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Is a Great Closet Better than Sex?

The first purpose of clothes... was not warmth or decency, but ornament.... Among wild people, we find tattooing and painting even prior to clothes.  The first spiritual want of a barbarous man is decoration; as indeed we still see among the barbarous classes in civilized countries.   ~Thomas Carlyle 

In college we read The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.  I can recall clearly my professor announcing to us that by the end of the book we would possess powerful and mysterious knowledge…. that Mr. Chaucer would teach us “what women want most.”  Now, I’m a woman, and I can tell you that I was surprised to hear that an English poet from the Middle Ages… and a man no less… would have the faintest idea what I might want.

There are a lot of things I want… some trivial, some vital… some common and mundane, others precious and all-too-often unobtainable.  I want to savor a little taste of dark chocolate with my glass of red wine.  I want to lounge by the pool on a sunny day with the Sunday newspaper while Cole swims his laps.  I want to work with wonderful, open, creative people (both clients and co-workers) to create warm, welcoming environments in which people can live… really live.  I want to gather those I treasure most, friends and family, and keep them close to me.

Oh, and I want a beautiful closet.

Not just a closet… a temple to fashion and femininity.  Efficient and ingenious in its use of space while ever mindful of the importance of style.  A beautiful part of our home that will provide storage for my clothes, shoes, handbags, and jewelry, as well as an elegant dressing area for primping and pampering.  Lots of mirror and light and exquisite surfaces and a place to store all of my pretty memories and mementos.  

I’m not alone in my desires.

Many of my clients long for pretty places to play dress up.  Some want whole dressing suites that combine lavish closet spaces with bathing and primping areas befitting a goddess.  Others have slightly more modest tastes.  And it’s not just women… it is men too.  Don’t let them fool you.

My Dream Closet

So after much imploring, Cole acquiesced and helped me design a beautiful dressing room just for me.  It’s not huge.  There really are no huge rooms in our 1920’s Dutch Colonial home.  It was a modest bedroom that was underutilized prior to its metamorphosis.  Now an efficient layout and well-planned elements make an elegant closet and dressing room, not simply a utilitarian space.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

Glass paned cabinets are lit from the inside, showcasing my collections of perfume bottle, compacts, and family photos.  I love how the drawer hardware, designed by Cole, appears to flow from drawer to drawer creating the illusion of a seamless, glimmering ribbon.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

I have an ingenious hidden window, behind the mirror on my vanity, that slides back and sunlight bounces in.  Another hidden touch that unfortunately isn’t visible in these photos is the ceiling which is papered with the palest pink wallpaper that is pavéd with tiny, clear crystal beads.  It creates the most wonderful shimmering effect.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

The marble on the countertops and on the center island is one of my favorites, Bonpierre Rose, a rich combination of cream, blush pink and rich gold tones.  It gives the room subtle warmth amid the gleaming mirrors and soft white painted surfaces. 

image: Hayslip Design Associates

I love my lighted shoe closets.  They allow me to see what I have and the lighting is super energy efficient LED which doesn’t get hot and won’t fade the shoes. 

"If the shoe fits... buy it in every color."  - Unknown

If you have the ability and the space to design your dream closet, I say, “Why hold back?”  Think about how you pack for trips.  Do you want to include space in your dressing area to lay out a suitcase?  Consider including an island that would allow a spacious surface for folding with storage underneath for empty luggage.  Pull out hanging rods are also handy when packing, putting away laundry, or bringing home dry cleaning.

image: Studio Becker

image: Studio Becker

Are you able to have a special area of your dressing room for laundry?  If so, why not install pullout bins for sorting laundry and dry cleaning?

image: Studio Becker

Can you also include an ironing station?  Ironing boards can be fitted into a closet so that they tuck neatly away when not in use.  And if we’re going to go all out, how about a designated ironing station for perfectly pressed pants?

image: Studio Becker

image: Studio Becker

I’ve even know people to install a whisper quite washer and dryer in their dressing area.  It seems so logical and eliminates the need to tote your unmentionables to a laundry room that may be at the other end of the house.  Once hidden behind cabinetry you won’t even notice its utility.


“Fashion is architecture:  it is a matter of proportions.”   ~Coco Chanel

Happily I’ve been able to create some dream closets over the years.  Many of my clients are very fashionable ladies (and gentlemen) with extensive wardrobes and by working with them to accommodate their storage and wardrobing needs I can offer you a glimpse of some of the beautiful results. 

