Creating an Open Closet System

DIY open closet system- for those with tiny bedroom closets!When my husband and I purchased our small ranch home, we knew the bedroom closet wasn't big enough for the both of us. So instead of having a showdown at high noon, or doing something even crazier like becoming a wardrobe minimalist, I decided to implement an open closet system onto one of the bedroom walls. What really happened, though, was that we lived with a hodge-podge bedroom for three years, making us feel like we were actually sleeping in a messy closet each night. Not exactly relaxing at the end of the day.

This January I felt super motivated to start fresh on the opposite side of the room with a neater attempt at creating a nice looking closet system. We also finally changed up the light green walls that came with the house for a calmer color scheme to help make our bedroom a more enjoyable place to relax.

DIY open closet system- for those with tiny bedroom closets!Check out how I went about installing and organizing the closet system below!

DIY open closet system- for those with tiny bedroom closets!Step One: Decide where to place the closet system. I originally had mine on a wall with no windows, which didn't end up working well for our room's arrangement. The reason I had decided to place it there was because it gave me more space for my clothes. But recently I decided to downsize my wardrobe and move the closet system to the opposite wall, incorporating my husband's dresser and space for the window into the arrangement.

DIY open closet system- for those with tiny bedroom closets!Step Two: Determine the height for your top shelf by deciding what's important for your shelf spacing.

Option One: Do you have objects you plan to place on the top shelf? If so, use those to space the top shelf brackets from the ceiling. (Be sure to leave a little bit of breathing room!) Or if you are planning to hang dresses, be sure your longer dresses don't drag on the floor. If you have maxi dresses, I recommend making the lower row of clothes shorter than the top row, so long dresses can be hung on the top rod and hang down alongside the clothes on the bottom rod.

Option Two: If you don't have any specific items you plan to place on the top shelf, then grab a hanger and see what your comfortable reach is. Mark your bracket screw holes where you are comfortable reaching, and move onto hanging the brackets.

DIY open closet system- for those with tiny bedroom closets!Step Three: Align your bracket marks with the studs in your wall. Your wall studs will be approximately 16" from the corner of the wall, or evenly spaced 16" apart from each other. Use a stud finder to be sure you're drilling into a stud. You must fasten the shelf brackets into a stud or their will not be stable. The last thing you want is for your entire closet system to come tumbling down in the middle of a peaceful night's sleep!

Tip: Use a level to make sure each bracket's drill holes are spaced perfectly level with each other.

Step Four: Drill into the marks you made with pilot holes a bit smaller than the size of your screws. (Don't worry, I was only posing for the above photo after I had drilled the holes. Baby wanted held, so baby was held for the posing of this picture! No drywall dust fell on this angel face, but this is a pretty realistic look into how I manage to get a lot of things done with a baby!)

DIY open closet system- for those with tiny bedroom closets!
Step Five: Screw the brackets into place, making sure to only tighten the screws once you've made sure the brackets are level with each other. (You can do this by placing a shelf with a level on top of them.)

Step Six: Trim the rods to fit your allotted space using a pipe cutter. I used aluminum conduits for my rods because they were less expensive than the chrome ones at the store. Twist the (black) end of a pipe cutter as you circle it around the circumference of the pipe, making the blade go deeper into the pipe with each round until the pipe is cut.

At this time, you can cut your shelf boards to the same size as your pipes, or note their lengths to have them cut at the hardware store where you plan to purchase the shelving material. My shelves are standard laminate coated particle board, which is inexpensive and perfectly suited for closet shelving.

DIY open closet system- for those with tiny bedroom closets!Step Seven: I used iron-on banding to finish off the cut edges of my shelves. Super simple, and no trimming needed, since the banding came in the same width as my laminate shelves.

Repeat this entire process with as many closet sections as you need or have the wall space to accommodate. I did one section on either side of my window. Heyβ€”the racks of clothes are like added insulation, right?

DIY open closet system- for those with tiny bedroom closets!Step Eight: Fill the rods and shelves with your clothes and storage accessories. I used white baskets to store items that aren't hung, such as purses, scarves, and other less frequently used items up top, and gym clothes and knits down lower for easy access. It's important for me that this system looks nice, so I used the same style of basket for a neat, organized appearance.

DIY open closet system- for those with tiny bedroom closets!Here you can see a bit how small our bedroom is, with the bed in the photo. The doorway off to the right is my husband, Phil's, closet. I'll share more about what space-saving ideas I used on the opposite wall in a later post. But taking advantage of the entire window wall for a closet system has been such a sanity saver!

