Andrea Hall had a problem. A nice problem, but a problem, nevertheless. With 120 pairs of shoes to her name, she needed to organize them. Meanwhile, her husband, Sal Ferrara, didn't share her shine for shoes but did disdain disarray.
"He's a neat freak," says Hall. So, when they built their new house in Oak Brook earlier this year, closet systems were "very high on the list of priorities," she says.
The couple chose North Aurora-based The Tailored Closet to design systems for their closets, including his-and-her bedroom closets.
Hall and Ferrara wanted a built-in look, so they chose an ORG closet system, a recycled product that's one of the new green entries into the $3 billion-a-year closet-system industry. It includes shelf and drawer cases made of a composite wood with a veneer skin, but with solid-wood faces and trim. They stained their bedroom closet system to match bathroom cabinetry and their pantry system to match their kitchen cabinetry.
"Trimmed with baseboard and crown molding, it looks like built-in furniture," says Tailored Closet designer Brad Hite.
Except in the most modest of today's homes, closet systems are the norm now. Like hardwood floors and granite countertops, they have trickled down the amenity list from custom to semi-custom to production homes. At the same time, the market has exploded with new products to feed homeowners' ardor for order.
Most closet systems fall into one of these categories:
Wire. All the rage 20 years ago, this type has fallen to 11 percent of the market, according to a 2008 study by Closets magazine. But, it is the most affordable. In fact, do-it-yourselfers can buy parts at a home center and install it themselves.
Melamine. Thanks to a growing range of colors, this system, which consists of laminated boards, comprises 72 percent of the market now. Most homeowners choose white, but it is also available in other colors and wood grains.
Veneer. A step up the price ladder are veneer systems, meaning the cabinets and drawers have composite-wood insides but veneer fronts. These come pre-stained or unstained so you can match them to your floors or cabinetry.
ORG is among the eco-friendly hybrids that have recycled-wood insides that don't off-gas toxins, with veneer or solid-wood faces.
Solid wood. Wood purists can pay big bucks for all-wood systems. Basically, these are like all-wood, custom-built kitchen cabinets but without the backs.
Accessorize meFor neat freaks like Ferrara, today's closet-system showrooms are candy stores. Accessories include bins, baskets, tie and belt racks, drawer dividers, fold-down ironing boards, hampers, jewelry drawers and benches.
Extra-large bedroom closets now include packing islands for frequent flyers, espresso machines, televisions, refrigerators, washers and dryers, safes, hidden safe rooms (or "panic rooms") or docks for rechargeable electronics.
Beyond the bedroomAlthough the Wheaton-based Association of Closet & Storage Professionals (ACSP) says the master bedroom closet is usually the best-equipped closet in the house, closet systems have moved beyond the bunks. "It's not unusual for us to do every room in the house, reports Terry Levin from Heights Shelving Company in Bensenville.
Today's well-equipped house also has closet systems in the children's bedrooms, bathrooms, home office, media room, pantry, laundry room, mud room, hobby room, game room and garage.
Todd Wilkins of Orren Pickell Designers & Builders in Lincolnshire says closet systems have led to a room he calls the "family workshop." Serving as the family entrance from the garage, he says it is equipped to absorb the backpacks, coats, sports equipment and electronics that family members shed on their way in, then it becomes a combination homework/craft/hobby room.
Closet systems have gone beyond the home, say the designers. Hite says he is seeing more closet systems in campus student housing and in assisted-living centers.
Before hiring a closet-system designer, be prepared to bare your soul. By the time the installer arrives with tools in hand, he will know whether you hang or fold your pants, the extent of your signed baseball collection and how many pairs of shoes you really own. (Memo to Hall: 120 or more shoes is pretty common, say the pros.)
The bottom lineAlthough prices vary according to the number of accessories added, outfitting the closets in a four-bedroom, two-story house runs about $5,000 for wire, $10,000 for melamine, $15,000 for veneer and $30,000 or more for solid wood, says the ACSP.
Nancy Abraham says the approximately $5,000 she spent to have Forest Park-based Pure Organization outfit the closets plus storage locker at her Oak Park condominium "changed her life.""I've become so much more organized and I'm less stressed," says Abraham. Who cares about her stainless-steel appliances or her oversized balcony, she says. When her friends visit, they head straight for her closets.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times