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Closet crafters cash in on clutter

Marketplace Staff Jun 13, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Retail sales inched up last month. A bare one-tenth of 1 percent. Some economists are blaming higher gasoline and energy prices. Theory goes they’re forcing many of us to cut back on trips to the mall. But . . .c’mon. Admit it. Some of you just can’t cram one more pair of jeans or yet another sun dress into an overcrowded closet. The answer, as any shopaholic will tell you, is to get a bigger closet. Marketplace contributor Cash Peters says a new industry’s sprung up to help us do just that:

CASH PETERS: Now, I don’t know which genius had this idea — y’know, of picking clothes off the floor and actually hanging them up — but I tell you, it’s catching on like crazy. People everywhere are busy converting bedrooms, hallways, even garages into closet space, often using custom furniture stores like California Closets.

COMMERCIAL: . . . It’s our passion . . . our heritage: California Closets.

Get over it. They’re cupboards.

Steve Blumenfeld’s boss of their Santa Monica branch. “So, what’s behind the craze, Steve?” I asked, almost like a real journalist. “Too much disposable income?”

STEVE BLUMENFELD: No, I don’t think it’s too much disposable income, I think they have too much stuff. Too much clothing, too much going on in their lives.

Precisely, and if that’s you, if your closet looks like a dumpster with a door on it, then there are people out there dedicated to helping you. From California Closets at the affordable end . . .

COMMERCIAL: . . . Our dedication is what keeps our customers returning to us again and again . . .

. . . Yeah, yeah. Or you can splash out on a top designer such as Lisa Adams of Troy Adams Design in Hollywood:

LISA ADAMS: I think people want to be organized in where they put things.

PETERS: But don’t you have this incredible urge when you go into somebody’s house, and they say, “Design me a closet,” to say, “You don’t need a big closet, you need to throw some of your junk away”?

ADAMS: And I certainly do that. And when I say, “You need to get rid of this,” they get offended.

PETERS: Oh, they do? The paisley shirts, the plaid golfing trousers . . .

ADAMS: You don’t need that.

You really don’t.

What’s remarkable is how much one of these rooms can cost. Up to $150,000. I know!

ADAMS: A lot of our clients have money. If you have money, you can do these things.

PETERS: Got money but no taste, right?

ADAMS: Yeah.

Exactly. Designer Kathryn Ireland’s got tons of rich clients. One woman even broke down when she saw her new closet.

KATHRYN IRELAND: I’ve had crying.

PETERS: What, they cry because you did such a bad job?

IRELAND: No, they cried because they loved it so much. She said, “I’d like two things. I’d like a hardwood floor — in case I want to pirouette — and I want a table by my bed for my martini glass. That’s all I want. Those are the only two things.”

[Phone rings.]

PETERS: That’ll be her now. “I never said I wanted to pirouette. Don’t say that to people.”

Oh, and you know who that woman was? Steven Spielberg’s mother. It was!

But thanks to this new trend, your closet needn’t look like landfill anymore. It can even be an — and these are the latest buzzwords — “Extension of your living space.” And you know who’s pushing this idea?

COMMERCIAL: California Closets.

Yeah, besides them. Turns out, all the designers are. So there’s no limit to the features they’ll install for you.

BLUMENFELD: We have ironing boards, we have safes, we have belt-racks, tie-racks, jewelry trays . . .

ADAMS: . . . coffee makers, televisions, books . . .

IRELAND: . . . I have done fridges in dressing rooms.

PETERS: What idea would you say no to? “I refuse to take your money. Don’t even give me that $100,000!”?

IRELAND: That wouldn’t happen, believe me.

PETERS: You would do anything?

IRELAND: God, yes.

PETERS: You have no scruples?

IRELAND: No. Why should I?

There’s no short answer to that. But anyway, it’s hard to spin this subject out any further. Except that, well, you’d expect a top designer like Kathryn Ireland to have the best closet of all, wouldn’t you?

PETERS: So what do your closets look like? I’m desperate to know.

IRELAND: Mine? Do you want to come have a look? C’mon. I’ll take you back there.

Oh fab, I thought. She lives close to her office, but not so close that she had time to rush home and tidy up.

PETERS: Oh my God! That’s all I’m saying.

IRELAND: Now look.

PETERS: But this is like, not even a closet, this is everything you ever have stuffed into one room.

IRELAND: I’ve got my photographs, bags, jewelry. I mean, there’s no room for a man to put his things but . . .

PETERS: This room, this room says lonely to me.

IRELAND: Oh it does not!

PETERS: It says lonely and isolated.

IRELAND: Oh stop it. Oh stop it. It says colorful. Look at all these colorful dresses.

PETERS: Oh look at me now, I’m crying like Steven Spielberg’s mother. Out of sheer pity.

IRELAND: Oh stop it. She cried because she loved her apartment. She didn’t cry because she didn’t like it.

Oh, Kathryn’s so much fun. For me, though, eh, I’m not really won over. If you’re wise, you’ll hang on to your money, let the closet craze pass, and wait until clutter becomes fashionable again.

In Los Angeles, I’m Cash Peters [door slams] for Marketplace. . . . Hello? Hello?

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