Editorial, Photography & Graphics By: Dr. Christopher Cooper
Many people who own traditional houses have one thing in common, the total lack of closet space! When our old houses were new, one hundred plus years ago, our forefathers did not carry around half the stuff we have in our modern society. A century ago, the average person would only have a few items in their wardrobe – possibly a couple of everyday dresses or suits, and maybe a single Sunday-go-to-meeting outfit. In fact, through a bit of research, I found that the wire hanger was not invented until the first quarter of the twentieth century (and by a Canadian nonetheless!)
We all want to keep as close to the original plan of our home as possible, and moving around walls just does not do an old house justice. Installing a huge 2” x 4” walled closet in the corner creates a big problem. It does not look right and the walls etc. take-up way too much room.
During a recent photo shoot at the Bell Homestead, I stumbled on a neat and very modern idea incorporated when the house was originally built − closets! The most remarkable thing is that the ceilings on the upper level are a half-storey. What sets this apart from a modern stick-built and gypsum-board closet is the use of wainscotting (floor to ceiling panelling).
These closets have been built with tongue and groove boards, replete with a lovely classical frontispiece and a nice 4-panel door (doors, hardware and classic mouldings are available at most architectural salvage yards).
May I recommend painting the wood in a lovely milk paint finish. The beauty of milk paint is that it soaks into the fibres of the wood and does not chip or peel.
The simplicity of these closets, and the fact they are historically correct for an early house, makes them fit in perfectly with your antique style and décor. The closets can go up in a weekend, without all the mess of gypsum dust. And they won’t look like a drywall lump in the corner! Have fun and remember to send me some pictures if you decide to build one.