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The Secret History of the Closet

Blog Written by Nancy Mitchell  apartment therapy You probably think of a closet as a little room where you hang up your clothes. But for much of its history, the closet has served a completely different purpose entirely.
Walk in closet, white shelves, white clothing, makeup bench, custom walk in, custom built ins, custom closet, Symmetry Closets

Modern Walk-in Closet

Come back with me, if you will, to the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages having a bedroom was a bit of a privilege — most common folks slept either on the floor of the great hall of the manor where they lived, or in the single room that served them as kitchen, living room, dining room, and bedroom all in one. Only very wealthy people had bedrooms, and they used their bedrooms not just for sleeping but also for working and entertaining important guests. The bedroom, at this time, was not a very private place. So where could you go if you wanted a little time alone? Enter the closet. At the end of the Medieval period, well-to-do homeowners began adding ‘closets’ adjoining their bedrooms. The closet was a place to store treasured possessions, but it was also a place for prayer, reading, and quiet contemplation. It was by far the most private place in the house, and to this day the word “closet” can carry a meaning of secrecy and privacy. If two people retreat to a secluded spot to have a conversation, they can be said to be closeted together. A “closet racist” is someone who hides their views from the world. (This particular meaning of the word closet may have contributed to the phrase ‘come out of the closet’, although according to Mentalfloss this particular metaphor was not used by the gay community until the 1960s.)
custom walk in closets

Modern Walk-in Closet

In Europe the closet eventually disappeared, as houses grew larger and other rooms afforded opportunities for privacy. But the Puritans took the idea of a closet with them to the New World — although it had become by then simply a place to store things. Of course, closets are not nearly as prevalent in older houses. There might not even be one in every bedroom, because people then had a lot less clothing, and they were a lot more likely to store their clothes in a chest or armoire than hang them up in a closet. (The coat hanger, in fact, wasn’t even invented until 1869.) Today the closet is enjoying a bit of a zenith, owing to the fact that many modern Americans own (what would have been considered by the Puritans at least) simply enormous amounts of clothes. The mania for luxury closets has even led to closets outfitted with sofas, vanities, or desks, making them a sort of retiring room/boudoir in addition to a storage space. Which means that these closets have, in fact, come completely full circle. This post was inspired by and owes much to Lucy Worley’s fascinating book about the history of the home, If Walls Could Talk. It will make you, I guarantee, a completely fascinating dinner party conversationalist, able to wax eloquent about thing like how often medieval people bathed (spoiler: they didn’t) and historical attitudes towards beards. Author: Nancy Mitchell As a Senior Writer at Apartment Therapy, Nancy splits her time among looking at beautiful pictures, writing about design, and photographing stylish apartments in and around NYC. It’s not a bad gig.

WHY VISITING EXPERTS AT A HOME PRODUCTS SHOWROOM IS A MUST

By Sharon McGovern, Editor of NARI NYC/LI Design & Remodel Sure it’s great to do your research online before making any large home improvement purchase – in fact most homeowners search the internet to select products. But do you really know the quality, benefits and features of what you’re getting? Our NYC/LI NARI experts want you to know why it’s imperative that you test drive products before making a major purchase for your home.
“For large purchases you want to make sure you’re spending your money wisely, you owe it to yourself to see the range of what’s possible”
“Most customers think they know what they want, and then they see all the options available and change their minds,” said Jason Ashe, National Sales Manager for WindowRama. “We understand the importance of a customer touching and trying out products – windows and doors can be big ticket items in larger renovation projects,” he added. WindowRama offers 40 different brands of windows and doors, so the product selection process can be overwhelming. “Our showrooms are a destination – customers can see windows and doors in a real world atmosphere – similar to rooms in their own home,” Ashe said.
A popular trend in home renovation and design is indoor/ outdoor living. WindowRama’s 6000 square foot superstore in Farmingdale showcases multi-fold patio doors and screens so homeowners can see how these large doors operate. “We want the consumer to be excited about their purchase,” Ashe added. Green Art Plumbing Supply also implements the latest and greatest innovations for the home into their showrooms. Customers can explore possibilities that were merely ideas, until now. Green Art Plumbing Supply’s Huntington Station showroom features exquisite kitchens and baths as functional displays – providing a chance to experience products firsthand before making a decision.
“We put ourselves in our customer’s shoes,” said Stephanie Kurtzman, Marketing Director for Green Art Plumbing Supply. “Instead of buying online, visit a showroom to make sure the products you’re selecting fit your daily lifestyle and the unique look of your home,” she said. Green Art Plumbing Supply offers customers a truly unique showroom experience at their Huntington Station location – come in a bathing suit and try out a steam shower system in person! Custom closet design is generally an in-home shopping experience, says Bonnie Reich, owner of Symmetry Closets. “We measure, get a customer’s likes and dislikes, and can quickly provide a design and 3-D space plan. But you can’t get the experience of actually seeing materials in person and trying out options, unless you visit our showroom,” she said. “For example, there are all different grades of hardware – sometimes what you see in a picture may not be right for you. You need to engage with the product, and you just can’t replicate that experience.”
Lighting really makes a difference when you’re looking at materials, especially in custom closet and organization design. There’s LED lighting, strip lighting, drawers that light up and motion sensors that light up a space when you open a door. “There are so many lighting choices – cool, warm – unless you visit a showroom, you can’t experience that for yourself,” said Reich. According to Cambria USA spokesperson Aliki Vrohidis, different lighting can also affect the way you read colors, tones and movement in each of Cambria’s natural quartz countertop designs. “Additionally, our HighGloss and Cambria Matte surface finishes reflect light differently, so it’s important to see them both in person and in the correct lighting to see which you prefer,” she added. Cambria’s natural quartz design samples are a small select cut from a slab; they do not fully exhibit all the design characteristics of the final installed product. Variations in the natural quartz stone color, pattern, size, shape and shade are unique and inherent characteristics of the product. “Prior to making a purchase, we recommend viewing a full slab of the design’s movement in one of our showrooms or galleries,” Vrohidis said. Equally important to the experience of the showroom is a great team to work with. “Our incredibly knowledgeable, friendly, and dedicated staff provide the best personalized service in the industry,” said Green Art Plumbing Supply’s Stephanie Kurtzman.
For those customers who already have a trade professional to work with, the team at WindowRama offers ‘contractor concierge service.’ “We invite customers to come in and meet with a specialist to select products and build a portfolio of features,” said Jason Ashe. WindowRama’s staff then work with the contractor’s measurements to place the order. Need an installer or financing? WindowRama offers those services as well. Working with an expert in person can make all the difference says Bonnie Reich of Symmetry Closets. “There are things you don’t even think of – for example, your height makes a difference in designing a closet. Many times we have to modify standard cabinetry to work for your specific needs,” she said. “For large purchases you want to make sure you’re spending your money wisely,” she added, “you owe it to yourself to see the range of what’s possible!” This article originally appeared in Design & Remodel Magazine