Two days ago we gave you all the "grand reveal" of our DIY closet interiors. We were able to go pretty overboard on the project since the space was small and we were building everything from plain old wood and some basic supplies. Had we gone the route of a closet system we would have been stuck within the bounds of their standard measurements, we would have had wasted space, and it would have cost 10 times what we wanted to spend. But another major benefit of doing this ourselves was our ability to dictate the entire space and how it would be used, not just the lower closet area.

A few commenters noted they could see a glimpse or two of the storage areas atop the closets, and that's exactly what this space is used for. Though we always intended it to be plain and simple storage, like the rest of the project, it wasn't something we were able to just wiggle our nose at and be done with it. Nope, in true Old Town Home style, we still went tremendously overkill even on our storage area. I know you're probably wondering, "How is that even possible?" Well, we found a way given we seem to have a talent in extending our scope of work.

As you can see from the photos, we started using the upper storage long before we had upper doors installed (or even installed handles or made fine adjustments on the lower doors). We were able to use several large pieces of plywood for the base of the upper storage, and it's the same piece of plywood that is the top of the lower closets. At only 3/4" thick we had to add some support to the back of the closets by way of some oak boards screwed to the under side of the shelf. We also affixed the front of the shelf to the door jams I had cut. We can't store an elephant up there nor a hippopotamus, but our plastic storage bins with clothes seem to work well.

The thing I mentioned previously about wanting this closet space to "look like it's always been there" really came into place with the upper storage. At the same time, I wanted to include a modern convenience or two. Before launching into the whole storage door build we installed a television above Wendy's shoe closet. It's a shallow space, and it couldn't accommodate much in the way of clothes or bins, so instead we installed a 32" LCD TV.

The coolest part is that I knew we would be doing this and made sure to run a bunch of network, speaker, and coax cables to the area behind the TV where the outlets existed. This means that we were also able to install a TiVo, DVD player, and other Internet connected devices (like the TV), and that we're able to have the television sound play over our in-ceiling whole house audio speakers in the bedroom. Is your mind blown?


The entry door to the bedroom is wonderful. It's an old original door with an original transom above, surrounded by old original 4" molding. This entry to our bedroom, visible from both the exterior and interior of the room, sets the tone for the height and heft of everything else in the room. Here's that entry door in its finished state.

In making our closets, we had to be sure to convey this same look. It simply wouldn't make sense for the door to have this great look and then make the closets into bi-fold doors and the upper storage as sliding panels. We needed to give the illusion that all of the doors and storage areas in the room were built and installed at the same time, so they all needed a similar look. We wanted the storage above the doors to look like transom windows that had doors installed rather than glass, but we needed the doors to look like the salvaged doors, but there's no way we could have salvaged them, their sizes were just too odd. See, I told you we were going to make it difficult. 

To make the doors for the closets I used some stock and rather thick 4/4 poplar boards that I scored a great deal on at a local lumber yard. I made them as you would a traditional raised panel door with rails and stiles...

...but as you can see, I made them completely oversized so I could then trim them all to the correct size. I then used the router to make raised panels that look similar to the profile of the doors. It's not exactly the same, but I've been unable to find a matching bit to our door panels in all of the years we've been searching for them. Here's the side by side comparison of our salvaged/original door panels (left), and our custom upper door panels (right). Not the same, but close enough that most people don't notice the difference.

Another key in this process was finding miniature hinges to match the salvaged cast iron lift off hinges I had used on the lower closets. Believe me, it was hard enough finding five sets of 3-1/2" hinges for the lower closets. (That effort took me about a full year to find exactly matching models.) I lucked out on securing a few sets of 2" hinges that matched almost identically to the lower door hinges, finding them on eBay, an online antique store, and a pair at a salvage yard. Installed they look awesome, especially compared to the lower doors.

I don't know if you've ever installed custom doors with mortised and salvaged 125+ year old hinges that aren't consistently sized in an opening that you just built, let alone double doors that need to match up upon closing, but it's not for the faint of heart I tell you! This is one of those projects that tested my mettle, that's for sure.There are so many little things you need to pay attention to. From where the doors line up to the gaps around the doors to the gaps on the jamb side to the ability for the doors to open or close. We don't have many photos of this process because the majority of the time was spent swearing and spewing hate at our closets and house, rather than taking photos.

