ClosetMaid's Lisa Engel on getting your dream closet | Home Front

Sep 27, 2012

Everyone wants a perfect closet, but few of us know how to make it happen. ClosetMaid's Lisa Engel will be online Thursday at 11 a.m. to answer your questions about interior storage and organization, and to give tips about how to make the most of the closet space in your home. Send in your questions now and join us live on Thursday at 11 a.m.!

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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Morning chatters!

I have closet envy, do you? We're here to talk about closets and we have a great guest, Lisa Engel, vice president of ClosetMaid. She knows the best tips and has solutions for your issues of too many shoes or not enough space for purses.

Let's get going!

Just wanted to give a shout-out to the chatter last week who recommended the storage ottomans from QVC. I had been looking for something like that, so I ordered a set in ivory, which has already arrived. They're exactly what I needed and are much nicer than I anticipated -- a very good quality faux leather. Thank you for the tip!

Terrific. So glad we can exchange ideas like that on this chat. Thanks for updating us.

I am looking for a storage ottoman that is unique and well made. Could you recommend a store that would carry quality ottomans that don't cost a fortune?

QVC has a great one, according to several recent posts from our chatters. Ikea and Bed Bath & Beyond and Crate & Barrel have them.

I asked this question a month or so ago, but forgot what your advice was (well, you told me I needed fewer books, which is true, probably). I'm debating putting in built-in bookcases in my living room, but wonder if that is a turn-off for future home resale. Would I be better off with just two regular bookcases? Personally, if I saw a living room with built-in bookcases, I'd be very happy, but my husband disagrees. Thoughts?

I agree with you. Built-in bookcases give a room a custom look. They are neater and more polished than just buying two free-standing bookcases. You will enjoy them and so will future owners of your home.

Love today's topic but have an urgent question about blinds. I need to replace 5 rooms' window blinds. I had originally bought blinds on line and paid a lot of money for them but they didn't last long. I'm thinking of using Next Day Blinds. Can you or anyone let me know if they are reasonably priced for their quality? Or can you recommend someone who is (I like the idea of them coming out to the house with samples and measuring and installing). I'd appreciate any input as this is a significant outlay for us. Thanks and love the chats!

I know what you mean. I have done my windows in stages, as it is expensive. But I must say, Next Day Blinds always does a good job, on time and I think at a fair price. They have a record of what styles you have used in the past so you can match that with other rooms. They are good about coming out to repair any cords that are damaged. What other companies have you all used?

Hi Jura & Lisa, Thanks for taking my question! I live in a townhouse built in the 50s... Closets were not their priority. I'm in the process of replacing all the original closet hardware with ClosetMaid (this is a timely discussion for me). My hall closets were easy to install. However, I'm at a loss when trying to configure the bedroom closets, which are not walk-in and have smaller bi-fold doors (yuck). Any suggestions on how to maximize space or specific products to use? Closet is 8 feet wide, doors are barely 3 feet wide. Have mostly work suits, dresses and shoes that need to be organized. Thanks! Lauren

Glad we caught you during your project!  The best solution for reach in closets always include a center tower with double-hang on 1 side for your suits and shirts and single-hang on the other side for your dresses.  Here's something to check:  most of our closet kits require your ceiling height to be at least 86".  If so, you can buy a wire or laminate starter kit at Home Depot or from  And remember, our designers are always willing to help.  Good luck and happy organizing!

My apartment only has one closet!!! And it's in the master bedroom. Is there any way I can create storage outside of the closet, that looks good, and still allows me to hide clutter?

Let me give you a link to some laminate options that can be used outside the closet.  Our new line ShelfTrack Elite is a wood+wire combination with the flexibily to adjust the shelves, drawers and storage cubbies.  Again, our designers are always here to help!  Good luck!

Do the DIY products compare in quality to those places like California Closets?

ClosetMaid also offers a line of custom closet organizers (MasterSuite) and we have a network of authorized dealers to help you install. can help find a dealer in your area.  The organization systems found at home centers don't offer as many customized options and do have some material differences, but are still great solutions for those organizing on a tighter budget.  Great question!

