My Crappy Advice: Designing One Closet Four Ways

Season 1 | Episode 3

I Hate My Closet, Part II

Previously on My Crappy Advice… Melissa hated her closet (I’m sure she still does. It’s only been a week…), I gave you a bunch of tips to help you design a closet that doesn’t suck (like Melissa’s does…), and then I left you in suspense. Closet suspense. (Was it really hard to focus this week, what with all of the anticipation? I bet it was.) This week, I’ll be designing one closet, four ways, in an effort to rescue Melissa from her crappy builder’s closet. Time to kick some closet ass…

Messy closet

Let’s refresh our memories, shall we? Here’s Melissa’s original note:

Dear Crappy,
I hate my closet! The builder did a crappy job installing these crappy shelves. They look okay, but they’re coming apart. I’d like to get rid of the dresser and put in some drawers and shelves on that side without blocking the access to the attic. I don’t have a lot to spend, so a custom build wouldn’t work for me.

While it’s a step up from the typical shelf and pole that most builders install, it’s a really small step. A baby step, if you will. You know, one of those wonky toddler steps that make the baby look drunk. A drunken baby step. That’s what this closet is.

Walk in closet bad installation

Drunken builder, maybe.

This (probably) drunken builder assembled a bunch of closet components, but neglected to use the proper hardware that creates a sturdy system. So, while the layout isn’t terrible, if you look closely, the installation is highly unstable. Melissa wasn’t exaggerating. It’s totally coming apart…

Bad closet installation

Closet systems that don’t suck are secured to walls and have strategically placed, fixed shelves to keep the unit square. Melissa’s closet appears to be held together with adjustable shelf pegs, hope, and this weird piece of wood…

Poorly built closet shelves

Melissa’s Closet Design

Alright. I think we’ve established that Melissa’s closet does, indeed, suck. Let’s move on to the design. This is what Melissa has now. Not bad…

Melissa's current closet floor plan But this is all of the available space she has to work with…

Floor plans of possible closet layouts

With these two possible configurations, it seems like this closet could be working a little harder for Melissa, am I right?

I’m right.

So, what are her options? She says she doesn’t have the budget for “custom”, but what does custom even mean? Unless she can find a closet system that’s already sized perfectly for her space (she definitely can’t), it’ll have to be custom. What kind of custom is the real question.

What Kind of Custom?

Custom Built-In

The first kind of custom is the kind where you buy wood from the lumberyard and use your tools to construct the closet of your dreams. And if you don’t know wtf you’re doing with the wood from the lumberyard and you have no tools, you hire a carpenter to build it for you.

This is not a cheap option. Carpenters are expensive. (I don’t know about you, but rainy days and Mondays and ridiculously expensive closets always get me down.)

This option is not for you, Melissa. But don’t be sad. We’ve only just begun to explore your options…

Custom Closet Company

The second kind of custom is to use a closet company. My dressing room is a good example.

green and pink dressing room

There are, like, twenty closet companies in every town in North America (so says the Global Agency of Fictitious Information and Statistics…) None of them are cheap, but most of them will make you a really nice closet that fits your space perfectly (if not your budget). This option might not be for Melissa, but let’s check it out anyway.

(You can click on the image below to actually go inside Melissa’s closet! Go ahead and poke around. I’m sure she won’t mind.)

Floor plan of custom closet

A custom system like this really does utilize every inch of space. It’s totally adjustable, both when you’re in the design phase and even after it’s installed. If you make sections the same width, then it’s easy to swap out shelves and poles. Remember how I changed this whole section of my closet when Schmoopy moved in?

Dressing Room_Before and After Double Hang_1000px

Now is when you’re probably expecting me to tell you the price, but I’m going to save that for later on in this post. Don’t be mad. I just want to be sure you stay motivated to keep reading. It’s working, right?

Yeah, it is…


This next design utilizes everybody’s favorite flat pack furniture company: IKEA. Now, I realize that not everyone has an IKEA nearby, but I checked with Melissa and she does, so I’m including this option for her, because this post is all about Melissa.

(And also about me.)

(Mostly me.)

This design utilizes the AURDAL System.

As of this writing, it comes in two colors; white and dark gray. If it were my closet, you guys know I’d do gray and moody, but let’s assume Melissa is a happy person who likes things light and bright.

Floor plan of closet using IKEA Aurdal system

It’s quite nice, really (with four banks of drawers!), but there are no shelves in the hanging sections, which reduces the storage capacity by a bit. Still, this is a great option for those on a budget. (Patience, grasshopper. Pricing is later…)

A Wire System

Up next is a system that often gets a bad rap, but it’s affordable and that’s what we’re trying to do here for my friend, Melissa. I’m talking about a wire system. If installed properly, these kits can be a great, budget-friendly option. In fact, you may remember I used a wire kit for my BFF’s closet makeover and it came out awesome.

