Kevin Sharkey Walks Us Through His Dream Closet Makeover
Kevin Sharkey, Martha Stewart's executive vice president and executive design director, knows that a good closet is hard to find. "It sounds simple, but finding a system that really works for you isn't child's—or even decorator's—play," he explains. "Thankfully, there are experts you can call upon for help." That's exactly what the creative did when it was time to revamp his own wardrobe—one that wasn't performing up to its true potential.
He enlisted the help of California Closets to design and construct a system that would make daily dressing—and storing out-of-season garments and shoes—a breeze. "The design consultant at California Closets assessed my storage needs and took inventory, counting up shoes, sweaters, suits, and ties," he shares of the project's beginnings. During the assessment phase, they identified the area's dead space and flagged the bins that were taking up precious real estate. "Then, she drew up plans for the new and improved wardrobe using a 3D computer program that let us add shelves here, move drawers there, and play with colors before anything was finalized," he explains.
As for the final result? "We went with a clean off-white, one of eight finishes available in the material I chose," Sharkey tells us, also noting the California Closets' team remarkable efficiency: "The closet was installed in two days." Ahead, a look at the space-saving project (including the before and after photos), which just might inspire you to upgrade or reorganize your own closet.
Ten garment racks and countless plastic bins of clothes floated around Sharkey's apartment for nearly a year before he sought a solution.
After: Ordered Bliss
The efficient configuration of shelves and handing racks hold all of Sharkey's clothes. A center island—topped with a tray, which are perfect for holding folded T-shirts, button-downs, and light sweaters—provides an extra drawer storage and a surface for folding.
How you arrange items is just as important as the architecture of the closet itself. To making putting away clothes a breeze, first break garments into two categories: items to hang and fold. "Anything that is likely to wrinkle (linen, rayon, all-cotton shirts) or slide around in a drawer (silks and satins), as well as garments that are pressed or have pleats" belong to the former category, says Sharkey, while "all knitwear, cotton T-shirts, casual pants (jeans, khakis, corduroys), and sportswear (in a separate drawer from your other clothes)" should be folded.
Just as important? Grouping like items with like. "Choose a grouping principle that makes sense to you," he advises. "I organize by kind—button-down shirts, blazers, sweaters—then by color, from white to black. This helps me know my options right away." But don't just group and arrange clothes and forget them—it's necessary to consistently check in with your clothes. "Every six months, it's a good idea to review your wardrobe. Decide what you want to keep, what needs repair, and what should be given away or discarded. New acquisitions may demand new storage strategies, such as rearranged shelves, extra bins, or additional rods," he adds.
This layout accommodates every belt and sock without feeling cramped. "The shoe closet is one of my favorite areas. First, we pared down my footwear—closet experts say that only 50 percent of stuff removed from an old closet actually ends up in a new one. Then boots went up top, and shoes below, arranged by color," says Sharkey. The shelves are protected with nonslip shelf liner. Pro tip: Stock up on cedar shoe trees. These aromatic inserts keep footwear looking it's best.
"For the center island, we tailored drawer depths to their contents: 17 inches for ties (I have been obsessed with ties since working in Lord & Taylor's tie department while in college)," he notes.
This drawer pulls out to a sectioned hamper—keeping laundry and dry-cleaning piles organized and ready to be cleaned.
Slide-Out Valet Hook
A valet hook can be used to hold dry cleaning or an outfit for the following day. "And I can't stress enough how important it is to put clothing on hangers designed specifically for the particular type of item. It will extend the life of your clothes," advises Sharkey.
Top hangers are slightly curved and ideal for shirts and dresses. Suit hangers are angled to keep a jacket's shape, with a crossbar for pants. A suit hanger with locking bar prevents pants from sliding off. Coat hangers boast a sturdy design for heavy garments.
Smart Tech Touches
And don't forget to designate an area for charging gadgets. "I plug my phone into a combination surge protector and USB charger (bottom left corner)," says Sharkey. "To brighten the area, I use stick-on battery-operated lights (left top)." Design idea: Line the back of a shelf with a mirror to reflect light into shadowy spots.