This ladies dressing room has a masculine counterpart that I’ll show further on in this post.  They share common flooring, a combination of gleaming hardwood and richly veined marble, but aside from that shared element there is no confusing the two spaces.  This one is all femininity, with the spacious vanity, sumptuous seating area, and large adjacent closet.  The addition of an antique secretary increases the room’s functionality by providing a space for private correspondence while adding to its womanly aesthetic.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

Another beautiful Dallas dressing room has a slightly more contemporary feel without losing any of the luxe finishes.  This award winning space (awarded first place in residential bathrooms in the 2011 ASID Legacy of Design competition) includes softly honeyed wood cabinetry hiding copious clothing and shoe storage.  The room is lit by a trio of small rock crystal chandeliers and decked with deeply luxurious carpeting.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

The addition of a long silver table covered in thin sheets of silver provides space for laying out wardrobe items for packing or putting away.  The room isn’t overly large and the use of mirrors on the cabinet doors increases the feeling of space.  Hidden behind a clever sliding mirror is a window for natural light and ventilation, if desired, similar to the one in my own dressing room.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

This glamorous closet reminds me of the Moorish fretwork of Morocco.  Moroccan craftsmen are adept at transforming ordinary sheets of wood into geometric-patterned screens and furniture panels, which are sometimes backlit to stunning effect.  These amazing fretwork privacy screens are known as mashrabiya.  In this closet, clothing and shoes are hidden behind doors with a similar appeal.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

And what about that dressing suite that would tempt a goddess?  

I originally wrote about it here, when we completed the installation of this incredible bathing chamber and dressing suite.  Made up of several rooms, the dressing area includes abundant shoe shelving, fitted glass and mirror fronted cupboards for hanging clothes, and a grand center island with drawers specifically designed to hold all her baubles and bangles, not to mention a spacious sitting room.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

A special fur closet is hidden behind an ornate antique mirror acquired at auction and refitted to serve as a door and three-way mirror.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

Her sublime bathroom continues the delicious palette of pearly whites and blushing pinks.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

On a considerably smaller scale...

even the young ladies long for beautiful closets…

image: Hayslip Design Associates

Bold colors are better suited for these budding fashionistas. 

Stripped of the cunning artifices of the tailor, and standing forth in the garb of Eden - what a sorry set of round-shouldered, spindle-shanked, crane-necked varlets would civilized men appear!   ~Herman Melville

And don’t forget about the men.  What did I say?  Don’t let them fool you!  Masters of the universe want to adorn themselves in the finest cashmeres, silks, wools, and leathers… and they don’t want to do it in a poorly lit cubby hole.  Men’s closets can be much more than a place to hang your pants… they can be refined gentlemen’s clubs replete with trays of cut crystal highballs and bottles of single-malt scotch.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

This unique room combines a complete bath, sitting area, closet, and dressing area.  Hardwood planks create a grid pattern in the Serrincolin marble floor which unites the various aspects of the space.  Antique styled rugs add pattern, color and texture to this hard surfaced room.  In the closet area, each clothing bay and shoe case is independently illuminated.

Another gentleman’s dressing room/bathroom we recently completed has all the requisite components: sink, shower, water closet, and clothing accommodations… 

image: Hayslip Design Associates

... and it also has a fully fitted desk from which our client can direct his empires, comfortable seating for watching the big game, undisturbed, on the flat screen, and the feel of being inside the most exclusive Saville Row haberdashery.

image: Hayslip Design Associates

Ralph Lauren’s closet, featured in Architectural Digest

"I still have my feet on the ground, I just wear better shoes."  - Unknown

I don’t think Geoffrey Chaucer could begin to fathom all the myriad wants of women in the 21st century.  His Wife of Bath said what women really wanted wassovereignty over their husbands… which to me doesn’t mean what it sounds like.  I think it translates to having her opinions considered as part of the decision making dynamic… to have her wants and desires considered equally with those of her husband (hmmm… maybe Mr. Chaucer wasn’t really very far from the mark after all).  But, he couldn’t possibly have realized all of the things that pull at the modern woman… family, career, love… and the desire for a really spectacular pair of Jimmy Choo’s and the perfect place to put them.

Mariah Carrie’s closet, featured in InStyle

“Hello, Lover.”  - Carrie Bradshaw (21st Century American “poet”) 



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