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Plan to Make a Small Walk-in Closet More Functional and Stylish

Ready to turn your small, dark walk-in closet into an organized and stylish masterpiece on a budget? Check out these simple and affordable ideas to upgrade your space!

Do you get those mailer packets that are filled with glossy cards with “coupons” for places like California Closets?

I just sit and drool over some of those gorgeous closet solutions!

Lots of the “closets” in these ads are larger than some of the bedrooms in my house.

Sure, as my kids grow up and move out I could maybe turn a bedroom into a closet.

But realistically that’s not happening.

This girl’s not running down the hall in my towel to get dressed!

I wanted to figure out a way to make my small walk-in closet in our bedroom work more effectively.

When we moved into our home in 2006, I was a stay-at-home mom and my husband worked outside our home.

Being the selfless person that I am (LOL), I let him take the closet that had two rows for hanging shirts because he had way more clothes than me.

I know we’re very fortunate to have two small walk-in closets in our bedroom.

However, the builder’s basic system of three wire shelves in a U-shape in my closet just wasn’t working.

Phase One of Making My Closet More Functional

Over time, I decided I really don’t like hanging a lot of my clothes.

T-shirts and sweaters often got hanger dents in them, so I wanted to start folding them.

About 6 years ago we updated the furniture in my son’s room to be more grown-up.

We removed the tall Billy bookcases from IKEA where he stored his toys and Legos and put them in our game room.

One day it struck me that maybe I could use those bookcases in my closet!

My husband took down the hanging racks on the side walls of my closet and I put two bookcases in on each side.

A small walk-in closet with wire shelving, Billy bookcases, plastic drawers, and suitcases.

I added some drawer space with a portable plastic drawer unit.

The system worked for a while, but there were still some things that I didn’t like about this solution since the shelves were spaced so far apart.

As my job as a blogger has evolved, my wardrobe has too!

I’ve come a long way from that stay-at-home mom who lived in T-shirts and sweatshirts.

I needed a little more hanging space for clothes that I now need for when we attend and speak at conferences and workshops.

Plus, there was a lot of unutilized space at the top of the closet.

It was time to give this space an update because my closet had become a disaster…

Small walk-in closet with clothes on the floor and messy shelves.

I forgot to take a true “before” picture and snapped this one after I’d already started cleaning it up.


The good thing is that I knew what wasn’t working so I could plan to solve the different issues.

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What to Consider When Updating a Small Walk-in Closet

When we moved the old Billy bookcases into my closet, two of them had doors installed on them.

Two narrow Billy bookcases from IKEA in a closet filled with folded clothes and fabric drawer organizing boxes.

I liked being able to use the space inside those doors to hang my necklaces.

I knew that was something I would continue to do after the makeover.

But folding clothes when the shelves are spaced far apart meant my clothes had a tendency to fall over.

I also needed a better way to contain smaller folded items.

Two narrow Billy bookcases from IKEA in a closet filled with folded clothes and fabric drawer organizing boxes.

The other two bookcases didn’t have doors on the front.

I started using drawer organizers for folded T-shirts and tank tops on these open shelves.

But I still struggled with the shelves being too far apart.

I also wasn’t sure what was actually in each of the organizers so I’d need to pull out each one to find what I was looking for.

I used large baskets to contain things like purses, hats, and scarves.

That system worked, but I needed to label them somehow so I could find things better.

Wire closet shelving with clothes hung on it hidden by bookcases.

One of the other issues with this system is that some of my hanging clothes were hidden behind the bookcases.

It just wasn’t working and I needed a little more hanging space.

Even after cleaning out my closet, purging things I no longer wore, and switching to slimline velvet hangers.

I got out the tape measure and did some calculations.

Turns out I could get 4 more inches of hanging space with a little reconfiguring!

But I didn’t want to just rearrange things.

You see, one thing I’ve learned about myself over the years is I’m more likely to keep a space picked up and organized if I like how it looks.

