Plagued With Boring Closet Doors? Arlyn Explores (Renter-Friendly) Ideas For Making Hers Less Sad

Can you believe it?!? I’m not talking about kitchens! But I *am* talking about how to make something so-so in your home better without ripping things out and starting over (particularly helpful for renters like me who have no other options). I write this currently sitting on my bed, looking to my right onto the world’s most boring, mundane wall full of sliding closet doors. I mean, it’s the entire right wall of my bedroom. I can’t place furniture on it, I can’t hang art, I’m stuck in an all-white cheapo hollow sliding door design purgatory here.

And in case you can’t picture it, I came prepared:

While yes, I am grateful for a decent amount of closet space as compared to my old 1930s apartment, it pales in comparison to the charm of my previous room. Here, take a look, in case you forgot my Makeover Takeover reveal (how dare you):

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | design by arlyn hernandez | styling by emily edith bowser | from: 3 years in the making then an unexpected move: arlyn’s bedroom reveal is a lesson in the beauty of “unfinished” design
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | design by arlyn hernandez | styling by emily edith bowser | from: 3 years in the making then an unexpected move: arlyn’s bedroom reveal is a lesson in the beauty of “unfinished” design

I still have all the pieces pictured here, but now I have this closet wall to contend with. Frankly, I’ve ignored it wholeheartedly since we moved in seven months ago. I didn’t even let the thought of a “project” creep into my mind considering my entire first floor is one giant unchecked box on my house to-do list. But I’m nothing if not absolutely unreasonable with myself and suddenly, I find myself itching to do something about it.

That, and the same closet situation in my (also unfinished) daughter’s room:

Now, what I’m about to walk you through should hopefully serve two purposes:

#1: Inspire anyone reading who may have a similar boring-as-a-sack-of-flour closet door situation in their own homes.

and #2: Completely derail my hopes for a calm, renewing fall and winter season. (I’m kidding, nothing gets me more excited than a home project, but I’m afflicted with a condition called ICantSeemToFinishAnythingBeforeStartingTheNextThing-Itus. It’s quite serious and my doctor says there is no cure. Have you heard of this?

Regardless of the tragedy of #2, I must volunteer as tribute to help with #1. Let’s start in my daughter’s room.

3 Ideas For Leveling Up the Sad Closet Doors in My Toddler’s Nursery

First, for anyone sitting here, reading and wondering why I would even bother undertaking this task, know that it’s for a VERY good reason: because I want to. Particularly for my girl’s room, I’ve been meaning to do something about her plain walls. I’m not showing it here, but I hung a pair of curtains on her window that I sewed about 10 years ago with a gorgeous watercolor floral pattern. I swore if I ever had a daughter, they would go in her room, and so here we are. Lavender is one of the key colors in the fabric so I always knew if I went forward with intentionally decorating her space, it would be the hue I brought to the walls somehow. I thought of simply painting, but my sweet girl just loves pointing at all the things that excite her so much, including butterflies (and yes, the color purple, too).

So every option below includes a lavender butterfly print I stumbled upon from a brand called Love vs. Design.

Idea #1: Paint the Doors a Coordinating Color to Wallpaper

I like this mock-up more than I thought I would before doing it in Photoshop. The doors are still there, still plain, and still enormous, but the purple feels intentional and kind of a nice visual break from the busier wallpaper repeat. One problem remains, however: never being able to access all parts of the closet at once. The door on the left and right meet in the middle to cover the center door which is a little recessed. I can’t tell you how bothersome it can be when I’m sliding doors side to side to side to grab a pair of leggings….sliiiddee….get a shirt…oh wait, it’s chilly…sliiiddeee….pick a sweater….sliiiddeee…pull some socks out of the little dresser I have inside. Will I survive if the doors survive? 100%. Will I dread putting away Evelyn’s laundry every week more so than I would under normal circumstances? Also 100%.

