Tag Archives: custom closet design

Three Keys to Award Winning Design
Posted by:Denise Butchko,


I’m one of those freaks that actually does a digital dance (meaning I share online) when I find great design.

Great design inspires me.

It also motivates me to do better work.

And as a NEOCON addict, KBIS presenter and judge for the Top Shelf Design Awards as well as blogger-extraordinaire, I get to experience a lot of great design (thank heaven!).

So what does it take to create award-winning designs?

Three Things:

  1. Passion. Michael Jordan didn’t title his book “For the Love of the Game” just for fun. And he didn’t win five national championships “just for fun” either. A passion for the game you’re playing (in this case – design) is a key factor. If you just enjoy selling closets or cabinets you will do well, but you’re not likely to carry the title of “award-winning designer”.
  2. Space Planning. You need to have (and continue to learn) space planning expertise. Whether that space is in the kitchen, the home office or the bedroom closet, the better you are at planning that space for functionality and beauty, the better the results.
  3. Cooperative Clients. Stop moaning. They’re out there. And they’ve been waiting for you to show up with your creative genius to translate their drab space into dream space. If you communicate clearly from the beginning, you can determine which clients fall into the “cooperative” category and take their project to new heights.

What I mean by this is not just that your client is polite and answers your questions and pays you on time. What I mean by this version of “cooperative” is that they’re open to designing beyond the box. They’re open to accessories, color, embellishments, and add-ons that make their space not only more functional, but more beautiful.


I’m Denise Butchko, an award-winning design consultant who teaches closet design and who also works with companies in the design/build industries to leverage their brand and marketing efforts. If you’d like a free sampling of some tips and insights, register here:



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How To Become A Closet Designer
Posted by:Denise Butchko,

How To Become A Closet Designer


Closet design is a really fun and fascinating career. One that most people aren’t aware of as an option, nor are they aware that you can make great money designing and selling closets.

white walk in closet
White Walk In Custom Closet


It’s a field that has roots in California, with Neil Balter and Eric Marshall creating and installing the first “Double Hang”, “Long Hang” and “Shoe Shelf” systems for what is now California Closets.


Yet it still has elements of a cottage industry. Eighty percent of closet companies in the US are small businesses that have revenues under a million dollars a year. Some manufacture and install their own components. Others buy from distributors and install.


But when it comes to the “design” part of closets – it’s a very left brain AND right brain discipline.


The left brain involves the measuring, math and space planning, along with the sense of how structure will fit into tight space and be able to function properly. And have structural integrity. There always has to be structural integrity.


The right brain is the connection to clients in one of the most intimate environments in the home – the bedroom closet. You have to develop trust, a great rapport, ask great questions, understand design and be able to convey that to a client. Woosh.


So what are your options if you’re somehow led to a career in closet design?

What skills do you need?

How can you become successful?




Let’s start with your options

You can approach a large closet company like California Closets or Closet Factory who has a local franchise/dealership in your market. Companies this size often have in-house training programs.

Should you go through the interview process and get a job offer, they will set up and coordinate training for you. They often have a sales/design/installation manual and will also set you up to shadow other design team members on sales calls. Some provide a mentor from the design team for a certain amount of time who you can access with questions.


A second option is to approach a smaller local company to see if they’d be interested in adding a member to their closet design and sales team.


These companies tend to have less formal training. You’ll likely work alongside the owner, who will be pretty hands-on in teaching you their systems, design solution preferences and sales procedures.

Lighted Jewelry Drawers
Lighted Jewelry Drawers


With any luck, they’ve got at least some kind of design and procedure manual that you can start with. If not, consider enrolling in Closet Design 101 – https://butchkoandcompany.lpages.co/new-closet-design-101/


Left Brain/Right Brain Closet Design


The analytical side of your brain is as important as the emotional side of your brain when you’re a closet designer.


Accurate measurements are a key to success. And you need to be able to measure very wide and very high spaces as well as all kinds of obstacles, including steam units, access panels, wall outlets and all kinds of other things that builders tend to put into closet space.


You also need an awareness of what will be involved to get the job installed. Things like will the materials fit into the building elevator or is special cutting or drilling required? They all affect price and customer satisfaction.


The more emotional, right brain side of you will need to be comfortable with discussing a range of things like where people put their underwear to how to incorporate the latest design trends into a closet space.


Sell! Sell! Sell!


The love of consultative selling is a big part of being a closet designer. The job involves much more than just figuring out an effectively designed space.


You need to be comfortable with communicating the benefits of this home improvement, which involves project pricing (more than one reach in closet) that typically starts at $1500 and quickly rises from there.


And it’s a predominantly commission-based career. Designers receive a percentage of the job totals that they sell. Averages are around 10%, but can include bonuses for high monthly sales or bringing in your own customers.


Most average closet designers end up with annual compensation in the $30,000 – $40,000 range in smaller markets. Higher in place like Chicago if they’re any good. Yet it’s not unusual to build a client base over time that brings in over $100,000 per year. To reach that level you need time, consistency and the ability to ask, ask, ask.



Angled Shoe Shelves
Angled Shoe Shelves

Getting a handle on well-designed closet space is not as quick of a learning curve as it used to be. It’s become much more complex in the last decade as awareness has increased (thank you Modern Family and Kardashian Family) as has the technology to create better looking materials and accessories.


And requests from clients for custom things also continues to rise. My advice on this is to develop your expertise and don’t over promise. As you learn more and more, you’ll begin to understand what’s involved in custom requests.  And you’ll start to see why they can quickly cost more than their return on the investment (or more than the client wants to invest in the project).


