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How to create a functional wardrobe that works for you

By Katie Harris

Move aside the spa-like en suite; wardrobes are emerging as the ultimate luxe interior space.

“Australians have a well-honed sense of style thanks largely to magazines and TV shows such as The Block,” says show judge and leading designer Darren Palmer. ” We have a sophisticated approach to our homes and this extends to our wardrobes.”

From built-ins and walk-ins to boutique-like dressing rooms, we asked the experts how to create a dream robe – no matter the space or budget.

Consider spatial planning

The key to a covetable wardrobe lies in its planning, says designer Suzanne Gorman, who adds there are no rules for designing a robe.

“It’s about what you need,” she says. “Do you hang or fold your T-shirts, hang long pants from the hem, or wear maxi dresses? Divvy your clothes into groups and measure how many items are in each – for example, one metre of business shirts and 500 millimetres of long dresses. This informs your robe’s dimensions.”

The number of drawers you need should reflect your storage requirements for items like undergarments, workout gear and accessories. Gorman recommends designing drawers around 400 millimetres wide and 200 millimetres deep so items inside are clearly visible. “Allow one for technology and another lined in felt for stowing jewellery,” she suggests.

Create upper storage space around 300-400 millimetres high for storing items stowed in clear, labelled boxes. “It’s easier than reaching individual items at that height,” says Gorman, who also suggests tucking a small and stylish ladder in a corner for easy access.

The Block 2023: Steph and Gian’s main bedroom walk-in robe combines practical storage with luxury elements. Photo: Nine

Consider materials and finishes

Like bathing, dressing should feel like a ritual, says designer Nickolas Gurtler who approaches wardrobes as if they are designer boutiques. He uses natural stone for shelving alongside metal and timber finishes for a well-rounded material palette.

  • The Block 2023 room reveals: Steph and Gian deliver the biggest master bedroom suite in the show’s history

Consider luxurious touches

High-end luxury requires space and budget for detailing like glass-topped central drawer units and leather, suede and felt inserts. Luckily, glamour is achievable on a budget.  “It’s all about detail,” says Palmer, who likes sensor lighting and pull-down hangers for accessing higher spaces.

“Glass doors set into bevelled frames were a detail popular on The Block this season,” he says. “It provides a lovely boutique-like approach and add-ons like clever storage solutions and beautiful hangers also add amenity and functionality.”

For designer Shona McElroy from SMAC Studio, a full-length mirror with front-facing lighting is non-negotiable. “Elements like internal strip lighting are also luxe and cost-effective,” she says. “For me, the ultimate is a central-island drawer unit with a pendant and little nook to sit and put your shoes on. My dream!”

Consider showcasing treasures

Put your favourite accessories on show for a highly personalised space.  “Look to luxury stores for inspiration, like beautiful drawers with glass tops for displaying jewellery. And hang your fab handbag like a piece of art,” Palmer suggests.

Gurtler agrees and says open shelving is the perfect spot for showcasing treasures. “High-end jewellery should go in a safe, but day-to-day pieces can be stowed in small catch-all bowls by designers like Dinosaur Designs,” he says.

Consider shoe displays

Like jewellery, shoes make an impact when displayed beautifully. “A shoe’s visibility depends on its function,” Palmer says. “Gorgeous styles should be displayed, but others, like sports shoes, should be stored well away from the bedroom.”

Gorman approves of angled shoe shelving, and says if there is plenty of space, store shoes just one shoe deep for easy access.  If space is limited, install shallow, full-depth pull-out drawers that fit multiple shoes. “A mirror at the rear of the shelf adds reflective light so you can see any shoes hidden away at the back,” she says.

Consider mirror placement

Mirrors are not only for checking an outfit head to toe; they can elevate a wardrobe.

“Mirrors are like art, so their shape and frame is as integral to the robe’s style as its wall colour and fabrics,” Palmer says. “Wall-to-wall and ceiling-to-floor mirrors provide depth of space because you can’t tell where one surface starts and ends. It creates a feeling of continuity.”

Just be careful where you place them. “Mirrors pick up light and views,” he warns. “You don’t want to be showcasing the air-conditioning unit!”


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