Idea #2: Swap Doors for Curtains to Match Wallpaper

While I do think this looks soft and welcoming and lovely (you know…if you can get past my C- Photoshop skills), remember that there is already a pair of drapes in this room, directly across from these. I think it just might be too much fabric everywhere. Not to mention, have you ever met a 1.5-year-old? Hanging fabric to a toddler is like a freshly delivered box of pizza to me: absolutely irresistible. Not to also mention having to break the news to my husband that I have yet another thing to store in the garage that already doesn’t fit either of our cars…

BUT, if I did go this route against all odds, I could buy some simple white cotton IKEA drapes and stain them in this pretty purple shade from Rit.

Idea #3: Just Put Wallpaper on *EVERYTHING*

Being that the wallpaper I’m considering is peel-and-stick, I wanted to see what it might be like if I just…stuck it everywhere, including the doors. I do very much worry about what the doors would look like after removing it since they’re flimsy and seem kind of papery, tbh. I suspect I’ll have a bit of a mess on my hands, but let’s just take a look, shall we?

Here’s a little inspiration from an Architectural Digest home tour. It’s hard to go wrong with any application of a de Gournay hand-painted wallpaper, surely. See how lovely?

I’m afraid the effect wasn’t as, uh, successful when I mocked it up. It’s a bit of an assault on the eyeballs, but I also don’t want to discredit the shortcomings of this being a flat, digital representation with no shading, shadows, or IRL anything. It feels kind of wild here, but I’ve seen it done successfully elsewhere and I’m certain this would look much better off a screen and in a real room. Regardless, it’s not the solution I think works best for the space.

If I’m picking right here and now, I’d go with option #1, since I don’t have to worry about storing the doors or ruining them with wallpaper. Painting back to white would be a very straightforward task upon moving out. I’m even contemplating hanging some lightweight art on them with command strip velcro to give them more of a wall treatment but I haven’t decided if that’s the rantings of an exhausted, braindead toddler mom or a genius idea. Thoughts?

Alright, let’s move on to my bedroom, where I cooked up far more choices to talk through.

Have another quick look at where we’re starting:

If these were bi-fold doors, my options would be considerably more interesting, but instead, I’m working with large 36×80 sliding doors. If anything, these are actually worse than my daughter’s because I can’t ever fully access the center of my closet. There is always a door in the way so I have perpetual dead zones to deal with. Total bummer.

A few scrolls through Pinterest while searching for ideas to better my doors had me ready to roll up to Home Depot and just buy new doors. Maybe I could swap them out to open myself up to a whole new world. Of course, I didn’t think through it fully before getting overly excited that I wouldn’t know how to handle the actual track system that’s already in place or the headrail I’m not going to bother removing. Also, did you know how expensive even the cheapest bi-fold doors are!?!? At best, they’re each around $150 (so $600 total here), at worst, they’re several hundred dollars each. That’s a no-go, because while yes, I have 19 months of sleep deprivation debt in my tank, I’m not that deranged.

But should you have bi-fold doors, here are some of my favorite ideas for making them better:

I adore the gathered fabric in that photo above (did you also spot the mulberry-hued printed lampshade?). If you were skilled enough, you could just cut out the top portion of your door and add your textile of choice to a top and bottom dowel which you can affix to the door with a small pipe bracket.

Caning was by far the most common DIY for bi-fold closet doors. I do love the look, and if you want to know how to achieve it, Pinterest has more tutorials than my face has visible pores.

At first, I thought this was also caning but a bit of zoom tells me it’s actually a reeded panel. Cute.

This last one isn’t a bi-fold door, but rather more so what I have in my house. These are actually custom from a seller on Etsy but they do give me an idea for a possibly reversible DIY (keep reading).

