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Drive In Closet – You want fries with that?????

Probably not if you’re Jennifer Aniston, who recently filed documents with the Los Angeles Building and Safety Department to convert her garage into a closet.

I’m not so sure you’ll be able to drive in anymore, that would be a silly thing from both a fashion perspective as well as a space perspective. But it sounds cool, doesn’t it?

Aniston is reportedly investing $60,000 in the project. That’s about 12 times what the average walk in closet costs, so I’m thinking she should spend a little more :-)Let’s do a real dream closet here and amp it up to the six figure mark.

It also seems to me that there will be a lot of construction work involved in preparing the space for the closet structure. Because hey, no matter how cool stained concrete is, I wouldn’t recommend it for the flooring of your dream, boutique style walk in closets. Face it, even in sunny California, your tootsies would get cold.

Documenting the process would be a hoot. Seeing the transformation from the Henry Ford automobiles to the Tom Ford couture garments. Watching the Italian leather referenced so often in luxury cars now be directed towards Gucci shoes.

CelebTV talks about Jennifer Aniston converting her garage to a closet.

CelebTV talks about Jennifer Aniston converting her garage to a closet.

Ahhhhhh………it’s a good life. Call me Jen. I can design you a better closet than anyone else out there.

It’s not often that I sit through a presentation without taking notes and thinking about how I can share the highlights with people. I have journalist genes in my jeans.

But I was so inspired the other night at  Casa Spazio in Chicago by the panel sharing insights and design trends from Salone Internazionale de mobile (The Milan show of modern design) that I went into sponge mode and just took it all in.

With insights from global traveler businessman Marco van velsen of Former (a furniture manufacturer in Italy) and Scott Dresner of Dresner Design in Chicago here are the highlights of what they saw as trends and what I see as inspiring and exciting:

Space Saving Solutions:
I almost have to sing this one! I’ve been aware of the brilliant creations of a company named Clei for a few years now. Their brilliance seems to be continuing. There isn’t much that makes me happier than well designed, functional space. This niche’ is only going to get bigger and better as our homes get smaller and smaller.

Check out this desk that folds into a shelf

Check out this desk that folds into a shelf

From “fashion” to “furniture”. This something that I love following, since furniture and home decor are the “fashion” for your dwelling while “fashion” is the decor for your physical body.

Color translates.

Textures and adornments translate.

Line and design translate.

The most straight forward example is yellow showing up as “the IT color” (according to Scott Dresner).

Yellow is the IT color

Yellow is the IT color

Integrating function and “hiding” things were also mentioned as strong trends, and ones highly relate-able to cabinetry and closets. There were lots of kitchens showing the tables actually integrated into the space and designs and others that had the tables “disappearing” as they slid into hiding spaces when not in use. Also shown were “hidden” appliances that could be revealed and accessed when needed.

Tables integrated into space and design

Tables integrated into space and design


More Hide and Seek as appliances are kept out of sight until needed.

More Hide and Seek as appliances are kept out of sight until needed.

Wood – Renewed. This interesting terminology shared by Dresner is different from “reclaimed”. It’s taking wood that is not necessarily recycled or being “re-used” but has different coloring than what we’ve been seeing the last several years. Featured were more medium wood tones, more grain and texture and changing grain directions within the same space.

Medium toned, highly textured wood

Medium toned, highly textured wood

Additional trends that our experts noted were extremely innovative design and use of materials (like an onyx couch), the return of wardrobes to store clothing items and thin counter tops.

A special thanks goes out to the River North Design District for sponsoring this inspiring event.



So it really does seem like a picture paints even more than a thousand words.

And that stat, which comes from Forrester Research, gives me pause. It would take me much longer to write that much content than it takes me to create it with video.

That’s a lot of words. And regardless of how prolific you are with the pen, most of it won’t get read.

People are “watching” things these days. Looking at lots of pictures. Swiping their devices for something that will catch their attention.

And their attention spans are short, so you better be both good and fast and getting that attention and then getting them (eventually) in to action.

So how do you do that? How do you catch their attention?

Video is a wonderfully effective tool for achieving that goal.

In fact, according to ComScore, a company that measures online video marketing and use, says that people are exposed to an average of 32 videos a month.

And video does not have to be big production. It can be. But there are also tools like Animoto that can help you use pictures and words to create a video.