Are the products made in the U.S.A.?

Although we do have supply partners around the world, we are proud that all of our wire shelving is made in the USA - in Ocala, FL where ventilated shelving was invented in the 1960s.  That is where I'm located chatting with you today - at our headquarters in FL.

Have you (or chatters) ever replaced them with "regular" doors? My husband and I aren't that handy, but are willing to try if we know it will work. Can you buy doors at non-standard sizes? Thanks!

I am ashamed to admit that one of our closets still has the original bifold doors we found on it when we bought our house in 1986!! We are not handy so we have never replaced them. What ideas do you all have - I would love to hear them as well.

We finally will get rid of our popcorn ceiling. Yay! But now we are confused what kind of white to paint it. Any suggestion, preferably Benjamin Moore. Thank you ladies

I would suggest Ivory White.

It seems like most closet systems, like organization systems in general, work best for those people who will be meticulous in putting everything neatly back into the designated cubby/slot/drawer. What are some tips for those of us who are less, ahem, diligent? For example, shoe racks with the vertical pieces that you have to carefully place your shoe onto may be a good way to store shoes, but I've found flat shelves are easier for me to toss mine onto. If only I could figure out a way to toss sweaters into a neat pile that doesn't topple over!

I agree - who has time to be perfect?  Our line of Cubeicals organizers are a perfect solution to allow you to quickly organize, but hide the clutter.  The fabric bins are perfect for shoes, socks and under garments, but look great when they nest in the organizer!  We also have stackable storage options that give you flat surfaces to stack your shoes. can show you more options to get organized.

Hi Lisa, The closet of our master bedroom is very small, so I want to raise the rod and install a second one below it. Unfortunately, most of the left inside wall of the closet is the access panel for the bathroom plumbing. Is there a way to install a rod that still allows moving the access panel when necessary? Also, what are the recommended heights for installing two rods like this? Thanks!

Hopefully I understand your question - I assume the current rod you have is wall to wall mounted.  I would recommend changing to our ShelfTrack system with Superslide shelving.  That allows the closet rod to "hang" from the shelf itself.  If you ever need plumbing access, you would simply remove your clothes and reach in.

We have a small home with small closets. They are all the old fashioned type - 2 foot deep, 8 foot high, with sliding doors. The Master bedroom closet is 9 foot long, the guest closet is 6 foot long and the hall closet is only 5 foot long. what's the best organizing system for these, especially the master closet which my husband and I share? We also store in the guest closet, but try to keep some hanging space for the occasional guest. thank you!

Let's talk about the master and guest closets first:  The best solution for reach in closets always include a center tower with double-hang on 1 side for your suits and shirts and single-hang on the other side for your dresses.  Here's something to check:  most of our closet kits require your ceiling height to be at least 86".  If so, you can buy a wire or laminate starter kit at Home Depot or from


For your smaller hall closets, the best use of space is provided by our wire ShelfTrack system.  You can add as many shelves (12" or 16" depths) and adjust them over time as your storage needs change.  It is even available in an attractive Nickel finish.


And remember, our designers are always willing to help.  Good luck and happy organizing!

We have used Next Day Blinds as well, and I can't recommend them highly enough. I agree they are a great value for what you get, but to spread out the cost, we did it a floor at a time: main floor living room, dining room and den when we first moved in; basement family room last year; and next year the upstairs bedrooms. Love Next Day Blinds.

Thanks for this. We did the same thing, spreading out the cost by room over a few years.

Costco sent someone to my house to measure and someone to hang the new blinds. We had to take down the old ones. We purchased Hunter Douglas and got a Costco gift card and a great price. I believe they have other manufacturers as well.

Great. Thanks. Pick up some blinds along with a year's supply of paper towel.

So this probably sounds crazy, but I have replaced my closet system (a wire one, can't remember the brand) with one hanging pole across, and am so much happier. My closet is very shallow and only 5 feet long for two people, with a curtain instead of a door. I put shoe racks under the short stuff and a laundry basket under the long stuff, and a second pole above holds the extra hangers. I felt like the wire system used up too much space needed for clothes and hung the clothes too far forward so they stuck into the bedroom. The old ways have their adherents still!

