The stuff of
By Stacee Sledge
Whatcom Magazine, February 2007
solutions house clothing and collections
“People are desperate for ideas to organize their
stuff,” says professional organizer Julie Clarke. “We
have more stuff today than ever. We want to accumulate
more and more, and yet, even in a large space, it’s
difficult to organize what we have.”
Clarke has helped Bellingham-area homeowners cut their
clutter for 17 years. You can find organizational
inspiration from some of her clients and a Whatcom
County couple with a dream closet.
‘It just works’
and Joyce Shintaffer built their home on Lake Whatcom
four years ago, in the same spot where Dean, owner of a
beer and wine wholesaler, grew up. But the house that
stands there today is a far cry from the one his parents
bought in 1952.
couple, both 61, razed that small home and replaced it
with a 5,000-square-foot structure with a bright
walk-out lower level, a main floor of sky-high ceilings
framed in beams and a wall of glass reflected on warm
wood floors, topped by a cozy loft. Think cabin style,
kicked up several notches.
was salvaged from a massive fir tree that had to make
way for the new construction. The couple used its
remnants throughout the new home, as fireplace mantels,
vertical grain paneling, and as a custom-made dining
Although comparable in size to their former home — the
couple raised three boys on a small farm in
— the new house has something the other did not: closet
“Dress shirts would get so wrinkled, being jammed
together,” says Joyce of their previous petite master
bedroom closet. “Now you can just see everything right
there. I can see that there are my white blouses, and
there are my t-shirts. You can see what you have, rather
than pulling things apart.”
designed the space, and then hired Custom Closets of
Ferndale to install rods, shelving, and a built-in
closet is designed with efficiency in mind, rather than
aesthetics. “It’s absolutely nothing fancy,” says Joyce.
“It just works.”
C-shaped space has two doors: one from the master
bedroom and one from its adjoining master bath. Tucked
into the nook of the C is the water closet, entered from
design works great,” says Joyce. “It’s big enough that
we can both be in there, but then I can go out one door
and he can go out the other. Neither one of us has to
move to the side.”
favorite feature? The built-in drawers in the closet
mean no need for dressers in the bedroom. “I love that
the bedroom is uncluttered.”
two of us’
place for everything, and everything in its place. Jerry
and Anita Wiseman’s master closet — an unexpected combo
of bathroom and clothes-keeper meshed into one space —
embodies just that storage spirit.
Jerry, 57, is chief financial officer and part-owner of
Snelson Companies, Inc., a construction-based company in
Sedro-Woolley. Anita, also 57, retired from a marketing
position in the grocery industry two years ago.
Hovering high above South Hill’s
the home’s location made for a project that required
creative thinking and an atypical design solution. City
building codes combined with the usual cliff-clinging
construction complications made creating the new space a
Charlie Hudson of
Remodeling. “It was just a little warren of walls and
rooms down there before,” says Hudson of the lower
bedroom level of the home. “We couldn’t go any wider, we
could only go out toward the street.”
Charlie devised a 7-foot-deep addition running across
the length of the home, perched on posts 18 feet above
grade. The new closet takes up one side of the new
space, while a cozy reading nook complete with a
spectacular water view fills the other, an extension of
the master bedroom.
Throwing one more wrench in the design, a large deck
above the proposed addition expanded off the main floor
living room above the master bedroom. Code required a
7-foot ceiling height for the new spaces below, but the
deck made that impossible. So Hudson added two steps
down, dividing the master bedroom from the sitting area,
and the bath from the wardrobe space.
people might say it doesn’t give enough privacy, but
it’s just the two of us,” says Anita. “It absolutely
works for us.”
built-in maple cabinetry had to be custom made. “Because
of the way our stairs turn coming down here,” says
Anita, “they had to build them and then take them apart
and put them back together” to install them.
molding frames the built-ins and continues down into the
hanging clothes and shoe rack area. It’s a tricky
installation with the lowered, sloped ceiling but worth
the trouble, as it visually ties the two areas together.
“Anita and I worked out how all the space would be
used,” says Hudson. “We went over every inch to make
sure she’d have enough shoe space, full hang-wear space,
and so on.”
closet offers up shoe storage galore, plus a bounty of
hanging rods at just the right height for Jerry and
Anita’s clothes. Folded items are tucked away atop a
plethora of built-in drawers. A larger, sliding pull-out
drawer houses a dirty clothes hamper. There’s even an
area devoted to gift wrapping supplies. All of it is
tucked away behind warm maple cabinets complemented by
heated travertine floors and plush taupe carpet.
love it,” says Anita. “I’d live in the closet!”
of a sudden you’ve got 200’
Keith and Cindy VanderGriend the need for closet
organization wasn’t as pressing as devising a way to
display the collections that reflect their vibrant
personalities in their 1,800-square-foot home.
school sweethearts who met at Lynden Christian High
School, Keith, a 39-year-old surgeon, and Cindy, a
teacher who is currently a stay-at-home mom, 38, have
lived in the home with their sons Sam, 10, and Jack, 8,
for seven years.
they first considered buying the lakeside house, Cindy
needed convincing. “Keith is the visionary,” she says.
“When we drove by, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to look
of the biggest challenges of the basement-less home was
finding places to stash their stuff. “I kept thinking,
This is a house without storage. How are we going to
make it work?” says Cindy.
start, they built a handsome, shingled outbuilding, kept
ultra-orderly by recycled doors from the RE Store.
Suspended along a steel track, they slide open and
closed to hide tools, outdoor gear and sundry sporting
Inside the home, the same melding of function and fun
rules. Order is king, but the three-bedroom house
retains a comfortable, cozy atmosphere.
don’t like to see the TV; I’ve always wanted it hidden,”
says Cindy. So the family’s only television is housed in
the guestroom, tucked into a standard closet.
built an IKEA unit inside the tight closet — it wouldn’t
have fit any other way. It’s now home to the television,
DVDs and other entertainment trappings.
Collections of all kinds are displayed throughout the
house, some in unexpected ways.
“Keith is the collector,” says Cindy with a laugh, “but
I’m the one who needs order to the collections.”
Built-in shelving in the hallway is lined with rows of
antique and medical supply jars that hold Keith’s
collections, filled like colorful confetti with agates,
beach glass, shells, sand, marbles and bottle caps.
“There was a gentleman I knew growing up who collected
agates,” says Keith. “I was always fascinated with how
many he had. I’ve been collecting things ever since.”
also collects butterflies and other large flying
insects, which he mounts and displays. “We mostly catch
those on vacation in Montana. We pass 20 little nets out
to all the nephews and go out to the field and scare
them up and catch them.”
slew of old license plates took on new life in the
home’s utility room, where the colorful metal plates,
from all across the country, play off the galvanized
steel used throughout the house.
“You’ve got two license plates and you go, ‘Hey, it’d
kind of be fun to have more,’” says Keith. “You just
start saving them. And then all of a sudden you realize
you’ve got 200. I just thought it would be a fun thing
to wallpaper with.”
of these resourceful
homeowners came up with fitting solutions to their
personal storage issues. Yet each project proves that
being organized can bring a sense of calm to any home,
no matter what the design dilemma.
Stacee Sledge is a
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