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Confessions of a Hollywood Closet Designer

The closet — once an afterthought in architectural design — is having a moment. Fashion-minded homeowners with both square footage and dollars to spare are increasingly opting to turn their dark, narrow closet spaces into Instagram-worthy wardrobes. Some are even going so far as to create closets that rival their favorite designer boutiques in design, style and organization. To craft the dressing room of their dreams, they frequently call upon Lisa Adams. As the CEO of LA Closet Design and star of HGTV’s “Million Dollar Closets,” Adams has designed closets for a bevy of high-styled stars, including Kris Jenner, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Fergie, Christina Aguilera, Billy Crystal, Joey Kramer of Aerosmith and Ray Romano.

A chemist-turned-MBA and purveyor of fashion herself, Adams understands the unique demands of her high-profile clients, who often want a completely customized closet to accommodate very specific wardrobe needs. For example, she designed a special display for Billy Crystal’s collection of black tuxedos that he has donned as a repeat Oscars host. For another client, Adams crafted rolling stacks to accommodate her 1,000-pair shoe collection. She has even opened up an attic to install a dry cleaner-style carousel. For an average fee of $60,000 to $100,000, LA Closet Design offers everything from closet design and organization to styling and wardrobe evaluation. The firm currently has 22 projects in the pipeline, from L.A. and Chicago to Dubai.

“My mission is to create wardrobe and storage spaces that are balanced functionally and aesthetically,” explains Adams. “The closet is where we most often spend the first and last moments of a day, and, unfortunately, at those times many of us deal with universal closet issues: cluttered, overstuffed and unorganized spaces. Instead, I look at both your room — and your life — and then I create a space of peace, beauty and even glamour.”

We caught up with Adams on a sunny afternoon in West Hollywood and asked her to share her best-kept secrets for creating classy closets of calm.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury First things first. What inspired you to start LA Closet Design?

Lisa Adams I witnessed kitchens booming and becoming the “heart of the home.” It was in 2004 that I thought, “What about closets?” It was becoming more common to hire a kitchen designer, and no closet designers existed at the time. There were architects, interior designers and closet companies doing closets, but no one specializing only in closet spaces and at the level of design and craftsmanship I had my eye set on doing.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Generally, how do your clients see their own closet spaces and how do they want them to function?

Lisa Adams My clients usually cannot see beyond their existing cluttered and overstuffed closets, so they turn everything over to me — to design a closet that fits their lifestyle and inventory, while being beautiful, too. Clients want to walk into their new closets feeling organized, knowing where everything belongs, and feeling empowered because the dressing process is easier, like they are “shopping in their closet.”

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury You have talked about closets being designed as boutique spaces, à la the Louis Vuitton store. Can you describe that trend for our readers in more detail?

Lisa Adams My clients want the boutique experience — like they are shopping in their own closets, from in-cabinetry and LED back lighting to staging areas, from purse-changing tables to shoe and handbag display shelves.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury How do you achieve the boutique feel in a closet?

Lisa Adams I like to incorporate full-length mirrors, seating, light fixtures and sconces, wallpaper, flooring and custom hangers to achieve the boutique feel in a closet.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What are some of the main differences when designing a closet for a man vs. a woman?

Lisa Adams I’m not sure you can generalize by gender these days, but the biggest difference would probably be the categories of items in the closet. Men generally tend to have fewer categories, since they may not have medium and long hanging or handbags. Whether it’s a man or a woman, everyone has different things he or she cares about in the closet; it’s my job to ask questions and figure out what is important to each person.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Are more men getting interested in their own closets?

Lisa Adams There are men who have always been interested in their closets, and then there are men who discover that they are interested in their closets! When I let men know that they can have cool lighting, biometrics and charging stations, they perk up. But yes, I have seen a rise in men’s closets!

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What are your top do’s and don’ts when it comes to the closet?

Lisa Adams DO purge; DO have appropriate hanging heights for short, medium and long hanging; DO have a mirror; DO install pullout valet hooks. DO NOT fold items in double rows if you don’t have pullout shelves to see what is in the back row; DO NOT leave clothing on the floor (put it where it belongs!); DO NOT make drawers too deep.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What’s the one thing most homeowners overlook when it comes to their closet spaces?

Lisa Adams Most homeowners overlook the necessary dimensions, so things get put in areas that don’t work for the clothing items or with the flow of the closet.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What’s the ultimate luxury in a closet?

Lisa Adams I think the ultimate luxury in a closet is if it is a dressing room — a space that is used to dress in, to spend time in, to relax in, and to shop in! It would include a decorative ceiling fixture, seating and a three-way mirror.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury When you look at your design portfolio, which residential project are you most proud of? What lesson did it teach you?

Lisa Adams I am most proud of the closet I designed for Kris Jenner, because I was able to work with interior designer Jeff Andrews and also document the design process on my show, “Million Dollar Closets.” It was my first time being on camera and describing the process, so it was an unfamiliar but incredible learning experience. Kris was amazing to work with and appreciated design and organization, so the end result was a beautiful closet and a happy client!

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What are some of the unique ways your clients are bringing their personal style into their closets?

Lisa Adams Creating multifunctional spaces (e.g., desks and vanities in their closets, converting living rooms and dining rooms into closets, creating glam areas in their closets), and adding artwork, antique furniture, stripper poles, putting greens and cosmetic refrigerators.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury How important is lighting in the closet?

Lisa Adams Lighting is very important in the closet. There is a reason why we like shopping in boutiques — they are not cluttered and are well lit. I like to do functional ceiling lights and add accent lighting such as back lighting, decorative lighting and in-cabinetry lighting.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What, if any, maxims or mottos do you design by?

Lisa Adams I design with my clients in mind (their function and lifestyle), and balance it aesthetically. It is always top of mind that it is not my closet and it has to work for my clients’ needs.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What are some of the unique design elements, colors or features that your clients have asked you for?

Lisa Adams I already mentioned a few, but my clients have also incorporated coffee stations, a safe room, a jewelry cabinet with a biometric lock, purse-changing stations, watch-winder drawers, etc.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What is the most over-the-top closet you’ve ever designed?

Lisa Adams I designed a three-story closet for a client in Bel Air, California. The top floor was for everyday clothing and accessories; the middle floor was for tailored clothing and accessories; and the bottom floor for seasonal clothing and accessories, jewelry and a safe room. Each floor was about 625 square feet in a gold leaf finish and antique detailing throughout. It was exquisite!

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Are there any interesting technologies that you’ve started to incorporate into your closet designs?

Lisa Adams I have been using more biometric locks in my closet designs, and electrifying systems that used to be manual (e.g., hard wiring pull-down hanging rods). I have also done lift systems for hidden safes and shoe storage.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What’s the one thing you wish more of your clients would splurge on in their closets?

Lisa Adams Most of my clients are splurging on everything in their closets, and especially on their closets, but sometimes, they don’t see the value in spending money on custom hangers, shoe inserts and storage boxes. They all help to maintain the items in the long run and help with the overall visual aesthetic. I also wish more of my clients would splurge on their children’s closets.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury If you could imagine the future luxury closet, what would it look like?

Lisa Adams I imagine more technology in the future luxury closet. There will be a way to eliminate the need for stepstools and reach everything in your closet, while accessing everything from your phone using smart home technology.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Do you believe that a beautiful closet can actually enhance a home’s resale value?

Lisa Adams It does! Whether one is interested in a fully accessorized dressing room or a storage closet, people are demanding more space for their closets. The bigger and more well designed they are, the higher the house value. Closets are in the top three spaces that people are most concerned about when purchasing a house.

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Confessions of a Hollywood Closet Designer

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