What is better than a functional and organized closet? Nothing! Come see how to build a custom DIY closet organizer all from scratch!
When you finish your DIY closet organizer, go the extra mile with these ideas: How to make bypass closet doors into sliding barn doors, How to add a stacked washer and dryer to a walk-in closet, and How to use molding to update closet doors.
DIY Closet Organizer
by Sabrina from Pink Little Notebook
Ever wonder why you feel like you have a closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear? This has been my situation since moving into our home, four years ago!
I’m Sabrina from the DIY and home improvement blog, Pink Little Notebook and welcome to my cluttered mess of a closet.
No matter how many times I try to tidy up, get rid of clothes, or buy pretty hanger, it doesn’t take long before I’m completely fed up with my walk-in closet. I’ve always dreamed about re-doing my closet that would utilize my small space but there were always so many challenges. I didn’t know where to start.
After living with this space for many years, I decided to jump right in. I actually ripped down my closet before I had a plan, you can see all the behind the scenes right here. I knew this would give me the push to just go for it and I’m so glad I did.
We built our DIY closet organizer completely from scratch.
Here’s how I did it.
DIY Closet Organizer, Step 1: Draw up a plan
Be sure to take into account depth of hangers for hanging spaces and special circumstances like windows, heating/ac vents, electrical outlets, doors, etc.
DIY Closet Organizer, Step 2: Start building boxes at the back of your closet
Using 1/2” finished plywood for this project (I find it much easier to handle than MDF), we began with the back wall as our starting point. This section is designed for long garments and seasonal jackets. It’s also the only place that has a 20” depth. Hangers need to be able to sit completely inside the modular unit as the right corner will be a covered section. The rest of the built-ins have a 15” depth, which is the max we can go in the space (because of our oversized window).
To create the DIY closet organizer, we basically created “boxes.” We used two panels on either side which were secured to the horizontal cleats running across the back wall. Please note, the cleats need to be screwed into the wall joist (stud) to hold the weight.
DIY Closet Organizer, Step 3: Move forward one box at a time
The above photo shows the DIY closet organizer section made for our double hanging rods. We secured the two new vertical panels against the existing panel and base (marked as #1 in the above image). Then we put the horizontal cleats running across the back wall, one at the base (we removed the baseboards) and one just below the ceiling (see #2). Again, make sure the cleats are secured into the joist. The middle cleat is added to create a shelf, we use it as support since it’s there but not needed otherwise.
To create the box shape, you’ll want to grab your other vertical panel (#3) and place it against the cleats on the opposite side where you will fasten them together. To finish off the box, grab another two horizontal cleats and attach it to the front side of the top and bottom (mimicking the back wall).
At this point in building your custom DIY closet organizer, the structure will feel kind of flimsy. However, as you move along and continue connecting each “box” you will see how sturdy everything becomes.
Since we had a few challenges in our space like the window and vent. I had to adjust the design to compensate for it. Since we had no choice but to build in front of the window, we left a 4” gap from the window to the start of the vertical panel. This allows us to put in drapes right behind the structure camouflaging where the window begins and ends.
As for the vent, we simply extended the duct work up which will vent out from the top of the platform.
DIY Closet Organizer, Step 5: Add edging to the shelf faces
Once our framing was up, we added the edging. Using our plywood sheets, we cut everything to size and fastened it with a nail gun.
DIY Closet Organizer, Step 6: Fill holes, shellac and paint
Next came the painting. After filling in all the holes, I primed the wood with a shellac primer. This fills in all the wood grains and gives the wood a nice smooth finish.
Once the primer dried, I gave it a light sanding and applied my finishing coats of white paint to the entire DIY closet organizer.
DIY Closet Organizer, Step 7: Add hardware
The gold hanging rods were a perfect finishing touch. To avoid sagging in the middle, support brackets should be used if your rods are 40” or longer . I only had one rod over 40” but I still put support brackets everywhere—I’m building this closet to stand the test of time!
Matching identical hangers add to the cohesiveness of the space, but are definitely optional!
I can’t even tell you how this DIY closet organizer has changed my daily life. My biggest hope is that now you can create an organized and functional closet that gives you life!
Thanks for sharing your gorgeous closet with us, Sabrina!
Sabrina has a great knack for taking a small, basic space and making it both beautiful and on-trend with just the right glamorous accents — be sure to see her other guest features where she shared her dramatic small bathroom renovation with DIY vanity, and her tiled fireplace makeover that gorgeously answers the question of “what should I do with the huge mirror above the fireplace?!” plus more of her beautiful projects over at Pink Little Notebook. (I’ve been crushing on her gorgeous home office for YEARS since she posted it! 🙂
We’ve been working on the closets here in our home as well:
- Small Coat Closet Makeover (helped along with the added storage of our KALLAX hack for our entry)
- PAX wardrobe built-in closet hack for our shared girls’ room (now office space).
- Maximizing Storage in a Hall Closet
- Organizing a Linen Closet
Originally published 02.20.2019 // Updated 04.20.2020