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10 BEST TIPS for Designing & Building Beautiful DIY Small Walk In Closet Built Ins

Ready to build your own DIY Small Walk In Closet Built Ins? Here’s 10 Must-See Tips to help you layout, design and build beautiful and an easy to organize DIY Built In Dresser & Closet Shelves.

DIY Small Walk In Closet Design Ideas

One of my latest DIY projects was designing and building new built ins for the small walk in closet in our boys bedroom. I’ve built a lot of built ins over the years.

But, walk in closet built ins have their own design rules. Working in a small space means that you have to carefully think about the layout to maximize storage AND get a beautiful look.

Don’t worry though, with these small walk in closet ideas and tips, you can make beautiful built ins that will WOW you every time you open the door!

Image of Small Walk In Closet Built Ins for a post with tips for how to design a small walk in closet with a DIY closet dresser with tons of closet organization and storage.

And, I have tons of pictures to inspire you. Let’s get started with those tips for designing and building DIY closet built ins.

How To Design Small Walk In Closet Built Ins

Here’s my 10 best tips to help you build and design DIY Small Walk In Closet Built Ins.

1. Build A Closet Dresser Or Modify A Dresser?

If you have the space, I highly recommend adding some drawer space into your closet. Most of the clothes in this walk in closet are folded and tucked into the drawers.

You can build a closet dresser or modify an existing dresser so that it fits with whatever shelves and hanging storage you add in.

Image of a diy built in dresser in closet for a post about how to build a closet dresser and shelves for DIY small walk in closet built ins.
This DIY built in dresser in closet hides so much mess while helping with closet organization.

If I had all of the clothes in these drawers just folded up and stacked on shelves, this closet wouldn’t look as organized and neat as it does now.

2. Think About How The Closet Will Look

When you design a small walk in closet, storage is always at the top of your mind. BUT, don’t forget how it will look too. You can design a beautiful WOW factor into your closet built ins, too.

Center the most attractive, organized, or detailed design on the door. You want that to be the first thing someone sees when they open the closet.

I centered my closet dresser and the pretty shelves above it so that it was the first thing someone sees as they open the door. That dresser is the unexpected beauty, or WOW, in this closet.

Image of a diy built in dresser in closet for a post about how to build a closet dresser and shelves for DIY small walk in closet built ins.
This is the first thing you’ll see opening this closet door.

3. Draw Up A Plan Before You Build

Whether you draw everything up with pencil and rulers or use a drafting program like SketchUp, seeing your closet plans drawn up to scale helps!

It will help you see if you have the dimensions and spacing right. It will help you see if you have too much hanging space or not enough shelves.

I drew up at least 4 different versions of this closet before I settled on the best plan for this small walk in closet.

Seeing plans for built ins and furniture has saved me so much time and money over the years. That’s because I make less mistakes and changes during the building process.

Sketchup build plans designed for a diy built in dresser in closet, shelves, and hanging storage.
Here’s a look at my 4th and final design for this small walk in closet. I used this drawing as a guide to build a closet dresser, shelves, and hanging space.

4. Maximize Storage

Think about how much storage you’ll need over the next 10 years. I built this closet for 2 grade-school boys. But, they’ll soon be teenagers with different storage needs.

And, this closet will eventually be used for a guest room or for an adult that lives here. So, it needs to be able to store A LOT more eventually.

Dividing the shelves into a bunch of smaller sections with just a few larger gives up more areas that can be used in tons of different ways.

The original closet storage was just BIG, open shelves. That much big storage is great for big things. But, it’s just wasted space for smaller things.

Make sure you include enough space for full-length hanging clothes and double hanging (1 hanging section over another) to maximize space too.

Image of small walk in closet built ins with lots of storage and closet organization design ideas.
This closet has tons of small shelves, a few medium shelves, and large shelves inside the built ins and above the built ins.

5. Layout A Small Walk-in Closet

Here’s another thing I’ve learned as a homeowner, don’t just put things in the same place the last homeowner had it.

Changing the layout in bedrooms, a living room, and even closets can be a HUGE improvement! I almost kept the layout of the original closet when I designed these built ins.

But, that original layout was all wrong. It didn’t look great. And, it didn’t maximize the space. Try to reimagine the layout of spaces to get better flow, better style, and a better use of the space.