Here's to old ways! Thanks for sharing this.

What are the advantages of the wire closet systems vs Wood?

Wire shelving (originally known as ventilated shelving) allows air flow, maximizes corner space and doesn't "waste" any space.  And if using ShelfTrack, can be adjusted over time - perfect for kids!  Laminate organizers provide a more furniture-like appeal and allow you to "move your dresser" into your closet.  Doors can also help you hide items out of sight.  It's your choice - can show you the options!

I replaced mine with hanging curtains (I used an Indian bedspread). You do need to install a curtain rod, but it looked much nicer than the bi-fold doors.

Great. Does anyone know where to find Indian bedspreads in the DC area. They are great to have, whether to toss over a bed, use for a picnic or make into curtains. I found some great ones recently in Middlebury, Vt. I think they are big in college towns.

Hi. My 1950s home has an elevated shoe rack that sits on the floor and at an angle. (It appears to be original to the home and painted in.) I hate it. But having it on the floor renders the closet useless because I can't put any storage help on the ground because it's uneven. What to do? Thanks!

Our wire ShelfTrack system would be perfect.  It mounts to the wall and allows you to store other items on the floor.  It also has shoe shelf options and can be found at The Home Depot or

My husband and I are looking to give our small dining room a makeover. We're going to start, of course, with the walls. Do you have any favorite dark blues or dark reds? We want to go bold!!!

Sure. Good for you. For navy, I would suggest Benjamin Moore Starry Night Blue or Farrow & Ball Hague Blue. I think blue would be a chicer choice, but for a dark red I might suggest Chili Pepper by Benjamin Moore or Pratt & Lambert Vintage Claret.

Lisa, we have side-by-side closets in the master bedroom. They came with bifold doors, but I'd like to do something more interesting. Any thoughts on replacing them with sliding barn doors (my preference) or curtains? If curtains, what kind would work best? I'm afraid my closet isn't neat enough for a more open style.

Actually, although not interesting, bi-fold doors allow for more closet organization options.  I love the curtain idea - and can be updated when you want a fresh look!


The two bedrooms in our townhouse have three panel sliding doors on the closets. The problem is that there are only 2 tracks so two of the three closet sections are always blocked. Besides hating sliding doors, I don't like not being able to see everything at once. Any suggestions for doors or ways to organize so I can see everything at once?

This is the downside to sliding doors.  Bi-fold doors would be an option or as another chatter discussed, curtains are a great way to freshen a room and hide clutter at the same time.


I'm the person who used them to replace the bi-fold doors -- I am Indian, so I have a lot of them from India :), but I would probably try places like CB2 or West Elm that might have something similar.

There must be places where you can get the real thing. I'm hoping someone knows. They are wonderful for decorating.

I have a closet that is not currently used for clothes but for linens, musical instruments, suitcases - in short, it's our "stuff" closet. It's about three feet deep and three feet wide, and currently has shelves in it but the back of the shelves are very hard to reach. Would you suggest a different setup?

I assume these are wood shelves that are nearly 3ft deep, which are longer than our arms!  You could reorganize with wire shelving and configure the area like an "L."  ShelfTrack would allow you to adjust the shelving over time as you get more "stuff."  Our designers at can always help you with options.  Good luck!

Custom bookcases in a living room wouldn't necessarily be a turn-off for non-readers. Future owners may have collections they want to display, whether it's pottery, family photos, or small art objects. It's more important that the shelving should be well made.


I have ClosetMaid wire shelves, but I hate putting sweaters on them as the wire leaves an indentation and I have to iron the sweater. Do you have any suggestions for solutions fo this problem?

ClosetMaid shelf liners are popular for use in pantries for either 12" or 16" shelving BUT they are perfect to keep your sweaters indent-free.  Check them out at Home Depot or at

We are about to renovate our bathroom, and I'm having a hard time finding reasonably priced styles that I love. My dream bathroom would be the rugged simplicity of a Restoration Hardware bathroom at half the price! Where can I find similar styles for less? The Lowe's/Home Depot models are just so boring.

