How to Plan and Style a Small Walk In Closet

A small walk-in closet can present a challenge when it comes to storage and organization. But with some creative styling, it can become a functional and pretty space to ready yourself for the world. In this post, I will share some tips and ideas for how to plan and style a small walk-in closet, so you can make the most of your space.

walk in closet ideas

What is the smallest size for a walk in closet?

The minimum size for a walk in closet, I would say, is a 4 feet wide square. You really need enough space to hang a rod for clothing, which is approximately 2 feet, and be able to stand there.

In my space I was lucky enough to have a 4 feet wide space, but a lot longer length. This allowed for some pretty creative storage.

Creating closet storage where there was none

When we moved to our current home, there really wasn’t enough closet space in the primary bedroom. We had come from a larger home where we renovated a fifth bedroom into a giant walk-in closet. With a tweak of a wall here and there, we incorporated the new closet space into the primary quarters.

So how could we live with a smaller closet? Truth be told, I was all for living with less, but I still needed an actual closet.

The room that would become my husbands office abutted our primary bath, which we had plans to renovate anyway. With some finagling, I was able to steal a 4′ x 12′ space from his large room to create an efficient but small walk in closet. What would have been wasted space in his study became usable space for my closet.

Our Closet Makeover

When entering our primary bedroom, you walk into what I call a “dressing foyer” of sorts. There are 3 closets. Well, actually two as the one long reach in closet has two separate pairs of doors. However, the space within passes through and was equipped with nice built-in organizational systems. There was lots of double hang, shelves for folded clothes, and shoe shelves. Places for long hanging belts and ties let me know that this would be the most efficient for my hubby’s clothes.

The other small reach in closet was enough space for my hanging dresses. It was a good place for storing things such as my often used carry-on luggage and a top shelf that could house some sheets and other items.

I then focused on the closet design and what would fit in a very narrow but long space. I was able to create a small walk in closet that would hold my everyday wardrobe. We were lucky enough to have a separate cedar walk in closet upstairs, so any clothes that were bulky and seasonal could be moved there. We also had plenty of drawers for small items, so there was no problem there.

small walk in closet

Closet Organization

I do love to organize and this closet design needed to be super organized as I was dealing with limited space. It’s small but mighty, and it always surprises me how much maximum storage it actually provides. I only had 12″ of floor space that would be taken up by the built in shelves, which left 31″ for the walkway. Everything else would fit in the large dresser of drawers in the primary bedroom.

shelves in walk in closet

The long and narrow room came with a window on the left side. I used the back wall of the closet for double hanging rods. The entire right side length that was left became shelving where I would fold my everyday clothes. Shelves hold all the jeans, t-shirts, pants, sweaters, shorts, and sweatshirts. Room at the beginning and end of the shelves for long hang, were left open to not crowd the entry or the hanging area.

tunics hanging in small closet

I also opted to not add doors of any kind, as the room feels decorated and not only like a place for hanging clothes. I’ve purchased a curtain to use if desired, but I still have’t put it up yet and not sure I will.

Small Walk In Closet Ideas

The key to styling a small walk-in closet is maximizing the use of the available space all the way to the ceiling and creating a sense of order. By decluttering and organizing items, providing the right storage solutions for what you actually have, and adding some decorative touches, you can turn a small walk-in closet into a pretty and functional space.

walk in closet ideas

Look up

With a small walk in closet, you must use the area efficiently, so top shelves and looking up when organizing can be a huge game changer. People often forget about all the space in a room above your head. If you have a really tall ceiling height, you can even utilize that space as needed.

I used the available space above the entry door for hooks that hold hats. This is also a great place for extra shelving to hold bins that can hold small accessories like scarves and evening purses, shoe shine kits, etc. Just notice all the under utilized storage area on your walls and a million ideas to maximize that area will present themselves!

hats on hooks in closet

The front facing long hang had an open area above it so I placed the same rod used below and used it to hang purses. I wasn’t ready to give up my collection of cool cowboy boots, even though I don’t wear them too much, but they were able to fill the spot above the double clothing rods. They look up there, almost like a bit of ‘art’, and it’s the perfect spot to maximize that shelving for tall boots. I stacked them front to back to use the complete shelf.

