A Designer’s Look at DC’s 2017 Custom Closet Trends

Our predictions for 2017 closet design trends

If you’re a clothing fanatic like me, and you hear the words “design trend,” skinny jeans or platform heels might be the first thing to come to mind. But closets follow design trends, too. I’ve worked in the DC area as a closet designer for several years, and I sometimes think I could date the construction of a home based just on what its storage spaces look like.

And closet trends can be every bit as exciting as keeping your wardrobe up-to-date. After all, what’s the fun of an amazing clothing collection if you don’t have an elegant way to store everything? So if you’re thinking about upgrading your walk-in, here’s what I predict 2017 will bring to closets across the DC area.

Trend #1: Custom Closets in Apartment Rentals

Apartment buildings in DC are already innovative. I’ve seen amenities that range from saunas and gyms to grocery stores connected to the lobby and digital boards that count down the time until the next metro stop. Maybe these luxuries are why 42% of DC residents live in apartments (a number second only to New York City’s 50%).

But for years, that’s meant 42% of us have been out of luck when it comes to owning a custom closet. Traditionally, it’s been a luxury available just to homeowners. So I’m excited to see that property managers are finally taking note of the fact that closets are a pretty big deal even to renters.

A number of DC’s newer luxury apartments are now allowing residents to install their own custom closets. The cost of the closet still falls upon the renter, of course, but there are so many DC residents who prefer the convenience of renting and are planning to do so long-term, that often it’s a worthwhile investment.

Not all apartments in the DC area allow you to do this (yet!), but places like Pallas Apartments in North Bethesda and 7770 Norfolk, also in Bethesda, seem to be using closet upgrades as a way of enticing residents to stay longer. So if you’re a current renter who’s always dreamed about a custom closet, you might not need to wait much longer.

Trend #2:  Buying Big on Purpose

While 2016 saw many folks downsizing, I’m predicting a shift in 2017. As DC’s economy continues to recover, I believe people will begin to buy bigger on purpose—all for the sake of extra storage.

Rather than purchasing a two- or three-bedroom home in the city that has barely enough space, I’ve talked to a number of clients who are eyeing four-bedroom homes in areas outside of DC itself (especially in Montgomery County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, and Howard County). A more spacious location allows you to convert one of your extra rooms into a walk-in closet

If you’re thinking about this option yourself, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • The location of your spare room. Having to walk up a flight of stairs every day to get to a closet may seem fine on paper but will likely be dreadful in reality. Spare room conversions tend to work best when they’re as close as possible to the master bedroom.

  • The shape of the spare room. Closet America is all about custom, so we can design a closet for just about any space. But some room shapes may not allow you to get as much use out of the closet. An L-shaped room, for instance, or a particularly long and narrow space, will be a little more challenging than a square or rectangular layout.

  • Your end goal. As you create your custom closet, I’d recommend thinking about how well it will hold its value if you decide to put your home back on the market. A custom walk-in is usually a good investment, but since you’re transforming an entire room, the more neutral your palette and hardware, the more attractive the space is likely to be for the next buyer.

Trend #3: A Shoe Wall for Your Walk-in

Growing up, I used to be in awe of Vogue’s photo spreads of celebrity closets. My favorite part of those shoots was always the shoe wall.

This feature used to seem like it was reserved for the rich and famous, but lately, I’ve found that shoe walls are popping up everywhere. I get why, too. Shoes are the one accessory that even non-movie stars tend to accumulate quickly, and a shoe wall offers lots of benefits:

  • Shoe walls make great focal points, especially if you add features like LED lighting.

  • The atmosphere of your entire closet will be elevated. A well-organized shoe display always makes me feel like I’m walking into a high-end boutique.

  • Your shoes will be properly stored, better protected, and just might last longer.

A closet designer can definitely help you with the details of your shoe wall design, but I’d suggest keeping the following in mind:

  • Shoe walls generally have the most impact if the spacing of your shelves is consistent. This means you should locate the tallest heel in your shoe collection and calculate shelf height based on that shoe. While you can maximize space by leaving less room between shelves holding flats or sneakers, you might not achieve the visual impact you’re looking for.

  • Give yourself a little extra distance between the bottom two shelves. When I help design shoe walls in spring and summer, my clients often forget about winter boots. Make sure to save some space on the bottom row for these. This shelf is the exception to the “keep your spacing consistent” rule.

  • An epic shoe collection is always well-organized. Once you’re ready to load everything into your shoe wall, remember that closets have the biggest visual impact when they’re color-coded. Shoe walls are no exception to that rule.

Trend #4: Frosted Glass Doors on Closet Cabinets

Glass-fronted cabinet doors have always been popular with my clients, but frosted glass, in particular, is now showing up everywhere. If you haven’t run into this trend yet, here’s what makes it so appealing:

  • Frosted glass creates a luxurious environment. This type of door helps give your closet a modern feel without requiring drastic changes. There’s just something about frosted glass that feels chic and expensive.

  • It lightens up your space. Closets are often darker than we’d like due to a lack of natural light. But frosted glass helps reflect your overhead lighting, making your space brighter—which often makes it seem bigger, too.

  • It adds a sense of mystery. When people enter a closet, they usually expect to see traditional finishes and cabinetry. Frosted glass catches the eye because it’s unusual—and then, rather than giving your wardrobe away (like regular glass panels), it only hints at what you’ve got concealed.

And most importantly…

  • Frosted glass helps hide the chaos. Let’s face it. While I’m sure you dream of a meticulously organized closet, the reality is that it’s hard to stay on top of things. Frosted glass allows you to hide piles of t-shirts or socks that you haven’t had time to sort through or put away—and it does this without the visual heaviness that solid cabinet doors can sometimes add.

As interior design continues to trend toward sleek, modern spaces, I’m predicting we’ll see more and more frosted glass in 2017.

Trend #5: Custom Closets Incorporated into Condo and Townhome Designs

If you drive through the DC metropolitan area, it’s hard not to notice all of the cranes and residential construction. Companies like EYA, Michael Harris Homes, and Toll Brothers have offerings in many parts of the DC/VA/MD corridor to meet high demand in the condo and townhome market.

But developers are learning that the high cost of real estate means buyers are less than thrilled about the idea of purchasing a new home, only to immediately spend additional money on a custom closet—and buyers are even less thrilled about being stuck with the standard wire shelving so many of these units come with. So some companies have begun working directly with closet designers to incorporate custom layouts into their condos or townhomes (and, ultimately, rolling the cost of that closet into the final home cost).

From a buyer’s perspective, here’s why this is exciting:

  • The day you purchase your home, its value has automatically increased. The DC metro area has spoken, and they want custom closets. So the minute you purchase your condo or townhome, you can rest easy about the day you decide to put it back on the market.

  • You still get to make your own custom decisions about the closet. In the same way you get to customize your new home with flooring, countertop, and backsplash choices, you’ll get to decide what closet features work best for you.  

  • You’re starting with a blank slate. Planning a closet is always easier if you’re able to do it before you’ve actually moved in. Sometimes it’s hard to envision how a custom design can simplify your life when you’ve already got clothes loaded into an existing storage area. Having a blank slate makes it a lot easier to visualize your possibilities.

2017 is still young, so I’m excited to see what other changes the year might bring. If you’re ready to help set some closet trends yourself, get in touch with us for a free design consultation. And the next time you view a luxury condo or apartment in the DC metro area, don’t be surprised if you open that closet door and find a custom design already waiting for you!