Ellene Wundrok, Real Simple’s managing art director, used to keep coats in her Manhattan apartment’s 32½-by-42-inch entryway closet. “But I had a bigger closet where I could store them,” she says. “What I really wanted was an office that wasn’t open for all to see.” See how she made it work...
2 of 6Nikolas Koenig
A Pretty and Private Home Office
1. Use vertical space. Wundrok removed the rod, kept the top shelves intact, and had plywood cut for a desktop. She painted the surfaces a glossy white. (Impervex Gloss, $17 a gallon, benjaminmoore.com for stores.)
2. Add charm. Rosabella wallpaper ($140 a roll, osborneandlittle.com for stores) brightened up the spot. “The space is so small, I could afford to splurge on this beautiful wallpaper,” she says.
3. Contain clutter. Wundrok used to cram wrapping paper in the closet, but “it would get all mangled at the ends,” she says. So she screwed coat hooks into the wall to cradle rolls and repurposed a spice rack for ribbons. Computer wires are plugged into a power strip that’s attached to the wall beneath the desktop.
3 of 6Nikolas Koenig
A Lonely Linen Closet Becomes...
Decorating expert and blogger Eddie Ross had no need for the 37½-by-20-inch linen closet in his 1760s farmhouse in Millerton, New York. Because it was next to the sitting room, where he often entertains, he decided to turn it into a bar. Read the secrets of the switch...
4 of 6Nikolas Koenig
A Charming, Fully-Stocked Bar
1. Reorganize the shelves. Ross removed a shelf, readjusted the others (one is now 36 inches from the floor, which is standard counter height), and added a wine rack and a wineglass holder. He painted it all a neutral color. (Aura paint in Jute, $57 a gallon, benjaminmoore.com for stores.)
2. Create the illusion of a larger space. Ross measured the back and side walls and had pieces of mirror cut to fit. “I used foam tape to adhere the panels to the wall,” he says. The mirrors help make the narrow nook look deeper and wider.
3. Keep objects under cover. Behind a piece of silk hung from a tension rod, Ross conceals things like a wastebasket, a recycling bin, and cans of soda. Underneath the counter, Ikea Fira desktop drawers ($15 each, ikea.com) contain bar tools.
4. Add subdued lighting. “It would cost a fortune to hard-wire the bar for electricity, so I use battery-operated push lights instead,” says Ross. “They cast a nice, soft glow, and the batteries last a long time.” (Lights, $9.50 for two, homedepot.com for stores.)
5. Make it user-friendly. The Ikea cubbies are labeled, as are the squeeze bottles on the counter. “I mean, I know that I keep vermouth in the mist bottle, but a guest might think it’s Windex or something,” says Ross.
5 of 6 Nikolas Koenig
A Drab Bedroom Closet Becomes...
At their Long Island home, Kendell Cronstrom, a former Real Simple editor at large, and his partner, Alejandro Saralegui, initially tried using a bedroom closet (53 by 31 inches) as a quasi home office but soon realized they would rather turn it into a place to house their growing collection of books. Take a look at what they did...
6 of 6 Nikolas Koenig
An Accessible and Inviting Library
1. Maximize the area. Cronstrom took down the previous owner’s curtains, which made the space seem confined, and hired a carpenter to rip out old shelves and build new 2-inch-thick wraparound plywood ones that could accommodate heavy art books.
2. Choose a pleasing color. Because the nook is fairly deep, “we didn’t want it to look like a dark hole,” says Saralegui. “Rich blue oil paint shimmers and makes the books stand out.” (Hollandlac Satin oil paint in navy blue, $110 for 2½ liters, finepaintsofeurope.com.)
3. Use double-duty furniture. The bottom half of this walnut stepladder, which allows access to books on high shelves, flips over and folds into a chair.
4. Add more light. The couple replaced a desk lamp with antique-nickel retractable fixtures (attached to the wall behind the top shelf) to give the space a clubby, old-fashioned library look. (Boston functional two-arm library wall lights, $273 each, circalighting.com.)
5. Incorporate personal touches. Decorative objects, like vases, a thrift-store painting, and boxes in various shades of blue, break up the long rows of books. Cronstrom keeps old photographs inside the boxes.