There’s a time and place for the humble hanging rail, but one look at these bespoke projects has us hunting for the tape measure. Each offers a decidedly different take on the fitted wardrobe, from a serene tadelakt-coated space to a smart mezzanine-cum-dressing room that’s big on colour. Consider this your invitation for a rummage...
It’s not surprising that stylist and blogger Emma Thatcher (@emmarosestyle) has an impressive walk-in wardrobe. Her Instagram followers will recognise it as the colourful backdrop to her daily outfit posts. It leads off the main bedroom in the converted coach house she shares with her husband and three children.
A gruelling renovation saw the historic building restored from top to bottom and, because the bulk of the budget went on necessities like a new roof, rewiring and plumbing, the wardrobe had to wait until the very end of the project. Although the room is large, its shape dictated a unique arrangement of the available space, with shelves and rails lining the two longer walls and a door to the bathroom beyond. Emma also had one very specific fantasy wardrobe in mind: ‘Carrie’s in Sex and the City!’
She found a carpenter to build her design from MDF to keep the cost down and opted for open storage. ‘If it was in my bedroom, I’d have doors to make it look sleeker,’ she explains, ‘but it works well… when it’s tidy! I like being able to see everything, it’s much easier to find things.’
Inspired by an Ikea hack on Instagram, she had the shelves painted in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Inchyra Blue’ – a deliberate contrast to the white walls in the rest of the house. In the centre, a pink velvet ottoman currently stores bags and scarves, but Emma is scouring antiques websites for a pharmacy table or glass-topped shop unit as a permanent feature.
She shares the space with her husband: ‘His side is ridiculously tidy and mine is always all over the place with colours, prints, fabrics... an explosion!’
Her stylist background means order underpins the creative chaos: ‘I categorise and colour-coordinate everything and use black velvet hangers from Amazon – they’re space-saving and look really nice. If I’ve got a meeting or event where I want to look my best, I’ll go on Pinterest and Instagram to see if there’s anything that jumps out at me. Most of the time it’s an outfit where I’ve got the pieces in my wardrobe and just hadn’t thought to put them together that way.’ Part storage space, part creative lab, Emma’s wardrobe is the hardest working room in her home.
Making a dressing room, rather than a kitchen or living room, the heart of the home might seem unusual, but for founder of design agency Tomorrow PR Neil Byrne and his fashion designer partner, it made complete sense. With rooms stacked one upon another, the unconventional layout of their east London apartment called for a fresh approach.
‘We could immediately see the potential for one of the mezzanines to become a large dressing room,’ says Neil. ‘The bedrooms didn’t have the space to add storage, so this was the perfect solution.’
Because of the strange shape of the space – ‘a squashed wedge’, as Neil calls it – bespoke was the only way to go. It also meant the couple could tailor the cabinets to their needs. Neil chose to commission Uncommon Projects, a company that specialises in bespoke plywood cabinetry, after admiring the quality and simplicity of their work at a design fair. ‘They were super excited when they discovered we wanted to play with colour and have some fun with the design,’ he adds.
The vibrant palette is based on German artist and Bauhaus member Josef Albers’ work in colour theory. Neil’s partner, who is known for his use of fluorescent accents in the clothes that he designs, drove this aspect of the project. He tried a multitude of configurations before settling on an assemblage of yellow and green shades for the wardrobe doors, taking care that they didn’t jar with the adjacent rooms. The wardrobes wrap the two walls of the mezzanine, with one side opening out to the triple-height living room and the other to the dining room below.
The couple’s different approaches to dressing are reflected in the division of storage; ‘My other half has more clothes, so he has the longest side,’ says Neil. It’s meticulously organised by type, whereas mine is a bit of a jumble! He will plan his outfits for the week, whereas I tend to wear the same few things time and time again.’
The wardrobe’s central location is practical, but the bold design also holds its own against the large-scale artworks that hang throughout the flat. ‘It really is the focal point of the home,’ says Neil.
Sarah-Louise Marks and Christopher Phelps
Sarah-Louise and Christopher are the globetrotting couple behind renowned Instagram accounts @TheAdventuresofUs and @no.17house, which is dedicated to inspirational spaces. Known for their sophisticated take on traditional interiors, the couple have extensively remodelled their own Victorian home in Richmond, restoring original features such as fireplaces and cornicing and creating a beautiful bespoke his and hers dressing room on the top floor.
‘The constraints were definitely space and ceiling height,’ says Sarah-Louise. ‘We had to work around steel beams, ensuring we maximised as much storage as possible, whilst at the same time keeping the wardrobe functional and clutter-free.’
As with every aspect of the renovation, Christopher and Sarah-Louise meticulously planned the internal arrangement of the wardrobes, which they share equally. ‘We wanted the space to work for both of us,’ Sarah-Louise explains, ‘which is a challenge as men and women shop and dress very differently. We spent a few evenings listing everything that we wanted to store and drawing out different versions of the plan until we felt that we had reached the perfect layout for the both of us.’
Elevating organisation into an art form, the wardrobes are split between a long section for dresses and coats, shelves and drawers for jeans, bags, activewear, socks and underwear, with a larger section with two shorter rails for shirts, jackets, short dresses and tops. There is also a dressing area with a footstool and mirror and a few finishing touches still to come. ‘We like to plan our outfits, and will be adding some Rose Uniacke hooks to the edge of the wardrobes to help us to style our looks.’
The bright, functional dressing room is perfectly symmetrical, with clean lines and closed cupboard doors creating a calm atmosphere that contrasts with the bolder elements in the rest of the house.
The wardrobe insides are made from warm, tactile oak and the doors feature handcrafted black bronze hardware by Van Cronenburg. Finished with a coat of tadelakt (a natural lime-based plaster) on the door fronts, walls and ceiling, the effect is unified and enveloping, with subtle texture. ‘It catches the light in such a beautiful way,’ says Sarah-Louise.