When Your Closet Is Nicer Than Your Living Space

It’s time for me to grab my pillow and sleeping bag and go camp out in the master closet in the not-finished house. Why? It’s roughly the same size as my current living area, and it looks infinitely more gorgeous.

That’s right, I used the word gorgeous to describe a space primarily used to store clothes. That’s how spending a year living in a garage can warp your perception of things.

Here’s how the room has been coming together over the last couple of months, and you can make the determination when you see the final product about whether camping out in there is extreme, or completely and understandably justified.

Here’s the closet early on. Its roughly 7×10.


After coming up with the shelving plan (inspired by these shelves at The Brick House), it was a matter of doing all the math and making extensive parts-lists. Here’s what a basic segment consisted of:


This is natural gas pipe. It took more than one trip to Lowe’s to get everything we needed because when does it not?


Once everything was laid out, it was time for dis assembly and washing. (I used soap and water, MysteryMan used brake cleaner… both worked equally well.)


Next came flat black spray paint.


Then the basic frame was mocked up before the floor went in.


I also painted the ceiling and walls before the floor went down. And a few days later we had this:


After the floor was finished the actual real assembly of the shelving unit started. The shelves were made from 12″ wide pine shelving from Lowe’s. (Bought in 12′ planks and cut down with the trusty miter saw.)


Two holes were drilled just wider than the pipe for each shelf, and the shelves were stained and polyurethaned before everything was assembled.


Figuring out how to get the hanger rods screwed in (since one was not reverse-threaded) was a bit tricky. Essentially one side had to be assembled from the rod down so that everything could still be screwed together.


The corner shelves were cut from stain-grade plywood and ended up staining darker than the regular pine shelves. In retrospect we would have put another coat of stain on the pine to even things out, but they were already sealed. Live and learn.

Its hard to care about a little uneven stain when you see the final product.


I mean, I think there’s almost enough room to string a hammock up in there, and could you blame me?

The total cost of the shelves was around $500. If we’d gone with solid wood shelves it would have been something like $2000. (Granted, the white wire shelves would have been cheaper, but not nearly so hammock-worthy.)

The Storage Breakdown

While the shelving unit is done, there is still some additional storage to be added in this room. As it stands now, the back wall belongs to MysteryMan. He preferred more shelves and one short hanging rod for his collection of flannel shirts.


The side wall with the double shelf and the high hanger rod is mine.


Half way below the rod I’m going to build an improved version of my pants rack, seen here:


(That, by the way, is the sum total of our current closet space. So you can see while the miles of shelving in the new closet is such a big deal.) The pants rack is basically dowels set into a 2×4 and it’s by far the best way to store pants–and I’m not just saying that because I invented it. The whole looping through a hanger thing never worked for me so my pants always ended up draped over a chair or heaped in a mountain on the floor. This is basically just a more organized version of throwing pants over the back of a chair.

On the new version I am going to space the dowels out a bit further, since it take some maneuvering to get pants nicely side by side on this one.

I’m also considering a few hooks for camis and/or hoodies on this short wall:


And there will be two laundry bins on this wall. (One for whites and one for everything else, because that is the extent of laundry separation that goes on in this house. I’m a little more Bob Vila than Martha Stewart you know.)


Finishing Touches

Other than actually putting my sleeping bag clothes in the closet there are a few things I’m keeping an eye out for to finish everything off in here.

Dark wire laundry hampers, which I haven’t been able to find. But I’ll resort to spay painting a couple of these from Crate and Barrel if I have to:

The top shelf of the closet will also be storage, since I’ll need a step ladder to get up there. These wire baskets from Restoration Hardware will be the perfect fit, but I’m still shopping around for something less pricey.

And, of course, I can’t have a bunch of white plastic hangars all over my new dark industrial style shelves so I’ll also shopping around for some cheap wood (or black) hangers.


So that’s the story of the closet that is nicer than the garage I live in.