Walk in closet with shelves and wire system

I designed this closet for Melissa by combining two 10 Ft Rubbermaid FastTrack kits.

Floor plan of closet using Rubbermaid FastTrack wire system

Assuming you’re not one of those people who hates wire, this is a really great, affordable option. All of the shelving is totally adjustable and you can even cut the pieces to fully customize it to your space.

The only downside to these wire kits is that drawers are not readily available. Believe me, I looked. I mean, they must exist — they’re shown on Rubbermaid’s website, but no retailer seems to carry them so that you can actually buy them. That’s why I used two of these chests instead. Who says the drawers need to be integrated into a system? You can totally design your closet around pieces of furniture.

Melissa actually already knows this. She’s using David Hasselhoff’s old chest of drawers in her closet right now.

Chest of drawers in closet


I tried to find an option that was truly economy, and yet functional. Something that wasn’t fancy, but would get the job done. A no-nonsense way to solve the problem. Like, the ‘duct tape’ of closets. What I came up with was this tower kit by ClosetMaid

Along with wall standards, brackets, melamine shelving, and two chests of drawers…

Floor plan of closet using economy solution closet maid tower kit

Did you notice I put “economy” in quotes? Let’s just say this is not the duct tape of closets.

I used the MALM chest of drawers by IKEA in my rendering, but you could use any furniture. The truth is, if you’re able to use the MALM, then that means you have an IKEA nearby and, as you’ll see in a minute, you’d be crazy to not choose IKEA over this “economy” set up.

What About Prom Price?

Yeah, Blane. What about price?

If you’re like me (and Andie from Pretty in Pink), (kinda poor), then cost is a huge factor in making decisions like this. Money is the main reason I DIY as much as I do. I just can’t afford to pay contractors. (And, I do a better job anyway, so, there’s that…) Here’s the truth about what these closets cost.

The Custom Built-In

I can’t even give you an estimate on the custom built-in option by a carpenter. It could cost ten thousand dollars, for all we know. If you’re a “richie”, feel free to explore that option. Blane probably has a custom built-in.

The Custom Closet Company

Rendering of custom closet

Here’s where things get a little bit interesting. As I mentioned in my last post, I used to work for a custom closet company, and based upon my professional experience, I would estimate that this configuration would probably run you about six thousand dollars or so. However, I stumbled upon a pretty great option while researching for this post.

*** We interrupt this blog post to bring you the following message***

I’m about to say a bunch of nice things about a company called While they have not sponsored this post, I am now a part of their affiliate program, which means the links in the following section will take you to their website and, if you make a purchase within 90 days, I will get a small commission for the referral. This will not increase the cost for you. See my full disclosure regarding affiliate links here. I’m very excited to be a part of their program!

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post…

So, I discovered this company online called that does the same thing the local closet companies do, but for a whole lot less. By eliminating the on-site designer and the installer, you can save quite a bit of money on a custom closet. They have this awesome design tool that’s so easy to use (that updates the price as you design, so you know how much you’re spending!) and they even offer financing.

Go ahead and click on this image to get a closer look…

With, the closet I designed for Melissa is about $4,100 USD. That’s for a 96 inch high, floor mounted system (which is totally overkill.) If you were to choose a wall mounted system, hung at 84 inches (which makes much more sense), that price drops to $3,100 USD and you get the same exact functionality. (There’s no need to go to the ceiling. The top of a seven foot high system becomes your top shelf.)

So, maybe a custom closet isn’t out of reach after all?

Or, maybe it still is. I mean, three thousand bucks isn’t a small amount. Let’s look at our other options.


Rendering of IKEA AURDAL closet

Like, IKEA also has their own design tool for the AURDAL System, which I used to design Melissa’s closet. Unlike, you have to design each wall individually, but that’s only a minor inconvenience.

AURDAL IKEA closet layout

The AURDAL system I designed for Melissa comes in at just $670 USD, which is a great price for having so many drawers. (Drawers tend to drive the cost of a closet way up.) While it doesn’t quite utilize her entire closet space, it’s got a nice minimalistic look (if you’re into that sort of thing) and it’s a great option if you’re on a budget.

The Wire System

Rendering of Rubbermaid FastTrack closet system

For this wire system, I used two 10 ft Rubbermaid FastTrack kits at $160 each. I also used two of these chests to give Melissa some drawers, which cost $146 each, for a grand total of $612. If you’ve got furniture you can use in your closet already, you could save a whole lot by going this route. The closet itself costs just $320. It’s definitely worth considering, if you don’t suffer from that aversion to wire shelving I mentioned earlier.

