A well-designed closet can double or at least significantly increase your storage. If you’ve got a fairly straightforward space, and simple needs, you can probably do your own planning.

Most closet-component makers and retailers provide online tools: Simply enter your closet’s measurements and they’ll spit out suggestions (with drawings) that you can then change—more drawers here, spaces for shoe shelves there, a giant mounted tie rack for your 98 zillion cravats.

If you go with a custom-closet business, you’ll get a more fitted-to-your-space job. They can help configure challenging projects—an attic closet under the eaves, an open-concept setup of rods and shelves in a loft, a tiny bedroom reimagined as a dressing room.

No matter what you’re buying, start by considering how you want to use the closet. If you have a million pairs of shoes, order footwear shelving or cubbies accordingly. If it’s a his-and-hers walk-in, calculate how much space will be devoted to pants, longer-hanging coats, or dresses.
 

  1. Think vertically. Many people neglect using closet space that’s too high to reach, especially if it lacks shelves or there’s no stepladder handy. But as any skyscraper-builder will tell you, there’s value in going as tall as you can. Install shelves or rods up to the ceiling; then use those areas for out-of-season clothes or your copious collection of Christmas ornaments.
  2. The marks left on your clothing by shelves in wire closet systems can be eliminated by use of plastic shelf liners. But if you’re picky about wrinkles, consider a wood system.
  3. All clothing rods are not created equal. Hangers (more on this below) slide more easily on rods that are oval-shaped metal than on round wood ones. In fact, metal rods—if they’re heavy-gauge and correctly installed—beat wooden rods every time. Wood can warp, break, and doesn’t play as well with hangers.
  4. To conserve even more space use slim-line hangers, either the flocked variety or ones in durable stainless steel. They take up less horizontal real estate than chunky wood or plastic models, slide more smoothly, and—if you purchase all of your hangers at once—look uniform and orderly.
  5. If you need to see everything to stay organized, consider extra shelves. They can keep shoes aligned in neat rows like so many foot soldiers. They’re great for corralling sweaters or stacks of T-shirts, plus they’re cheaper than drawers and can even be custom-built by a carpenter.
  6. Get adjustable, movable shelves, which are more versatile when your needs change. They’re available both in the more expensive wood models (multiple little holes let you move shelf brackets up and down) and on wire models supported by wall-mounted braces with lots of holes or slots into which you can add and move shelves, rods, and other components.
  7. You can spend a lot of money on closet add-ons—hidden safes, velvet-lined jewelry drawers—but don’t scoff at all these often-expensive extras: Our editorial director had two jewelry drawers installed in her closet, and cheap vintage bauble freak that she is wishes she’d opted for three—even at $200 a pop.
  8. If you’re habitually untidy (or just have a lot of socks and underwear you’d like to store in the closet, not the bureau), consider adding drawers to your blueprint. They’re a lot more expensive than shelves, but they can be genius for keeping messes in check.