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A Better Way to Organize Your Closet (And My Favorite New Light)

By 01/11/2021January 14th, 202141 Comments

It was one coat too many, and my closet rack finally gave way under the weight. I needed to find a better way to organize my coat closet. Here’s what we did and another recommendation for lighting up this (likely) dark space in your home.

Yes, this light-obsessed decorator has another light suggestion for you. 😉 

In October I tried to stuff one more coat into our coat closet and it finally broke. I’m just happy it didn’t all come down on top of me. 

I immediately called a local closet company and was told the earliest I’d have a new closet system was approximately two months. 

Then I called my good friend Jan Romanuk. 

She told me her contractor Kelyn Archer (who also renovated my studio this past summer) was on his way to a job site that wasn’t quite ready for him yet, and as luck would have it, she called him and told him to drive right out to my house instead.

Kelyn arrived at 11:00 am.

He took some measurements, drove out to our local hardware store, where he assessed the DIY closet systems available for purchase and found them wimpy and inadequate. 

He quickly whipped up a drawing, took a photo and asked me if I liked it.

He bought the materials, set up his equipment right outside our front door and by 5:30 pm, I had a new coat closet with maximum coat storage. And shelves for shoes, scarves, hats and gloves! 

I was thrilled!

I would have preferred to have the short coats on the top and longer coats on the bottom.

But since Terreeia wears mostly short coats and she’s short, she asked if the they could be installed on the lower rod.

So that’s what we did (below). 

Now obviously this photo does not represent all the coats that hang in this closet. But, I wanted to keep the photo presentable for you. ha!

Anyway, because we only have one entry light closer to the door, which makes this closet really dark, we installed wireless (battery-operated) motion sensor sconce lights on each side of the closet.

Read more: 5 Lamps Everyone Should Have in their Homes

Quick Fix: Add wireless motion lights to your closets

Wireless Motion Sensor Closet Lights

Shop Motion Sensor Wireless (Battery-Operated) Closet Lights
The one in my closet | 3-pack brushed aluminum | 2-pack aluminum
3-pack puck light | Silver weatherproof light

The battery operated motion sensor lights work like a charm and after we bought the basic one I have from our local hardware store, I found much prettier ones online (above).

It’s wonderful to be able to see inside the closet!

PS. You’ll notice my closet is painted the same colour as my hallway. Do you paint your closet to match the room or do you keep it neutral?

Related posts:

The Magical Art of Closet Organization; Before & After

How to Specify Colour for a Bedroom (and Closet) 

The Closet in my Master Bedroom


Disclosure: Some affiliate links used

205 pins


  • Linda says:

    Will you get that top rail adjusted so the coats don’t bang onto the lower rail?

    • Nancy Markon says:

      I agree there’s a long coat issue.

      When I rebuilt the coat closet in a rental we own, I made a bracket to support one end of the lower closet rod rather than extending it the full width of the space. I made the lower rod about 15″ shorter which allowed several full length coats to hang from the top rod without bumping anything below.

      If you leave long coats overhanging the bottom rod, careless placement of hangers by those using the the lower rod can snag and damage coat hemlines. Perhaps not in your case, Maria, but definitely for those of us who have kids and husbands who barely hang up their coats, much less do so carefully!

      • Maria Killam says:

        Yes that was me being lazy about not hanging those 2 coats in my other closet where I do have my longer coats, it didn’t occur to me that they could get damaged! Thanks! Maria

  • Nancy Markon says:

    Aesthetically speaking, I prefer matching the closet wall color to the wall color in the room. However, repainting a closet is time-consuming and expensive given the low square footage, so I’m switching to painting my closet walls a washable flat version of the semi-gloss white I use for my trim. That way, if I change the color of my bedroom or hallway walls, I’m not forced to repaint the closet or live with a potentially unfortunate mismatch. The added bonus? White closet walls reflect more light and make it easier to see inside.

  • Lauren T says:

    Very nice! Closets can easily become forgotten caves that don’t get much attention. Until something falls on our head, a rod breaks, or we’ve just had enough of the chaos. And when we do make them functional and pretty, we may ask ourself, “Why didn’t I do this sooner!?” I like painting a closet the same color as adjacent walls, with contrasting (white) trim inside.

  • Victoria says:

    I prefer closet paint to be white/neutral. That way when repainting a room, the closets stay the same. Unfortunately for my latest build I forgot to tell the painter and he had finished everything by the time I remembered! Fortunately it’s just Edgecombe Gray, but still would have preferred Simply white.

  • Sandra Berube says:

    Marqia – one of your best posts yet !!! what a great solution ! and adaptable to other storage areas..
    Lucky you… and thanks..

