Amanda Austin in her closet, which has plenty of natural lighting… (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore…)
Remember when a walk-in closet was considered a luxury item in a home? Now, what makes any fashion fan salivate is the idea of a closet room. Baltimore interior designer Amanda Austin says more and more homeowners are converting a room to a closet.
"No one likes to dig for things; having things stashed underneath the bed," says Austin, who has created her own closet room. "I do think people are willing to have a smaller bedroom for a larger closet. ... I think everybody wishes to live in a state of convenience and bliss."
Having a big room in which to hang and organize your wardrobe is the obvious convenience. But the bliss for many closet lovers doesn't come just from the clothes. It comes from the design features, favorite collections and keepsakes in those rooms.
Amanda Austin, owner of Amanda Austin Interiors, loves living in airy openness. Just because she lives in Federal Hill doesn't mean she has to feel confined. She says natural lighting is her "oxygen."
To that end, Austin has made sure her closet has plenty of that element, with windows on two sides — one with a window seat that she sometimes uses for reading. Shelves next to it hold some precious mementos.
There's a practical side for her very open closet, as well. She needs to see everything in it.
"If I don't see it, then I don't know I have it," she says.
That means seeing clothes for all seasons. In her work, Austin travels a lot for business, going to warmer or colder climates and needing to pack appropriately.
Shelves above the clothing reveal some of her favorite collections. "I love wraps, pashminas and purses. I want them to be easily accessible."
Austin also loves color, which is why she likes to set out all of her multihued shoes. Those shoes seem to reflect her dislike for confinement: Nearly all of them are open-toed.
There's another kind of openness to her closet. Austin likes to share her clothes with her girlfriends.
"When they go out or are going to a special event, they always say they're going to 'shop at Amanda's boutique,'" she says. "But sharing brings me great happiness."
Austin says she's not the trendy type, preferring clothes that have a certain effortless function and timeless look.
"One needs to know how to spend your money. So, it's knowing how to invest and when. And knowing when not to."
Chuck Nabit is known for his fun sense of style. When out on the town, the CEO of Westport Group, a diversified investment company, is not afraid to have fun with colorful shirts and sports jackets. It's a trait he believes is inherited.
"It's a statement; a way to express yourself," he says. "I grew up with a mother who had great flair. I saw how she expressed her own sense of self and creativity in what she wore. I guess it's in the genes."
Another strong fashion influence comes from Nabit's second home in Miami's South Beach.
"I don't wear suits and ties that often. My preference is not to. In Florida, you don't," he says.
But it's different in Maryland. "So many people here wear the 'uniform' of the club tie and the blue suit," says Nabit. "They're comfortable with that because they don't have to think about it. They just get up and put on the uniform."
When he and his wife, Mary Kay, bought and renovated a 1927 Roland Park house, he took over a small series of rooms and turned them into a "man suite" — as he jokingly refers to it. A small room serves as his main closet, with cupboard closets where he keeps his shoes, sweaters and T-shirts. Hallways on either side of the room lead to his bathroom or his home office.
"Clothes are like friends. They're familiar and comforting," says Nabit, who acknowledges he finds it tough to cull his closet, something interior designer Alexander Baer also understood when he designed the space.
"He's a clotheshorse, so he understood the need."
But it's not the clothing in his closet that brings Nabit the most comfort and familiarity in this "man suite" center. It's the photos of family — his wife, daughter Grace, 5, and son, Alex, 4, his mom and dad — and memorabilia from his travels that matter most.
"The clothes I'm not overly attached to. The people and places I've been; that's what matters to me."
When Jane Smith and her husband, David Smith, Sinclair Broadcasting president/CEO, built their Cockeysville home five years ago, what was most important about her closet wasn't being able to see everything at one glance. She wanted it to be a space that was both warm and elegant.
That's why she had Baltimore artisan Donald Bayne, owner of Bayne's Quality Custom Furniture, create the woodwork for the three areas that form a walk-through closet. She added a few girly touches to reflect her own personality, and then filled the exposed spaces with some of her favorite things — which weren't necessarily clothes.