You can also use a screen recording tool like Screenflow or Go To Meeting and create videos right from your desktop.

Then there’s your phone. A tool you almost always have with you. Take some quick footage of your projects in a more casual, storytelling way and share on your social platforms.

And if you would like to learn more specifics and how to’s, you can access the video with this link:


video marketing

Importance of video in marketing

It’s a FREE ON DEMAND session that is packed with great tips and info to help you understand more about how and why to use video as a tool for marketing your business.

walk in closet, wood closet, closet design

I embarked upon a closet design career in a very haphazardly specific way. I was working as an image consultant when I moved to Chicago and figured out there was real opportunity in actually designing the closet instead of (or in addition to) shopping for the client.

I began my career at Closet Works in Chicago, at the time a company with several million dollars per year in annual sales. I went from there to a smaller custom shop where I was able to learn about selling and designing with wood and staining and cabinetry options.


Here are the top three things I learned:

1- There’s tremendous value in designing with the right depth.

Most millwork shops and cabinet makers design closets that are 24” deep. They don’t have an awareness of the value good closet design can bring to a project. And the value isn’t just in space planning, it’s in dollars. When you’ve been trained to appreciate that shoes work best on shelves that are 12 or 14” deep and folded items work best on 16” depth, you don’t make everything a standard 24” deep. It sounds simple enough, yet making things in depths that match the items being stored increases the level of functionality by about 100%, if not more.

Another way you can work with depth is in budgeting and space planning. If you’re tight on space (as most closets are), you know where dimensions can be smaller and still functional. And you know when to adjust depths (say 24”deep drawers down to 16” deep drawers) to save dollars.


2- When we’re talking about “backing”, we’re not referring to the money an investor has put up to help fund our business venture


Wood walk in closet

Standard industry practice for closet design and fabrication is not to use any kind of “backing” for the systems. Panels are typically attached to the wall. There is no backing. It’s very functional and efficient.

With millwork, everything is a box. It all has backing as standard industry practice.


The takeaway here is that there are appropriate scenarios for both. However, if you’re a cabinet maker with no closet design experience and you’ve been asked to design and price a closet, you don’t know how to sell the benefits of a panel and shelf system, or even, necessarily, where to specify each to maximize the clients budget.

wood walk in closet

Wood Walk In Closet showing inside of cabinetry


If you’re a closet manufacturer, you frequently think that a closet design by a millworker is over kill. You can easily beat them on the pricing issue. But if a client has involved a millworker in their project, it’s probably a higher end project that merits assessing how to design a solution that incorporates the design-heavy, aspirational dreams of the client.


And many times that involves not only backing, but boxes.

3 – I figured out how to design hybrids


wood and melamine closet

Hybrid closet with combination of melamine and mahogany wood

I’m not saying I’m the first person ever to figure out how to design what I like to call a “hybrid”. A hybrid is a combination of melamine and wood.


If you have finishing/staining capabilities, you can select your most popular melamine wood tone colors and figure out an appropriate wood and stain match.


Then, by properly designing the space, you can get the effect of a wood closet for a much more budget friendly price.


Design elements to give serious consideration to are things like:

-Are there end panels that will be fully visible in the closet?

-Are clients wanting crown or base molding?

-Will there be any open countertops?


These issues complicate this approach because wood grains start moving in different directions and you now are viewing two different, mixed materials on many different visual planes.

I avoid doing hybrids in these scenarios. They become more of a headache than a money saver. And they are a definite time suck.

Interested in a few more closet design tips? You can download my top five favorites here:

Three Trends From Closet Expo 2015

If you enjoy good design even half as much as I do, then you would have gotten some great inspiration from the little show that could (formally known as The Closet and Home Organization Conference and Expo).

It’s an intimate show that allows you to get up close and personal with the people who exhibit their latest and greatest for this targeted audience.

Here’s what I see as trending:

1. Lighting Everywhere – Including Inside Jewelry Drawers
Love this concept not only because it help you see things clearly, but it’s motion sensored so when you close the drawer, the light goes off. This concept also works really well for Universal Design purposes as it allows you to see the contrast between, say, your blue sock and your black sock. This one is brought to you by the fine folks at Richelieu.