If we’re not actually moved in to the house in a couple of weeks, you’ll know where to find me. Do you think I could fit a futon in there?



2016 Update: Hey guys, I get a lot of questions about the specifics of building something like this (parts lists, prices, dimensions, etc.) Unfortunately I built the house this closet is in with a wonderful dude, who is now one of my wonderful ex-boyfriends. And this was like 4 years ago… I bought a farm and have built a lot of shit since then so I can’t give you a whole lot more on this particular closet. However, I did recently build some gas-pipe wall shelves for the laundry room in my current farmhouse that are similar in build and give you a idea of different dimensions. You can find a little more detail on parts and sizes for that project here.


111 Responses

    1. Dave, thanks for the link, I love these with the dark wood and the darker metal. Between this and Sarah slimlines I’ve got some decisions to make!

    1. Ohhh Sarah, you know I think MysteryMan’s mom might have got me some of these for Christmas. They’re white so I was planning to use them in the other closets, but I see they have a black option which I would totally love.

      They’re a little fuzzy, right? What a good idea.

  1. Hello Gorgeous!! I’m totally drooling all over my keyboard over here. But that’s partially because my closet is the size of your garage closet and we have no hope of a bigger one anytime in this house. So. I’d also like to sling a hammock in your closet. So fantastic!!

  2. I’m thinking about using your idea for the pants hanger. What spacing do you have on the existing one and what spacing do you plan to use on the new?

    1. Right now I’ve got 3/4″ dowels spaced maybe 1.5″ apart, which is okay for dress pants, but requires some maneuvering for jeans. I think I think I’m going to space the new one at least 3″. I’d love to see pics of yours when you get it done!

  3. GAH. We’re months… let’s be honest, years… away from our master closet, but this just made my life. I may just add these shelves in every room of the house.

  4. found this post thru pinterest – AMAZING space, really. love it.
    i wanted to comment on the hangers – i collect vintage wood ones from thrift stores, but at some point didn’t have enough, so i ended up buying some light wood ones just like you have pictured. when i then moved in with my bf he got dark wood ones, so we ended up mixing them all up and i have to say – it was a really nice effect. so if you get a few here or there in different tones when you see them on sale, i think they’d look really nice in this space.

  5. I am absolutely in love with your closet! I would really love these shelves everywhere and since right now I am remodeling a kitchen, I think I’ll start there! Just wondering on the corner peices though, I can’t tell how the long shelves are attached to the corner plywood… Can you share your secrets? Thanks so much in advance!!

  6. Hello! This is a great project and the final result is breathtaking. I recently did a standing coat rack using industrial pipes and am thinking of using your method for my closet space as well. I have a couple questions though… Have you found any problems with weight or the flanges coming out of the wall? Did you do anything special (such as always drilling into a stud) to make it more durable? I’m a bit worried about how strong the pipes will be, and I’m terrified that all my clothes will pull it down. How has yours held up? Thanks!

    1. Well I don’t live at that house anymore Laura, but It was pretty sturdy because the shelving mostly rests on the ground (and in this case had a 90 degree angle) so most of the weight was on the bottom.

      If you were doing new construction you could put some blocking in where the shelf supports would go, or you can use some drywall anchors (we did do that) and will probably be fine as long as you aren’t swinging around on them!

      1. What? You don’t live here? That’s what comes from starting to read your blog from the beginning.

        Now I have to stay up all night to find out why!

  7. It looks fantastic! For the top sets of shelving where the corner and straight shelves meet, how are they both supported? I see that each shelf is generally supported by looping over the vertical pipes, but since there’s no overlap where these two sets of shelves meet, I don’t see how they’re both supported. Thanks!

