No Closet? No Problem!

By Christine Brun

July 20, 2016 5 min read

Low on closet space in your tiny apartment? No problem! While scouring an international media source, I noticed recently that a new trend that aids those with storage shortages is popping up. Instead of built-in closets, our European cousins are fond of free-standing pieces of furniture that are handsome and sophisticated.

In the United States, we insist on our closets. From a real estate appraisal point of view, a room isn't officially considered a bedroom without an attached closet. However, in Europe — with a much older culture proliferated with a mix of extremely old structures and modern building — users of the built environment have grown accustomed to bringing their storage with them. After all, the classic armoire was originally a take-along piece of furniture that stored a knight's suit of armor. Over time, Europeans grew used to including the armoire in bedrooms for hanging and folding clothes.

Until the dawn of the 20th century, kitchen storage consisted of open shelves or individual cabinets. Regarded as a work center instead of an aesthetic focus, kitchens were utilitarian and exposed. With the invention of German and Italian modular kitchen cabinets, individuals took their kitchen storage units with them when they moved, just as they did with their other furnishing pieces. Until the 1930s and '40s, kitchen appliances were not integrated into cabinetry. Now it appears that Europeans are leading the way again by designing furniture items that are portable closet storage units intended to stash clothes and shoes. As they are designed to be sleek and modern, it is predictable that we will begin to see such pieces flood the American market, too. This is a practical approach for everything from a hotel room to a studio apartment to a guest room in a larger house.

Whether they design them as benches or like typical dressers in size and shape, numerous manufacturers offer pieces specifically built to receive shoes. What I love about this concept is that you now might consider hiding shoes in plain sight. Imagine a furniture item that looks like a foyer bench but offers closed storage for your shoes. Or consider a piece that might double as an auxiliary surface in your dining room but is arranged to hide 12 pairs of shoes. The trick is to give utilitarian items the look and grace of publicly acceptable furniture instead of inexpensive-looking closet fittings.

Another staple appears to be wall-mounted clothing racks topped off with a single sturdy shelf that might double as a media shelf. Some are quite narrow at 18 inches wide. Others range up to about 48 inches wide. The appeal to the American market should be the fact that these items are designed as suites of furniture offering everything from a shallow armoire to a low bench to a wall rack. Once again, European designers are leading the way with enhanced design. Of course, American furniture design offers options, but they do not rise to the quality level offered abroad. You can easily check Ikea's website, Wayfair or for modestly priced choices.

All of the solutions work best when you have made a purge of your belongings. Though it is noteworthy that you might keep your shoes in the living room in a good-looking chest, it won't work if you have 50 pairs of shoes. The real secret to smart and attractive storage for the small home is to keep the items requiring a place to a minimum. As I write, I realize that my own master bedroom closet has an over-the-door clothes rack jammed with items I never wear. They are simply things that I have not decided to toss out and have allocated to a state of suspended use. This is how and why a lot of us have overcrowded closets in the first place. Obviously, if you live in a place with little or no closet space, this is the place to begin.

Photo credit: Arredokit

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at [email protected] To find out more about Christine Brun and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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