DIY open closet system- for those with tiny bedroom closets!Creating this open closet system was also a great opportunity to reevaluate which items in my wardrobe needed to go and which of my favorites could stay. Now the trick is to not be so tempted by the clearance rack in stores so my bedroom doesn't become overwhelmed with more clothes than I need. I've noticed the items I rarely wear will eventually acquire dust, which is a great indication that they probably should be ousted from the gang.

So what do you think? Would you ever install an open closet system in your bedroom? –Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

  • This looks SO awesome. I had a “closet room” in my house and my husband made freestanding racks with pine boards and steel pipe. I LOVE them but we can’t fit them in our new tiny apt. We have a walk-in closet but I’ve been using it for storage and will need to change it to a for-real closet and your system will make it look so much neater. So ANYWAY long story short – THANKS! THIS IS AWESOME! haha

  • Love this so much Mandi. I’m curious to hear how it functions over time. I feel like an open closet would be too messy for me, but then again people always say that about my kitchen shelves and it’s really not an issue! πŸ™‚

    And those curtains are SO good.
    xx- Elsie

  • This is really neat. Your steps are super easy to understand as well. Question – where do I find the adorable baby to hold???? enchantinglyemily.com

  • i really love this idea. i don’t have a huge problem with closet space for my clothes (luckily our one bedroom apartment has two nice size closets in our bedroom, one for him and one for me) but i have nowhere to store my shoes!! i contemplated an open shoe closet solution and this totally just gave me the inspiration that i needed! thank you so much for sharing!!!

    ohsheslovely.blogspot.com

  • The addition of a photo with Mandi wearing her baby, without mention or comment, completely made my day.

  • I have an open closet system in my apartment and it’s been overall successful, but I do really need some storage baskets like yours for my sheets and towels. Right now I have them folded up, but that can get messy quickly. Where did you get the white baskets?

  • It actually looks really clean and organised. I’ve always been put off doing this because I’m convinced I’d never get it looking neat but you seem to have got the balance right πŸ™‚

  • Love this, it looks great! I bought a temporary clothes rack to use because my closet was being renovated, but with a heating/air problem and getting access to the attic, it is tore up even more and my temporary solution is going on 7 months now, haha! I may have to do this =)

  • Dear Mandi,

    thanks for showing that we’re all able to DIY with tools. It’s my third house and now I make masonry, plumbing etc…women shouldn’t be afraid of building job, it’s so gratifying – Yes we can !

    http://www.befrenchie.fr/

  • This is an option we may have to consider – you definitely make it look more appealing than I was picturing! We need our closet doors expanded and some electrical moved, but if we can’t afford that for a bit, this might be a great solution!

  • If Home Depot doesn’t pick up on that photo of baby in Ergo and drill in your hand they are missing a major marketing opportunity!

  • This is so wonderful, truly DIY, on a real person’s budget, and possible! Thanks for sharing! (and timely, moving to an apartment with shoebox-sized closets, grr)

  • I have done this twice! I had two bedrooms with no closets but long walls. I installed a closet organizing system the first time around and then the second time I think I had racks but a curtain hung in front. It actually worked pretty well. I am not a neat person but with a functional system it is actually pretty easy to keep tidy. And now I have those awful sliding mirrored doors which are not only super 90s chic but also really hard to get into! I often wish I could get away with removing them but my apartment wouldn’t be cool about that.

  • I live in an old one bedroom in Chicago, so the closet in the bedroom is the only closet in the apartment. Because I have so many art supplies, I opted to use this closet for messy art stuff and built our clothes closet on one of the walls in the bedroom. This process has kept me motivated to be more selective about what clothes I keep because everything is on display and space is limited. I’m inspired by the shelf above the hanging clothes however! Time for an upgrade. πŸ™‚

  • i had a room turned closet in my home and purchased an ikea closet system for that room. When my son was born that room became his nursery and the closet system moved to my very large bedroom (large but NO closet. I was bummed at first…but since then I now realize that the walk in closet of my dreams now simply has a comfy bed in it to boot. So I may not have the bedroom of my dreams, but this awesome walk in closet/bed room is worth the trade.

  • I’m not a huge fan of doing this myself, but I love the way she put the open closet together anyway! If I did this, I know everything would be a mess within days, and heaven knows it wouldn’t get tidy again for months and months.

  • I LOVE this! In a few years we are going to do a little remodel on our house, and turn a funky room with no fourth wall or closet into the master bedroom and I think this is the exact thing I’m going to do because building in a closet won’t really work, and we don’t want to lose the space it would take. Thank you!

  • sorry to be a nervous nelly. awesome post but not sure I would be drilling above my baby’s eyes due to drywall dust or dropping the drill.

