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Heeding the siren's song for precious closet space

Betsy Crutchfield and her husband have always lived in old houses. They've never had much closet space. Until now.

© St. Petersburg Times
published August 2, 2002

HYDE PARK -- What's a modern family living in an old home to do?

In the old days, people must not have had many clothes. Their closets are barely large enough for a winter coat in the new millennium.

What to do with the shoes? The dresses? The purses? The ties? The winter, spring, summer and fall clothes?

That's the dilemma Betsy Crutchfield and her husband, James McGuire, faced when they moved into their Hyde Park home three years ago.

"We've never had a house with any closet space because we've always lived in old houses," Crutchfield says.

Theirs was built in 1907. Previous owners had turned it into an apartment building, with one apartment downstairs and two upstairs, leaving a choppy floor plan when the building was turned back into a single-family residence.

Crutchfield called on Soleil Design and Build, a South Tampa company that specializes in renovating old homes, to help her remodel the second floor.

"We told them we wanted to do an inexpensive renovation but wanted a nice master suite," Crutchfield says.

Karyn Sbar, who owns Soleil with her husband, Kareem Tahiri, suggested turning one of the small bedrooms into a large closet.

"Karyn just walked in and saw it," Crutchfield says. "It was such a mess and so chopped up we thought the upstairs was going to have to be completely gutted and walls moved."

Instead, Soleil worked with the existing floor plan to create what Sbar calls a boudoir. It's an approach Soleil has taken with at least one other home in South Tampa.

"We're trying to give people in Hyde Park big closets without changing the entire floor plan of the house," Sbar says.

Tahiri came up with a basic design, Sbar suggested putting in window seats, and Crutchfield worked with project manager Michael Fenzo to hammer out the details.

About $20,000 later, Crutchfield ended up with a closet that no one would want to leave.

There's a Shaker-style bookcase for shoes and a built-in pine cabinet with fluted edges and iron drawer pulls from Restoration Hardware. Crutchfield found glass knobs at Restoration Hardware for the drawers underneath the two window seats and the granite-topped center island.

An ironing board that folds down from the wall allows for last-minute pressing. Instead of closet doors, beaded and embroidered curtains conceal clothing. Crutchfield picked up a brass and crystal chandelier at a flea market, and the floors are the home's original heart pine.

"It's easy to take out every wall and start over," Sbar says. "But it's also more money."

By leaving walls and windows in place, the look of the exterior stayed the same.

"We're finding this is a good solution," Sbar says. "Granted, if you have six kids, it's hard to take a room away, but either way, you're going to be stealing room if you want a master suite with a large closet. From a budget standpoint this is cheaper."

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