Here’s a quick video demo to help illustrate the concept:

2. Return of Rose Gold

I liked this color years ago when my mom was obsessed with it in jewelry. It wasn’t your standard gold or silver. And I must say I like seeing it again. I have a penchant for copper, and rose gold comes close to a copper look. Sidelines was showing it in some prototype pieces and I hope they move forward. It looks great against dark browns.

Glide and Slide – Softly and Silently

Soft close or self close anything is more than trending. It’s claimed a permanent position in the market. The less we have to work at things, the more we like it. And we like the idea of never having to remind anyone (be it teenager or husband) to “close that drawer” again even more. We want anything that we CAN get to work for us to do so. Just a touch and it’s all back in place. It’s nearly giving you the gift of time.

Glideware has an interesting concept with this that can be used in the kitchen AND in the closet. Pretty cool, right?

And if you’d like more tips relating to closet design, check them out here:

Ashton Kutcher just gave his “home” in Iowa (where his parents live and where he was raised) a makeover using the “Houzz” app. In his words he used Houzz to “build something new”. And he did it all under the guise of a Mother’s Day gift.

And there’s brilliance to this beyond making your mom really, really happy with such an awesome gift.

It’s the rather pure, authentic marketing. Kutcher (who executive produces the segments and is a Houzz investor) tells the story of expanding the Iowa homestead while weaving in Houzz marketing messages almost as brilliantly as the team responsible for The Ellen DeGeneres show.

I’m telling you – you need to pay attention to this approach to reaching your customers. It’s how you’ll spend the majority of your marketing budget within five years.

And if you’re not following what I’m saying right now, then you need to watch TV (or any other platform through which you view “video”) through some new filters. And those filters are the way that products and services are woven into the content of the program you’re viewing. It’s better than the final episodes of Mad Men.

So as you read this, I’m hoping you’re not only familiar with Houzz, but active on the platform as a business development tool.

Many professionals in the design/build industries are. It’s one of the strongest, tech based platforms available to these industries.

And while your profile lives on the Houzz platform and most of your activity and any advertising also take place there, Houzz is active and creating content on other platforms. Namely, and most importantly, You Tube.

Why should you care about that? Because of the potential for a project you’re involved in to be featured on this platform. According to an award winning kitchen designer I’m connected to, the team at Houzz has had several conversations with her about filming an artsy project she completed for use with the Houzz platforms.

So keep an eye on Houzz. And keep an eye on Kutcher. Maybe you’ll get “punked” the next time you’ve completed a brilliant remodel (Google “punked” if you don’t get that).

Check out the Houzz and Kutcher collaboration

Check out the Houzz and Kutcher collaboration

The makeover is divided into four video segments and it’s fun to watch.
And if you would like to ask a marketing question, head on over to and ask away. We may just feature your question on a broadcast. You can also download a free “cheat sheet” with correct image sizes for your social media posts.

This post is part of a series about my favorite closet design tips.

White melamine walk in closet

White melamine walk in closet

Use your body and blue tape.

Honestly, these are my two favorite tools (tape measure is a given).

During the consultation, when you’re with the client and in the space you’re going to be designing for them, stand in it to demonstrate how far clothing will come out from the walls. Even put blue tape on the floor to mark that spot. It’s a “real life” way to demonstrate the concepts you’ll be sharing in your designs.

And use the blue tape on the floor to mark off parameters.

Let’s say you’re designing walk in closet and the client wants an island. Start with the outside walls and tape off spaces that are 24” from wall just in case you have hanging. Then go another 24” for the minimum walkway. Once you’ve gone all the way around the room, you’ll both see what kind of space is left in the middle for an island.

Sometimes there’s no space left. The beauty of that is that the client sees it and gets it and you don’t have to tell them that there’s no room for an island.

If there is room, you’ll both see the approximate size and be able to discuss what direction to orient that island.

In my eternal quest to share valuable information and package it into bite size pieces, here’s the second of a series of my most valuable, time tested advice on things to do to make your closet designs as successful as possible.

Lighted jewelry drawers


When I started designing closets for a company that offered custom options, I embraced it and utilized it as a sales tool.

I’d be super excited with clients as I shared that we could create anything they’ve seen or dreamed of. It gave me confidence to know I wasn’t limited by 5 or 10 colors and 6 or 7 profile choices.

I had a unique position in the marketplace. And all this designing was fun.

Until it wasn’t fun. 

