Before any cutting/gluing/screwing commenced, I spent a fair chunk of time thinking about A) how our wardrobe needs to function and B) how it will look, and I’m so glad I did. This big ol’ wood structure is going to be the dominating feature in most bedrooms so fairly meticulous planning can only be a good thing.
#1 | Assess the space
Spend some time thinking about the space your wardorobe is going to fill. Are the floor, ceiling and walls level? Are there any awkward angles? Are there any sections of skirting/picture rail/dado rail that are going to have to be adjusted? The beauty of a fitted wardrobe is that however unique the space, the wardrobe will fit seamlessly, but it’ll be a much easier job if you’ve got a relatively vanilla space to work with. For our wardrobe, the floor and one wall were far from level and there was some picture rail & skirting in the way but fortunately, no awkward angles.
#2 | Window shopping
Next up, it’s market research. Get down to some furniture shops and pay attention to everything including dimensions, hinges and finish. I’d recommend taking a pad to jot down measurements & notes and also take plenty of photos. You’re going to look like a very odd person but just embrace this. Pinterest is also great for inspo so have a good browse of fitted wardrobes on there.
#3 | Time to sketch
Once you’ve considered the space and feel suitably inspired, spend some time roughly sketching out the framework, shelving and doors until you’re happy that the design looks good and will meet whatever your needs are. In terms of design, we have original 1930’s doors throughout the house and so I wanted to match the panels and trim of these doors so the wardrobe would blend in as well as possible. From a practical point-of-view, I knew that Haz would end up commandeering about 2/3 of the wardrobe and needs a lot of space for long-hanging items.
#4 | Final Design
Once you’re happy with the design, draw your wardrobe to scale based on both the measurements taken of the space you’re filling and what you learnt from window shopping. It’s also worth thinking about your clothes – for example, Haz’ longest dress was 140cm so I designed the hanging space to be 145cm. Sad, I know, but worth doing. She better not buy any 150cm long dresses…
Be precise with dimensions such as depth, gaps between shelves and less obvious things like gap above rail as all of these impact one another. If something’s not going to work it’s far better to find out at this stage rather than whilst you’re building the bloody thing.
I found it helpful to draw the final design out from 3 perspectives – with a front view of the doors, front view of shelves and ¾ view of the framework. This way I had a really solid plan and felt (relatively) confident that all would work.
Here’s a few key measurements that I’d recommend sticking to:
- Interior depth of 55-60cm to allow for sideways hanging
- Hanging allowance of around 90cm if just hanging shirts, 140cm if hanging dresses
- Aim for a door width of around 50cm; our total space was 161cm so I opted for 3 doors
- Don’t have any knobs higher than you, or anyone using the wardrobe, can reach
- If adding shelves, I found a 25cm opening height to be about right
#5 | Materials planning
Thanks to your beautiful drawings, it’s now possible to plan out the materials and quantities you’re going to need. I wanted to make sure the wardrobe was built to last so having sturdy framework was important. To achieve this, I used CLS timber (details in equipment list at bottom of post) which is normally used for building partition walls. When you’re out buying the framework, spend time checking that the lengths are straight before buying as there’ll likely be plenty of wonky ones for sale.
For the shelves, I opted for simple white melamine chipboard which is made for the job. It’s rigid and the more white inside the better to help reflect light.
As for the doors, I knew I’d be painting the wardrobe to match the walls so MDF would be perfect as it’s cheap, easy to work with and paints well. To match the style of our existing doors, I’d be gluing panels of MDF to the door and then adding a beading. The added benefit of including panels is that it keeps the door robust and avoids it wobbling. CharlieDIYTE has a really helpful video of how he made MDF mock-panel doors which I must have watched over 20 times. At B&Q you can get wood cut for free so make pals with the staff as they’re going to be sorting you out big time.
The choice of hinges is baffling so I’ve done a whole post on this (possibly not the most stimulating read) but I’d very highly recommend using concealed hinges. There are certainly cheaper options eg: flush hinges but these impact the final look and don’t allow for adjustment which would be a problem for a novice DIY’er like myself.
If you’re like me you’ll be chomping at the bit by this point to get going so let the building commence.
- Grid paper
- Measuring tape