I have some natural slobby tendencies, so I decided if I was going to my closet more functional, why not also make it look pretty too?

Mood Board with Project Plan

Mood board with plans to update a small walk-in closet and give it an elegant look with gold and white accents.

I’m planning to give my closet an elegant look with a white and gold color scheme.

We’re also installing hardwood floors throughout our upstairs because the 15-year-old carpet is looking pretty grungy.

I’m going to replace the fluorescent light bulb in the closet with a pretty gold pendant chandelier.

The walls are going to get fancy with some peel-and-stick wallpaper.

I’ll be adding additional shelving and storage at the top of the closet.

And a new hanging system for my jeans.

I might even hang a mirror!

Plans to Configure a Small Walk-in Closet to Maximize Storage

Narrow Billy Bookcases from IKEA

I chose to use narrow Billy bookcases from IKEA in my closet for several reasons.

First, my closet is small, so other closet systems are just too large.

Second, I loved how they looked in AnnMarie’s husband’s closet.

Finally, I already had four of them that we used in my son’s room when he was younger!

5 additional shelves for a narrow IKEA Billy bookcase.
Extra Billy Bookcase Shelves

They’re an inexpensive shelving solution for storing folded clothes.

My only issue with them in my closet is that the stacks of clothes became unstable because there was too much space between the shelves.

Imagine how excited I was when I discovered that IKEA sells additional shelves for their Billy bookcases!

I was able to get enough additional shelves to make everything fit so much more neatly.

Hanging Rods

Black hanging rod with sockets.
 Black Hanging Rod with Socket

I decided to make my hanging space more functional by installing hanging rods between the two bookcases on each wall instead of using the wire hanging system along the back of the closet.

I plan to install two rods between each bookcase and will end up with almost 4 additional inches of hanging room!

This hanging rod with sockets is adjustable from 28 to 48 inches.

To make the rod more secure we’ll use heavy-duty 1-inch #14 screws.

Overhead Shelving and Steel L Brackets

We have 9-foot ceilings throughout my home and we really weren’t taking advantage of that additional space previously.

I plan to install shelves on all three walls of the closet for extra storage space.

Crates and Pallet has a wide variety of metal brackets that work to securely add shelving in your home.

I decided to use their 9-inch white steel shelf brackets and will install them so they’re screwed into studs.

These brackets are really sturdy and I love that they’re available in white to coordinate with the aesthetic I’m going for in my closet.

Storage Crates

I need to store a variety of smaller items in my closet:

  • handbags
  • scarves
  • hats
  • travel accessories
  • miscellaneous items

Most of these are things I don’t need to access regularly, so I want to place them higher.

I also want them to be contained neatly.

These unfinished high-quality crates by Crates and Pallet come in a variety of sizes.

I love that they’re unfinished so I can either stain them or paint them to coordinate with any style of decorating I choose!

My plan is to put one of the smaller crates on top of each narrow Billy bookcase.

The larger crates will go on the new upper shelf.

Denim Storage Solution

I’m super excited about my plans for hanging up my jeans!

I have so many different styles and lengths of jeans: distressed and undistressed, skinny and straight legs, cropped and full length.

Previously, I stored my jeans folded up on the shelves in my closet.

Finding the pair I wanted meant pulling out each pair to see what it looked like.

Last summer, AnnMarie and I were shopping at a local boutique and I noticed they hung their jeans using S-hooks through the belt loops.


The back wall of my closet has an awkward bump out so I’m limited by what I can put on that wall.

My plan?

Install a gold curtain rod and hang my jeans using black S hooks.

I’m so excited to get started with this project!

Shopping Resources

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Sources:  Gold Pendant Lantern | Gold and White Trellis Peel and Stick Wallpaper | Black S Hooks  | Gold Curtain Rod |  Large Wood Crates | Small Wood Crates | White Steel Shelf Brackets | White Laminate Shelves | Narrow White Billy Bookcase | Oxberg Doors | Extra Billy Bookcase Shelves | Black Hanging Rod with Socket

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!

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