The Economy Closet

Rendering of closet using closetmaid tower kit

Melissa, I reeeeally tried to find you a dirt cheap option to redo your closet. I thought I could piece something together that would be even less than the wire, but the fact is, closets are freaking expensive! There’s no getting around it. People always say, “you get what you pay for”, but I don’t think that’s true at all in this case. Wait’ll you see what this all added up to…

Economy, my ass. That’s a grand total of $905.50 USD. Even if you take out the furniture, you’re still looking at nearly six hundred bucks! Remember, the IKEA option (with four drawer banks) only cost $670, and it wasn’t all piecemeal like I’ve done here.

Let this be a lesson to you: Crap adds up! If you really want economy, then the wire system is the clear winner in that department.

The Bottom Line

Melissa! What do you think? Did I hook you up, or what? As promised, I have designed this one closet, four ways. With all of these options and price points, I feel like you are now more than ready to kick some closet ass! As you’re making your decision, I just want to leave you with one final thought:

The skeletons don’t care what your closet looks like or how much you spend, as long as they’re comfortable.

Bonus Material

You know, that really felt like a good place to end this post, and yet… I’m still writing! Not only have I brought you a two part episode of My Crappy Advice, but it seems that I’m even including bonus material! Seriously, does anyone else in your life work this hard to make you happy?

Geeze, I hope so…

Anyway, let’s talk about accessories! You could go nuts tricking out a closet, but there are two things that I have in my own closet that I want to recommend. The first is flocked hangers. I love having all of my hangers match in my closet, and the skinny, flocked ones are my favorite because they let you squeeze in so much and nothing slips off of them. Because they’re flocked. (What the flock?)

Closeup of hanging clothes in closet

People think wooden hangers are sooo luxurious, but honestly, they’re not very practical. They’re bulky, heavy, slippery and excessive. (Kinda like my Uncle Vito.) I don’t know why anyone likes them.

(Kinda like my Uncle Vito…)

The second thing I love is my valet rod. I actually have two of them.

Valet rods in a walk-in closet

I hang jewelry and purses on mine, but you could use yours to hold things like your dry cleaning before you put it away or maybe the clothes you just ironed that you want to wear someplace fancy or to hang up the outfit you chose for your husband to wear out with you because he makes unfortunate clothing choices and can’t be trusted to dress himself in clothes that match.

One thing I don’t use, but you might like are shelf dividers. These just clip on the edge of your shelves to help you keep your piles neat. They’re like training wheels for people who are new to storing their folded clothes on shelves. If you just learned in my last post what your drawers are really for, that could be you!

The End (For Real)

Guys, what did you think of this double episode of My Crappy Advice? Was it worth coming back for part two? (Duh. Of course it was.) How lucky is Melissa to get two whole posts dedicated to her crappy closet? It’s like she won the crappy advice lottery!

So, what do you think she should do? OMG! It’s been so long since we did a pointless poll!



Thanks for helping Melissa to make her decision. I’m sure she appreciates your input.

If you’ve got your own design dilemma you’re struggling with, maybe I can help. Click here for submission info. And if you’re digging this series, you can find all of the episodes right here.

And that’s a wrap! Roll the credits…

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  • Melissa (the closet girl)

    Wow!!!! This is the most amazing post and all I can say is THANK YOU!! I have been waiting for this post all morning, counting down the minutes and I LOVE all the options!!! I really do like the $3100 option the best and the IKEA is awesome too. I am one of those people who hate wire but I’m not opposed to that either because it does look nice. So many choices! I will run this by my Schmoopy (who I am currently calling fluffy because his hair is so long) and when we decide and when it is done I will send you some photos!! Thank you for your wonderful post and wonderful advice!

    • My Crappy House

      I’m so happy I could help! The custom closet is, of course, my favorite option (if it’s in the budget, of course), but seeing the IKEA and wire options just goes to show you that you really can have a nice looking, functional closet without spending a fortune. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

  • Joan

    Using IKEA or another closet system is something that Melissa could do to get the most important, useful stuff right away (before her current system collapses in a heap on the floor due to how badly it was built) and keep with a budget, but add on as finanaces permit. So, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing option. If she likes the furniture option for drawers, check to see if there’s a local ReStore around and she might find some dressers in a better style that will fit her closet and needs for much less than getting something brand new (though, my local ReStores do get new furniture in, as well, at a discounted price). She really needs to just choose the best plan for the space and go with what her finances will allow.

    • My Crappy House

      Good point! It doesn’t have to all get done at once. I’m proof of that with my entire crappy house. I only do things as I can afford them. This way, I get what I want (eventually…), but I don’t go into debt for it.

  • em

    Damn…this is like getting to have lunch with Angelina Jolie, then coming home only to be greeted by…me.