Anyone with melamine and a drill can install “custom closets”. My goal is to elevate the professionalism in this industry so we’re all creating effectively designed, functional and beautiful closet spaces. I invite you to join me. You can start here by getting my five favorite closet design tips – https://butchkoandcompany.lpages.co/5-closet-design-tips/

Denise Butchko is a festive, design focused practitioner and teacher who works within the Design/Build niche’.As a collaborator with designers and architects, she merges design skills (designing closets and home offices) and marketing skills, for messaging and methodologies that are laser focused. Find out more at denisebutchko.com


To find out more about closet design training – here’s some additional info on that:



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Whether you’re a closet design veteran or this is a new venture for you, one of your goals is certainly creating profitable sales.

Guess what? Well designed closets = profitable sales.

As a professionally certified closet designer and author of two closet design books, I can assure you that selling closets that are well designed not only have the highest ratio for closing, but are the most profitable. And while custom closets CAN be complex, they don’t have to be.

 Incorporate my five favorite design tips and watch your numbers increase



#1-Just Say No to Shelves Below

The closet consultation conversation often begins with the client saying:

“And I’d like some shelves for my shoes on the bottom” (meaning near the floor underneath their hanging clothes).

Just because putting shoes on the floor is a familiar practice doesn’t mean it’s the best practice for efficient and organized closet design.

And just because other closet companies advertise their products that way that does not mean it’s a best practice.

Typical hanging garments average 24” in depth. That means when they are hanging on a hanger inside your closet, they occupy about two feet of space from front to back. Shoes occupy less than half that amount of space and fit easily on a shelf that’s 12″ deep.

Putting shoe shelves below hanging garments means the garments block the view of the shoes because they hang out past the shoe shelves.

Best practice in the closet industry is to bring those shoes into the light. So, not shelves BELOW hanging, but shelves ABOVE hanging. 


#2-Deep or Shallow

We’re not talking about your personality here – we’re talking about the shelves in your closets and storage spaces.

When people show me closet spaces – they often feel compelled to “use every inch”.  So whether the closet is 24” deep (standard depth for a reach-in closet) or 38” deep (space left over that a builder turns into a closet), they want shelves that are as deep as the closet itself.

Bad idea.

Extremely deep shelving is not only more expensive, but it creates what I refer to as “the big,black hole”.

If you want to remember it with a rhyme – deep shelving “increases cost and things get lost”.

Here a couple rules of thumb:

  • -The deeper the shelf – the farther apart the shelves should be spaced.
  • -Small items work best on shallow shelves. An ultimate luxury is being able to see every item that’s on your shelves. So if we’re talking about  pantries, let’s avoid having 7 cans of tomato soup (with expiration dates from 2010) hidden behind today’s juice box purchases. Think: open door –look at shelf – find needed item – grab and go. Closets aren’t gardens – we don’t want digging.
  • -Larger items can work on deeper shelves – things like pillows and blankets or furniture cushions. But be aware – the deeper the shelf – the greater the propensity for the client to overload the shelf. The added weight could be a service call waiting to happen – so reinforce any shelving you install that’s deeper than 16”.



#3 -Shoe Shelves- Angled, Flat or Cubbies?

Since shoes are so important, we’re going to address some additional storage options for keeping them accessible and beautiful.

Lots of people see – and then want – angled shoe shelves.

I can see why.

They’re pretty. They also allow you to see more of  shoes at a glance, which is a plus.

The counter sides to pretty are:

  • -Angled shoe shelves are more expensive than flat, adjustable shelves
  • -Angled shoe shelves take up more space than flat, adjustable shelving
  • -Angled shoe shelves can pretty much just be used for shoes – and perhaps magazines – and who stores magazines in their closet? (If you do –I do NOT want to hear about that!)

So in order to maximize every inch, I recommend flat, adjustable shelving.





#5-Even More About Shoe Storage 

Shoe storage – and the location of shoe storage – is always at the top of a client’s list when it comes to designing their closet space.

So here’s what I recommend after figuring out where to store over 5000 pair of shoes during my career as a closet designer:

While it’s true that we (women) may decide on the shoes we want to wear and then build our outfit around that, the shoes are typically the last clothing item we put on.

So I design from the perspective of last on – first off (because shoe’s are typically the first item of clothing we remove when we get home).

That translates to having some shoe storage close to the entrance of a closet space. We want it to be easy to put those shoes back where they belong (instead of flicking them off on the floor and having them be in the way).

If it’s a mudroom that serves as the “landing space” for your shoes, incorporate shelving in that space. Shallow shelving. Twelve or fourteen inches deep max.


#5 – Lone Star Long Hang

Most people need at least a little – long hang that is.

Yet when space is tight and every inch counts –it’s often best to take the long hang out of the primary closet and store it somewhere else. Especially if the client’s personal style is to not wear dresses very often.

This is where the 80/20 rule comes into play.

The primary closet should store most of the clothing (hopefully 80% of the garments).

If the main closet is the only closet, that’s one thing. But if there’s another closet, perhaps in a guest room, put the long hang there.

This is important for the following reasons:

-The more sections a closet is divided into, the more expensive it becomes and sometimes the more difficult it is to access items.

-Designing a small section that’s – say 18” wide– into a corner makes it very difficult to access.

-You’ll get more ROI capacity by using Double Hang instead of  Long Hang.

In case you’re not familiar with the 80/20 rule (the Pareto principle) –  we wear about 20% of our clothing 80% of the time.

Think about it for a minute.

How often do you end up walking out the door in your “go to” favorites?

Even if you think you want to wear a different outfit – the favorites win time and again.


If you’re interested in even more closet design insights, you can find them here:

How To Design a Walk In Closet


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