    1. Hey Steve – those boards are joined to the corner pieces using dowel joints, so it’s technically one long shelf.

  8. I’ve been looking for a detailed post on a closet made of plumbing fixtures since we got a quote for custom closets, and I nearly fell over! Yours has been the most descriptive I’ve found, and I’m so glad I did! I’m hoping, however, to be able to do a double hanging rod, and didn’t know if you considered that or if you thought it would work.
    Also, I was thinking do doing 18″ shelves but with the holes drilled at the 12″ mark, so that 6″ would hang off of the front without support. the hubs as big feet and a 12″ shelf would have his shoes hanging off. It wouldn’t support anything too heavy. Would you brace it in some way or do you think it’s fine with the back support?

    1. Hey Tori – If you haven’t started this project already the only thing I can see being and issue is creating a “full circle” of threaded pipes with the two hanging rods. (I think you’ll run into a problem with not being able to screw the last piece in without unscrewing it at the other end, if that makes sense.) They do make connectors to fix this problem though, so it will be a little bit of trial and error.

      Also, I don’t see a huge problem with the depth of the shelves but instead of letting them hang off the front I might just use longer support pieces so the entire unit is deeper. Just a thought!

  9. I plan on doing this (almost) exact closet in the spring. After searching for 6 months for inspiration I have finally found it! I plan to send you pictures upon completion! thanks again xo

  10. I would like to know if you have to attach the pipes to the wall. I do not have any studs the dry wall is up against the brick. How much will it cost and can you tell me what size the materials are and how much. I think you said Lowes.

  11. Amazing!!! I love it. Wish there was a picture to show it filled up and completely finished with your pants rack etc. 🙂

    1. Thank you! I did have it filled up for about a month, but unfortunately moved out of that house shortly after that… won’t be the last closet renovation I do though. The pant’s rack is coming back!

    1. Probably half-inch for these (it’s been a while since we built them and I don’t live in that house anymore!)

    2. They are 1/2 inch. I zoomed in on one of the pictures. The rods that support the weight of the boards are 1/2″ x 8 inches.

  12. Hey quick question, not sure if you are still monitoring this post…

    I’m doing something similar and I’m having a hard time visualizing the size of the shelves. Did you do 12 inch length rods followed by 18 inch followed by 12 inches and up? Cant’ tell from the pictures…. I would really appreciate an answer!


    1. Ryan – I’m sorry I can’t give you a straight answer. I don’t have the measurements written down and I no longer live in that house. The shelf hight was kind of an arbitratry decision though… I think the bottom may have been 18 and the rest were all 12. I don’t know the heights of all the rods though.

    2. I am building some shelves and came across your site.
      Can you give some measuring skills to do this and what pipe sizes.

  13. OMG…this DIY closet system is awesome. My hubby is so NOT a handy man, but this project will soon appear on his “honey-do” list. Love it. Thank you for sharing….and I hope it’s alright if I share this link in my weight management group on facebook “SpillageFreeZone”. We have a DIY album and this…I must share.

  14. I LOVE this! I know this was a long time ago and that you weren’t able to use the closet for long, but did you notice how well the painted pipes held up to the clothes hangers? Did it seem like it would work well long term, or do you think it would start peeling and scratching the paint off? Thanks!

    1. I checked in with MysteryMan, and he said they were holding up fine. Any scratches weren’t very noticeable given the color of the pipe, anyway!

  15. Terrific job n explanation for DIY! Looks great. From personal experience when we built a room size walk-in closet I reccomend a different hamper then a wire basket. These hampers will be in your lovely clothes closet and clothes that have been worn do pick up body oils/odors. For socks n undies (basically whites) we use a pedal step closed lid tall round trash can with the lift out hard plastic bin. This keeps odor contained n easy carry bin to get to washer. For other clothes, slacks n shirts etc (dark socks too) we use a plastic trash can that has the swing lid. You can drop clothes in lid swings back in place. Again it is its own basket to get clothes to washer. These both can be purchased in blavk to compliment. But at The Container Store, Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart or the like.

