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A Brief History of Closets (And 5 Modern Examples Under One Roof)

Closets are often an afterthought—but not in this L.A. condo.

In ancient times, Egyptians stored their clothes in reed baskets. Greeks opted for wooden chests, while the ultra-wealthy used alabaster chests. In the late 1800s and 1900s, however, closets became the preferred solution: Hanging rods were incorporated into wardrobes in the 1870s (a precursor to modern closets), and soon after the Dakota, a New York City apartment building created to appeal to wealthy tenants, offered one tiny closet per bedroom.

John Burger, a managing director at Brown Harris Stevens, told The New York Times that the closets were around two-and-a-half feet deep and six feet wide—positively microscopic by modern standards.

Today, many homes offer walk-in closets—and they’re generally considered a necessity in luxury homes. Earlier this year, a Christie’s International Real Estate report found that sizable closets continue to be an important selling point for high-end house hunters. “Closets are no longer confined spaces,” says realtor Melanie Delman of Lila Delman Real Estate International. “The closet is really another room, not a storage center, and has become almost recreational. They are now places for lounging and enjoyment.”

Though the concept of a closet may seem straightforward, there’s plenty of room for personality. Just ask Lisa Adams of LA Closet Design, who recently designed five unique closets in a 3,400-square-foot condo at the Carlyle Residences in Los Angeles. “Kids’ closets and non-master closets are usually under-appreciated, poorly designed spaces,” Adams says. “My clients treated each closet the same and wanted me to design and detail them like the master closets.”

In the woman’s master closet, Adams used light gray wood with white Carrera marble, an oval-shaped island with a Carrera marble countertop, a vanity with a Carrera marble waterfall countertop, and recessed makeup cup holders to design a space worthy of a leading lady. The giant walk-in closet also includes a glass display case for handbags, a custom jewelry cabinet, pull-out jewelry and scarf cabinets, and plenty of mirrors.

Designing a male-centric space was another matter entirely. She chose dark gray wood cabinetry, a pull-out swivel mirror, and dark countertops with glass displays to create a masculine environment. Black aluminum hangers, a black safe with a biometric lock and 3-spoke handle, and custom tab pulls and LED hanging rods in a dark gunmetal finish continue the theme.

Adams selected pink lacquered cabinetry with back-painted pink glass sliding doors and gold frames for the baby girl’s sweet and stylish closet. Pull-out shelves for shoes, a pull-out folding table, and an accessories drawer with fabric lining and partitions provided plenty of storage space, while pink velvet hangers and a one-of-a-kind changing table with star cut-outs provided whimsical touches.

For the baby boy’s closet, Adams used taupe gray wood cabinetry, blue velvet hangers, mirror backs, and pull-out drawers and shelves for clothing.

Last but not least, the coat closet includes medium gray wood cabinetry, custom tab pulls and LED hanging rods in a dark gunmetal finish, and a custom accessories drawer with fabric lining and partitions that can be used for sunglasses, keys, and other items.

“While they all tied together, they felt like five very separate, different closets—in the finishing and detailing,” Adams says of the end result. We’d take one of these closets over alabaster chests and reed baskets any day.

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