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Our Closet Plans for The Scary Room

Earlier this week, we introduced The Scary Room. Hands down, it was (and still is) the most neglected space in our house since the day we moved in. It will ultimately be our home’s third bedroom, but because of the room’s disrepair, there’s a rather large punch list to bring this room to a presentable starting point. You saw in this video that we made an afternoon of progress by pulling out all the trim (in the hopes of salvaging as much as we can; more on that in a minute), which got us to here:


As a quick recap, the windows will be replaced, a level subfloor and hardwood flooring installed, and electrical outlets will be added. This skinny room won’t change in layout, but the biggest change will come with our plans to make this closet as functional as possible, so this is the area where we’re putting a lot of our focus. Of course a good sized closet is always a perk to any bedroom, and this case is no different! Whether the closet is used for guests, overflow for ourselves or a future child’s bedroom, we’re looking for this guy to be a workhorse for the long haul.

Ideally, the closet would accommodate:

  • A chest of drawers or modestly sized dresser, which will allow for the 6.5′ wide room to remain free of too many obstacles
  • Hanging rods in varying heights for clothes
  • An easily accessible shelf above the highest rod for quick-grab storage
  • Open shelves or racks for shoes
  • Open shelves for bulky folded items and/or baskets to corral smaller items
  • Deep storage above the closet for lesser used items (such as seasonal blankets, my film photography equipment and neglected sewing machine, to name a few)

Similar to our bedroom, we really wanted to make an IKEA PAX system work, but we quickly found out that the closet opening is on a load bearing wall. While we had the space to do a wall-to-wall PAX wardrobe, the ceiling height inside the closet was 8-9″ lower than the height on the outside of the closet. There’s not really a way to change this; the lower ceiling is a result of the attic layout above (the attic is lower on that side of the load bearing wall, and there is a step ‘up’ on the other side). We would have had to install a load bearing beam to remove the closet opening, which is one of the more expensive options in addition to the cost of the PAX itself.

We were stumped, partially because we were so set on creating a built-in wardrobe, and partially because I refused to accept any other option. After several days of noodling on countless ideas (rotating the closet to the adjacent wall, moving it to the opposite side of the room), Scott said, why are we not even considering using the opening that’s here?

Sometimes we get so stuck on one notion, it’s hard to see past that and open ourselves up to another possibility. (Is that a metaphor for life, too?) In any case, not only would it be way more cost effective to keep that opening, but with a few tweaks, we were confident that we could create a system that would work just as well – if not better! – than the PAX we were hoping for. Here’s a rough mock-up of where we landed:

What’s going on:

  • The closet opening will be widened to 60″ overall and centered on the wall, giving us a good chunk of space to work with to create a tidy, organizational system. This was the widest opening that felt proportional to the room, especially once we add some hunky trim.
  • The closet height will be dropped from 108″ to a standard 84″, which will still provide room for an accessible shelf above the highest rod.
  • Above the closet, we’re using these 24″ deep cabinets from The RTA Store’s Newport White line. After our positive experience of using The RTA Store cabinets in our laundry room renovation, this was an easy decision. By creating access from the outside, we’ll avoid the hassle of those hard-to-access shelves that might normally be inside the closet.
  • Since having our PAX installed, we love being able to swing open both doors and easily see every last thing inside. Bi-fold doors will give us a similar luxury, and that’s where we’re leaning. As much as we would prefer two 30″ wide actual doors, the room is too small to accommodate the swing. As an alternative, Daniel (hi, friend!) suggested four 15″ linen closet-eque doors, an idea we love – and would prefer aesthetically, honestly. However, our practicality is winning out, as something like that would eliminate the full access feeling we crave. That said, we’ll be taking on the challenge to make bi-folds look pretty (is it possible?), using this tutorial as a guide for something similar.
  • The gas line and furnace vent obstacles will be boxed in with drywall, and this will allow us to build shelving into the left and right sides of the closet. Finished shelving size will come to about 18″ wide x 12″ deep.
  • Recessed closet lighting will be installed inside, with a switch to the right of the closet opening.
  • Everything will be trimmed out to look intentional and to mimic (as best we can!) the window casings.

Speaking of which, all the window trim and baseboards are waiting for some TLC in the garage. As we pulled everything off the wall, we still felt confident that the window trim could be salvaged. The sills may need to be replaced due to prior water damage, but I’m looking forward to repairing the chips and gouges on the sides and aprons. A clean line of caulk and a fresh coat of paint will do them good!


