Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Monday, 9 February 2009

An architect pays a visit

On Saturday an architect came round. I wanted to discuss with him some building work on my flat. The plans I had turned out not to be viable. The only way I could have what I wanted was a far more extensive and costly renovation. My interest ebbed away, and then he mentioned three words.

You know how drug dealers give their victims a free hit of heroin?

Just three words, and now I have lost interest in this blog because I am immersed in design and and interiors magazines.

In America you take these three words for granted, but not here in Britain and especially not in flats in late Victorian houses.

17 comments:

kairu said...

They are not necessarily as wonderful as they sound. I have a walk-in closet, long and narrow, with a dresser at the far end and Vitsoe drawers and hanging shelves along the wall. It is beautiful, cosy and womb-like. It is also crammed with junk and nearly impossible to navigate, as I step over empty boxes and trip over the vacuum cleaner before falling heavily onto an empty suitcase blocking the drawer that turns out not to contain the particular black cashmere sweater I want for that day.

Always Pretty in Pink said...

I never really thought about closets as being that important, but I guess you are right. You would love my house, my husband and I each have a 10 ft by 12 ft walk in closet, just in our master bedroom. Plus, one of those closets with the foldy doors. They are really handy.

Nadine said...

I share a walk-in wardrobe. It's really just more floor area for junk to get dumped on.

Deja Pseu said...

We did a room addition a few years back mostly to get a walk-in closet. It's not so much the size as the organization. I have to make an effort daily to hang everything up and put my shoes away.

Linda Grant said...

I have a whole room to keep suitcases, unused exercise equipment etc but it's not suitable for hanging clothes.

Jo said...

I laugh, I laugh. I live in a post-WW2 Home For Heroes, and I have three closets, none of which are walk-ins. One of those closets was added after the house was built and is nearly unusable. Another, the one in my bedroom, takes a right-hand turn and has old furnace exhaust pipes running through it.

I have gotten quite good at both building unusually-shaped shelves and storing things creatively.

phyllis said...

My husband and I don’t have walk-ins per se, but our bedroom is really large to we installed a double 8 foot row of IKEA Pax closets with glass doors. Two things I learned when we did our project; (1) good lighting are really important (2) I much prefer shallow trays that roll out over traditional drawers. I’m not a tidy person and all I do with drawers is stow junk in them.

Americans have moved beyond the walk-in closet; the current obsession here is high end laundry rooms, often on the second floor where the bedrooms are so you don't need to schlep to the basement. They look like walk-in closets with more racks, counter space and of course one must have the fancy front loading washer and dryer large enough to wash a circus tent.

Linda Grant said...

The architect said I could have a walk in closet or a laundry room. No brainer.

lagatta à montréal said...

They are certainly not very common in hundred-year-old Montréal triplexes, I know a couple of people who had them put during extensive renos, sacrificing a pokey little baby's room, but a lot of people prefer traditional armoires (of the Norman style), antique or replicas. Imagine US places of similar vintage (such as Boston) probably lack them as well.

Of course when I was living in France and Italy, no wall cupboards at all, just an armoire.

I've heard people there saying armoires were more "hygienic", guess in terms of warding off insect infestations?

Phyllis, oversized washing machines aren't necessary - you can take your duvet to a laundrette with huge machines - but front loaders are MUCH better than top loaders, both for the environment and for the clothes. They use less water, energy and washing product, and since they lack an agitator, they don't damage somewhat-delicate clothing. I find that there is more I can wash by machine with a front loader.

Duchesse said...

I've had both, and prefer the long, very ample sliding-door closet with drawers and hanging space, but not a walk-in. (You can even do this on two walls.) You can stand in your bedroom and slide open the doors for the relatively brief time you access a closet. You're not going to live inside a walk in. Mine became pits, ad I'm a neat freak. We had custom birds'eye maple sliding doors made, they look gorgeous.

Linda Grant said...

Armoires and sliding doors very much depend on the size of the bedroom. My bedroom has a sealed up chimney breast which I can't remove without the consent of the people in the flat below who retain their fireplace. So that rules out a sliding door closet all along one wall. Victorian conversions are not suited to housing, visibly, large numbers of clothes, shoes bags.

StyleSpy said...

I have three 5'x6' closets (plus a coat closet in the hallway)and I would die without them. I could make do with half the square footage of living space I have in my apartment, but I refuse to sacrifice a single inch of storage space. You do have to put in the time to organize it on the front end, but it pays off. Get yourself a label maker and some plastic storage drawers and you're set. Linda, you seem a very organized person, I have no doubt you could make it work.

Arabella said...

How did posh Victorian women store their crinolines? Was there a special way of folding them? If it was anything like folding a fitted sheet, I'd be stuck.
I've learned to love the walk-in closet but in a Texas low-slung ranch house they can become dark vaults.

Linda Grant said...

The kind of house I live in, which covers much of inner but not Central London, was not inhabited by posh Victorian women but the wives of clerks, pen pushers, teachers etc. Such dresses as they had would have been worn over the crinoline which was an undergarment made of whalebone and folded vertically and propped inside a mahogany wardrobe. Victorian women of this class would have had far fewer clothes, particularly shoes, than we have today and the leather handbag only came into existence at the end of the century.

Richer women's clothes would have been kept in special dressing rooms. Where they were dressed by their maids.

Arabella said...

Undergarments put away like ironing boards! The history of storing clothes is as interesting as fashion history. Thanks Linda.

greying pixie said...

Linda, how strange to read your post. I almost sent you a long explanation on how to build in enough storage space for your clothes when I poo poo'ed your gadget for choosing outfits last week. But then I thought it was not my place to tell you how to organise your own wardrobe. But now I'll say what I was thinking then.

A friend of mine who has more clothes than anyone I know remortgaged and had ceiling to floor wardrobes built along the whole length of her living room. The doors are sort of antiqued mirrors with no handles so they don't look like doors but effectively a false wall behind which she is able to store most of her clothes (the rest are in similar wardrobes in bedroom and cellar!).

With regard to the chimney breast problem in Victorian houses, my late father designed a brilliant wardrobe around such a feature. Again the end result was doors along the whole wall so that the two alcoves either side of the chimney were deep hanging areas with shelves above. Then the doors covering the chimney breast were only about 25cms away from the chimney wall. On this part of the wall he hung slanting shelves for shoes, so you opened the doors and saw all your shoes in rows waiting for an evening out!

Keep going, you'll find a solution in the end. There's nothing more depressing that crushing your clothes into an inadequate space.

rb said...

Not all Americans take them for granted. Big closets are the subject of many of my wildest fantasies. (I'm not going to tell you about the other ones.)

This is the price of being a serial restorer of old Crafstman homes.

On the other hand, small closets impose discipline on ones wardrobe.