I’ve got the first coat of primer on the closet wall. It’s tinted to match the paint. I’ll let it dry for the rest of the afternoon, and possibly overnight since I have plans this evening.
So, before I ripped out huge chunks of drywall from my closet, I did a lot of planning. Ultimately I would like all the things to fit inside my closet, so I can get rid of the huge Ikea bookcase in here. And for that to happen I needed serious shelving. Floor to ceiling, fit-to-my-belongings shelving.
The Container Store’s Elfa is the gold standard in modular shelving, and it’s gotten a lot better looking over the years. Elfa is a standards and brackets system with a mind boggling array of shelves accessories. It’s well made and has stayed fairly consistent over the years – the cart I got freshman year of college is still compatible with what they’re selling now.
The downside of Elfa is the price. Most of the kits on the Container Store website are north of $1000. Ikea, Rubbermaid, and ClosetMaid all offer similar systems. So I sat down and priced them all out (except ClosetMaid which had mostly negative reviews).
I knew I wanted shelves along the back and side wall. Because the door swings in, I decided to leave that wall empty save for maybe a few coat hooks. I tried to price out designs that were as close to identical as possible, so I went for 5 rows of shelving all the way around in an L shape.
Elfa was by far the easiest, because they offer free design planning. I called them up and spent about 20 minutes going over my options with their rep. You can see the designs online as you’re working on them, and when you’re done you get a full parts list and instructions. You can also buy the whole kit with one click. Total quoted price: $950. Ouch.
With Elfa as the high water mark I moved on to Rubbermaid HomeFree. Rubbermaid provides an online design planner, but I found it irritating to use and ended up just doing it by hand. The HomeFree system features parts that overlap to fit your space, rather than having to get them cut to size. Unfortunately the shelves are only available in 12″ deep, which is shallower than what I need for my stuff. It came in the cheapest at $475, but ultimately wasn’t the solution I needed.
Next I priced out Rubbermaid FastTrack. FastTrack is a much more industrial looking solution, with all wire shelves. You can cut the shelving yourself with a bolt cutter, or have it cut for you in the store. A layout very similar to the Elfa layout (but with wire shelves) came out to $650.
From there I went back to look at the Elfa configuration. I really like how extensible it is. I’m not entirely sure what my storage needs are, so the rep helped me design my system so that it would be easy to add drawers later if I decided I needed them. Most of the individual components seemed about the same price as Rubbermaid’s, why was it so much more expensive? I pulled up the parts list and compared.
It turns out, the Elfa shelves include a lot of “vanity” parts to help things look nicer. Bracket covers, rail covers, etc. Things that help class up the setup but aren’t needed for structural integrity. By dumping all those parts I got the price down to about $800. With a 25% coupon I found online, it came down to $600.
It’s still a lot of money to spend on a closet. I’d love to get the drawers now, but at $65 each for the drawer, gliders, and brackets it’ll have to wait. In the mean time, some extra shelves will go into the ‘someday’ spot for the drawers.
In all honesty, even if I’d paid full price for the Elfa, the design service makes it worth the extra $150. I’ve spent the better part of a week planning, pricing, and trying to negotiate the various shelving systems. The phone call with the Elfa designer was so painless I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Of course, we’ll see if I’m still singing their praises after I install the damned stuff.