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A complete guide to buying and designing wardrobes

 

With wardrobes taking up the most space in a bedroom, it is important to design or purchase something that is highly functional but also adds to the room’s aesthetics. We went to wardrobe and design experts from Sleek, a subsidiary of Asian Paints that provides complete kitchen and wardrobe solutions, to help us with the finer details. Read on for their expert tips and advice. 

Before buying or designing the wardrobe
One of the most important factors that decides wardrobe design is the size and layout of the room. This will determine how big the wardrobe can be and where you will place it. It will also decide whether the room can have a walk-in, niche or stand-alone wardrobe with hinge or sliding shutters. You should also have a basic idea of the materials and finishes available in the market.

For an efficient design, take stock of what kind of storage is required. This will help you choose the best module. For example, you might need more hanging space for suits and coats. In some cases, shelves and drawers might be better suited to your needs.

Ask yourself the following questions when designing or buying a wardrobe:

·       What are you using the space for?
Take stock of what you will be storing in different sections of the wardrobe: clothes, shoes, linen, accessories, etc.

·       What kind of storage do you need?
Determine whether you need more hanging space or more stacking space. Also keep in mind the height of the clothes that need to be hung. Some people prefer shelves over drawers and vice versa. Keep in mind that for items like undergarments, socks, belts, watches and jewellery, drawers are easier to use. 

·       Who will be using the wardrobe?
Kids usually do not require too much hanging space and this section should be placed near the lower half so that they can reach the rod. On the other hand, drawers on the lower half might be a better idea for elderly people so that they do not have to bend to reach items. For kids, you might also need external drawers for storing extras like toys, games, school materials and books so that the wardrobe doesn’t have to be opened each time. 
 

Types of wardrobe
·
       Niche or built-in wardrobes are customised to fit into a niche or alcove. Here, the shutters are in line with the wall and these structures cannot be moved.

·       Standalone wardrobes are usually placed against a wall and movable. They take up extra floor space in the room.

·       Sliding door wardrobes come with channels on the top and bottom with the shutters sliding in each direction. Just like sliding windows, one section will always be inaccessible. This design works best for smaller rooms where there isn’t enough clearance for the doors to swing open.
 

A walk-in wardrobe with clothes and other items inside

Walk-in wardrobes, are considered to be the most luxurious of all designs.

·       Hinge door wardrobes are a classic style where both doors are fixed on hinges at the side and swing open outward. The biggest advantage here is that you have access and visibility to the entire wardrobe. Another advantage is that you can fix accessories like a belt rack on the inside of the door which isn’t possible with sliding shutters. Hinged doors are also better suited for L-shaped or corner wardrobes.

·       Finally, walk-in wardrobes, the most luxurious design, are those where you can walk into your wardrobe. These are usually placed between the bedroom and bathroom for maximum convenience. A walk-in can have closed or open storage as well as a combination of both.
 

A wardrobe with clothes and other items inside

The height of the wardrobe should either match that of the door height or can go right up to the ceiling for extra storage.

The ideal wardrobe measurements
·
       Readymade wardrobes usually have a depth of 200-300 mm. Sleek wardrobes, however, are designed keeping in mind items like suits which require more space. They suggest a depth of 560mm. With sliding doors, factor in a minimum of 50 mm (2 inches) extra for the channels and doors to slide easily.

·       For hinged doors, look a maximum width of 600 mm for each door so that there isn’t excess load on the hinges.

·       The minimum width for each sliding door should be 3 feet (915 mm) otherwise accessing the contents of the wardrobe gets difficult. This means that your entire wardrobe should be a minimum of 6 feet. Keep in mind a maximum width of 4 feet per door, otherwise each door will get too heavy for the channels. 

·       The hanging rod should be placed at a minimum distance of 2.5 inches from the top so that there is enough room to easily place and remove hangers.

·       Each shelf or drawer (for folded clothes) should be between 10-12 inches for optimum storage.

·       Drawers used for undergarments, socks and accessories should be between 6-8 inches.

·       Storage for shoes (especially heels) should be between 6-7 inches in height. 

·       The height of the wardrobe should either match that of the door height or can go right up to the ceiling for extra storage. With floor to ceiling wardrobes, it is a good idea to divide the internal storage and shutters, with the top portion above the bedroom door height as a separate section.

·       For walk-in wardrobes which have parallel cupboards on opposite walls and hinged shutters, make sure there is enough clearance for the shutters of both cupboards to open fully as well as clearance for movement. 

Popular wardrobe materials
There are two key factors to keep in mind while choosing materials:

·       The shutter panels are much longer than those of kitchen cabinets. So, warping and bending is a very real possibility.

·       Secondly, wardrobes aren’t usually located in wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms so you don’t have to worry too much about water resistance. Having said that, high levels of humidity in the air can cause swelling.

