I hope through my writing it’s apparent I truly love my apartment. It’s by far the most aesthetically special home I’ve ever lived in. However, with old special apartments come some “special” quirks. For me, it’s the fact that the first thing you see when you walk into my home is my toilet. Granted, it’s a really cool toilet but still, that’s not what I want my guests or myself to see upon arrival. And you’d think it’d be pretty convenient if you needed to rush to the bathroom as soon as you got home but not exactly. My front door needs the deadbolt to stay shut. So if I were to run straight to the bathroom and sit down before locking the front door, there’s a very high chance that my front door would slowly open, exposing me to the building. Like I said, special. But here’s what I’m actually going to talk about today. Before you enter the bathroom from the hallway entrance, there’s a pass-through wide closet that is lacking any kind of “design” and is simply a boring storage space (FYI this is my secondary closet which I’m super grateful for). I think when they were making this single-family home into apartments they had to make interesting choices and this small space/closet was one of them. It’s part dress/occasional clothing closet, part linen closet, part toilet paper storage, part large household necessities storage, etc. And it’s all visible all of the time! So while I love the idea of designing all closets/storage spaces to be really beautiful, it’s almost always been at the bottom of my priority list. Areas like living rooms and kitchens are first:) But my dad was recently in town so I may have accidentally roped him into making my closet situation muuuuuuch better. Let me show you how.
Here is the view from my front door. It’s not horrible but I don’t love it. Likely the door into the bathroom will always need to be open because that’s only one of two dim sources of natural light in the main hallway. At least the tile is awesome!
Here is the view from the inside of my bathroom. It needs some personality, right??
For fun, here’s a better view of the clothes and the storage above. The fact that the only board game I own is Monopoly will forever be a mystery.
But it’s this area here that both bummed me out the most and where I felt had the most potential. You see, I use my drying rack and step ladder (hello, 5’3 3/4″) all of the time. I need easy access to them and there just isn’t anywhere else in the apartment that works as well. I also had a handful of power tools and workout accessories shoved under my clothes on the other side. It has worked out fine but I hate that they are annoying to access and look messy.
So my original thought was to ask my dad to build some kind of built-in sliding door thing. But with all of the crazy mouldings and wildly uneven walls he wasn’t as enthusiastic about the project (aka it was a hard no). That original conversation probably happened 1 year ago if not longer. But while he was in town for work this past week, I mentioned how I hated looking at my drying rack and tried to see if maybe he had softened to my original idea. He had not but also assured me it was going to look bad trying to work with the mouldings. FINE, DAD. Instead, we came up with a plan together that was going to look great and was much much easier.
The Design Plan
New Storage Plans
TADA! It’s a little shelving unit with a cute curtain to hide everything I don’t want to look at daily but still need to access almost daily.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I hadn’t thought about a curtain but I’m annoying and always want to harder to do option. But once I let that go, I was pumped about this plan and knew I wouldn’t need much more help once my dad left. So as you can see there’s a top self that will likely hold art since I want it to look styled since it’s so visible to the front door. Then behind the curtain, the first self is for my small workout accessories and small laundry tools like my steamer and fabric shaver. Lastly, on the bottom shelf, are my power tools. The shelf is much wider than the tools are so I’m not worried about them falling off. Oh and of course, there’s enough room for the larger items below. But wait there’s more:)
This little closet is getting A BIG makeover. Think color and pattern but all done by hand. Painting a pattern has been something I’ve been really wanting to do in this apartment. Watching people like Carmeon Hamilton, Liz Kamarul, and of course, Hopie Stockman Hill has really inspired me. When I was little I wanted to be a painter and a Shamu trainer (back before I knew everything we know now) so that little painter is still in me (or I at least hope so). I want to bust out some brushes, turn on some music, and go for it. I mean what’s the worst that could happen? I have to paint over it because it looks like trash?? I’m willing to take the risk. It’s time I put my time and money where my mouth is. This is the biggest reason for my one-month deadline. I have a *big* tendency to overthink well, everything, and since this doesn’t require any lead times or collaboration negotiations, I’m going to do my best to release it all and have fun, the only thing making me wait is me.
The Color Palette
I don’t have any patterns for you to look at yet but I know it’s going to be more abstract. If you know me at all, you know I can’t get enough of a fun, simple shape:) But what I do have are two color palette worlds I’m playing with.
