Living Room Closet Living Room Closet

Q: I'm trying to decide what to do about a closet in our living room. The previous owner wanted a main floor bedroom, and had a closet built when the house was being constructed; therefore, the closet is the support for the upstairs.To remove it will cost $12,000 which seems a lot to remove just a closet. Do you have any suggesstions as to what can be done to make it blend into the living room setting?

A: Even the thought of shelling out $12,000 to get rid of something rather than to get something makes me anxious. And don't think for a minute if the estimate is $12,000 that's what the price will be.

The first thing I'd try would be getting a second opinion on the cost of removing that closet. For $12,000 you could build a whole new house in some parts of the world, and you never know when a carpenter is trying to bilk you out of all your worldly belongings.

But maybe you just can't get rid of that closet; if it's supporting the ceiling, you don't want to have to take out that whole section of the house. And you're not alone in this kind of problem there are certainly plenty of people in apartments who face the same dilemma, as they're living in the dining room of what was once a mansion and is now one of about 20 one-bedroom apartments.

The most important thing to bear in mind is that you don't want to try to disguise this closet, because that just won't work. So forget about draping it in a fabulous curtain and pretending it's a window or something like that. Disguise almost always looks precisely like diguise, in decorating as in life.

Instead, look at how you could work the closet into the room. It isn't unheard of to have some kind of closet in a living room or dining room. If this room is near the dining room, you could think of this as a china cabinet, a rather old-fashioned item that has all but disappeared from modern homes. But if the home is built in anything but the most modern style, you could replace the closet doors with glass panels, and replacing the bottom of the doors with a couple of drawers for table linens. This use of the glass would brighten the room, and would make the closet look less like a clothes closet and more like a dining room cabinet.

If the dining area is far off and this really is a separate living area, you could try the same thing, only instead of using it for dishware and table linen, you could use it to display collectibles, whether it's old Hummel figurines or your collection of glass flowers.

Another idea is to make the closet serve as an entertainment center. If you could fit the television, stereo, and VCR into the closet, you could have shelves built in there, and change the doors to match the decor of the room.

If you try either one of these options, you should paint the whole thing (except the glass, of course) the same color as the walls, or, if the walls are unpainted wood, have the carpenter construct the new doors from wood which is the same species as the wood of the walls. You don't want this thing to stand out, and the way to have it blend in to the rest of the room is by painting it the same color.

And either of these methods should cost considerably less than $12,000, unless of course you hire Extortionist Contractors, Inc., whose number I can easily give you. I need a Valium just writing that figure.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Design

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