A Place For Everything

Closet and garage organizers weigh in on how to create order out of chaos

Although spring and its promise of renewal may seem distant as winter winds whip the eaves and keep us inside, professional organizers say that winter is the perfect time of year to take stock of our stuff and tackle the groan-inducing task of organizing closets and garages. Diehard do-it-yourselfers don’t need to search far to get help in accomplishing the goal—big-box stores, home and garden centers and retailers that focus exclusively on home organization all offer hundreds of storage solutions. Time-pressed homeowners who want more customized solutions, however, are best served by consulting with design professionals and home organizers, who offer an increasing range of services, including onsite inspections, proposals generated at the time of the consultation and a preview of the finished job courtesy of customized software.

Creating Closet Harmony
According to the experts, the first step in creating harmony in any space is taking an inventory of belongings. Gwen Wise, a designer and space planner with Closets by Design in Manassas, Virginia, advises her clients to follow the two-year rule. “If you have not worn it or used it in two years, it’s likely taking up valuable space,” she says. She also suggests taking stock of closet contents at least twice a year during seasonal transitions to help prevent clutter. A simple method of reducing accumulation is to create three piles: trash, donate and keep. “The trash and donate piles should be disposed of as quickly as possible to avoid objects finding their way back into closets,” she said, smiling. “Most of my clients are surprised at the amount of space that is available once unused items are cleared out.” Wise works collaboratively with her clients to develop objectives for the closet and assesses not only their possessions, but the client’s lifestyle as well. “Each client is unique. One of my realtor clients had a huge shoe collection and so we built individual mirrored shoe box storage for all of her footwear.”

Wise takes closet measurements, works up a layout by hand and then assists the client in selecting materials, colors, and components from several collections offered by the company. Custom looks are achieved through closet accessories, decorative components and hardware. Closets by Design, like many high-end closet organizers, offers a variety of options and styles; cabinet and drawer fronts are offered in raised “Deco” style or flat fronts, and mirrored, frosted glass and Lucite insets are other choices for drawers and cabinet fronts. Popular accessory components include velvet jewelry trays, belt racks, Lucite dividers, shoe racks, and tilt-out hampers. Proper lighting is also part of a successful closet installation.

 “Customers can expect to pay on average anywhere from $3,000 to $8.000 for a custom closet solution.” she says.

Potomac Garage Solutions renovated this garage.Garages Get a Facelift
Riding on the success of the custom closet companies, the latest entrants into the $8 billion dollar home organization industry are companies devoted to garage organizational systems. “Today’s garage is no longer used to just house vehicles,” says Peter Belman, owner of the Rockville, Maryland-based franchise of GarageTek, the nation’s largest garage systems company. “Our aim is to help our customer take back their garage by creating a flexible space that can accommodate multiple needs. People are busy, have more toys, they’re involved in sporting activities, and are likely to have a third vehicle.” Add caustic chemicals, garden and power tools and abandoned household items to the mix, and it is easy to see why there is an increasing demand for garage organization solutions. “The foundation for a successful garage design solution is threefold—functionality, appearance and most importantly, safety,” Belman notes, adding that GarageTek has partnered nationally with the Home Safety Council, a non-profit devoted to creating awareness about safety in the home.

GarageTek services are turn-key. “We send a designer to survey the garage and take measurements. The data is then put into a laptop brought to the appointment and the dedicated software generates a 3-D view of the new garage, and a proposal is generated on the spot. Within a few weeks components are delivered and installed,” says Belman explaining the company’s process.

The company’s solution is based around a plastic wall panel that holds a variety of brackets, shelves, buckets, hooks and lockable cabinets that can be easily moved around to accomodate the homeowner’s changing storage needs. The panels resist the damaging effects of hot and cold temperature cycles common in garages and fit together using a tounge-and-groove locking system that is applied over drywall or attached directly to framing studs. “The beauty of our system is the total flexibility. Components can be moved around easily and customers can purchase additional components as storage needs

Another local company offering a turn-key garage solution is Potomac Garage Systems, which has teamed up with the Whirlpool Corporation, manufacturers of the Gladiator garage system. Like GarageTek, the foundation for the system is a PVC wall panel. The two-tone UL-rated Gladiator components are made from galvanized steel and are manufactured in the U.S. In addition to creating the garage layout and assisting customers to select the best components for current storage needs, Potomac Garage Solutions employs a crew that will install new lighting and electrical outlets and also offers painting and refuse removal services. “We are a one-stop-shop for the homeowner,” says Zev Pomerance, director of sales for the growing company based in Rockville. The company also sells garage floor products. “Concrete, tile and epoxy finishes have been traditional materials of choice for garage floors,” he explains, but points out the disadvantages of each. “Concrete is hard to keep clean, tile doesn’t stand up to chemicals, and epoxy finishes eventually crack and are slippery when wet. We did a lot of research before settling on a few products we recommend and sell to customers,” he states.

“We really like Swisstrax, a manufacturer of large, interlocking floor tiles that are environmentally friendly, recyclable and made from UV-stabilized polypropylene. It’s an advanced plastic material that is similar to new car bumpers with additional additives that inhibit fading, static electricity and other conditions,” claims Pomerance. “The tiles really are the ultimate product for garage floors–-they are oil resistant, and impervious to gasoline and all automotive chemicals, as well as bacteria, mold and mildew. Most importantly for homeowners, they are easy to clean and maintain, and when you move, they go with you.” Both Pomerance and Belman say that the cost of their custom garage systems ranges from $4,000 to $8,000.

Dual-Purpose Entertainment Center
You’ve tackled your closets and garage, so turn your sights to rooms that might benefit from slick organizational upgrades. Rosenthal Homes, an award-winning custom builder based in Potomac, Maryland, recently developed a solution for clients who were looking to disguise an entertainment center. Josh Rosenthal, director of marketing for the firm, says the company spent weeks searching for a unique hinge that allowed their cabinetmaker to create a swinging bookcase that reveals books on one side and when rotated, houses the entertainment center on the other. “This solution was one that fit with the client’s lifestyle—the wife did not want the television to be immediately available to the kids when they came into the room, but it permits easy access for her husband, who was a bigger TV fan than she,” explains Rosenthal. In addition to building custom homes, the company also offers remodeling services to homeowners seeking custom organization and storage solutions.


This cabinet by Rosenthal Homes rotates.

Tracy Mitchell Griggs writes from her home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.