Antique furniture and retro racks serve as closet alternatives

January 17
Stylish-Patina-9

At Stylish Patina boutique in Falls Church, a china cabinet gets new life as a shoe closet. Photo by Kate Warren.

A chest of drawers or a two-doored closet is a fine way to store your coats and shoes. But nowadays, clotheshorses and dandies seem as likely to keep their shirts and pants on an industrial-cool metal garment rack or their scarves tied to a vintage wooden apple ladder.

“People crave the experience of feeling like they’re in a dressing room at a store,” says Bethesda professional organizer Rachel Strisik (rachel-company.com). “They don’t want their clothes to be stashed in plastic bins anymore.”

For some, this increasingly creative clothing storage means turning a spare bedroom into a fancy dressing room, like Alexandria personal shopper Kathryn Martin did. She combined Elfa shelving with quirkier elements like a frame filled with chicken wire she hangs her earrings on. “I think it’s about being able to see your clothes,” she says. “If things are on display, then you know what you have, and you’re more likely to wear it.”

Credit this creeping out of the closet both to our envy of celeb dressing rooms (think Paris Hilton’s massive shoe room in “The Bling Ring”) and the lack of storage in many of the region’s teensy houses and apartments.

“A lot of these older homes have the tiniest closets,” says Kelly Millspaugh Thompson, owner of vintage furniture shop Stylish Patina (410 S. Maple Ave., Falls Church, Va.; 703-663-8428). “We sell many armoires to people who live in older places. They work not only for clothes, but also for shoes or bedding.”

Other antique pieces that make sense in modern abodes: Old-timey coat racks (“great if you don’t have a hall closet,” says Thompson) and oversized candelabras, which make stellar necklace hangers.

Pottery-Barn-Teen

Iron tubing and brass details lend Pottery Barn Teen’s rolling clothing rack ($299, pbteen.com) an industrial vibe.

For those not inclined to repurpose furniture — or rich enough to call a custom outfitter like California Closets — retailers are turning out products such as rustic metal clothing racks ($299 at pbteen .com) and bag/shoe/clothes storage towers like Ballard Designs’ beachy gray “Sarah” line ($359-$799, ballarddesigns.com).

“It’s a feeling of having a retreat, and these closet-like pieces are a component of that,” says Pallavi Naidu, vice-president of merchandising for Ballard Designs. Such shelving and hanging systems can either turn a corner of your bedroom into a primping zone or star in a dressing room.

Still, there are considerations when you bring your clothes out of the closet and into the boudoir, hallway or spare room. Don’t store textiles in bright sunlight, or they’ll fade. (Aka, if you convert your kiddo’s former nursery into a dressing room, keep the blackout  shades.) And, if you store handbags in a glass-front china cabinet, keep things neat or risk your pad looking like a thrift-shop. “There’s maintenance if you store things in an exposed way,” Strisik says. “It’s more upkeep, and something you’ll have to commit to.”

Still, if organizing your wardrobe in a showier, snazzier way means you enjoy getting dressed in the morning, it’s worth it. “You’re making a relaxing, pleasing space to start your day,” says Naidu. “Who wouldn’t want that?”

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