First up is what I’m calling the warm-toned (or “warmer” toned) palette. I love the sophisticated burgundy, cream, and dark mustard paired with the more playful sienna and light pink. Then to add some contrast and bring in the blue tile from the bathroom, we have a beautiful dark blue. I think these will also blend really nicely with the tones in the living room without being too matchy-matchy.
But on the other hand…
I also love the idea of cooling it down a bit with this palette! I have a soft spot for the right mint tone which could find its way into the bathroom for something. But I mean, adding more blues, in general, will lend itself to the bathroom. I just want it to feel like this closet “belongs” to the house and not just the bathroom.
These palettes will likely get tweaked but this is where my head is at:)
The Flush Mount
Decor! While I love an abstract shape, lighting is another love story. They are such great opportunities to do something unexpected and really fun. But of course, if you have a really loud design (like a colorful handpainted pattern) you don’t want the lighting to compete. So here are some of my initial ideas for the flush mount I want to replace.
Murano Ceiling Light | Tatum 1 Light Flush Mount | Capistrano Wood and Glass Flush Mount Light
Ooof! I would LOVE this vintage Murano glass light but my fear is that it might need to drop down too low and hit the door. I could maybe get it rewired but that might push me over my $250 budget. Then look at how fun this white cutie is. It would totally bring in the theme of circles my “bench” has in my living room and since I’ll probably paint the ceiling a color it will really stand out. But that wood light not only brings in that nice warm wood tone, I love the brass detail. Plus I’m from a town called San Juan Capistrano…it could be a sign.
Pendant Light “Cylindus” | Cruz Flushmount | Caplet Outdoor Flushmount Light
All three of these are bold, simple, and really chic. The “Cylindus” is vintage so it would add instant soul and looks really cool. The angle on the Cruz flush mount is so good! But at 15″ mint be too big. Then that little modern cutie on the right is sweet, modern, and is only $35 on clearance so…
French Deco Brass Ceiling Light | Givoni Polished Brass Flush Mount Light | Brass Flush Mount Light
The French Deco light is absolutely a top contender. I just love the shape, the size would totally work, and that brass tone is perfect. The details in the Givoni are really awesome and unexpected! Ugh, I love them all. And then the final one on the right is also a stunner. The base is wide and pretty flat so it would take up more ceiling space in a great way and it’s also just really pretty! I guess we’ll have to see once I create a pattern and design which one of the 9 lights will look best.
Progress (AKA Proof I’ve Started And Keeping Me Accountable)
We started this project at 6:30 at night so hopefully, the neighbors weren’t too mad. Naturally, we headed to Home Depot, and picked out the wood I liked best from their selection. I’m pretty sure it was red oak but I might end up staining it later. Not sure! Then we came home to our workshop (aka my kitchen), measured again, and started cutting.
We troubleshot a couple of ideas but decided that cutting smaller pieces for the sides was going to act perfectly as brackets and make it easier to secure everything together. He even made a cutout for my lightswitch:) Thanks, dad!
The Current State
So here’s where I am right now. Dad’s work is all done which I am sure is a relief to him. Now, I need to take it apart to sand and maybe stain it all. I also need to come up with some kind of moulding piece to put on the front of the top self so I can make room for a curtain to hang down from it and lay flat. Someone forgot to factor that in when cutting the bottom two shelves…
Ok, so Nov 28, 2022. Let the countdown begin.
Love you, mean it.
Opener Image Credit: Design and Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Sara’s Closet Reveal – The Bold Design Moment She’s Been Craving
Love this, Jess. Real life problems, elegantly clever workarounds, personalized design. Help from one heck of a dad. Love both color palettes and vote for whichever one best ties together the colors from your entire apartment. This is my favorite kind of design content and I can’t wait to see what you come up with.!
Thank you so much, Diane! He really is one heck of a guy:) Appreciate your kind words. Fingers crossed it turns out ok!!
Couldn’t agree more! I love this kind of stuff. It’s so relatable and makes me feel inspired to tackle design conundrums like this at my house, too.
It’s already looking great, Jess! Can’t wait to see what you do with it.
That’s music to my ears, Stephanie! And thank you:)
I so agree with you both, Diane and Stephanie!