And it would turn to the point of “not being fun” when the client couldn’t make a decision. They were overwhelmed by the endless options and were consuming an endless amount of time.

So I learned to be very careful in making the statement “we can do anything” to clients because it can be so overwhelming. Plus, they’re hiring me to help them with design, not confuse them.

It’s not that I only design within parameters of ten colors and six door profiles. It’s that I glean what I need from the client in terms of style. Then I edit those options down to ones I feel are best suited to them. 
Technology has allowed most of us the ability to offer almost anything.

That doesn’t mean you should do that.

Lighted shelving

Sometimes the price points will be prohibitive for your client. Other times, the build is really beyond the scope of your team’s skill set. And sometimes it just confuses people.

I find it best to think of yourself as a curator.

You bring the experience to the table.

You guide the process. You don’t offer them the world.


I realize that sounds counter intuitive to a sales process, so here’s what I mean and how you can use this particular “no” as a way to establish your expertise.

Desk in a Closet

 When the client presents you with some – let’s say “imaginative” –  solution for their closet space that they’ve seen on TV or had a vision about in the middle of the night, don’t hesitate to own your “no” if you “know” it won’t work.

Listen closely. Jot down some notes. Ask them to sketch it out. Let them get their idea out of their head.

As you review the idea and run it through your own filters of experience, don’t hesitate to share your expertise and explain what the challenges are to functionality and structural integrity.

And go right for price if you think that will be a factor. Who wants to spend hours figuring something out that they don’t believe in, determine that it’s going to be super costly and present it to the client only to have them say “Whoa. That’s way too much.”

Do all you can to address the price issue before you ever put pencil to paper. It’s an enormous saver of time and energy. But more importantly, it adds to your “street cred” that you’ve designed a few closets in your career and know this is a solution that won’t fly.

For as long as this “tiny living” movement stays on trend, you need to be on your game to get the most out of the space your clients ask you to work within.

Tiny nooks and spaces show up all over a house and people want to really maximize each of them, but closets are still the predominant location where people need to get functional storage from every inch possible.

desk storage

Great storage in a built in desk.

Here’s a couple of guidelines to help you with creating storage and organization for these spaces:

Starting Thinking in Zones

And not end zones for football. Zones as areas for organized living.

Do you need a technology zone where devices are dropped, charged and stored?

Do you need a work zone where the laptop goes, there’s plenty of power and horizontal space for you to work with files and paperwork?

Is there a sports zone where the kids dump ALL equipment and toss their filthy bits into a basket?

Asking these questions and designing accordingly will be super helpful to your clients.

As you identify these, group your personal belongings accordingly and then incorporate visual cues like paint colors, floor rugs, even pieces of furniture spaced strategically to divide the zones into their appropriate areas.


Trick Your Eye Into Seeing More Space

Mirrors expand space

-Mirrors are a terrific and simple way to do this. They can be small or large. Wall mounted or sitting on tables. Singular or grouped together. You can place them on the wall at window height to create the illusion that there actually is a window in the spot. It expands the space. You can even put a large mirror on the wall next to the side of your bed so it looks like an entrance to another room.

-Hang curtain rods at ceiling height and hang curtains that are the full height regardless of where a window starts and stops. The vertical visual creates the illusion of bigger.

-Place your lighting strategically so your eye goes to different heights and locations in the space. You can do this by combining the use of floor lamps, table lamps and wall sconces.

You may not be the one doing the curtain hanging or lighting placement, but suggesting these ideas to your clients further establishes you as the expert and shows you’re really concerned with meeting the client’s needs.

Use Furniture That Multi-Functions

-A bench that also works as a table or tables that can be used as seating. Murphy (or Wall) beds are terrific space savers and the design options offered today are quite diverse. There’s actually a Wall Bed that also serves as a desk. It’s amazing. Here’s a link to a video if you’d like to see it in action:

Build In Storage At Every Opportunity

-Display space is nice, but not as important as storage when space is tight. Keep in mind that you can “go up”, meaning that you can use the walls as “vertical storage” with shelving or cabinetry.

-Using baskets and boxes helps keep things looking nice and stylish while still functional and increasing overall storage capacity.

Combining even a few of these tips into your living space, whether large or small, will help you feel better, find things more easily and live life more stylishly.

If you’d like more tips on designing effectively, you can download my five favorite closet design tips and those to your design toolbox.