Image of a messy, dark closet without much organization.
The original closet layout had too much long hanging space, no drawers, and big open shelves that weren’t functional or stylish.

6. Combine Easy Access With Organization

I just went over how having shelves of different sizes helps to maximize closet storage and organization. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re keeping all of those storage areas easy to access.

Putting cabinet doors onto shelves in a walk in closet can hide the mess, but it also makes it a little harder to get to what you need.

Cabinet doors can also make it harder to find what you’re looking for. So, use cabinet doors in a closet sparingly.

Corner shelves can also be a pain point too. If you include corner shelves in your design, make sure you can actually fit things inside that awkward corner opening. And, make sure it’s wide enough to access.

Image of small walk in closet built ins with lots of storage and closet organization design ideas.
If the shelves above the drawers had doors, it COULD make it harder to quickly grab what I need or see what I have.

7. Use Trim And Paint To Add Style

I’m a HUGE FAN of adding different types of trim or routed edges to any of the built ins I make. Check out 8 Best Ways To Finish Plywood Edges With Trim to see some options.

Image of wood trim covering a plywood edge for a post with 8 GREAT ways to finish plywood edges with trim. I LOVE this easy, beautiful way to cover plywood edges.
Using shiplap along the back of the DIY Small Walk In Closet built ins, trim along the inside edge of the closet shelf face frame, and 1/2 round trim on the front edge of the shelf is 3 of the ways I added extra style in this closet.

When I build a closet dresser, I’ll put trim on the face of drawer fronts or add a routed edge to the drawers. I also like to install baseboard on DIY closet dressers.

And, while I like to use white or light paint colors on walls, painting built ins a fun color always makes them really stand out. Check out my blue Family Room built ins or green office built ins for examples.

Home office with light sage green cabinet storage. Huge library style shelves in a home office with a stained wood desk.
I recently added tons of storage and extra trim to these office built ins. You can see some design tips in the 10 Best Ways To Make Cabinets Look Like Built In Furniture.

8. Think About Closet Corners

I originally thought that I’d build shelves for the corner of my closet. But, I realized that taking the hanging space all the way back into the corner was a better idea.

I LOVE to have hanging clothes in closet corners because it’s easier to fill that corner space with hanging clothes. Awkward corner shelves can be hard to access and fill.

Hanging space in closet corners can also be used to store large items, like big suitcases, basket storage, large boxes, and moveable storage on wheels.

It’s also faster and cheaper to build a hanging section for closet corners than it is to build a shelves for closet corners.

Image of an organized closet with built ins for a post with 11 ways to make a dark closet feel brighter or how to brighten a closet.
You can see here how the closet corner space can be used for either hanging clothes or for tucking away large items. Keeping storage options flexible in a closet works best, long-term.

9. Double Your Closet Hanging Space

The best DIY small walk in closet designs include double hanging. Double hanging means you have one set of hanging clothes over top of another.

To get the spacing right, you’ll need 84″ or higher to fit double hanging space into a closet. My closet is 10′ high, so that means I was able to include open shelves above my double hanging space too.

A 3-bulb light fixture can brighten a dark closet.
A 3-bulb light fixture with Daylight bulbs can brighten a dark closet.

10. Upgrade Closet Lighting

Last, but definitely not least, don’t forget about the closet lighting. I switched my single-bulb overhead light to a 3-bulb light fixture during my latest small walk-in closet remodel.

You can also install WIRELESS LED lights inside different sections of your closet to add more targeted lights. These days, you can get these lights with motion detection and on/off switches.

See Amazon’s Wireless Closet Lights With 4-star’s and Free Prime Delivery Here.

I also always buy DAYLIGHT light bulbs because they give off a bright, white light that really brightens a room. Check out How To Make A Dark Closet Feel Brighter for more options.

Watch This Video For A Better Look At Each Tip

7 Best DIY Closet Design Ideas For Beautiful Built In Closets & Better Closet Organization!

That’s it for my list of tips for DIY small walk in closet built ins. Now, here’s a few more posts that will help you DECORATE your home.

Image of Small Walk In Closet Built Ins for a post with tips for how to design a small walk in closet with a DIY closet dresser with tons of closet organization and storage.
Don’t forget to save or share these DIY Small Walk In Closet Ideas for built ins and storage.

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Feeling inspired? Now you’ve seen this list of tips for building DIY small walk in closet built ins, get to work. And, good luck!