Love this project and the relationship with your dad. Just awesome. Can’t wait to see how the pattern comes in. FWIW I think Steve Martins apartment in Only Murders in the Building is a masterpiece in pattern play. This was the fastest link I found to it, but the show is on HULU if you want to see it. The kitchen floor, entry patterns and a few other moments may be inspo for the design you are seeking? https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/only-murders-in-the-building-sets
O thank you and you and me both!! Ha. And I’ll check it out that apartment xx
Wouldn’t putting a rod up in front of the top shelf give you plenty of clearance?
Yes, maybe try a ceiling-mount rod (mounted horizontally) or a french return rod.
Kj, that’s the plan!
I want to hang it from the bottom of the top shelf but right now they all have the same depth. That’s why I need a little more space:)
I love this. Love the practicality and real world aspect. I have the same or similar drying rack hanging from wall hooks in my laundry room. I cannot tell you how excited I was to realize that while it hangs on the wall I can extend one arm of it slightly and have hanging space for a few things to dry. It’s nice not to have to set it up entirely for a few items. I get you are storing yours in a walk-through space, but mine works so that I can use a shallow angle. I had to share as this option for drying a few things makes me very happy.
That looks great Lisa! I’ll see if that could work xx
I have this Ballard wall rack in Medium. It’s pricy but super sturdy and actually looks cute. https://www.ballarddesigns.com/beadboard-drying-rack/bed-bath/bed-bath-organization/laundry-racks-storage/286725?listIndex=0&uniqueId=286725&isNewProduct=false
Had a similar rack made custom for my space through a seller on Etsy. Good price, although it took a long time, and high quality work.
Not sure where Jess’ laundry is, but I have a Sheila maid drying rack in my bathroom. It’s on a pulley, so most of the time you don’t see it, but then the wet clothes get raised to the ceiling and drip on tile that drains. Since we renovated the apartment 7ish years ago, we had to add a fan/vent (our NYC coop was none too excited about exterior venting in our 1920s era building, but code), which also helps with drying. This might also work well here, and be period appropriate.
There are domestic versions, but here’s the original Sheila maid. Since jess’ bathroom is relatively large, I think it could be a good option.
I can’t wait for the reveal! May I suggest heavy-duty (but stylish) hooks to hang your ladder, etc.? I always feel better when items are off the floor. Fellow petite gal, so I have my stepladder at hand too. Great post.
Thank you! I’m not sure if I can hang them because there are a couple more things I need to stack behind the ladder and drying rack but I’ll definitely check to see if I can.
I love your projects with your dad, and I can’t wait to see how closet make-over turns out! It already looks better!
Thank you so much! And right? Even though it’s all exposed right now, I’m giddy every time I walk by it.
This post makes me so happy! Not quite sure why? Maybe the idea of organizing something into an occasion for joy, maybe seeing you and your dad working on another project. I would cast my vote, if we were voting, for the cool palette. I feel like Liz K has practically absorbed that first one into her bloodstream, and it’s too 70s for me (as one who lived through them in high school and college…) But that’s simply a personal opinion. Enjoy!
Thank you so much, Lisa! Organization always makes me almost too happy so this project is very exciting…especially since my dad helped:) Still playing with the color palette but appreciate your vote!
Maybe put the missing piece going up from the top shelf instead of down? Or just put the rod between the 2 walls and not hang it from the shelf? Nice, practical solution you developed! Can’t wait to see! For the light- I’d definitely be for one that also reflects light from the ceiling and not just down. They’re all beautiful.
I think I get what you’re saying and that’s the plan, to have the “lip” go upwards to secure things like framed art:) Thanks for the feedback!
A sash rod attached to the outer edge of the top shelf might work- without an additional piece of molding. Should give you enough clearance while not sticking out too far.
something to think about!
The countdown has begun! Tick tick tick! ⏰
Jess, this is such a great use of a small space!
Your dad is a maestro of DIY!!! Kudos.
Really looking forward to seeing the end result.👍😊
Thank you and he really is!
Hello, my name is also Jess and I too wanted to be a Shamu trainer. I love what you are doing with the closet space. You cannot go wrong with either color palette and that Murano Ceiling Light is so good! I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how it turns out.
We’re twins! And thank you for your feedback xx
Have you thought about replacing the step stool and drying rack with ones that are more aesthetic hanging them on the wall and leaving that area open? I find the items on the shelf more visually distracting than the items below.
