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I Used This Easy-to-Install Shelving to Create a Walk-in Closet in My Apartment

Sometimes your perfect space doesn’t come with a closet.

Rubbermaid Configurations Deluxe Custom Closet Organizer System Kit

About four years ago, after a long search that required couch surfing at two different friends’ places (with our hairless cat), my husband and I moved into what I would genuinely call our dream apartment. The one-bedroom loft had lots of things to like: 12-foot ceilings, a proper bathroom (an amenity anyone who has loft hunted knows is not a given), and even a pedigree of sorts — it’s inside a Bushwick building that dates to at least the early 20th century, and locals have told us its past lives include a garter factory and a department store.

Blinded by all of these pluses, we did not really see a big minus until after the ink had dried on our lease: The apartment has no closets to speak of. This was admittedly a first for both of us; the six New York City apartments we previously lived in (separately and together) all had a closet of some sort somewhere inside them, whether in an entryway for stashing coats, a bedroom, or both. Our new place did come with two left-behind armoires in the bedroom, but the hulking masses of particleboard seemed straight out of a college dorm and totally weighed down the otherwise open-feeling space. Buying a dresser or new piece of furniture that we actually liked would also weigh it down, we reasoned, and if we went the rolling-rack route, we worried the space would look too much like a department store again.

I am about as handy as anyone else who knows how to pick up a hammer or plug in a power drill (meaning my expertise doesn’t extend far beyond understanding a tool’s basic purpose and functionality), but for whatever reason, we decided that open shelving in the bedroom would be the solution to our closet conundrum. But buying some gussied-up planks of wood and brackets from Ikea seemed too simple — we needed something to hang things from, in addition to fold and stack them on — and looking into more custom options seemed too overwhelming, time-consuming, and pricey. I don’t remember exactly how we landed on the Rubbermaid closet organizers, but they seemed like just the sort of versatile, reasonably priced system we needed, and it didn’t hurt that their no-frills metal construction sort of went with the whole loft-living feel.

We ultimately ordered two of the 4-to-8-foot “deluxe” organizers, which, according to the brand, are made for walls between four and eight feet wide, and each comes with seven 26-inch shelves, two 48-inch shelves, and two hanging rods (in addition to all of the hardware and screws you need to mount them). Over the course of two nights, my husband and I worked to install them, using the aforementioned power drill and hammer, as well as a stud finder (Rubbermaid says to install the units into studs for added support), a level, and a tape measure. The system came with instructions that we could actually follow, and although it is by no means custom, the fact that it can adapt to fit between four to eight feet of wall space did allow for us to tweak our setup to suit our needs.

What we ended up with can best be described as a walk-in closet — and yes, while it is a walk-in closet we also sleep in, the room in no way feels like those common New York City real-estate tropes of a closet-sized bedroom or a bedroom that’s actually a closet. Hung from the wall, the shelves protrude far enough to be easily accessed while still allowing for room to move between “closet” and bed or other areas of the room. There is enough space, in fact, that we were able to further customize our setup with a wooden ladder we found on the street (years ago), which now leans against one of the shelves. More importantly, the closet organizers provide space enough for all of the clothes we wear day in and day out, all of our coats (including many heavier winter ones), and for seasonal things like sweaters and shorts. (We still have a few rarely worn things stored under the bed, but who doesn’t?) Even with the shelves and racks fully filled with our belongings, the room still somehow feels lighter, airier than it would with a dresser or armoire. Four years (and a lot of new clothes and coats) later, not a single screw has come loose. Truly, there is only one downfall we’ve found with this open-storage system: Seeing all of our options doesn’t really make choosing what to wear every day any easier.