See how our founder turned an unused bedroom into the ultimate walk-in.

By Melissa Ozawa
Updated January 05, 2020
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Marcus Nilsson

To get ready for a busy day, Martha used to travel from room to room in her Bedford, New York, home, since no single spot could hold her entire wardrobe. Last fall, she decided to convert a small, unused bedroom into a well-organized walk-in closet. She mapped out what she needed from the space—but also considered what she wanted: a life-improving, routine-smoothing area that felt beautifully at home, in her home. And while you can't borrow her clothes (or those Manolos), all of her smart strategies are ready for the taking. Ahead, our founder takes us inside the end product and shares her best tips for an organized, functional closet along the way.

The Plan

To get exactly what she wanted, Martha put equal emphasis on form and function for this project. The walk-in needed to hold and organize all her essentials, as well as look and feel like a natural extension of her home. She tapped design consultant Chris Reynolds of California Closets to help make this happen.

Peter Oumanski

Aside from the many custom finishes and features the company offered, it was appealing that all the components are modular, so none of the home's original moldings had to be removed (and the closet can easily revert back to a bedroom if ever necessary). Reynolds visited her home to survey the space; together they assessed Martha's storage requirements, and then began selecting styles and materials that reflected her sensibility. Martha liked the simplicity of the company's classic cabinetry finished in Cashmere, an eco-friendly custom shade. They also chose lighting, including dimmable remote-controlled LEDs in all the cabinets. The end result? "I am thrilled with it," she says.

Marcus Nilsson

Grand Central Station

Martha had a two-sided bureau topped with marble similar to the kind on her kitchen's pastry counter. It was carved by a local stonecutter, and offers ample space for an antique jewelry box and mirror and a clothes-folding station.

Marcus Nilsson

A Flood of Light

Martha had solar shades installed (they're sheer but block color-fading UV rays), along with antique Dutch hammered-brass sconces to cast a warm glow. Empress Tang rests on a deep window seat covered in Donghia "Covet" velvet (price available upon request, donghia.com) in Forest. It's a perfect place to put on shoes, too.

Marcus Nilsson

Sweaters in Plain Sight

Plush pullovers are folded and arranged in a tall cabinet customized with restoration-glass panels that match the windows in the rest of the house. She tucks cedar balls among the stacks to ward off moths.

Polished Details

An antique mirror and a silver tray displaying Martha's perfumes are both pretty and practical. On bureaus, she used the same brass knobs—made by E. R. Butler & Co.—that she has throughout the house.

A Berth for Bags and Instant Access

On the top shelf, she keeps a few footed purses that she carries often, stuffing the soft ones with tissue to help them stand up and hold their shape. Larger totes are stored in cabinets beneath the window seats. Martha's clothes are arranged by item and color, and spaced evenly apart. Avoid overcrowding your closet, she advises, which can cause unnecessary wrinkles. She uses sturdy wooden hangers ($1.09, hangers.com), which match her floors, for blouses; and thicker ones for jackets and sweaters. For pants, she has two kinds: some with a velvet bar to fold delicate materials over, others with clips for sturdier fabrics ($1.49, hangers.com).

Marcus Nilsson

Vital Signs

Martha had valet bars installed to help her organize outfits for TV appearances and upcoming trips—or for multiple events in a single day. Laminated hanger tags keep track of them, and serve as care and laundry reminders (click here to to download and print your own).

Marcus Nilsson

Space for Shoes

All of the room's cabinetry is made from boards just over an inch thick (the standard is three-quarter-inch), for a solid, more bespoke feel. Martha's shoes are situated by style. When she finds a pair she loves, she buys them in multiple colors.

Marcus Nilsson

Dedicated Drawers

Each drawer houses specific items: Accessories like gloves, scarves, and shawls are slightly staggered so that every one is visible. Martha wraps delicate pieces, such as sequined pants and beaded scarves, in protective acid-free tissue paper. Jewelry lies on velvet-lined trays. Socks are folded and grouped by color, and small printed labels help housekeepers maintain her system.

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