  • You are seriously amazing for doing this project with a baby in your carrier! Hats off to you! It looks great!

  • A little off topic, but I’d love to see a blog post by Rachel and Mandi about baby carrying!

  • I live in a place with limited storage and this is SO helpful! Where do you get the wall brackets?

  • Looks so urban loft chic! I definitely would have opted for a couple chifferobes though. It would get to me seeing “closet stuff” all the time.

  • Thanks! I got them on Amazon, but they’re really cheap and it shows. The bottom hem is like .5″! Oh well. They were cheap, like I said. πŸ™‚ -Mandi

  • I gotta say, that is how I get stuff done most of the time, except I actually didn’t drill the hole while holding her. (I did mention that, in case people worried for the baby’s sake, but it’s okay if you missed it.:) ) I drilled the hole, while she was screaming on my bed, then I picked her up and strapped her in to take this pic, because I couldn’t take it any more! I usually wear her these days, except when drilling, using step stools, or cooking. πŸ™‚ -Mandi

  • I do lots of work with her strapped to me, but I was just posing for this shot. πŸ™‚ She was screaming so badly as I drilled the holes, when I went to take the posed shot, I couldn’t stand it any more and strapped her to me. πŸ™‚ -Mandi

  • Exactly! I have definitely downsized my wardrobe since doing this the first time, although it looks like I still have lots of clothes. It’s an ongoing process, but I’m trying to learn how to be less of a consumer and more of a person who just buys some nice clothes that all coordinate and will age well. πŸ™‚ -Mandi

  • Hi Jo! No, please don’t be sorry. You’re absolutely right! I did mention in the post (in step 4) that this was just me posing for this step. I drilled the hole, but she was screaming so much, I couldn’t take it. I picked her up while I posed for the picture after drilling. I never drill while holding her, but I do plenty of other things (besides cooking or operating power tools) with her strapped to me, so this is a pretty accurate representation of how I usually get things done with a baby and a toddler. -Mandi

  • I did do much of this project with her strapped to me, but this was just me posing moments after I drilled the hole while she laid on my bed screaming. πŸ™‚ I didn’t want to get dust in her face, so I took her off for the actual drilling. -Mandi

  • Maybe I will do one on my personal blog! I have a lot to say about it. I don’t know how mothers with a new baby and toddler get by without baby wearing. πŸ™‚ -Mandi

  • I do have a large armoire, but it doesn’t give me the height for storing dresses, because it has drawers in the bottom. So this was a budget friendly option, since I don’t have funds to go out and buy the perfect wardrobe for my space and needs. πŸ™‚ -Mandi

  • haha! Yeah, I guess you have to know yourself and your needs. This wasn’t an ideal situation for me, but it’s the only thing I could do with the space I have. If I had trouble keeping this tidy (which it isn’t an issue for me), a curtain in front could be an option. πŸ™‚ -Mandi

  • The first time I did this was in our old apartment that we had before this ranch. And then I actually have had this system, though a different arrangement, since we moved in here. It has worked for me over time, as long as nothing is in front of it (like an unpacked suitcase!) blocking me from easily reaching the racks. Then clothes end up draped on a bench or something. When I moved this arrangement to the other side of the room before writing this post, I literally had three blouses that were absolutely covered in dust, so I just donated them. I like being able to see exactly what I have, what I shouldn’t hold on to any more, and what I have available to wear each day. πŸ™‚ -Mandi

  • This looks amazing and it is such a great idea. So many houses I’ve lived in have had tiny closets and I wish this post had been around back then so I could have used your solution. You did such a nice job of incorporating everything so that it looks neat and tidy, well-designed and still purposeful.

  • I LOVE all the open closet systems so much, and yours, Mandi, is a top πŸ™‚ But in a practical way I would be kind of worried about the dust because there is no chance to wear & wash all my clothes in a period of week or two… How do you deal with this?

  • It’s so funny! I’ve got some holes I need to drill today and I was just trying to figure out how and when to do it: usually I do these kinds of projects while my toddler is napping… but I don’t want to wake him with the drill noise… but if I do it while he’s awake he’ll probably get himself into some sort of mischief while I’m in the middle of it… and then I’ll have to keep stopping and starting… life with a 1-year-old is complicated!

  • Yeah! Even I was also looking for wardrobe minimalist ideas for my not so big bedroom. I think its just simple and outstanding way to create an open wardrobe. Keeping above the baskets is quite a unique idea. I would love to try this out!

  • Weird question: Is your bed a full size? It looks a bit smaller than a queen. Also, do you find it to be comfortable with the two of you? My husband and I are thinking of downsizing! Love the open closet, too!