You ask a very good question. Have you tried local sources such as Atlantic Bath & Brass in Rockville? Do you all have any other ideas.

Try This is a company with stores throughout India, which promotes rural crafts and is known for its community-owned companies model.


We had a very good experience with NDB. We had an unusual issue that required some creativity and they handled it well. I would say they are competitively priced for the high-quality of their product. The lady who came to our home was professional and very helpful. Has anyone used Decorating Den to assist with decorating ideas? What was your experience. Thanks.


sorry this is off topic, but really need chatters advice on best place to use for sealing marble in bathroom. It was a big investment and I want to protect it. Reston/Herndon area helpful but really want to know who does quality work. Thank you! And thank you for all the great chats....they are very helpful!

Everything related to homes and organizing and our lives is totally on topic. Does anyone have ideas for this service in the Reston/Herndon area?

Thanks, that looks like the perfect solution!


We have a walk-in closet that is quite roomy, and we have installed wire-shelving. However, the corner section is difficult because the long-hanging things on one wall are nearly hidden by the double-hung shelves on the wall next to it. What is the best way to handle corners in a large closet?

That is a common problem - we have corner rounder bars that allow your clothes to sweep continuously around the corner.  Our designers can help you at


How does this work with sliding doors (where any other kind of door isn't an option)?

Great question!  A central tower can still work - it just cannot be centered :) You need to offset the tower to the left or right to have access.  If your closet is less than 4', a center tower is not a great solution.  Sliding door questions are popular today - could curtains work for you?

Any suggestions for resources to redesign an existing pantry? I see all the great pieces out there at retail, but I would really like to do some research first. Thanks!

Our Ideas Section have great pantry ideas AND our designers are always willing to help at

in our master bedroom we have two closet, due to pipes above they are both 7' high. one is 3 1/2' wide and the other about 4 1/2 wide. Is there anything I can do to expand my storage?

I assume you only have 1 shelf to hang in each closet today?  ShelfTrack allows you to add more shelves and can provide double-hang for shirts and long-hang for dresses.  Although we suggest the top shelf to be at 84", you can install slightly below at 82" and it will work fine.  Good luck!

I live in a two story house and there is not one closet downstairs! not one! Luckily I live in a place where it doesn't get too cold so no heavy winter coats and shoes but it is still a pain. There's a funky shower under the stairs which is where all the mops/brooms/cleaning products are stored. But do you have any good suggestions for storing backpacks, and extra shoes, and coats for when we need them.

We find that the entry ways (front and back doors and garage entrances) are troublesome Drop Zones.  Try a Cubeicals organizer, bench or wall unit to organize these areas.


3 Cube Bench

Where are your designers ready to help? I have never found anyone at Home Depot who is qualified in design, although the sales people are always helpful at getting things down from high shelves and so forth. For design help, where do we go? designers can provide you design options -there is even a tool for you to use also.  Good luck designing!

Lisa - I can't tell from your link what the Elite system will look like. Can you tell me a little more about it? It looks like a combination of wire and wood possibly?

Yes it is.  The adjustability of wire blended with the beauty of wood.

Thanks Lisa. great ideas.  We hope you all read our closet coverage today. Here's my article Also take our shoe quiz  - count up all your shoes, boots, flip flops etc. (I admit to 52) and then find out how you measure up. See you next week.



Hi Lisa. I have an antique armoire and was wondering if you have any suggestions for organizing stuff that currently sits on the floor (sweaters and shoes). I have a rod that runs the width of the armoire, but lots of underutilized space below.

I may not understand exactly what space you have, but stackable storage or fabric bins may be an option.  Try the link below to see what might work for you.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

Home Q&A archive
Lisa Engel
Lisa Engel is vice president of product development and marketing for ClosetMaid, one of the country's leading closet system companies. As a mother of two children ages 10 and 12, Engel understands the challenges of keeping a family on-track at home. She'll be online Thursday at 11 a.m. to chat with us and answer your storage and organization questions.
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