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Turning a Spare Room into a Dressing Room or Walk-in Closet on a Budget

Turning my spare room into a dressing room was a relatively easy conversion.

I’d always fantasized about having my dream closet where I could celebrate getting dressed and see all of my clothing, shoes, and accessories in an open walk-in closet format. It wasn’t until I was approaching my 40th birthday and relocated from my tiny studio in downtown Seattle into a 110-year-old Dutch brick cottage in an urban neighborhood in St. Louis, that my vision for a bright walk-in closet and dressing room in my home could be realized.

[images shown in the August 2021 Update are still a work in progress, pending back-ordered Ikea shelves and drawers]

A built-in IKEA Pax wardrobe and floor to ceiling Elvarli shoe shelf in a dressing room converted from a bedroom.

What I spent to convert my spare bedroom into a dressing room.

All told, the budget for my spare room to dressing room conversion cost a little over $1,300 for the essentials. Here’s the breakdown:

$900 – 1 wide and 2 narrow Ikea Pax wardrobe units, plus pullout drawers, organizers, clothes rods, and shelves
$180 – 1 floor to ceiling shoe shelf (Ikea’s Elvarli)
$99 – 1 full length svansele mirror
$100 – beadboard wallpaper, hole filler, and wood trim to give the Pax wardrobes a built-in look.

Now that my basic design for my spare bedroom to dressing room conversion is complete, I do expect to spend another $500-$1200 to finish furnishing this room with textiles and furniture.

After all, you can’t have a dressing room without a place to sit and put on shoes or a soft rug to add a little something extra. Depending on how the room comes together, I may add a chair with a pullout feature that unfolds into a twin or full-size bed, in order to be able to still use my dressing room as a guest bedroom if needed.

My dressing room before installation of flooring, wardrobe, and shelves.
My dressing room before installation of flooring, wardrobe, and shelves.
A wardrobe built into a wall of the bedroom.
The same bedroom nook, partway through set up.

How to design your dressing room

It can be hard to visualize a walk-in dressing room where, for now, you just have a bedroom. One of the best ways to visualize how you might use a space in a different way is to begin using the space. Actually be in the room regularly and do your best to use it as you envision using it when complete.

Weeks before I ever started shopping for lights, shelving, or wardrobe units for my dressing room, I began storing my clothes in that room and getting dressed there. Getting a sense of how the room functioned- and could function – by dressing in the room helped me make more informed decisions when it came to time to actually choose and install furnishings.

To start giving your spare bedroom to walk-in closet dream a try- Grab a few laundry baskets, an inexpensive freestanding shelf, or a small table and begin using the room as the room where you get dressed- the practice will help inspire room ideas and get your creative juices flowing!

Why I converted my spare bedroom into a dressing room

When I moved into the Hawk Hill Cottage, I knew immediately that I would convert the two-bedroom upstairs into a master suite. With this simple conversion, I’d turn 2 cozy cottage bedrooms into one spacious master suite. All it took was converting a master bedroom adjacent bedroom into a walk-in closet-style dressing room.

Converting my spare room into a dressing room felt like a way to care for my body, actually. As a person who grew up in a plus size body, getting dressed was often really unpleasant. Clothing didn’t fit as well (fact: there’s actually 6-8″ between clothing sizes in plus size range, compared to 2-3″ differences between straight sizes), often wasn’t available in styles appropriate to my age, and often included a lot of shame as I let media inform what my body “should” look like in clothing.

A lot of therapy and living in a more body-positive climate in Seattle helped me to learn how to regard my body with a lot of care, speak to it with kindness and dignity, and even enjoy getting dressed.

With all of that work on body acceptance behind me, it made sense that when I moved into my urban cottage in St. Louis and outfitted a sophisticated and mature styled female master bedroom that I should also give myself the experience of having a dressing room where I can celebrate getting dressed, see my shoes and accessories on open shelving, and dress in front of a stately full-length mirror.

A landing looking into a second bedroom.
Luckily, the conversion made sense without needing to add a door, a small landing was all that divided the two cottage bedrooms.

Converting a bedroom into a dressing room: homeowners and real estate values

One of the cardinal rules for home remodels is that you should never decrease the number of bedrooms or bathrooms in your home.

Even if you’re adding premium high-end features to your home through the closet remodel, you may still end up losing value by decreasing the number of bedrooms or bathrooms. As someone who views my home as an investment that I will likely move along from within 5 to 10 years, I was mindful of this advice as I set out on the process of turning my spare bedroom into a walk-in dressing room with open-closet shelving.

Even though I chose to semi-build-in my dressing room’s wardrobe units, I was mindful of completing the project in a way that would be simple to reverse if the next owner chose to convert my dressing room back into an additional small bedroom, nursery, home office, or even a reading room. By using IKEA’s PAX wardrobe units and Elvarli shelving which uses just 4 screws in the ceiling to install, I was able to convert my spare room into a closet with minimal impact on the structure of the room.

A floor to ceiling shelves built to hold shoes in a dressing room.
A great choice for renters, the Elvarli shoe shelf installs with only 4 screws.

Turning a spare room into a dressing room: tips for renters

As a renter for years in Seattle, I understand the frustrations of being a DIY’er stuck in rental housing. But just because you rent your home doesn’t mean that you can’t turn a spare bedroom into a dressing room, it just takes some creativity. In fact, by using IKEA wardrobe units rather than shelving attached to the wall, you can create a walk-in closet or dressing room in a spare bedroom of a rental house without risking your security deposit.

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