We all know open wardrobes as the latest big trend, but how practical are they, really? I’ve heard it all—that open wardrobes lead to dusty clothes, that you have less storage, or that they make rooms look messy in reality. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that having an open wardrobe would be absolutely freeing.
The catalyst that finally led me to trying it myself was moving into my first house. Built in the 1920s, it has adorable stuccoed walls beautiful charm, but not a lot of storage space on the second floor (a.k.a. no closets)! So here I was, without roommates for the first time, and with a little more room to experiment with less risk. What better time than this to go for it?
I won’t lie—I was afraid to let go of my massive Pax wardrobe, and that I’d have clothes sitting on the floor with nowhere to go. But reality is: it looked giant in my home and created an overbearing space. So, I cut the cord, sorted through old clothes that had accumulated over the years in the dusty corners of the Pax, and opened the doors to a new world.
First Thing’s First: You’ve Got to Know What You Want
There are dozens of designs, styles, and functions to choose from—and they all have different uses! If you want to take the doors off of an existing closet, a built-in unit would work beautifully—but if you have nothing at all, a standalone rack paired with shelving could do the trick.
I made my decision by identifying 2 things.
- I wanted to honour and appreciate the clothes I had, by keeping them visible
- I wanted to have one ‘capsule’ space that I could transition seasonally, and a ‘main’ wardrobe to house my entire collection
Cue scouring the internet for the best DIY instructions on a portable open wardrobe.
Here’s what made the cut, and the pros/cons to each design.
1. Dreamy Birchwood Capsule
With a birch branch and natural wood IKEA crates, this bedroom closet with pixie lights is where I curate monthly capsules to encourage creativity and thinking in colour palettes. It’s helped my style become so much more consistent, and it’s also a place I’ve taken to storing all my ethical purchases so far—so I can always see and appreciate the quality and care that’s been put into them!
Pros: It’s such a lively, warm and charming addition to the bedroom! The birch branch provides the perfect amount of character without getting too rustic—it’s beautifully neutral and supports over 10 garments (even heavier sweaters), no problem. The top crate is singlehandedly the best place to store sports bras and socks. So easy to quickly go in and grab what I need!
Cons: I will say, make sure your branch is the right diameter for hangers to fit on it properly! Mine is slightly too thick on one end, which worked for my design but could derail a project if this detail is overlooked. The aesthetic of the upturned crates is lovely, but a little less practical. I find they can get messy if too many items are stacked there at once. These would be good for shoes or a handbag or two! Otherwise, it’s good to limit your clothing stacks to keep things tidy.
2. Industrial Garment Rack + Kallax Shelf Unit
In my home office, I built a space for off-season or out of capsule pieces while still making a design statement in the room. I opted for a rack/shelf combination, so that there was intuitive storage for all kinds of clothing. No sense forcing clothes to be stored in a way that’s not good for them! I used this DIY instructional for the rack.
Pros: If you’re looking for heavy-duty, this is it. Iron pipes make it one of the most stable racks I’ve seen in-market. There’s virtually no shake and I’m never afraid it’ll collapse. The elbows in the piping mean that your garments will never fall off the sides like conventional racks (yay!), and if you add castors to the wooden platform, this baby can be mobile and pushed anywhere.
I could sing its praises forever. The shelf unit is amazing for making your wardrobe less of a ‘wardrobe’ and more of a collection incorporating other cherished items in the home.
Cons: It supports about 5 pairs of shoes, so if you have more, make sure to add a shoe rack to the platform (or if you’re lucky, you’ll have another place for your shoes!)
Believe it or not, building an open wardrobe gave me more storage. I know, it sounds counterintuitive. But it led to an opportunity to critically look at all the clothes I had stored in the depths of the wardrobe since the very beginning, free up some space, and get more creative. And I haven’t looked back since.
Want to see the closets in action? Check out a full house tour on IGTV @petraalexandra