custom closet on a clothesline budget

did anyone notice that — after a few days of consistently posting about the progress on our master bedroom — things quietly and conveniently ground to a halt in there? i was trying to distract you with filler posts about hanging art and new shoes.

whether that worked or not, i didn’t forget i had a bedroom to finish. if you were stubbing your toes on too large underbed storage containers and traipsing all over the house for your clothing, you probably wouldn’t have forgotten either. my (obviously overly ambitious) “weekend project” of painting, hanging, wallpapering, and figuring out storage for our master bedroom has officially reached the one month mark now.

everything was on schedule until i introduced the novel idea of storage to our bedroom, and then all my plans were derailed by the fact that our aspelund storage containers were too big to fit under our bed frame and epoxy didn’t prove strong enough to hold both closet rods and clothes in a perpendicular fashion. i don’t own a circular saw and i didn’t have a plan b for the second level of closet rods, so i’ve been scratching my head over the bedroom storage for the last few weeks.

since it’s been a while, here’s a reminder of where we left off in the master bedroom:

looking pretty nice and — dare i say it? — more spacious than before. albeit, with no storage solution in sight.

at the outset of all this (like, way back in february), i was thinking “custom closet.” with their fancy rods and shelves and drawers, custom closets can do wonders for people that have houses built in 1941. i figured we only have the two closets in the entire house — one in each bedroom — so maybe we should just splurge, hire a professional, and make them as functional as possible. but custom closets are really really expensive, and frankly, i don’t even know if a professional would bother taking on two tiny reach-in closets as a project when there are so many walk-in closets in this world that desperately need poufs.

and since i can think of a number of things i’d rather spend hundreds of dollars on (hello, new bicycle?), i measured our inseams and sketched up a plan that i thought we could execute instead. the plan involved powder-coated steel rods hung at varying heights, a few small shelves for folding cardigans (of which we both have several), and a 3- or 4-drawer dresser to act as a “built-in.” along with the underbed storage i planned on procuring, i felt confident that we’d be able to fit all our clothes in our bedroom with this plan.

i found the perfect dresser pretty quickly, and gave it a makeover in may. all the other materials i picked up at home hardware and ikea in april. here’s the cost breakdown.

all the materials totaled up to about $300 — roughly the cost of custom closet design plans from a professional? that’s what i’m telling myself, anyways.
i wallpapered some mdf to help support the new steel closet rod, which pierre cut to fit the width of the closet. we hung this first, higher than our old rod, but still low enough for me to reach easily.
above the new rod (and above the closet cut away) pierre hung a shelf for each of us. my dad helped us create these smaller shelves using a table saw. the brackets hide the raw edges, so the ekby järpen wall shelf is a great choice if you need to custom cut to fit a space. we actually have 3 more shelves in the basement that we’re going to install in our spare bedroom closet, and these all had to be trimmed slightly, too.
next, i hung the mirror — three times. first, it was too high. then, it was too far to the left. finally, it was just right. i poly-filled the first hole and gave it a touch-up with some paint and the second hole is covered by the mirror’s final location. i hate that i made these errors, especially after all the time and attention i gave to patching, sanding, painting, and wallpapering the bedroom.
we moved the dresser into the bedroom (never thought i’d see the day we fit a dresser into this room!) and then i made an attempt to install some shorter steel rods *remnants from the rod pierre cut to fit the full width of the closet) using just the male halves of two pole socket sets.

in retrospect, it’s embarrassing to admit that this was in fact “plan a” — epoxy glue the rods into the pole sockets and then run up and down the basement steps to grab enough paperbacks to support the rods until they dried. pierre warned me this wouldn’t work. it did not.

the epoxy held the rods okay, but as soon as i started weighing them down with hangers and clothing, they dived towards the floor. so those holes in the wall caused by moving the mirror were just the opening act; now, i had pole sockets to remove. and the fact that epoxy had been involved meant a circle-sized portion of wallpaper decided to come off with them.

in the end, it was more mdf to the rescue, to cover up the holes / missing wallpaper and also to better support the rods we ended up installing. but we didn’t come to this solution easily or quickly. ideas that were tabled and later rejected for various reasons include:

  1. spray foam to make the rods really secure in the pole sockets
  2. drilling small screws through the pole socket to add gravity-defying pressure to the steel rod
  3. using fishing line to suspend the shorter rods from the longer rod above
  4. buying this instahanger from home depot online
  5. adding the female half of the pole socket sets to the sides of the dresser, and leveraging the rods that way

turns out the rod that was originally in the closet was the one piece variety — the rod was welded to the piece that you screw into the wall (and yes, that’s the technical term). so if we just cut the middle out of that rod and then screwed each half to different pieces of mdf on either side of the closet we would have the look i wanted, take advantage of the full amount of space available, and shouldn’t have any strength or durability issues.

we did just that, and then i used epoxy to cap off the hollow ends of the rods with the two dials left over from when we brought our 1964 victrola into the 21st century  (the other three dials are the hooks on the back of our bathroom door).

best of all? all of our clothes are now in our bedroom! which means our spare bedroom is no longer a dressing room! i still need to make some tweaks to our bed, but i should be ready to do a master bedroom reveal later this week.

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