DIY Design Hacks: Crafting a Custom Closet on a Budget

How DIY Design Hacks Saved our Custom Closet Budget

When we moved into our new apartment, the master bedroom had two fairly standard closets. One was a traditional 8x2x2 linen closet and the other was a 8′ reach-in closet. We were blessed to have the space, but these closet set ups weren’t particularly efficient for our lifestyle. For starters, we hadn’t renovated the en suite, so a linen closet wasn’t useful. And the opening on the (8 foot!) reach-in closet was probably less than 48 inches. You couldn’t see any clothes that were tucked away in the corners and the closet was super dark. The paint was peeling in both and the baseboards and ugly linoleum tile had seen better days. Being renovistas, we knew we wanted to upgrade our space. Add we had to do it on a budget. Enter DIY Design Hacks.

We had some help early on. As we’ve mentioned, one of the few professional jobs we’ve had done in the apartment is upgrading the electrical. Our contractor/electrician ran a connection into the reach-in closet and while he was there, we asked him to open the closet space. We didn’t care if had left a raw, unfinished opening, but he closed the job off with some standard grade moulding and a wood saddle for the floor. Not terrible, but not as design-forward as I would have liked.

How DIY Design Hacks Saved our Custom Closet Budget
Renovation beginning for our bedroom closet.

We lived with a gaping hole closet for a couple of months while we hemmed and hawed about what to do. Finally, we decided it was high time to at least get the interior of the closet in good shape. We scraped, sanded, and painted the walls, bringing them from stained and uneven to bright and gleaming. The original closet had one long shelf extending from end to end. Yes, we could have tried to repurpose it, but years of paint and weight left had left it in a sorry state. Instead, we bought two high quality pine boards from Home Depot and installed them; one directly atop the old support system and a lower plank on a brushed nickel pole and socket system. (Some of my) shoes went on those two shelves.

How DIY Design Hacks Saved our Custom Closet Budget
With just one closet rod in, it’s starting to come together!

We also originally installed one brushed nickel pipe that we picked up from Home Depot.  Elliot cut the bar to size using this heavy duty and affordable pipe cutter and fitted it into two pipe flanges or sockets. After hanging all of my clothes onto the one bar, however, it became readily apparent that the weight of my wardrobe was too much hold. We had originally only installed two brackets. So we added another in the center. Then it was time for more DIY Design Hacks. We had the ingenious engineering idea to install a second, slightly lower bar in the closet. With the second bar in, I could alternate items but still see everything in my closet. Winning!

With clothes and shoes in their place, we were happy with our DIY Design Hacks, but the closet floor still looked pretty crappy and we still had an open closet with no closure. I scoured flooring sites for weeks in search of the perfect mosaic, falling in love with marbles and waterjets that cost upwards of $75 per square foot.

How DIY Design Hacks Saved our Custom Closet Budget
So much money. So little tile.

And I almost pulled the trigger on some, justifying the cost because we were covering such a small area. Thankfully Elliot reigned me in by lecturing strongly reminding me that a closet floor would be covered by all of my junk only 10% visible. I’m glad that we didn’t waste tons of money on pretty tile that would have been covered. Instead, we bought a simple 6″x18″‘Zenith Asian Honed Statuary Marble for $9.99 a pop from TileBar. Not cheap as compared to $2.99/sq ft vinyl, but a bargain for beautiful natural stone. We won’t get into the installation here, but it took a day and renting a tile saw from Home Depot to look beautiful. Once the tile was in, we used baseboard leftover from our whole-house installation to cap off the look.

With the addition of a few purse hooks and a light fixture, the closet interior was complete. It looked amazing with my hot pink hangers adding a bright pop of color against the bright white. I suppose that’s why we didn’t install doors for several months. Oh, that and we couldn’t find doors to fit. Oh yeh, remember when we gave our contractor the order to open up the closet as much as possible all those months ago? Well, turns out we didn’t think about how to find appropriately sized doors for the larger space.

How DIY Design Hacks Saved our Custom Closet Budget

We quickly learned that standard closet doors would not work. I flirted with having a custom iron Art Deco piece made, but was not about to pay $5,000 to hide my clothes. Little did I know, but finishing this closet would require me to create one of my greatest DIY Design Hacks ever! I was wandering the aisles of Homegoods and stumbled upon a weird grey floor mirror. It had a beautiful rustic Parisian door aesthetic to it. At this point, we had zero full length mirrors in our apartment and really no space to bring one in attractively and functionally. The wheels in my brain started turning and I looked at the measurements.

Hmmm, the height sounded familiar. I texted Elliot for the closet measurements and quickly did some math. The door was exactly 1/4 the width of the closet and the correct height. Could we create a stylish bi-fold system out of these floor mirrors? Google said yes. All you needed was the doors and a track system. Cue obsession. I quickly found three like mirrors, but couldn’t find a fourth in the same area. I was bummed and just about gave up until I went to the front of the store and saw another, albeit in a different color. Paid $79 for each “door” and hustled my way into an Uber SUV (thank goodness it was a Suburban) and headed home.

How DIY Design Hacks Saved our Custom Closet BudgetElliot greeted me and we got these babies upstairs and got to work. We taped the mirror portion to prevent any mishaps and applied three coats of Behr’s Frost in semigloss (the same paint we’ve used on all the doors and trim in the apartment). Next we installed these beautiful gold Cynthia Rowley knobs, which look like we bought them at a bazaar, but were actually another Homegoods steal. Finally, Elliot easily hung the doors with this bi-fold door kit using the included instructions. And as for the closet saddle, we weren’t content to leave the slab of wood installed by our contractor. For starters, it didn’t cover the unfinished and unsightly wood flooring parts. So we pulled out another one of our DIY Design Hacks and combined some wide baseboard with a decorative sloping chair rail for a custom saddle.

How DIY Design Hacks Saved our Custom Closet Budget

The reach-in closet was definitely a labor but it was a labor of love. It’s such an upgrade and our DIY Design Hacks allowed us to have a custom look on a reasonable budget.

Budget breakdown for two custom closets:

  • Tile: $100 (we used about 1/3 of our $270 shipment plus installation materials)
  • Common board/dowels for reach-in and shoe closets: $20
  • Interior Closet Hardware: $100 (2 poles, 3 brackets, 4 pole sockets, 2 purse hooks)
  • Exterior Closet Hardware: $7.99 (similar knobs here)
  • Closet Doors: $330 ($79.99 x 4 +tax)
  • Heavy Duty Tubing Cutter: $27.99 (resuable)
  • Bi-Fold Door Kit: $79.99
  • Reach-in closet lighting: $59.99 (similar here)
  • Miscellaneous: ~$15 (leftover paint and baseboard used)

  • Grand Total: $740.96 for two custom closets with marble flooring

Had we hired a contractor to build out two custom closets, the labor alone would have cost us an additional $750-1000. Add in marked up materials and beer (we love our contractors) and we saved over $1000 with our DIY Design Hacks! And we love our new, functional closets.

How DIY Design Hacks Saved our Custom Closet Budget

Stay tuned for our tutorial on our new custom shoe closet!

Still want more? Check out these Time-Lapse videos of us putting this project together!

Prep and paint! 

Lighting and rod install 


How do you think we did on style and budget? Did our DIY Design Hacks pay off? Would you have DIY’ed or gone pro?

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