Pret-a-Reporter

The Psychology of an Organized Closet

Amanda Friedman
Closet guru Lisa Adams (left) with Rosalie Swedlin, photographed Nov. 21 in the closet of Swedlin’s Beverly Hills home.

Stress? Worry no more! Hollywood's ladies (and gents) now have gurus who create calm inside $100K wardrobe rooms with multiple stories, putting greens and coffee machines.

For people who felt the compulsion to clean house following the presidential election, there may be comfort in knowing they were not alone. "I heard a lot of conversation the day after about people wanting to focus on organizing their homes, getting rid of clutter and simplifying their lives," says John Trosko, professional organizer and owner of OrganizingLA, whose clientele boasts several award-winning industry creatives and executives. Trosko has seen an uptick in business inquiries since the primaries. "It's not surprising. This thinking taps into two things we all need when we face uncertainty or disappointment: a desire to be in a safe, comfortable place and a need to feel some control."

When it comes to closets, control in Hollywood can take on a number of luxurious configurations, from wardrobes that occupy two or three stories; to dedicated safe rooms for high-value items like jewelry, accessible only by state-of-the-art biometric scanners; to single-function closets (i.e., a room of your ball gowns' own); to fully decked-out entertaining spaces or sanctuaries. For a well-appointed closet, the entertainment industry's power players will shell out anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 depending on the size, material, design and any special features. "It's full of treasures," says Moneyball producer Rachael Horovitz of her closet, just off her home office in her New York brownstone. Horovitz, who now is adapting Edward St. Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels, is especially fond of certain well-preserved gowns: a Prada she wore for About Schmidt at the 2003 Oscars, a Vera Wang she bought just before 2009's Grey Gardens was nominated for 17 Emmys and a white Lanvin that was earmarked to be a wedding dress but instead was donned for Moneyball at 2012's Golden Globes.

Anonymous Content talent manager Rosalie Swedlin, a self-described clotheshorse who lives in Beverly Hills, is on her second closet (the first was in the Trousdale area of Beverly Hills) by LA Closet Design's Lisa Adams, whose roster also includes A-list actors and execs. "She's the best of the best," says Swedlin, whose client list of writers and directors includes Collateral Beauty director David Frankel. Swedlin's husband, producer Robert W. Cort, hangs out in an Adams-designed closet that includes a three-way mirror, television, refrigerator, breakfast bar and a putting green.

Observes organizer Beth Penn of Bneato Bar: "When your closet is no longer a dead zone, and you open the door and everything is organized, merchandised and color-coordinated, there's no better way to start your day." Says Penn's client, executive producer Alexis Martin Woodall, who adapted a bedroom into a closet in her Silver Lake house — dining rooms also are go-to's for conversions: "I finally have a beautiful, calm place of my very own where I can go to think."

Experts say that the rise of the haute closet is a function of social media and building trends. Penn cites Instagram and Pinterest as motivating factors: "We're seeing into people's homes in a way we never did before, and people want their own spaces to look like that." Claudia Kahn, who heads The Help Co., a staffing agency that services the homes of the one percent in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, observes that open plans that combine the kitchen, living room and dining room — a feature that has dominated new construction over the past decade and a half — have drawbacks that a luxury closet sometimes addresses. "The great room isn't so great," she says, referring to its lack of privacy, especially for families that use staff. It's not unusual for her to receive, say, a complaint about a nanny from a distressed client who has sequestered herself: "They're calling me from their closets because they have nowhere private to speak." Explains Penn: "If you think about it, a closet is the one space where you can grab some alone time. You can come in here under the pretense of changing your clothes for dinner and take a few minutes to regroup."

Solitude aside, a well-organized closet or closet system is a boon for busy Hollywood women juggling family and unpredictable careers that require strategic dressing for very visible moments, from the red carpet to social media. "I don't have time to fuss with what I'm wearing in the morning," says CreativeFuture's Ruth Vitale, who hits the ground running at 7 a.m., firing off dozens of emails to galvanize the creative community against piracy even before she heads into her Mid-Wilshire office. Vitale has developed a system — dividing her clothes into four walk-in closets (one just for ball gowns and another for evening shoes) spread throughout her Laurel Canyon home — that let her target exactly what she needs, whether it's a dress for an awards show in Los Angeles or the perfect couture jacket for a meeting with a senator in Washington, D.C.

Single-function closets — for storing workout clothing and gear (Khloe Kardashian has one) or an extensive man bag collection (like Ray Romano's) — increasingly are popular options in town. Adams, who worked with both Romano and Kardashian, views a hyperfocused closet as a way to prioritize what's important in her client's life: "Everyone has something that she or he cares very much about, whether it's a luggage closet or a jewelry closet or a gift-wrapping closet." Women tend to put on their wish lists crystal chandeliers to embellish their single-function or "trend closets," says Adams, while men might request installing a putting green or dartboard, like producer Matt Rutler, Christina Aguilera's fiance, did. Trend closets run around $30,000; the initial consultation is free.

Multifunction closets, such as the one containing producer Cort's breakfast bar, are more the rage, however. Vanities, cosmetics refrigerators to keep organic products from spoiling, coffee machines and bar fridges stocked with milk and breakfast items are becoming standard features. "You're no longer just grabbing clothing and going into a bathroom to change," says Adams. "You're dressing in there, you might be reading or watching TV, putting on makeup, and then it starts to spiral into other things. It makes sense when you're actually changing in there that there's a mirror, hampers, a place you can steam clothes in as you're getting ready, with a basket for donations. It's a highly efficient space: You're not having to go to the laundry room or go to the bathroom to grab this or that."

Other clients like to divvy up various functions over multiple stories. Adams cites a three-story closet she built in Bel Air and a two-story closet that she created for another client far flung from Hollywood: gas and oil tycoons in Minnesota. While the first floor was a shared storage space between husband and wife, "the second floor was the girlfriend hangout, the luxurious just-for-her space. There's a bar, a TV, a sitting area," she says. "When closets feel like a boutique, they're spaces you want to spend time in." Kahn recalls a recent meeting that took place in a fully decorated closet that showcased a couch, an antique dressing table and major artwork: "This was a major museum piece."

Once the closet guru leaves, and after the iris scanners and cold closets have been installed to keep priceless jewelry and expensive furs safe, the responsibility of preserving immaculate order and the pristine condition of the closet contents increasingly is falling into the hands of a wardrobe mistress or laundress. The Help Co.'s Kahn has seen a tenfold increase in calls for this position within the last year. "It used to be four times a year. Now every couple of weeks people want somebody who will maintain the closet, swap out winter and summer clothes, fix buttons and wash silk dresses. Nothing goes to the dry cleaner anymore; it's handled by the laundress," she says, adding that pressed sheets that are folded and tied with ribbons are an additional perk. Laundresses are "hard to come by, and they're very expensive," adds Kahn, with fees starting from $60 an hour. But for some Hollywood clients, there's no better way to maintain control over chaos than to have somebody else handle it.

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 A BEDROOM BECOMES A CHIC CLOSET

This year, Alexis Martin Woodall juggled exec producing duties for Ryan Murphy on Scream Queens, American Horror Story and American Crime Story — for which she won her second Emmy — while launching Eagle Rock restaurant Red Herring alongside her husband, chef Dave Woodall. "Our study had become an extension of our restaurant office," says Alexis. "It made sense to take a bedroom and turn it into my closet," which recently was organized by Beth Penn of BNeato Bar. Next up: On top of her packed schedule, Alexis will add the finishing touches on Murphy's Feud. Luckily, her new closet has room for next year's Emmy. 

This story first appeared in the 2016 Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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