A Recipe for Wardrobe Planning borrowed from Interior Design

HEAD + HEART + BONES + BREATH = Dream Wardrobe + Dream Living Space

Planning a wardrobe is very similar to developing and implementing a concept for your apartment or house. Especially if you are starting from scratch, both can seem very daunting, simply because there are so many different aspects to consider. You need top-level problem solving skills to balance function with aesthetic appeal and express both qualities in all the little components that a good wardrobe or apartment needs. Fortunately, there are methods from the field of interior design that can provide some guidance, like the one I found in "The Eight Step Home Cure' by Apartment Therapy's founder Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan. It is a recipe for dealing with the complexity of creating your dream home, but in my opinion it is just as applicable to wardrobe planning.


The concept is based on the idea that the rooms in your apartment are like living organism that are made up of four parts, all of which need to be satisfied in order for the room to be 'healthy'.

Bones An apartment needs to have 'good bones', which means that its basic elements are intact: the walls, ceiling, floor and windows are in good condition and don't need repairing.

Head Your room needs a healthy head component, i.e. it has to serve its purpose and support all of your activities. For example, if you work from home, it needs a suitable working space. If you do a lot of crafts, you need enough space to store your supplies. Or, if you like reading in bed, there should be a lamp on your bedside table (this might sound ridiculously simple, but have you seen 'P.S. I Love You'?).

Breath The breath aspect is about how well the individual pieces (furniture, textiles, decoration) work together to create a positive flow. Breath depends on how you arrange the furniture and lighting and how you divide up the available space. Ideally, your room should have wide, open spaces where you need them, no unused, superfluous corners and most importantly, be clutter-free (to de-clutter, you can use the same method as for detoxing a closet).

Heart The heart of your apartment is its visual style that is expressed through the colours, textures and shapes of every item it contains. A healthy room should match your personal sense of aesthetics so you are comfortable with the 'feel' of the room. Any art work and all the little pieces you decorate your room with serve to improve this aspect.

If you want a kick-ass room/apartment/house you need to get all four components right. They can be used like a hierarchical checklist that should to be ticked one-by-one: Step 1: According to Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan you should always start with the bones of your apartment/room and make sure that they are in good condition. Once everything is in perfect shape and repaired, you need to maintain this status by cleaning regularly. Step 2: Address the head component by figuring out what functions each room should have and what items you need for these. Step 3: Breath: Arrange everything in a way that not only improves the functions from the head component but also optimally uses the space you have. Oh, and no clutter! Step 4: Make sure that everything you have added to your room already matches your style; then, feel free to add a few purely decorative things, like art work and textiles, to improve the heart of your room.


A closet might be a physically smaller space than a whole apartment (for most people at least :)), but the task of planning and organising it is certainly no less complex. The Apartment Therapy concept can not just help you create your ideal living space but also your ideal wardrobe, by highlighting the separate aspects that need to be considered. This is my idea of how the four components translate from interior design to 'wardrobe design':

Bones Just like there shouldn't be any cracks in the walls and your furniture shouldn't be falling apart, all items in your wardrobe (including shoes and accessories) should be in good condition and not worn out/ faded or ripped at the seams. Improving the bones of your wardrobe involves two things: first, making sure that you buy high quality clothes that will be less prone to wear and tear, and secondly, properly caring for them (hand washing and dry cleaning if necessary, handling repairs, etc).

Head Your wardrobe has to match your lifestyle, which means that you should have enough clothes to wear for all your activities, in quantities corresponding to the time you spend doing them. The first step towards improving the head component is to write down all of the activities you do within e.g. one month and then look for gaps and surpluses in your wardrobe. For more ideas read this post.

Breath It's pointless to own lots of beautiful pieces if they can't be worn together. Your wardrobe should be more than the sum of its parts, and derive its originality from the many ways that you combine its individual items. The idea is to own a good stock of key items that build the foundation of your wardrobe and a range of basics that give you lots of options for combining. Also, make sure you have all the little things that are necessary to create certain outfits, e.g. a nude bra to wear with sheer tops, good tights to wear under skirts in the winter, etc.

Heart The heart aspect is about your personal sense of style and your idea of aesthetics. It is the emotional and expressive part of fashion/style because the shapes, colours and textures you choose to wear essentially represent who you are (or at least certain aspects). It takes time to develop a refined idea of your style: usually, when people first start collecting pictures of things they like, they pick from a broader, more general spectrum, but with time certain themes start to develop and become more concise. It's a process, but a fun one! Mood boards and online versions of them (Pinterest or tumblr) are perfect for finding and refining your style, read my post about them here.

When you are doing a wardrobe overhaul, these four components can provide a hierarchy of aspects to consider, although they should be used in a slightly different order than for planning a living space:

Step 1: Start with head to figure out exactly what activities you need clothes for and in what quantities. Step 2: Work on refining your personal style (the heart component), and choose the colour scheme and main proportions/ item combinations for your wardrobe. Step 3: Breath: Prioritize key items and basics according to the head and heart component. Step 4: Bones: Make sure that anything you buy is of the best quality you can afford.

It is no wonder that people with a strong sense of style have complementing apartments, because essentially the things you have to consider for planning both your wardrobe and your living space are the same:  your lifestyle and your personal style.

Click here for more wardrobe planning posts.

*interior image via The Coveteur, wardrobe image: unknown