The Art of Custom Closet-Making


The options are endless when designing your dream closet.

By Lannan M. O’Brien | Photos courtesy Unfinished Business

For many of us, our closets are simply storage spaces for our wardrobes. We think of them merely as small rooms with a rod for clothes hangers, tucked away from sight, or we don’t think of them at all. Let’s face it: closets are generally uninspiring, purely functional spaces.

Joanne and Jeff Marselle, owners of Unfinished Business of Cape Cod, know that a closet doesn’t need to be an afterthought. Rather than being hidden from sight, they believe that closets should be quality pieces of furniture to display in your home—and they design custom closets for their customers to serve that exact purpose.

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This custom storage space was built into a slanted wall.

This custom storage space was built into a slanted wall.

Storage Solutions

The Marselles work closely with their clients to evaluate their organizational needs. Many people who approach them are downsizing by moving into their summer homes year-round and need to create additional storage space. Others live in old Cape houses with no closets at all—in this case, they say that the best solution is to design and build a free-standing closet or armoire.

In homes with limited space, they utilize every inch available, often building closets in the corners of a room. “It’s all about scaling the room properly and finding the best wall or corner where you can build,” says Jeff.

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Creatively Custom-Made

A stained mahogany armoire

A stained mahogany armoire

Unlike the cookie-cutter closet systems from big-box stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot, custom closets are specially made to fit each client’s vision. People approach the Marselles, Joanne says, because they’re looking for a standout product made with real wood (Unfinished Business uses only real wood as opposed to MDF, or medium-density fiberboard wood products).

When building a custom storage unit, she says, “We’re designing it to be something you won’t find anywhere else.”

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Function and Beauty

Most clients, of course, want their closets to have the basic function of hanging clothes, but the Marselles design their storage spaces to fulfill many more purposes. Features like mirrors and lighting; special hooks for hanging jewelry, handbags or neckties; and glass shelves for displaying photos and other items make their custom products unique.

Combined with the diverse functionality of their work is its aesthetic design. “We have to design something that functions as a closet but has beauty,” Joanne says, “like a wall unit that has the functionality of hanging [clothing], but on the outside is a showpiece.”

Lighting shows off the bead board and shelving of this custom storage unit.

Lighting shows off the bead board and shelving of this custom storage unit.

Some Cape Codders seek a cottage-style design with white bead board, but the Marselles have noticed the increasing popularity of a more natural look: stained wood, or a mix of colors and stains. Gray tones are also popular, and in particular, a pewter scrub finish offered by Unfinished Business.

The options are endless, and for good reason—the Marselles’ goal is to build a closet that not only satisfies their clients’ needs, but that they feel proud to have in their homes. “We’re putting together every aspect of what our client desires and dreams,” Joanne says of their work.

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