Walk in closets vs. reach-in closets: The benefits & drawbacks of both

Are you trying to decide on your ideal custom closet? Spacious walk-in closets get all the glory, but smaller reach-in closets are not without their merits either. Much of the decision comes down to your lifestyle and hobbies.

Walk-in closets offer more design flexibility, more storage and more attention. A large walk-in closet can be the highlight of your home. When you add custom closet features, you can elevate it from a humble storage space to an area where you can express your style. With reach-in closets, you have the benefit of simplicity: less space to manage and fewer items to organize. If you live an on-the-go lifestyle and place value on experiences over possessions, reach-in closets are a good option.
Whether you’re looking to relocate, renovate or sell your home, keep reading to learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of both walk-in and reach-in closets.

Walk-In Custom Closets Get Attention

Walk-in custom closets get all the attention, and for good reason. When you have enough room for a real walk-in closet, that gives you design and decor options that allow you to transform it from a utility space to one of the areas of your home where you can express your style and tailor it to the way you live.

Want to really help your home stand out? House Beautiful points to a number of increasingly popular features that can help this space shine even more:

  • Closet islands for extra storage, folding and outfit planning
  • Full-length mirrors (you’d be surprised how many closets don’t have mirrors)
  • Three-paneled mirrors (like those you find in dressing rooms)
  • Vanity for makeup
  • Changing space and seating (for those who like having others help pick out their outfits)
  • Custom lighting

Putting your house on the market? A spacious, organized walk-in master closet will help your home get more looks. Haven’t upgraded the space with custom closet hardware or features? Don’t worry. Potential buyers will still appreciate a large existing master closet, even if they have to install their own fixtures.

Walk-In Closets = More Storage Space

Needless to say, walk-in closets offer much more storage space for all of your clothing, shoes and accessories. The bare minimum size is four feet by four feet, but at least 100 square feet is recommended for closets shared by two people, according to Hunker.com. If you’re like most people, the more space the better. A roomy closet can comfortably accommodate even the most extensive wardrobes, particularly if you invest in some space-saving fixtures. 

Carted in your entire wardrobe and still have empty space? There are some ways to productively use this space:

  • Move furniture into the closet (dressers often fit nicely) to save bedroom space.
  • Use the closet for ironing and folding clothes.

Who Benefits Most From a Walk-In Closet?

Large walk-in closets are perfect for fashion-forward homeowners who take personal style seriously. The extra closet space can obviously accommodate larger wardrobes, but it also allows for easier storage and organizational options. If you’re the type of person who groups your clothes by color and makes sure that every shirt is facing the same way, this will appeal to you.

Drawbacks of Walk-In Closets

As potentially large areas of your home, a large walk-in closet can eat up square footage that you may have preferred using elsewhere. If you’re less fashion-inclined, this can be a major annoyance. You may find yourself staring at the half-empty space wishing that was in your bedroom.
A spacious walk-in closet may also potentially invite the accumulation of more items. If the sight of an empty rack, rod or shelf is unbearable, you may feel a strong temptation to fill it. At the same time, a big closet may decrease your motivation to be organized elsewhere in your home. 

You can also quickly lose items in your big walk-in closet. In fact, it’s not uncommon for many homeowners to only wear clothing from the front third of their cluttered closets. If this sounds like you, you’ve probably forgotten and replaced perfectly good items of clothing you forgot you had tucked away in the back. For too many homeowners, the back section of their spacious master closets slowly morph into a wilderness of overstuffed shelves, crowded hanging rods and stacks of shoe boxes.

Reach-In Closets Offer Function Over Style

Reach-in closets are designed for utility. Sure, there’s less storage space than you’d find in a sprawling walk-in closet, but that reduced real estate helps keep them organized. With less space to play with, you’re forced to keep the space neater, often by focusing on specific items and the basics. 

Due to the reduced size, reach-in closets can be easier to manage. You can quickly locate items, and fewer are apt to go missing. With little depth for items to be pushed behind other items, you can usually find what you’re looking for with just a glance.



Reach-In Closets = More Space Throughout Your Home

Whether you live in a small home or a large home, reach-in closets may be the only viable storage solution. Even in larger homes, these closets are most often found in areas of the home that can’t afford having 100 square feet of storage space carved out:

  • Hallway coat closets
  • Bathroom linen closets
  • Guest bedroom closets
  • A modest reach-in closet provides just enough storage space for these areas of your home that are usually more high traffic.


Who Benefits Most from Reach-In Closets?

In some ways, your closet storage can influence your lifestyle, so it’s important to be the kind of person who can accept those space limits. As a result, reach-in closets favor some people more than others:

  • Minimalists
  • Singles or couples without children
  • Residents of warm climates who don’t require a winter wardrobe

If you fall into one of these categories, you probably don’t want, don’t need or can’t fit a lot of extra items. The compact size favors those who don’t want to be bogged down by a lot of extra belongings. You can find what you need in a glance, grab it and go.

Reach-In Closets Offer Customization Options

HGTV points out that there are many storage systems and kits for reach-in closets to fit any lifestyle and purpose. This includes reach-in systems for kids’ rooms, coat closets and more. No matter what your closet dimensions or use, you can find a fantastic solution to maximize the space that often employs some hardware storage staples:

  • Shelving
  • Hooks
  • Baskets
  • Rods

Over-the-door storage hardware

Want something more stylish that makes a statement? Just because your reach-in closet doesn’t boast the square footage of a walk-in closet, that doesn’t mean it can’t have some attention-grabbing designs that both reflect your style and create a functional space,such as those referenced on HGTV.com. Another benefit of reach-in closet systems is that they’re easier to install than large walk-in closet fixtures.

Drawbacks of Reach-In Closets

In terms of raw storage space, reach-in closets just can’t measure up. If you consider yourself a die-hard shopper who likes to have backups of everything and the latest fashion items, you’ll probably find yourself fighting the small space. Asking someone to live in a home with less closet storage forces them to embrace a minimalist lifestyle that they probably didn’t choose.

Are you putting your home on the market? Underwhelming closets can make a difference, especially in the master bedroom where many homeowners today expect ample storage space. Particularly for those coming from a home with a large walk-in closet, downsizing to a small reach-in may be a deal-breaker.


The right closet for you depends on the lifestyle you live. In many ways, these closets can reflect different personalities and hobbies. If you’re the type of person who’d rather be out traveling, exploring new places, a small reach-in closet with enough storage for the essentials is probably sufficient. You value experiences over items, so ample storage space just isn’t a big concern.

Would you describe yourself as a “homebody”? Would you rather spend your nights and weekends close to home, relaxing inside? Do you pride yourself on your extensive fashion sense and invest a lot of time into your wardrobe? A large walk-in closet will obviously fit you better.

Whatever camp you fall into, it’s important to remember that there are ways to adapt your closet space to your needs. From repurposing extra square footage to making smart use of limited storage space, you can find happiness in a closet that may not immediately meet your expectations.


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