I don’t really have a good open space to display pretty versions plus these ones work great and it’s easy enough to just hide them:)
IS there room to hang the ladder and drying rack horizontally, one in front of the other? Then there would be room for another shelf. This is a great project!
As good of an idea as that is, I don’t think it will work with the number of things I need to lean against the wall. There are a few more that aren’t in the photos:)
Looks good! What if you put in a dutch (half) door for the bathroom? Let the light in but manage that view… or even an exterior style door with big frosted glass panes in the top half?
I would also consider adding heavy duty hooks for your step ladder and your drying rack to get them off the floor; easier for cleaning.
Oh, love the idea of adding a window to the bathroom door for light, great idea Nicola A.!! Maybe with pebble privacy glass like I’ve seen in movies? That fits with the vintage apt style, helps with light for the hallway/closet and gives privacy!! 🙂
Those are both great solutions! I don’t think I want to spend the money on a new door and it would likely need to be custom since the door isn’t a standard size.
And I actually have a few more things I need to put under the curtain so sadly I think hooks just won’t work and will make them hard to quickly grab.
what a grand idea -DIY the existing bathroom door to add a window and then insert groovy, vintage privacy glass!
Collaborating with a small space in order to beautifully engage as much potential as possible (you can help a supposed inanimate object -in this case the walk-thru closet- to live it’s best life, right..?) is one of my favorite endeavors in life (I’m hardly exaggerating ; ). BUT! I might love a Jess and Dad/Bunge Family project/post even more : )
Thanks, Emily Jane!
That’s what I was thinking as well. Or maybe a small bifold that opens from the center, so you get the light but can also block the toilet view. Just seems like a lot of doors in that small space. Maybe once the bathroom door situation is figured out and that area organized/decorated, the hall door can be removed or something.
I love these posts b/c they are simple and yet so relatable! While I love the Farmhouse posts, these are a great way to break up the other content:)
What about putting up a shaker peg rail beneath the shelves? You could still add the curtain but it would be pretty if the curtain is open (which will probably be the case a lot!) And it would get the ladder and drying rack off the floor which would make cleaning the floors even easier. Just a thought! Can’t wait to see how it turns out.
So glad you are excited about the project! And while that would be really pretty, due to a few more things I plan to store under there I don’t think a peg rail or hooks will work. But thank you for the suggestion!
What a wonderful DIY project Jess, and such good solutions, PLUS Les Bunge!! 🙂
I love that you are going to hand paint a design, I have done that in my main bathroom (a mural inspired by one of Matisse’ Goldfish paintings) on a challenging wall with a weird angle. Also, my basement, windowless, roughly finished 3/4 bathroom, there I hand painted a wild Pucci print inspired design on the walls and ceiling in purples, metallic silver with black sharpie outlining the shapes to distract from the less desirable aspects of the bathroom. Plus other elements, like silver, shiny handmade curtains for over the glass shower door, and as a sink skirt, giving it a fun late 60s disco effect. These are temp things until the time I can re-do the bathroom the way I’d really like. 🙂
Jess, the scale of your project is so good, it’s manageable, it’s inspirational, it’s going to be done, and you’ll get to enjoy it many times throughout the day! I can’t wait to see what you have chosen at the reveal!
Your projects sound so great!! Thank you for all of the kind words and can’t wait for it to be all done:)
Just saw this light on Wayfair and thought of your closet/bathroom. Think it could look super cute and leave you some $$’s for other things. Was shocked to see your height stats. I’ve always pictures you are very tall. You go girl!
Haha, I wish I was taller! But thank you for the light suggestion xx
I loved reading this post! Great use of the space!! May I also ask what color blue you painted your closet door (top pic)? It’s gorgeous.
Oh that’s Sara’s closet and she used Goodnight Moon from Clare Paint
Love this kind of fix. I’d suggest removing the hall door .. or both doors?( most landlords will ok as easy to reinstall) and putting a curtain up, the eye would then stop at the curtain then skip[ the inner curtain it will just be in your way. .. and paint the whole wall inc. shelves! or (Use rings on the curtain if over shelves, moves easier).(. I found a vintage beaded one for my bathroom and just turn on the fan when company comes. they would have to push aside curtain to really see.)
