Hollywood director Colin ( Skyline ) Strause’s bedroom closet resembles a designer boutique: a private, wenge-wood-paneled space where shoes are displayed in backlit cubicles, perfectly spaced sport coats hang on illuminated rods, and plush chairs provide a respite from browsing. “People walk into my bedroom and say, ‘Whoa,’ because it looks like a Louis Vuitton store,” marvels Strause.
His $200,000 showcase storage area is the work of Lisa Adams, a
pint-size, M.B.A.-toting, college-trained chemist turned designer who
founded her bespoke closet design firm, LA Closet Design, five years ago. “The trend now is shopping in your closet and having it feel like a boutique space,” explains Adams.
She would know: LA Closet Design is currently remodeling closets–at
an average fee of $60,000 to $80,000–for 24 high-end homeowners in
countries from Saudi Arabia to Australia. Closer to home, Adams’ client
list reads like a red carpet event. She’s crafted closets for Eddie
Murphy, Derek Fisher, Jewel and Jillian Michaels. For Billy Crystal she
constructed a special display dedicated to the collection of black
tuxedos he has donned as a repeat Oscars host; for another section she
designed a mock locker room to exhibit the actor’s famous collection of
And business is looking up: Revenues were plus 42% last year and have
climbed nearly 30% so far in 2012. The firm’s biggest job to date: a
$500,000 three-story space inspired by the Bergdorf Goodman department
store, constructed with its own interior staircase and themed floors.
If that sounds outrageous–and, yes, actually, it does–consider that
affluent homeowners already shell out large sums to get the most from
these relatively small spaces. Once an architectural afterthought,
closets have become a focal point in the home remodeling rebound.
According to an American Institute of Architects survey earlier this year, master bedroom walk-in closets were the number one projects on U.S. designers’ to-do lists for 2012.
In Pictures: Outrageous Custom Closets
Adams is there for those remodelers, or anyway a certain dedicated
tier of them. LA Closet is one of the few firms in the world to
specialize in luxury closet design, with Adams overseeing every project
herself. She will assess every nook and cranny and inventory every
garment and accessory to ensure that each finds its place. Once the
layout is approved from 3-D design renderings, she begins her hunt for
unusual furniture and rare materials. The fabrication and installation
will typically take two months, and Adams will return to hang clothing
on felt (never wire) hangers, place inserts in boots (so they don’t
slouch on display) and color-coordinate scarves on special racks.
Among the must-haves for today’s closet connoisseurs are
library-style stacking shelves for shoe and bag collections, suspended
racks laden with off-season garments (easily accessible by pulling on a
lever), discreet jewelry safes camouflaged by mirrors, LED-illuminated
cases filled with couture clothing exhibited like works of art,
silk-lined drawers apportioned for accessories like sunglasses,
climate-controlled fur coat cabinets, and lavish finishes like crystal
chandeliers and Carrara marble vanities. Then there are the creative
extras: wine refrigerators, breakfast stations, television areas, cigar
humidors, even stripper poles–all incorporated into closets.
Another surprise is that nearly half of LA Closet Design’s clientele
are men. “For my male clients there’s this notion of a man cave where
they can go and be alone,” notes the designer.
“It’s not just about space but also not wanting to listen to her hair dryer–and her not wanting to listen to me sing,” admits Robert Cort,
a film producer with credits like Cocktail and Runaway Bride . He and
his wife, Rosalie Swedlin, employed Adams to carve his and hers
territories from a 600-square-foot space in the midcentury modern home
they formerly owned in Beverly Hills. Cort even had Adams install a
“I like a real feeling of a room with space and comfort that’s
aesthetically pleasing rather than simply functional,” says Cort, who
sold his unlisted Trousdale Estates home after receiving “an offer we
couldn’t refuse” from Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi earlier this year. He and his wife are currently plotting the closets for their new $10.5 million home.
TV personality Giuliana Rancic
hired Adams after seeing the wall of purses–all perfectly positioned
between dividers–she’d designed for Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner.
“Lisa capitalized on the space so well, I’m afraid I won’t be able to
fill it!” jokes Rancic.
Like many of LA Closet Design’s customers, the Rancics believe a
well-utilized closet will punch up their home’s resale value. Many of
Adams’ clients agree: Some enlist her with the express purpose of
finding a buyer. Developers are beginning to hire Adams for their new
projects as well.
“It’s a very useful tool for us because the closets are beautiful and
it shows just how spacious they are,” explains Kimberly Lucero, AEG’s
vice president of sales and marketing at the Ritz-Carlton Residences at L.A. Live. “It’s the same principle as having furnished models.”
Exactly how much a closet adds is hard to pinpoint. “It’s difficult
to quantify the hard value a closet like Lisa’s adds because you are
talking about homes already worth millions of dollars,” says Mauricio
Umansky, chief executive of The Agency.
“I can tell you that it definitely adds to the salability. I can’t tell
you how many times I lose deals because of poor closets.” (His wife,
Kyle Richards, of the TV show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills , got
some design help from Adams, too.)
For many clients, though, the value is simply personal satisfaction.
“It’s probably the best feature in our home,” says Candice Kochenour, an
advertising firm executive whose Philadelphia
condo touts a distressed blue-gray closet sporting globe chandeliers, a
built-in television console and a wine fridge. “My husband couldn’t
understand why we were doing this. Now that it’s done, when we have
people over he walks them through the closet,” chuckles Kochenour. He
likes to show off his tie drawers, organized by color, then offer his
guests a fine glass of wardrobe-viewing wine.