  16. How did you connect the corner shelves to the wall shelves? Or how did the regular 12″ boards stay level? That the only thing getting me and I have lots of corners in my closet! Tia

  17. Question: the flanges up top look to have too wide of a diameter to anchor successfully into the wall studs . Am I missing something? I am likely going to do two levels of hangar bars and need the support of all the screws nice and…uh, screwed (seated?).. Any suggestions? Was thinking of putting a facing of 2×4 into the studs and mount to that but would love to avoid that extra step and space is at a premium and the center of the walk in area would have 4″ less elbow room when in there each day since I’m doing mirror installs on left and right of closet.

    1. We just used drywall anchors. There’s no real weight being put on the wall flanges (the shelves don’t hang from the wall, they have flanges on the ground, obviously) and we didn’t go climbing around on these! If you have kiddos they might try it though, in which case I would recommend blocking behind the wall. But really I think a couple strong drywall anchors (two per flange) will work.

  18. How are the top flanges anchored into 2×4 studs? Diameter seems too wide to seat the screws nice and snug in the 2″ face of the 2×4

  19. I am getting ready to this in my walk in just one question how did they tie the corner shelf into the straight shelf, just the wood part

  20. Hi- Love this space- I know you don’t live there any longer but can you tell me is this plastic piping and galvanized connectors or is everything plastic? Thank you!

  21. Hi Kit, Great idea. Can I assume that you had to have Lowes cut and thread some of the pipe to your specs? Or was it in the lengths you needed?
    Also, can you expand more on how you were able to thread the hanger rod? Did you have reverse threads on one end?

    1. We used all standard-sized pipes for this, so no custom threading necessary, but they do it for free (or cheap) so it’s definitely an option.

      I don’t know how to better explain the hangar rod… we just “built” and threaded one side of it from the ground up, then put the rod on then built the other side down from it (because it doesn’t need to be attached to the floor to build…) Not sure if that makes sense, but that’s the best way I can describe it. It was not reverse threaded, although they do have fittings for that.

  22. Hello,

    I absolutely love this closest! What type of flooring did you use? Pine? And if so do you by chance remember the stain that was used on the floor?

  23. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS!!! The “Kid” is finally grown & moved out so I am sitting in the middle of my soon to be “closet room”. This shall be my inspiration. I guess I’ll share it with “Him” LOL. I’ll be adding a vanity table area because there are lots of windows in here so I can get beautified while sitting down (what a wonderful thought). Thanks for sharing!!! Did I say how much I LOVE this?

  24. Hi Kit,
    Love your industrially designed closet! Check out our blog post from today- We didn’t steal- (yikes! saw your warning) your even more famous as our featured blog post star! Links back here and everything, lol!

  25. Did you get your hangers yet? If you have an Ollies (“good stuff cheap!”) near you they have wooden hangers, $5 each for an 8 pack. Looks really beautiful!

  26. Stumbled onto your site. Next time you need wire bins a certain color, I would use Plasti Dip. It comes in a bunch of different colors and can be dipped, brushed or sprayed on. I think it would last better than regular paint on something semi-flexible like a wire bin. Easy to find at Amazon.com, Wal-Mart.com, etc..

  27. I plan I doing this same concept in my walk in closet, the only thing I can’t figure out are this corner pieces. How did you assemble them?

  28. I so needed this post. Thank you very much. My closet in my condo is spacious but the former owner put in this completely inaccessible wire rack at the very top. Time to dive in and remove it and start over.

  29. maybe to personal but how much did the piping cost? i have pallet wood id like to sand down and use.

    1. Honestly, that was a few years ago and I don’t remember, but somewhere between $300-500 I believe… you should price out based on the exact design you’re looking for though!

    1. My husband and I bought a house and I am taking a bedroom for his dressing room. He likes that industerial look so do you think I could build it free standing?

      1. Sure. It would require more pipe and you’d definitely need them either well-anchored to the floor or wider for stability. Good luck with your project!

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