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With age comes desire for larger closets, homebuilders say

| Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, 8:18 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Trib Total Media
This closet in Franklin Park boasts plenty of space for women's articles on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014.
Philip G. Pavely | Trib Total Media
This closet in Franklin Park houses women's articles on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014.
Philip G. Pavely | Trib Total Media
This closet in Franklin Park houses ladies' shoes on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014.
Philip G. Pavely | Trib Total Media
This closet in Franklin Park houses the guys articles Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014.

Closet space has come a long way from the days when a male homeowner might have three suits, a raincoat and four pairs of shoes.

Now, John Adamek says, he has a 7- by 7-foot space for his wardrobe in his Franklin Park home and his wife has “virtually another bedroom.”

For rooms in which no activity occurs, closets have taken on a big role in house design and sales.

The desire for more space often is an issue of age demographics, say architect Justin Cipriani of Mt. Washington and Sandy McKee from Mt. Lebanon's McKee Closet Organizing.

“A lot of people in the baby-boom generation have accumulated a lot of stuff and need to store it,” Cipriani says. “Younger people don't have that amount yet.”

He is the developer of new homes in urban settings such as Bailey Park, a collection of single-family homes and apartments in Mt. Washington.

When he is showing one of his designs, Cipriani says that more-mature clientele is interested in where closets can go and how the space can be used. Younger home-hunters are more interested in design and open-concept space.

Space-allocation becomes the main way of deciding how large of an area closets should take up in a new home design, Cipriani says.

In some cases, he says, garages can be part of the answer. Racks of shelves can be added above the cars, providing a home for decorations or seasonal items that might take up space elsewhere.

Then there is the need for what he calls the Christmas Tree Closet: the space that will hold seasonal decorating material that is not used the rest of the year. Baby-boomers have that kind of stuff and need some place to store it, he says.

Such items can eat up space in a bedroom clothes closet, so adding a storage area elsewhere can reduce the need in that area. But still, space is space, no matter where it is being used.

“What you try to do is maximize the use of space,” say architect Gerald Lee Morosco from the South Side.

Morosco agrees middle-aged customers and beyond are more interested in closet space both because they have accumulated items and because they probably have lived somewhere with little space and don't want to repeat it.

Using space wisely is a task that becomes a matter of choice.

“I'm a little more practical about things. I like to design the bedroom and then put the closet in the space that is left,” says Don Horn, a designer from Pine who is known for his creation of historically accurate colonial homes.

To decide on the size of the closet first naturally eats space in the size of the room, he says.

That sort of practical approach can be used even when closets are in demand, Adamek says. He is one of the partners in Synergy Capital, a Ross firm that renews a variety of houses but is best known for its work in urban settings.

Older homes often have smaller bedrooms into which closets are hard to fit. Remember, he says, they were made in the days when people had fewer clothes and didn't need to use that space.

The options in those homes, he says, often are to take one centrally placed bedroom and make it a large walk-in. Borrowing space from it, expanding another bedroom and using the rest for a large closet also can work, he adds.

One simple and often-used way to update closets in an older home is to take space from each of two side-by-side bedrooms and make large ones in each.

While dramatic closets are not always needed in home renovations, he says, expanding the space in older homes simply is a matter of bringing an older home into the 21st century.

McKee says small closets in larger rooms often lead to the inclusion of an armoire to hold sweaters and trousers. He says larger closets are making that piece of furniture less needed.

Adamek's house in Franklin Park started as one of his company's projects; he ended up buying it because he was attracted by the results. The large closets were not a crucial element, he says, but were reflective of the drastic change in floorplan at the house.

He says the company took a 1,000-square-foot ranch home and expanded it to 3,200 square feet. Naturally, that created a lot of space for closets.

But space alone is not the total answer, McKee says.

Having a lot of square-footage set aside for closets is only part of the game, he says. Homeowners need to be alert to what they have; such as whether they need multi-layered hanging rods to take care of various lengths in clothing.

“It is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing,” he says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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