the wood trim enthusiasts come at her, let Liz take the opportunity to defend herself: “I’ve never painted wood trim like this before — it felt wrong!” she says. But using paint allowed her to mask imperfections without having to remove the trim entirely, which is a DIY win.

Credit: Liz Malm

Liz chose a dark, dramatic navy blue (Behr’s Midnight Blue) for the trim, walls, and ceiling of the closet area. It’s a color she’s used throughout her house, including on her front and back doors, as well as her kitchen cabinets, so she was able to use the gallon of paint she already had on hand. 

After three coats of paint covering the entire space, Liz applied peel-and-stick wallpaper with a vintage-style fan palm print to the back wall. “To add functionality, I added two Target hooks I already had, plus I stole a closet bar that wasn’t being used from an upstairs closet and mounted that after trimming it to size with my jigsaw and mounting brackets,” says Liz.

The entire boutique hotel-inspired open closet project cost Liz just $100 total, and she was able to complete it working in the evenings after work for two weeks, plus a few weekend days. “It was a big undertaking for such a small space, but the payoff was big. It feels so dramatic, and I love seeing it every day,” she says. And the best part, of course, is that she now has a storage spot that suits her specific needs.

Inspired? Submit your own project here.