  • Karen says:

    Your before-and-after big remodels are great eye candy, but changes like this closet reorganization are inspiring and affordable! The wireless lights are genius, and I also love how Terreeia shares this beautiful space with you.

  • Mindi says:

    After excitedly painting a room+closet BM Abalone and installing an Elfa closet system, I realized Abalone was really not the right color for that room …. and the prospect of un-installing that closet alone was enough for me to just leave it. I’ll come back to it eventually. But I paint my closets SW Simply White (trim color) now 🙂

  • Debbie says:

    My husband installed fluorescent lights in all our closets. Has worked great, gives plenty of light and they last a long time but probably distort colors some.
    Have painted all closets the same color as the rooms but is a nightmare when repainting. Painting the closets white is a awesome idea.

  • Joanne says:

    This happened to my daughter and her heap of garments was much worse. You are so fortunate to have designer/contractor connections. Your project was completed much more quickly than hers. I know, because she was involved in a major case so mom handled the mess! She lives in a house that was built in the 1800’s so the standard products didn’t work. She (I) came up with a similar arrangement, although she has a narrow space designated for long coats, dresses, etc. Your coat collection is beautiful! You can never have too many coats!

  • Patti says:

    I paint all my closets white and put bright lights in them so I can tell color more clearly. It keeps me from wearing black pants with a navy top. Plus white is crisp and clean looking and an added bonus is that when I repaint the room (for the millionth time) I don’t have to paint the closet if it still is good.

  • Lori says:

    I like white closets, I prefer the clean look of it and it looks fine with any color room. One by one we’ve been transforming our closets for better storage and organization, and the first thing I do when we start a new one is pull everything out and paint it white!

  • Kimberly says:

    All closets – all white – all the time! Crisp and bright backdrop for clothes and accessories.

  • Marie Waines says:

    I find that after all these years of matching wall colours and closets, I prefer to paint the closets white. More reflective in regards to light.

  • Sharon Erickson says:

    thanks maria for this post! I have divided other closets with 2 hanging spaces but never thought about a coat closet! makes so much sense considering most of us wear a majority of shorter coats now compared to 20 years ago! Anyway, must tell you I immediately went and ordered that light you installed! I have been seraching for quite a while just one like this but never thought of looking on Amazon! Can’t wait for it to arrive in a couple of days!

  • Ellie says:

    I’m another white closet fan, along with all matching black velvet non-slip hangers for a cohesive look. As others have said, it enables me to see the colours of clothes better and I think they just look less visually cluttered against a plain white backdrop.

  • Ann says:

    Cracked me up that it doesn’t hold all your coats! I counted 22! My closet is narrower and coats are smashed together! Gonna go count! Plus it holds the vacuum.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Terreeia’s coats are in here too but I do have a coat fetish. . . where we live you need one for a lot of different temperatures. Maria

  • Virginia says:

    Great post! I have been thinking about putting a system in my daughter’s closet. I had a closet company do our wall closets in the master bedroom when we first moved in this house. I never, ever regretted it. It gave us so much more space. The company offered a cedar paneling option that we did get. We were suppose to sand the paneling over time to renew the cedar scent. What is the system you used in your coat closet? It looks nice and sturdy.

    • Maria Killam says:

      My contractor just designed it and built it on the spot! It’s a very simple design anyone could copy. Maria

  • Ricky says:

    I wallpapered my entry coat closet in the same paper as my entryway. So even on those dreary winter days I get a little spark of cheeriness when I go to get a winter coat.

    • Barb says:

      The first thing I did when I bought my current house was to paint all of the closets Simply White (my trim color). I installed motion sensor lights inside all of the closets and in my laundry room. When I moved, I knew how much linear space I needed to hang items and was able to rework the closets. I removed all of the wire shelves that were used for hanging because they are so frustrating to use. I used metal poles instead of wood which tend to sag over time. Every year on Halloween, I turn my hangers backwards to track the clothes that I have worn so I can go through the unworn ones after a year and determine whether it is time to purge an item. Tackling the closets first made me feel settled. It is cumbersome to remove everything in a closet to paint it, so I like painting it in a white prior to moving in since I may change the room color later. Thank you for your sharing a real closet that is not the size of a bedroom. Your example is a easy to copy solution.

  • Brenda says:

    My minimalist daughter went through and counted how many coats I have. It was embarrassing! HOWEVER! When you live in Canada, which has 4 very distinct seasons and each season has it’s own micro-season, the coats and jackets tend to pile up! I have pretty good coat closets, but I still have to do a little rotating each season. Your new closet is beautiful! I did learn the hard way, that it is best to paint the interior of your closets the same colour as your trim. Then you aren’t repainting your closet every time you paint the room. Sure, it’s not as pretty sometimes, but it is a lot more practical!

