Organized Spaces

A walk through the crucial planning stages of getting organized


A carefully designed closet will have a variety of spaces
tailored to your needs, such as this closet by California Closets,
which features areas for hanging clothes of various lengths, as
well as plenty of shelf and drawer space.

Who doesn’t need to be better organized these days? From collections to wardrobes to holiday décor, there is a definite abundance of stuff in our lives. No matter how much storage space you have, customized solutions help keep you organized and also keep clutter in check. While the basic steps to your organizational project tend to be the same, each has specific problems to consider. We consulted the experts to find out the best way to go about starting a custom closet, garage or wine cellar.Tackling the ClosetLarger closets, clean closets, organized closets. Every homeowner wants them, but where to start? Prior to consulting a professional, do a complete wardrobe review, suggests Randy Fry of Fairfax, Virginia-based California Closets. Set aside all non-essential items to be given away or put into storage. “If you haven’t worn an item in a year, consider it non-essential,” says Fry. Now you’re ready to face the design process.

DO: Plan ahead. Give some thought to a “wish list” for your ideal closet. A professional will be able to provide the specifics and give you plenty of options, says Fry, but every client has different needs.

DON’T: Overindulge your wish list. Fry encourages “a dash of minimalism” for an efficient use of space, at least in the beginning. It’s best to begin the design process with the basic requirements of adequate hanging space and proper shelving layout, before cramming in too many details.

“Without organization, there is no closet building,” says Fry. Remember, it is about having a system to keep things neat. Trust your closet professional to introduce the best features to create the most efficient system for you.

In the Garage
A similar process should take place in the garage—but with that much more space, there is that much more clutter to tame. Think carefully about how you are going to use the garage, says Skip LaBella of Thompson Creek Garage Interiors in Landover, Maryland. How many cars are you hoping to park in it? What do you need to store in it? Are you hoping to fit in other features, such as a workshop?

“The biggest challenge in organizing the garage is the purging phase,” says Gilly Arie of Potomac Garage Solutions in Rockville, Maryland. Once you’ve figured out what you’re getting rid of—and what might come in later—evaluate what you will need the easiest access to, and what is seasonal.

It’s important to start with a plan because “you will be investing a lot of time, money and effort,” and want to be sure you have what you need, says LaBella. If the finished project doesn’t fit your needs, you won’t keep it organized.

DO: Research. First, look carefully into the companies you want to work with. Consider how long they have been in business, and do they offer their own warranty beyond that of the manufacturers of the products they install?

Second, assess the materials each company uses. It’s important to know how the cabinets, shelves and storage bins will hold up in the environment of your garage. One of the most persistent problems in garages is moisture, since most garages are not insulated, which leads to greater temperature fluctuations. Moisture can be absorbed into such materials as particleboard, and lead to structural failure.

“The best advice I can give to my customers is to have their garage designed of the most flexible and durable products,” says Arie. There’s no denying that garages are going to hold a lot of stuff, so be sure the cabinetry will stand up to the weight of what they will store.

DON’T: Set your cabinets directly on the floor. This will increase moisture exposure and will also provide a hiding spot for bugs and rodents. Cabinets should be raised a few inches off the floor.

The biggest sign of success will be how the garage functions down the line, not only in terms of space, but how you treat it. If you’ve given yourself plenty of places to put things, you’re more likely to keep it neat, says LaBella.

Custom Wine Cellar
Many luxury homes these days come with a variety of specialized organizational spaces. Among the most popular is the wine cellar, which requires special attention and a slightly different approach than standard storage areas.

DO: Carefully consider what room or space will best suit your needs. Like most projects, this means knowing how you plan to use the space, according to Lisa Weiss of the Wine Cellar Company in McLean, Virginia. Consider whether or not you will be entertaining in or near this space. Would you like to taste wine in your cellar? And, of course, how many bottles do you ultimately hope to store/collect?

Another factor to consider is if you will be controlling the temperature of your wine cellar with refrigeration, which greatly impacts the preparation of the room and the space you need. Refrigerated wine cellars usually require a minimum space of four by four feet.


Materials such as plywood, as used by Thompson Creek
Garage Interiors, are designed to hold large amounts of
weight. It’s a good idea to mount garage cabinets a few
inches above the floor.

DON’T: Install standard drywall in a refrigerated cellar. Use a moisture-resistant product like green board, and be sure to put a vapor barrier up with the installation.DO: Carefully research who will install your cellar. A wine collection can be quite an investment, and you want to protect it. “Building a wine cellar correctly will make all the difference in the world,” says Weiss. While it can be a beautiful feature in the home, you should be sure the specialist you choose has the knowledge and skill to back up his or her design.

DON’T: Feel you have to give up aesthetics for bottle count and functionality, says Weiss. Even modest-sized spaces can hold a surprisingly large collection and still be elegant. Pull-out tables and curved corners maximize space and still allow for tastings in the room. Quality woods, stains and elements such as architectural details and decorative painting can make even the smallest space welcoming, and add a warm touch to more expansive ones.

Whatever your custom space, the experts agree that it’s important to know what you want out of your organizational system. In addition, it’s crucial to choose experts who have the experience to both help you figure out what you need, and to make it work. Adds Fry, “Remember that the design process is collaborative; both the designer and client bring important elements to the solution.”


Metal cabinets by Gladiator, installed by Potomac Garage
Solutions, are designed to stand up to the wear and tear of
garage workshops.

This custom wine cellar by Lisa Weiss of The Wine Cellar
Company includes a variety of wine storage spaces. A
wide island not only offers a surface from which to host
wine tastings, but provides additional storage space.