Oh, and while I was at it, I went ahead and built a new transom window to match the transom window above the bedroom door. Why? Because I have a tremendous amount of self hate. Oh, also because we'd eventually need it for the area above the bathroom door that was sans transom. Hey, we couldn't let all of the doors in the bedroom look consistent except for this random bathroom door. 

The end result of our bedroom's closets is (in our own opinion) a great example of how you can turn an otherwise unused spaced into a functional storage area while also making it work with the rest of the room. It doesn't stick out like a sore thumb, obviously added in a different millennia than when the house was built. Instead, I'd even venture to guess that a future owner or guest might even assume it's an original element in the house.

And if you're an astute observer, you'll notice there are no knobs or handles on the upper doors. While we used salvaged porcelain knobs on the lower doors, we opted to use magnetic spring loaded touch latches on the upper doors. Now, when we want to open them, you just push and they easily open. 

One thing to note, the middle door is actually hinged from the top. This allows the door to flip up to open. Right now we have a few small wood supports that keep it open much of the time, but I have big plans for this at some point. I'll share more if it becomes a reality, but it will surely be fun and nerdy.

There you have it, the (nearly) complete saga of how we turned our bedroom from this...

...into this.

We added a lot of much needed storage space and also added a rather attractive addition to our room. One other thing we added, without really realizing it, a great deal of energy efficiency. In the winter our whole room stays much warmer as our clothes act as insulation on the uninsulated exterior brick wall. You just need to remember to take out what you want to wear the next day the night before, otherwise you're left with really cold clothes in the morning.

What do you think of our end results? Worth the effort? Good storage? Does it look like an original part of our house? And do you like the TV in the bedroom? I know many people have varying opinions on this.      

Comments 37


1/30/2013 at 1:28 PM
Bravo! Do you make house calls?
Oh how I wish I did. Though I'm sure my speed at completing a project would not thrill you. Just ask Wendy.
Kevin M.
1/30/2013 at 1:47 PM
Looks fantastic!!
Thanks, Kevin!
Sarah Kate
1/30/2013 at 1:55 PM
Not only do the tiniest details of that closet look amazing, but somehow your moments of self-hate appear to be far more productive than mine. Is there a 10-step program to harnessing this power? Please advise.
We try to use our bouts of self-hate in the most constructive of ways. The first step, somehow convince yourself that your self-hate is actually just confidence in your ability to accomplish a seemingly insurmountable task. The second, throw yourself into that task headlong and care nothing about the consequences. The third, hold on and hope you survive. It's worked so far.
1/30/2013 at 2:00 PM
Absolutely gorgeous. Really wonderful.

I think your bedroom is an excellent example of how to make traditional, antique furniture feel really fresh and updated. Great space.
Thanks, Kate! I really appreciate your compliments. This is exactly what we were going for.
1/30/2013 at 2:07 PM
Looks wonderful! How are the bottom doors kept closed?
The bottom doors use a simple tension latch on each door.
1/30/2013 at 2:22 PM
The closet(s) look great!

Not sure what your plans for the center door is, but my first thought was "linear actuator!"
Very good first thought. ;-) Stay tuned.
1/31/2013 at 1:36 PM
1/30/2013 at 2:38 PM
Seriously awesome job, guys!
Thanks, Jane!
1/30/2013 at 2:46 PM
With the center tv door I would feel safer having door swing below the tv instead of above the tv. I think having a shadow over the tv while watching would drive me insane.

Or like I've seen for tv armoires in hotels where the door hangs on the left or right, then pulls out so you can slide it inside the cabinet. Probably not feasible since your cabinets are shallow. I've seen your epic carpentry skills - whatever you choose I'm sure it will be well built and make perfect sense.
We actually tested out the door swing in the various positions and it seemed up was best. It kept the TV darkest no matter how much light there was. I'd love to do what you described, and thought about trying it, but it just wouldn't work between the depth and the old hardware, but you and I are thinking along the same lines.
1/30/2013 at 3:06 PM
Uh, you guys are my heros. What an amazing project. Good job!
Thanks, Andrea! We love to hear it.
1/30/2013 at 3:29 PM
Wow - absolutely fantastic!!!!!! Well worth taking the time to design it out and plan it thru! congrats!!!
Thanks, Sabina. During the project it often feels like it isn't worth the effort, but when you look back at the end it almost always is well worth it. I'm glad you like it.
1/30/2013 at 3:36 PM
Terrific closets! They do look original to the house.