Engineered wood, BWR or boiling water-resistant grade plywood, HDF or high-density fibreboard, MDF or medium density fibreboard and plywood are the most popular materials used to make wardrobes. Plywood is made using thin layers of solid wood that are glued together to form a single board. Plywood and BWR are water-resistant and work best for areas that see high moisture content. However, because these materials are on the heavier side, they should ideally be used on the internal structure and not the shutters to lessen the load on the channels or hinges. For the shutters, HDF is an ideal material to use. HDF is also great for the internal structure for areas that don’t see high moisture. MDF boards are made by combining wood fibres with wax and a resin binder and forming panels using high temperature and pressure.
 

Popular exterior finishes
Brands usually offer a wide variety of external finishes; Sleek has 12 different kinds available in more than 200 shades ranging from matte to high gloss. Some of the most preferred exterior finishes are:

·       Veneers: Wood veneer sheets are made using thin ‘slices’ of natural solid wood which are then glued on to the underlying engineered wood.

·       Laminates: Laminates are artificially produced materials made from paper and plastic resins glued and hard-pressed into thin sheets. They come in a wide variety of finishes, colours, and textures and can replicate materials like wood, stone, metals, leather, etc. They also range from matt to glossy. Sleek 

A closed wardrobe with glossy exterior near a table

Sleek has 12 different kinds of exterior finishes available in more than 200 shades ranging from matte to high gloss.

offers various laminates like the textured Graintex available in 3 shades, Lamineer which are bark laminates available in 7 shade options, 47 shades of Matt Laminates, and 32 shades of High Gloss Laminates.

·       Paint: When painting engineered wood or laminates, opt for PU paints which are specifically made for these materials. 

·       Lacquer: A coat of lacquer will impart a high-gloss aesthetic to the shutters. The Gloss Meister finish from Sleek comes in 14 shades.

·       Mirrors: Mirrors add depth to a room and reflect light, making it appear bigger. Remember to factor in the added weight of the mirrors on the hinges or channels.

·       Glass: Clear, tinted, lacquered or frosted glass is another option for wardrobe shutters. You can even consider materials like fabric or wallpaper sandwich between two glass sheets.

·       Acrylics: An expensive option, acrylics give a luxe, reflective high-gloss finish and are very strong and long-lasting. Sleek offers 13 shades of scratch and UV-resistant, high gloss acrylics. 

Add-on features and accessories
Other than the functional storage requirements, Sleek wardrobes also come with high useful add-on features. Consider options like sensor lighting as well as pull-out mechanisms like garment pull-outs, shoe pull-outs, and multi-purpose pull-out for jewellery and watches. Sleek wardrobes can also come fitted with iron racks, tie racks and pivoting mirrors.  
 

A bedroom with an open wardrobe that has clothes and other items inside

Light colours and finishes for the wardrobe’s exterior, work better in smaller bedrooms.

Wardrobe design tips for small bedrooms
·
       Using a reflective finish or mirrors on the shutters will give the impression of a bigger space.

·       Light colours and finishes for the exterior work better in smaller bedrooms.  

·       Add functionality to the wardrobe. You can add an ironing board that folds away or create a small niche with a mirror and drawers that can be used as a dressing table.

·       You can also tuck in a compact workstation within a niche in the wardrobe. Add a pull-out table system for extra work space.   

·       Consider using the entire height of the wall for extra storage.

·       Use any awkward niches in the room layout to your advantage. These alcoves can be closed in with custom built-in cupboards to add storage.

·       If possible, consider ‘wrapping’ the built-in wardrobe around the bedroom or bathroom door instead of closing off another wall.
 

·       You could also design the wardrobe as an extension of the headboard, using the wall space above and around the bed. This design idea works better in the kids or guest bedroom.

·       Sliding wardrobe doors don’t require extra clearance like hinge doors, making them a better option for smaller rooms.

·       With some clever planning, a wardrobe can also be used as a partition ‘wall’ which works best for small, open-plan spaces like studio apartments. 

Final tips from the experts
·
       Warranty
Some brands do not manufacture the wood so the company warranty offered only covers items like the hardware. Read the fine print carefully. Sleek warranties cover everything in the wardrobe from wood to hardware to accessorises, carpets, shutters and finishing elements. The brand offers 5 years warranty against manufacturing defects, though accidental damage isn’t covered.

·       Factors that affect pricing
The experts say it is misleading to provide a set price per square foot or even a general range as the final number for custom wardrobes depends on a wide variety of factors. A square foot rate refers to the rate for the wood. Apart from that elements like hinges, channels, accessories, finishes, locks, etc cost extra. They advise that you need to account for the cost of material, labour, finishes, accessories as well as any add-on features and mechanisms. 

·       Laminate and S banding
Two factors decide whether the base material will swell. One is the quality of the material and the second is its exposure. Good quality materials like BWR usually don’t swell during monsoons or in humid environments. To limit exposure, an added precaution would be to use good quality laminates (on the front and back) and S-banding (used on the sides and corners) on the internal structure as well. This protects the material form environmental factors like humidity and even termites. Further, even if the material somehow gets exposed to moisture, these materials will hold the plywood together, reducing the chances of swelling and warping. If you want, you can cover the laminate with a paint, lacquer or carpet finish for decorative purposes.

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