I am thinking about removing the door closest to the bathroom but not totally sure it’s the right move. Regardless I want to use a curtain over the shelves so it might end up being too much fabric:/ Thank you for the suggestions though!
Such a cool project, Jess. Great job. Can’t wait to see what you paint on the wall and choose for the lighting. They are all interesting options. Reading about your drying rack, I couldn’t resist showing you the custom drying rack that my son designed and built for me for my recent laundry room remodel. It is attached to the wall on hinges so that it folds down when not in use along with the ironing board also. I love it.
Thank you so much and what a great project!!
It’s really nerdy how excited I get when Jess’ dad comes to town and we get a DIY post. Cheers to this whole project! Can’t wait to see the result.
this makes me so happy!!
Please, someone edit this piece! To/the, mint/might, self/shelf -twice. (But I still loved the project and the article)
A potential solution for the problematic view of the toilet: replace the bathroom door with a door with a frosted lite. That way daylight will come into your entry, without the view of the toilet.
This design project is so relatable with needing to stay within a budget and working with what you have. Especially sweet that you have a wonderful dad to collaborate with! have you considered hanging the curtain from the bottom shelf? Once the wood is stained it might be to pretty to cover. Whatever you do, it will be awesome, you’re plans are great!
Hi Jess, this is a great project! As soon as I saw the pic of the front door view, I thought of the idea I think Emily Jane posted, too! Removing the existing door and then cutting out a portion of the top (perhaps even an oblong pentagon a la craftsman doors) and fitting in stained glass would solve the light problem AND make the door a feature without having to fit a new door. Then you’d look forward to that front door view. You could coordinate the glass colours with your closet remodel.
Haha, I meant adding stained glass to your existing bathroom door, not the front door! Long work day 🙂
These are my favourite type of posts. I enjoy seeing what the team does with your houses so much. Absolutely love the creativity and different personalities and styles.
i think your design solution is really clever and I’m with all those who enjoy seeing you work on projects with your Dad.
Really looking forward to the reveal and seeing the final result.
Good luck and hope you have a lot of fun doing it!
Sorry I forgot I also had a question. Do you also need to walk through the bathroom to get to the rest of your (beautiful!) apartment? I couldn’t quite understand the pass through otherwise to see where traffic is directed .
Your scenario re rushing to the toilet and the door swinging open would totally happen to me! Has happened to me twice before on planes to my utter mortification. (Although a bit funny in retrospect).
Great space hack. I know it’s kind of backwards, but I vote for whatever design works with the dice-like light fixture! Wow, that is so fun!
Thank you for sharing posts about projects you and your dad partner on. My dad passed away in 2020 and he was my favorite person to work on solutions with my homes. I miss him so much, and reading how he helps you makes me smile big. ❤️
YOU COUL USE A SHOWER CURTAIN ROD THAT HAS RUBBER ENDS & DOESN’T REQUIRE ANY BRACKETS & HANG IT FORWARD OF THE SHELVES ON THE MOLDING SINCE IT WON’T SCRATCH THE MOLDING. ALSO, USING A COTTON SHOWER CURTAIN IS LESS EXPENSIVE THAN A CURTAIN THAT’S MADE FOR A WINDOW. THERE ARE LOTS OF GOOD ONES AT TARGET …….OOPS, I JUST LOOKED AT MY TEXT-NOT YELLING – don’t feel like retyping
Yes, those expandable ones like they havd at IKEA.
I’d put some hooks on the wall for the ladder and the clothing rack, so they are flat against the wall, and I would have space on the floor for something else, shoes maybe.
Seeing the toilet as you come in is bad! (and also the worst Feng Sui if you beleive in that). A door with a frosted glass panel would hide it and keep the natural light in your entry way.
Super-bad Feng Shui re: toilet.
Yay! I love small, doable, one-month projects like this! Can’t wait to see how it turns out!
You have the coolest apartment with really nice old details and flooring you don’t see anymore in new buildings or even remodeling.
I love the Jess and her dad posts
No link for the Murano Glass light?
I’m late to this, but want to add that this is excellent! I really appreciate the practical/beautiful discussion and look forward to seeing this take shape. I’ve got a similar space in my home and am borrowing these ideas 🙂
Big vote for incorporating MINT! Can’t wait to see the results, Jess!