Space-savvy strategies, organizational systems, and repurposed furnishings make small walk-in closets function at full capacity.

By Ann Wilson and Jessica Bennett
Updated October 01, 2020
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Small walk-in closets work best when thoughtful design plans are put into play. Devise a purposeful small closet design by first eliminating items you don't need. Then take an inventory of what's left and consider how remaining items can be grouped to optimize available closet space. Finally, do a little research to come up with racks, rods, shelves, bins, and DIY storage solutions that you can use to neatly organize your small walk-in wardrobe. These clever spaces showcase imaginative small walk-in closet design ideas, custom features, efficient layouts, and closet organization tips. Use these ideas to help you design your own small walk-in closet plan.

Credit: Marty Baldwin

1. Use Various Types of Closet Storage

The key to a successful small walk-in closet is to utilize a variety of storage types. Apart from the usual hanging rods, consider using open cubbies, basket, plastic bins, and cabinet storage units to store different types of clothing and accessories. As a general rule, most clothing, shoes, and extras like purses can be stored out in the open to make outfit planning easier. Plan to store smaller folded garments, accessories, and other miscellaneous items inside closed storage solutions to avoid a cluttered look.

Credit: Seth Smoot

2. Design a Small Walk-In Closet with Style

Small walk-in closets provide a lot of storage within tight quarters, but that doesn't mean they can't also be stylish. A beautiful chandelier, for example, can work wonders for turning a dark closet into a bright and inviting dressing area. Consider covering the walls or door with patterned wallpaper and add accents like an ornately framed mirror.

Credit: Brie Williams

3. Maximize Every Inch of a Small Walk-In Closet

Sort, stow, and organize a walk-in closet in ways that reflect your personal style. This small walk-in closet lives large thanks to clever and colorful small closet organizing ideas. Racks, shelves, baskets, and storage boxes puzzle together to supply holding areas for folded, hanging, sorted, and hidden items. The doors sport glass panels and cut-glass knobs for a touch of elegance. Lidded boxes in bright solid colors and patterns add pops of color throughout.

Credit: Marty Baldwin

4. Reconsider Your Small Closet Layout

A customized small walk-in closet layout amplifies usable space. Placed in the center of the closet, this tall, narrow dresser holds a multitude of drawers for holding folded garments, accessories, and other miscellaneous items. Homeowners strategically spaced sets of hanging rods to accommodate longer shirts and dresses as well as folded slacks. A mirror and pendant light above the dresser provides a spot to try on jewelry and accessories. Leaving the floor clear allows space to step inside the closet if needed.

Credit: Jay Wilde

5. Use Open Storage for Easy Access

Walk-in closet organization is essential to a streamlined routine. It's important to give every single item a proper, reachable place when organizing a small walk-in closet. You can't beat shelves for keeping folded items neatly stored and within view, which helps you quickly put things away and easily pull together an outfit. In this well-organized closet, double rods, hanging drawers, and a floor-set shoe rack work with a wall of cubbies to house a man's wardrobe. Labeled bins align on a shelf above the hanging rods to hold out-of-season clothing and sports gear.

Credit: Dean Schoeppner

6. Divide a Small Walk-In Closet into Zones

Employ furniture to raise a partition that brings extra utility to a small walk-in closet design. Acting as a room divider, this bookcase handily holds shoes and divvies up space to create a separate dressing area. Positioned beneath the mirror, a bench seat with a lift-up top provides extra storage as well as a spot for putting on and taking off shoes. Bins on the wall opposite the bookcase keep purses and totes where they can be seen and easily grabbed as the homeowner dashes out the door.

Credit: Anthony Masterson

7. Add Storage with Creative DIYs

Traditional built-in shelves and drawers offer convenient storage inside a small walk-in closet space, but a DIY hanging rack crafted of plumbing pipes makes a cool storage statement. This clever closet storage idea allows the homeowner to hang freshly ironed shirts in a manner that keeps them wrinkle-free. Hooks hung on the lower bar do the same for pairs of favorite pants.

Credit: Kimberly Gavin

8. Design a Closet Around Existing Features

Don't let slanted ceilings deter your plans for a highly functioning small walk-in wardrobe. This design makes the most of a closet's wall space. Installed where the ceiling meets the half-wall, two rods set perpendicular to one another store shorter clothes, such as shirts, pants, and tunics. A rod mounted high on the taller wall holds dresses above a multitier shoe rack. Shelves crowning all the hanging rods provide storage for clutches and purses.

Credit: Kimberly Gavin

9. Expand a Small Walk-In Closet

The walk-in closet above works well as stand-alone storage, but pair it with an adjacent dressing area and you've got an all-inclusive wardrobe warehouse. These space-smart homeowners outfitted a secondary shallow closet space with a custom-built dresser that provides caches for lingerie, gym clothes, and socks. Accessories rest atop the dresser and an adjacent shelf. A sliding barn door furthers the bedroom's modern farmhouse look.

Credit: John Bessler

10. Use Furniture Inside a Small Walk-In Closet

It makes sense to tuck a dresser or small wardrobe inside a walk-in closet. The pieces provide plentiful storage, both inside drawers and on top. This small walk-in closet design incorporates a chest of drawers within a built-in framework that houses glass shelves (a reflective choice that keeps light bouncing about to brighten dark closets) and two hanging compartments. A single rod for hanging dresses equips the rear compartment. Double rods in the other compartment hold blouses and jackets. Shelves rise to the ceiling to stow all sorts of extraneous clothing and rarely used items. A clear vessel sitting atop the dresser corrals colorful scarves.

Credit: Dustin Peck

11. Try a Custom Small Closet System

Whenever budget allows, outfit small walk-in closets with custom-fitted furnishings. These pieces make small spaces work as hard as they possibly can. This homeowner created bounteous storage for his wardrobe along two adjacent walls in his deeper-than-wide closet. The dresser houses drawers sized to hold all sorts of clothing items; shelves above support getting-ready supplies and accessories. Adjustable shelves on the side of the corner closet hold folded items such as sweaters.

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