  • alyr says:

    Your coats are so pretty! Another reason I need to leave Florida! (love the closet, too and yes, WHITE/OFF WHITE)

  • Jennifer Johnson says:

    Such a fun post and much needed this week! I love how the color is repeated from the walls. I ended up taking off my doors completely in my front closet, because they were such a pain to keep opening and closing (I have 3 kids) and they would pinch their fingers. It made it so much larger-feeling in my foyer I was surprised! And because we see it we keep it clean. I added freestanding drawer units for gloves and hats and other items that are small that go under the short coats.

  • Kay says:

    Maria, I have to say how much I appreciate that you go on doing your thing no matter what is going on in the world. I see one of your posts and open it with a sigh of relief. Of course I care about what goes on, but I badly need the reprieves that you and a few other sites offer me. Thank you!

    • Cynthia says:

      Kay you are SO right😀
      I have decide to fast watching the News till the end of the month. I have a feeling I may want to extend it😂

  • Vicki Williams says:

    Good job! I love contractors that come through! BTW what is the paint color of your hall and closet? I love yellows too and that is a really pretty one. I’m in the midst of buying a new home and I wouldn’t be surprised if something like that ends up in part of it :)) Vicki

    • Pauline says:

      White, because every few years I like to repaint and don’t want to have to empty the closet, pull apart the closet system, put it all back and rehang everything. I tell myself I’m not lazy, it’s just that the white shows all the clothes’ true colors better! (90% of my clothes are either black or navy, so there’s really no “color” to really even see 😂)

  • What a nice contractor to whip that closet up for you! I did count alot of coats and think that’s funny since i thought we had alot, not nearly as many.
    I ask that all interior closets be white so that you can see the clothes well, but the lighting is nice too. also if you change the colors in the room the closet works with any change . But it’s also fresh and clean for the new owner, refresh or remodel.

  • Julie says:

    Hi Maria: I’m in the all white / match the trim category as well. Looks clean, less cluttered, bright and doesn’t have to be repainted every time the wall color is changed. When we repainted the whole house, to include all the trim, we also repainted all the closets first. Yes, exhausting and sooooo worth it. Very efficient new closet!! Thanks for sharing!

  • Amy S says:

    We renovated our home over the course of about 6 years and one thing we did that I love is that we painted all the closets in Ben Moore Chantilly Lace semi gloss. It is the same paint we used on our trim throughout the house. I have found that I love having used semi gloss as it cleans up so nicely, especially from where shoes bump the walls in a closet. Painting closets is SO tedious, but once it is done, it brings a smile each time I open the closets… I love how you made such a big impact in a small space, in a small time frame, and with relatively small changes! Your closet looks lovely, Maria!

  • Lee Gamble says:

    Maria- Your experience has happened to me, but the rod and clothes HAVE hit me on the head. I always build my closets NOT using the closet systems. I am 5 ft 4 – and my partner is 6 ft 4 – so a truly customized closet like the one you got works far better for us. ONE thing I truly advise anyone who is re-doing their closet(s) is to ditch the so-called ‘closet rods’ and instead use the 1 1/8″ outside diameter glavanized conduit piping easily purchased at any Home Improvement store. These are easily cut with a pipe cutter and once initially cleaned, rarely if ever show any of those pesky black marks left by hangers. You can do chinups on these babies and they won’t fail.

  • Wendy says:

    I wallpapered my closet and I love it ! I also installed my own Closet System using I have done 5 closets with them and highly recommend them. AND I did it MYSELF – no helper needed.
    Could you show me WHERE you put those lights. I have a very dark closet area in a one room and would love more light. But with accordion doors I don’t think the light would hit the clothes

  • Cheryl Costner says:

    Love that light! Can you let us know where you found the pretty light?

  • M says:

    looks good, but I always need a top shelf and more hanging than shoes in my coat closet. I put out of season coats elsewhere.
    Thanks for the light info. I definitely need some of those and they are nice looking!

  • M says:

    Oops forgot to ask, where did you mount the lights? Top, sides?

    My closets are white too. My downstairs hall/coat closet is deep extending under stairs for storage and light walls are best. Also a pain to empty closets to repaint if not needed.

  • Tammara says:

    Nice job. I can only dream of a closet that size. I live in 1941 townhome in the City, so tiny closets are the norm. I paint all my closets bright white, semi-gloss.

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