BTR: A Tiny Bedroom in Alamo Square

Welcome to the bedroom of client, "N".  Located in San Francisco's NOPA neighborhood, N has been living in the space for over 10 years (ahem, rent control).  She called New Minimalism because she was tired of feeling cramped, unorganized and overwhelmed by the things that had collected over the years in her tiny bedroom. Not to mention that N was recently engaged and was inspired to turn over a new leaf and refresh her space. 

The closet was a major source of frustration for N.  You can see in the before image (left) that it was pretty much unusable.  After 10 years of living a busy city lifestyle items had, well, accumulated.    Once the closet started to go down hill, the thought of cleaning it was too daunting for N and it quickly turned into a catch-all space.  In addition, the back of this closet has a deeper nook that, if you don't plan for, ends up becoming a trap for items to disappear... never to be found again (until we show up and start pulling everything out!).

The biggest design improvement here was removing the sliding doors (after: right image).  By doing so, we increased accessibility and unapologetically displayed the bright and beautiful clothes within. N has great taste and enjoys expressing herself through her fun wardrobe.  Granted the closet is small, yet we were able to hone down the clothing so that all of N's hanging garments had space in the closet while still making space for her fiance's coats.

Much of the contents that were hiding on the floor of the closet were donated, thereby opening up space to store shoes.  We carefully measured the space and included a tall and narrow shoe rack in the rear of the closet to store seasonal shoes (plus a pair of badass roller skates) in the nook.  The upper shelf became storage for R's work-related materials, N's winter accessories and purses.

Tip:  We start all NM projects by decluttering the wardrobe.  We love it so much, that we even created an Essential Wardrobe Decluttering Guide to share our process.

Above is a detail shot of the closet (left: before; right: after).  The top of the table kept N's makeup (silver box) and was a landing zone for work jackets (fuzzy draped sweater).  The shoes, not having space in the closet, gathered below the table. 

During the session, we learned that N has a very specific work wardrobe that is separate from her "play" wardrobe.  She has been working at her current job for six years and yet never carved out a space for her work-only clothing.  As such, it was easy for the work wardrobe to simply float about the room, getting lost or damaged in the process.  By removing the clothes N no longer used, we created space in four drawers of the dresser to contain all work clothing.  Now N knows exactly where her work clothes are, and if something is out of place, she knows where it should be. 

As for that silver makeup box, we decluttered the cosmetics that had expired, threw away the silver box which had seen better days, and repurposed the small 3-drawer stand as the new make-up holder.

 When we first came to N's room, various surface-level piles were the result of existing storage being over-stuffed and under-optimized.  The items N no longer needed crowded out the items that she used regularly.  By setting aside the time to declutter her clothing, N examined and shed the items that no longer served her in her current life and reclaimed the existing storage of her room.  

After two full-day sessions of decluttering, and the installation of some strategic hooks and shoe racks, we were able to transform N and her fiance's bedroom into a peaceful space; a space where they can come home after a busy day to rest and rejuvenate.

BTR: Hayes Valley Studio, Part II


Room: Walk-in Closet (including Elfa installation) and Supply Closet

Hours to Complete: 8.5

Main Objective:  Customize the closet to serve multiple functions of clothing storage, dressing area, landing zone and art archival storage.

The Details:  The closet is a very important design element in any home.  If you can properly utilize closet storage so that it meets your specific needs, then the rest of your home will remain clutter free.  This was the main objective for our client, “M”, and we were so thrilled that she was willing to invest in customized Elfa storage to make it happen.

Having just moved from a large loft to a small studio, M was using the large walk-in closet as a temporary dumping ground for boxes of archived art and personal mementos.  The clothing had no storage option, so aside from the few items which were hanging, most clothing ended up in piles in the closet and in the main room.

After understanding M’s habits and storage needs, we determined that a custom Elfa storage system would work best here.   That way, we could use half the closet for clothing and the other half for archival art and office storage.  Elfa is a sturdy, well-designed product we truly endorse!  We even have some clients who have successfully taken their Elfa systems to 3 different homes. 

Tip:  You must first declutter before diving into the Elfa game.  Knowing specifically what items need storage will determine what type of system you invest in.  Know your needs before entering the Container Store.  Elfa designers at the Container Store are trained to maximize your space.  If we had approached an Elfa designer without a plan, we would have ended up with twice as many drawers and wasted time with a second trip to the store to return unused merchandise.

Here we implemented simple pull-out drawers to hold all M’s folded clothing.  We included a top shelf to act as her dressing area and a designated place to corral keys, jewelry and sunglasses. A few hats easily hang from simple nails in the wall.  To the right of the frame we placed M’s coat rack and installed a few hooks.  Whereas before all of M’s currently in-use bags and jackets ended up on the bed or couch, now with an official “landing zone” these items won’t make it past the closet, leaving the main living clutter-free.

Tip:  To add some personality we hung artwork that M really loved but didn’t have an appropriate home in the main living area.  A closet is a great place to show off pieces you love, but that don’t necessarily reflect the vibe of your entire home.

Located across the hall from the walk-in closet is a skinny supplies closet.  Before the decluttering it was serving a few too many purposes.  We determined that M first and foremost needed a place for her quick-grab art supplies and a place for sensitive documents in the event she is hosting a short-term rental and wants to lock items away.  We designated most of the shelving for this purpose.  And we used the top shelf for towels and seasonal blankets.

Tip: Rethink what items you decide to put in each storage area of your house. Just because you have a “household supplies” closet does not mean you have to store household supplies there. For our client who regularly creates art, it meant primarily using this easy-to-access closet for her art supplies.

Finally, curious about what happens in between?  Here is a behind the scenes photo of the sorting process in all its beautiful chaos.