Love the hidden TV compartment too!
Thanks, Kim. This means we've achieved our goals!
1/30/2013 at 6:39 PM
i LOVE the built-in closet! the doors are beautiful. the tv seems a bit high to me, but i'm sure you tested it out. :D
We were worried about the height of the TV too. We figured there was no other place, so we should just go for it, but it's worked out great. If you're sitting on a couch, it's way too high, but laying in bed watching TV it's perfect, since you're already looking up a bit.
1/30/2013 at 6:55 PM
I'm kind of wondering what your referring to as "big nerdy plans" for the TV opening. It seems rather small to do much in there.

I know that they make a lot of really fancy (and exorbitantly expensive) door gizmos that you give you a tough-open door lift for this, but I'm not sure if there's enough depth (clearance) for the gizmo. I think they're nearly 100$, too (if not more). You could also just use a lid stay. I'd suggest this guy: which locks in place, and is only about 3$. You could also strip the lacquer and give it an ORB look to match the iron/black hardware.

Also, I'm very impressed with your hand made upper doors. From a distance they really look like "chopped down" antique door bottoms. You could probably have matched the double lip profile with your router, but it would have been a lot more time consuming. Like you, I also haven't ever found any cutters for the really shallow antique style panels. We have probably 8-10 different panel cutters at work and none are that shallow (which sucks because I wanted to use them on my repro house doors - I'll just do flat panels).

TV in the bedroom: I don't really care either way, but it's nice if you have the option to hide it, like you guys. I can see it as a nice option if you're home sick, or want to curl up with your SO to watch a movie. I don't really watch TV at all (I haven't had cable since 2003), so I'd only use it for movies.
This is one of those cases where I have the budget friendly option on one shoulder, and the more expensive and truly overkill option on the other shoulder, but I just go for it. We'll see though, I may still end up with the budget option that works just as well.

If I ever find the panel cutters I'll let you know where. I actually realized I probably could have made the correct profile with my router about 2 hours after I finished the cuts. By then I was too far along and would have had to start over. I was pretty dejected.

I did make a totally rookie mistake on these, and I knew better. I accidentally let glue get around the panels, not just on the rails and stiles. Within about 6 months of install one of the panels had cracked. At first I was angry at myself when I realized what had happened, but now I think it makes the door look like it fits in with the rest of them a little better. I just filled the crack with another coat of paint.
1/30/2013 at 8:24 PM
Wow, absolutely fabulous! They truly look beautiful. You should be so proud. What an accomplishment! Magazine worthy for sure.
Thanks, Bea! We'll have to start calling all of the magazines to come shoot them. :-) They'll find us, right?
1/31/2013 at 7:04 PM
More fabulosity -- I really love the whole closet wall and your maximizing every square inch of space.
:-) Thank you! Every inch matters when your home is only 15' wide!
1/31/2013 at 9:52 PM
I love your bedroom! Could you tell me what color paint you used on the walls?
We'd be happy to! The wall color is Benjamin Moore's Balboa Mist.
2/1/2013 at 9:45 PM
Wow! that is truly lovely! It adds so much character to the room - very nicely done!
2/4/2013 at 12:27 PM
These closets are the reason I read your blog. :)

Not really, but they definitely are my favorite project of yours to date! A few months ago I showed your bedroom pics to my mom who lived with butterfly wallpaper for 20 years since my parents have similar antique dark-wood furniture. She loved it, and now we're now in the throes of renovation!

We're doing a board and batten treatment with craftsman-style wood trim and hoping in the end it somehow looks half as good as yours...
Thank you so much, Anne. The closets are one of the reasons why we blog, so it all works out.

If you want to send along some before and after photos of your parents' renovation (and even some during), we'd love to see what we've inspired. Maybe we could even put them up on the site, if you'd like.

Thanks for the kind words, we really appreciate it.
2/7/2013 at 5:16 PM
I'm curious if you will have a future post on building your own transom window? We have a tiny 1860's farmhouse that we are not exactly restoring, since so much of the interior is not original, but are trying to make look more "age appropriate" and I would love to see how to create a transom. Love all the detail oriented posts!
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