    I want the Angelina Jolie closet, not the crappy Em closet that i was reasonably okay with before reading your extremely well thought out and yet still hilarious post.

    I AM going to start with new hangars! You’ve inspired me to ditch the mish mosh hangars from the cleaners. Gotta start somewhere!

    • My Crappy House

      Oh, no! I’m so sorry I’ve exposed your closet for its crappiness… Hangers are an excellent start! You’ll be SHOCKED with, not only how much room you make with the skinny hangers, but how much better everything will look. NO MORE WIRE HANGERS!

  • Wilma

    I’d looooooove a follow up (if Melissa is up for it) where we get to see the finished closet! This is truly a great post–incredibly thorough and well thought out. Kudos.

    • My Crappy House

      Melissa has agreed to share whatever she ends up doing with me and I will definitely share the result with all of you! I wonder what she will choose…

  • Marilyn

    THIS was above and beyond EVERYTHING you have posted before! WOW for sure! I wish I had the space and the clothes to do something like this, but I was thinking maybe I can take some of these ideas and use a single wall to build one of these units in my CRAFT ROOM! My head is spinning with ideas. I need shelves and draws and maybe a couple of bars that can “lift or swing open” for items like spools of ribbon of double sided tape rolls?..RIGHT?! Hmmmmmm, you have me thinking. Right now I have a wall of STACKED CRATES from Michaels on one wall. A HUGE THANK YOU for giving me something to think about! Much LOVE, Marilyn

    • My Crappy House

      Yay! I’m so glad you liked it! None of these options need to be inside a closet. You can totally install something onto an open wall in any room. Customized storage would be great for your crafting supplies. Let me know if you need any help

  • Danielle D Sechrest

    Post is great! You should consider Elfa from the Container Store though. Especially, for those of us that don’t want to do the install . They have sales on the closet material and install all the time!!!

    • My Crappy House

      Thanks! I did check out the Elfa system and, while it looks great, I found it to be really expensive for what it is, so I chose not to include it in this post. However, your comment has inspired me to do a little comparison so we can see how it stacks up…

      Elfa does not go to the ceiling, so I used the EasyClosets, less expensive version from my post in order to do a fair comparison. Both systems are hung from the wall at about 84 inches. I used The Container Store’s design tool to recreate the same layout as the EasyClosets version. Their tool wouldn’t let me add a section next to the door, so I couldn’t match them exactly, but I priced for solid shelves in white with drawer faces and basic knobs. I matched as many features as I could. While the EasyClosets system was $3,100, the Elfa closet came in at $4,500! If I were to add in that missing section, I’d guess that Elfa would increase by at least a couple hundred dollars. I don’t know if they install for free, but I suspect not, so add in more money for that.

      If you’re willing to spend that much money, then I truly think the custom closet is the better choice. With such a significant savings, you can hire a handyman to install it. Having installed that kind of closet myself, I can tell you that any handy person can do it.

      Now, you mentioned that they have sales, but even if they had a sale that made them the same cost, I’d still choose the custom closet company because I like the solid melamine construction and the adjustability with shelf pegs. The Elfa is installed on wall standards with brackets, similar to the Rubbermaid kits. Not that that’s bad! I just feel, if I’m paying that much money, I want something solid. I love the way my closet is built. It feels more like furniture, you know?

      Anyway, I hope this helped. I was curious myself! Now we know

  • Bethany

    I’ve always wanted the opportunity to ask a closet specialist about the quality of materials. Specifically, the faced MDF products such as offered by Ikea and companies like California Closets. Don’t their shelves and drawer bottoms eventually sag? Bc they’re not glued and nailed together, don’t their joints eventually gap? And, finally, don’t they delaminate, aka the white facings pull away from the MDF underneath? I will admit that the last time I used such pieces was probably 30 yrs ago so perhaps they’ve mightily improved? I’d appreciate any insight you’re willing to share. Meanwhile, i intend to browse your site. Thank you!

    • My Crappy House

      Welcome! When I first started working for the closet company years ago, I was disappointed that they only offered MDF because I thought it was junk. I’ve always felt that solid wood is better, but for closets, laminate is actually a smarter choice. It’s easier to keep clean and does not warp, as long as the closet is designed properly. Shelving sections shouldn’t be more than about three feet wide or they will bow, but otherwise they hold up really well. Part of my closet is about fifteen years old and the other part is ten. (I repurposed the reach in that I had in my old apartment for the walk in that I now have in this house and added more to it.) None of my drawers have warped and nothing has delaminated (though, I’m sure there are differing qualities of the actual laminate used, so do look at reviews of what you intend to purchase.) MDF still has a stigma for me, as I wouldn’t consider it for my kitchen (even though I know some high end homes have used IKEA), but for closets, I definitely do recommend it. I hope that helps!

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