Idea #1: Just Paint Everything

Look, I realize this doesn’t look very good. I’m actually laughing as I stare at this concept. This is English Scone by Dunn-Edwards which is the color that was in my previous bedroom. I loved it against the mustard velvet bed and the rich walnut wood tones in my storage pieces. Anyway, let’s move on…

Idea #2: Use Curtains To Replace Just The Doors

I don’t hate it. In fact, I kind of like it. It *is* a lot of fabric, but the room is large so it wouldn’t be fabric overload in addition to my actual window covering. The ticked brick red color of these IKEA curtains would be great against the fleshy pinky peach and give enough contrast that it feels tonal but interesting.

Idea #3: Use Curtains To Cover *Everything* Up

I love the look of a full floor-to-ceiling drapery on a ceiling track lately. It’s less “ballroom-turned-conference-room at the local Marriott” and more boutique hotel with the right vibe. I think my furniture can support the aesthetic, however…not on this wall (it’s something I’m considering for the wall behind my bed with a VERY uncentered window…more on that in another post). See what I mean:

When there’s nothing against a full wall of drapery, it just looks like you’re trying to hide something, which is exactly what I’m doing. NEXT!

Idea #4: DIY Some Character Onto The Doors

The above pin sparked an idea for me: what if I use command strips or the like to affix some “molding” to them and at least make them more interesting to look at? I could buy some very thin sheeting, cut out some simple shapes like below, and then attach it to the door. I can’t do much about the existing handles, but that’s alright.

What I can’t help but ask myself is…am I actually going to do this? Or am I going to mentally commit to it, and then let the idea haunt me for months on end and make me feel like a failure for not making the time to do it? Possibly, unless a certain handy friend of mine ::cough Jess cough:: helps me tackle it.

Idea #5: Add Curtains & Wallpaper

Allow me to riff off my just-curtains concept to see how this Backdrop wallpaper I’m obsessed with looks. You know what this is? It’s like going to the mall (what’s that?!?), trying on a very expensive dress you know you can’t afford to torture yourself, and then talking yourself into buying it. I say that because I have NO intention of wallpapering my bedroom. I barely have intention of painting it, but that’s far more reasonable for me to undertake. But seeing this is like me calculating the cost per wear of something I promise myself I’ll never take off to justify the cost. But doesn’t it look great?!?

Idea #5: Wallpaper & Cool Doors Combo

And now we enter the part of this story where Arlyn lies to herself about who she is and how much time she has to do anything in her house. Wallpaper AND DIY my doors? SURE WHY THE HELL NOT. But admittedly, it looks so tidy and sharp…uh oh…

Idea #6: Try Another DIY That’s Probably Even More Complicated Than The First

What’s that saying? When in Rome? (Or rather, when in DIY dreamland?). Cyn from DIY account Hot Pink Pineapples transformed her boring sliding closet doors in her previous rental with some raffia webbing, paint and thin sheeting cut with a jigsaw. Honestly, she made it look easy. While I do like it, does it feel too “now” with the pill shape cutouts? I think it could be fun, but maybe not in the English Scone I mocked up here:

I like it better if the whole wall is painted the same color as the doors, but again, will I ever really do this? (I hope someone reading does though…send me pics!).

That was A LOT to take in and you probably forgot what the other ideas looked like already, so let’s have a gander at them all side-by-side:

Looking at everything together, the top contenders are fairly obvious to me: #2, #4, #5 and #6. Option #4 would require no painting of me, but I do very much miss that warm, glowy color on my walls. Shall I share Charles’ phone number so my EHD cheerleaders can convince him it’s the right move, too? The wallpaper is hugely tempting, but it’s a big room and that’s a lot of paper…It’s also not peel and stick, so I’d have to hope my liquid fabric starch method I’m trying in my powder bathroom works down there and up here, too.

Honestly, I don’t have a solid answer or path for myself even after walking through all of that. Desire is one thing, but the realities of doing the work are another.

Help me decide, and if you have any other suggestions for my room and Evelyn’s, please drop them in the comments.

Your (indecisive and a little bit lazy) friend in design, Arlyn

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