front hang walk in closet

Narrow walkway

The closet provided less than a 3 foot wide floor space outside of the builtin. I was able to use the side walls for some narrow storage for belts, jewelry, and bags, and small purses. I sold Silpada Jewelry for many years, so I realize I have more items than the average person. And I know if you can’t see what you have, it will never get worn.

belt hooks in closet

I made a simple system to display jewelry using a 1″ x 2″ board with finishing nails hammered into them and painted it using Bungalow 47 Furniture Paint. It makes an easy and cost efficient solution for all of my necklaces. Belts and accessories are hung on these hooks, screwed into a 1″ x 4″ board. A simple moulding makes it look more finished.

display jewelry in small walk in closet

Stack efficiently

When building the shelves, I measured my shoes I wear the most and spaced shoe shelves accordingly. Shoes are stacked efficiently by type, and frequency of usage. The shelves make it easy to find things. It feels a bit like shopping in a store inside my closet.

shelves in walk in closet

I feel like shelves are better storage versus drawers for things like pants and t-shirts. Everything is open and putting clothes away is super easy, so clothing stays nicely folded.

walk in closet shirts

Color Code and Categorize

I am a big color coder and closet organizer from way back in the day. When I was a teenager, I spent way too much time organizing my closet. I made notes about when I wore what, and obsessed about my closet. Now I just color code things once for easy retrieval and forget about it.

I categorize by short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, skirts, jackets, etc. Then within those categories, they are color coded. Of course, this process is super easy as I wear a limited color palette. I also color code items on the shelf. Jeans are stacked by length or style; i.e. ankle length, boot cut, skinny jeans, capris.

small walk in closet jeans

Consider Floor Space

I did not have extra space under my double hanging rods because of headroom I left for storing boots on the top shelf. However, if you have space, that is a great place to store bins, single drawers, or baskets for extra storage. These can hold shoes or accessories, and just be pulled out when needed.

I had limited floor space, so I chose a tall basket that provided extra vertical storage without taking up very much space. My floor space is able to be fully used as I do not have a door on this small walk in closet.

Hanging Clothes

To maximize space, the end wall has two-tiered rods for hanging clothes. The rods I added on the side provide hanging space for tunics and long sweaters. In a small walk in closet, it is especially important to utilize all the same hangers for your clothing. For everyday type shirts, I use slim line hangers, along with wood hangers for jackets and skirts.

walk in closet ideas hangers

Organizing your closet with the proper accessories makes all the difference. If you are thinking about a closet makeover, I would start by replacing all the hangers for your clothing. First purge what you no longer wear, then assess how you would like to organize your wardrobe. You can then order the hangers you will need for what you have, with extra for later additions.

Making it Pretty

After the shelves were built and sprayed, there was a bit of wall space left. I had some shiplap left over from a project I did in the family room, so I filled in the small area with the paneling. The bars for hanging clothes and purses were made with industrial piping.

small walk in closet

Since there was a window, and I needed a bit of privacy, I added pretty custom curtains. UV film helps to filter sunlight from fading my clothes on the shelves too fast.

small walk in closet with window

A framed decorative organizer that holds bracelets looks stylish, and a vintage stool adds the function needed for reaching items up high. The space feels more like a room. I can feel comfortable outfit planning, and enjoying my wardrobe.

small walk in closet jewelry storage

I had just enough floor space left to add a basket, where I toss often worn ankle boots and tennis shoes. Baskets are such a great place to organize things in your closet, and I’d much rather have pretty baskets, then boring utility style ones. Choose bins for the proper size you need, but make them pretty to highlight your personal style.

I am a firm believer that even small walk in closets can be pretty. Adding these touches made it seem more like a dressing area, and less like a storage closet. I always love to make closets pretty, and have wallpapered many in the past. Currently I have a small pantry storage closet in the kitchen made pretty with wallpaper.

walk in closet ideas

Assess Your Space and What You Have

Whether you have small walk in closets, or a large one, you can create your dream closet. A closet makeover is the most satisfying to do. Getting these storage areas in the house organized, including the garage, make the entire house function better by corralling necessary clutter.

You really don’t need a giant walk in closet as any square footage can become efficient storage. Utilize walls, the back of the closet door, to optimize your items and style it to look pretty. Whether you are looking to create a minimalist and modern look or a cozy and inviting space, there are many ways to style your small walk-in closet to meet your needs and reflect your personal style.

If you are a closet freak like me, check out these tips on organizing and styling a pantry. Follow me on Pinterest for organization ideas.

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