Designing a walk in closet with very limited space can be a tough design challenge. Make the closet too small and you will forever be aggravated that you can’t move enough in the closet to actually see the clothes! Make it too big and you end up wasting space elsewhere or even “breaking” an entire design because something really important, like a bathtub, won’t fit!
I set out to determine exactly what the minimum width of a small walk-in closet is. The short answer: If you want hanging clothes on both sides, you need at least a full 6′ wide space. Any less and people will have a really hard time maneuvering in the space. Especially if they are anything more than average size adults. (like me!)
Unfortunately, the space I have to work with on this project is too small for two rows of clothes. It’s bound on one side by a concrete block wall I’d rather not move and on the other side by a bathtub and a minimum walkway width of 36″ which is a standard I try to never go below.
So I have two choices…
Option 1 – Put shelving on only one side of this closet, and the end as well, which still gives the benefit of a walk-in-closet and only sacrifices about 3′ of shelving wall.
Option 2 – Rearrange the bathroom to reduce hallway space and open up more room for the closet. We’ll see but I like bathrooms that have a little bit of “flow” to them rather than big cavernous open rooms.
Here’s How I Arrived at 72″ Minimum Width (for hanging on both sides)
- I measured my hanging clothes. I’m a pretty good size guy so most people’s clothes would take up slightly less space. I came up with 22″ for hanging clothes.
- Shelves on both sides would be 22″ x 2 – so 44 inches would be taken up with clothes.
- Then the question is “What is the smallest aisle I would feel comfortable maneuvering in?” Using a bedroom doorway as a guide, I determined I would need at least 28″ of space to walk and turn around in, bringing the grand total to 72 inches, or 6 feet even.
Could You Get By With Less than 6 Feet for a Walk-In Closet?
If you don’t mind squeezing between rows of clothes and having them bang up against your shoulder the whole time, yes you could. In fact I would even have gone for it if the space available in my design was at least 70″… but I wasn’t even close.
But there are always options. You can put shelves on one side and on the end farthest from the door. And you can always go back to a standard entry closet with a wide access door such as a bi-fold or by-pass (sliding) door.
In this case I think my suggestion is going to be to just put clothes hanging on one side and on the end, then make a custom shelving unit for narrow items on the remaining long wall. This can be used for belts, shoes, socks, jewelry, and things like that.
What about your closet? Do you have a walk-in less than 6′ wide that works for you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.