On the other hand, the baseboards have us worried. It became apparent that they were replaced in random sections over the years, and aside from the fact that some were held on with duct tape, we realized that throughout the room, the baseboards are different heights! Below, you can see that to the left of the door, the boards were much higher than those on the right. Oof. Because a lot of the patched in boards aren’t original to the house, our goal is to (maybe) save what we can and replicate the rest as closely as possible. Replicating should be simple enough – knock on wood! – with 1-bys and a decorative cap.


Our contractors are wrapping up their end of the punch list today, and then we can get in and make some decisions on wall color and lay down flooring. Sadly, the hardwood flooring we have in the rest of our home was discontinued at some point in the last year (what are the chances?), but luckily, we’ve tracked down the manufacturer’s replacement style. Finding it locally is proving to be our challenge of the moment, but this room is not a race; slow and steady. That’s our mantra, and if we say it enough, it’ll stick, right?

Even still, we’re looking forward to sharing the updates as they roll out!

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  • Jen1.20.17 - 7:11 AM

    Exciting progress guys!! What will you use this room for?ReplyCancel

    • Kim1.20.17 - 8:44 AM

      Thanks! It’s our home’s third bedroom.ReplyCancel

  • Tara1.20.17 - 10:03 AM
    • Kim1.20.17 - 10:08 AM

      We’re soaking up all the tutorials! Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Renee1.20.17 - 11:09 AM

    If the room is just going to be storage you should consider installing a window on the entry door to maximize those perfect windows! I love how you guys are salvaging the existing wood work!! This is going to turn out beautiful!!ReplyCancel

    • Kim1.20.17 - 2:57 PM

      I love that idea, but it’s going to be a bedroom ultimately. That’s always something we can change down the road though – thank you for the suggestion!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah1.20.17 - 1:52 PM

    Ahh I can’t wait to see this little room come together! We have some mismatched trim throughout the first floor of our house from water damage and I hate how it doesn’t match the original stuff so I’m looking forward to your posts about that!ReplyCancel

    • Kim1.20.17 - 2:56 PM

      Eek! We’re gonna start figuring it out soon…ReplyCancel

  • Kelly1.20.17 - 4:09 PM

    Have you ever been to the Rebuilding Warehouse in Evanston? They have TONS of baseboards from old remodeled houses, you might be able to find pieces that match exactly what you need!ReplyCancel

    • Kim1.20.17 - 4:14 PM

      We have, and it’s magical! We may need to go back to check that out. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Ryan1.20.17 - 4:27 PM

    In your sketch there is only one handle per bi-fold door. Although it would only be decorative, a second handle on the outside panel would give the illusion that you have two sets of french doors instead of bi-fold doors.

    And since you have the depth that it’s almost a mini walk in closet, what about installing a built in dresser on one of the side walls with shelving above it? It would provide closed storage for non hanging clothes.

    I love the look of the built in closet.ReplyCancel

    • Kim1.20.17 - 5:23 PM

      Excellent idea on both counts. The dresser on the side might be a little trucker due to the available width, but the dummy handle could work perfectly! Can’t wait to start figuring this out.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah1.24.17 - 12:28 PM

    Question, and I’m sure you’ve probably already considered this:

    1- Why wouldn’t you just do a hybrid of your drawing and the pax system? Meaning enlarge the opening width/height to fit a pair of pax units (since you’re going to need to modify the opening and install a header based on your current plan as well) and then case it out as you have shown in your sketch. This would give you the best of both worlds as you’ll get the adjust-ability of the pax interiors and storage with more of the cased in look. (I’d suggest doing a consistent 1 1/2″ filler on 3 sides and then you put the casing on top of that- with the filler being flush to the cabinet doors. It will make it look like a built in cabinet)

    2- If you go the traditional reach in closet route, check out the easy track closet system. It’s essentially a DIY version of California closets. They have tons of great accessories and the deluxe starter set is pretty affordable and gives you tons of options.ReplyCancel

    • Kim1.24.17 - 12:36 PM

      You’re the best, thanks for the rec for the easy track system!

      To answer #1, we did consider that. The problem was the set widths for the PAX. Two of the 30″ widths wouldn’t allow us to maximize the space on the sides, and two of the 40″ widths wouldn’t allow us room for trim on the sides. We sort of needed something right in the middle, and sadly, those options just weren’t there. You’re definitely on to something though – I crunched those PAX numbers for a long while before sadly realizing it wouldn’t work.ReplyCancel

      • MelissaB1.24.17 - 5:23 PM

        Why not do a 30″ and a 40″ then do a custom hack to the doors?ReplyCancel

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We’re Kim + Scott, Chicago based content creators behind the Home + Lifestyle brand Yellow Brick Home.

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