Shoe Designer Brian Atwood Takes Us Inside His Stunning NYC Closet

Monique Valeris
Photo credit: Courtesy of The Container Store

From ELLE Decor

When you've built a reputation as a luxury shoe designer, it's only natural to desire an Instagram-worthy closet. So after Brian Atwood and his husband, Jake Deutsch, moved into their tony apartment at 15 Hudson Yards, they wasted no time in making their dream closet a reality. With the help of The Container Store Custom Closets, the couple crafted a well-organized, sophisticated space to display their enviable collection of clothing, bags, and, of course, an abundance of shoes.

Here, Atwood reveals how the boutique-like closet design came together, from choosing smart storage solutions to selecting the best color palette and lighting system.

ELLE Decor: What was your vision for your closet design?

Brian Atwood: Closets are very important to us. When we moved to this new apartment at 15 Hudson Yards, there were generous walk-in closets. They are meant to be customized, so we jumped on the opportunity to do so. I have spent my life in fashion and Jake is Type A and organizationally obsessed. We needed the perfect solution for both, which is why we turned to The Container Store Custom Closets and ultimately chose their Avera closet system. Our incredible closets now have a curated home for all our favorite things and makes staying stylish and putting our best foot forward a breeze. Some of the key elements of the closets’ design is having lots of space to fold and display. This makes each area feel like a luxe dressing room. Little details, like the Avera Jewelry Organizer Trays for sunglasses and smaller items, make theses accessories’ home special. Additionally, the Herringbone 12-Compartment Organizer in Charcoal to organize our belts makes these items easy to find and look like a million bucks. We are firm believers that it’s all about chic yet functional storage.

Photo credit: Courtesy of The Container Store

ED: How does it compare to the aesthetic of the rest of your home?

BA: For us, the closets are designed to be an extension of the rest of the apartment, not simply an area that is secretly kept behind closed doors. Our closets are filled with shoes, bags, and clothing that are little pieces of us. They define our style, are key elements to our image, and simply make us smile. The space is like the rest of our home—modern, sexy, and, quite frankly, smashing! We incorporated art and some other design objects in the closets to make it have a seamless feel between the rest of the design. Our bags are sort of like an installation if you will, so each closet has luggage and duffels on full display that create a wow effect. Also, a little tip, we used high-gloss paint on all the doors. The shiny element and dark color makes them interesting and polished. We made sure that the paint continued into the closet, which gives the overall design a fantastic look. Honestly, the closets came out so good we don’t even need doors.

ED: Did you incorporate any clever solutions to maximize space?

BA: We worked closely with our designer from The Container Store Custom Closets and based on our room layout, we delineated each space by how it would be used rather than putting a bit of everything into each closet. They were so great about basing the calculations on the amount of hanging we needed, as well as how much drawer and shoe space would be ideal. It was like a custom suit that was made to measure!

When it was all said and done, we decided on a primary clothing closet, shoe closet, and coat/sport closet. The mix of shelves, hanging rods, and drawers for each was perfection once we moved in. We also have shallow wing walls in our master closet, so we were able to use the 14" depth shelves on the left side to maximize our closet space. Don’t be afraid to have open areas to fold, especially when it comes to bulky items like sweaters and jeans. The result is we have a gorgeous counter to fold, store, and display.

Photo credit: Courtesy of The Container Store

ED: How did your experience as a shoe designer inform the overall closet design?

BA: I have always had large collections of shoes and clothes and am all too familiar with what works and what doesn’t when it comes to display. In my Milan apartment, we used custom build-outs that were a fortune! And while they are gorgeous, some of the design was not optimally functional. In this New York City apartment, I knew we needed to have shallower shelves to display shoes. Everything is easy to see and grab. We also had to be conscientious about maximizing areas that are out of arms' reach. Placing hanging where you cannot reach is a tough obstacle. Ideally, everything should be as close to eye level as possible and the areas where you would need a ladder should be more for display and storage, rather than daily accessibility.

Ultimately, when you have a great design like we did, the final step is to merchandise. You may even want to bring in a professional. I think of the whole space as a boutique, therefore you want everything to look amazing and feel special. The colors flow and there is sequential coordination among the shoes and hanging. It takes a certain eye to know how to fold, fluff, and tweak in order to get the desired end effect. For instance, you'll notice that we have Hermès blankets rolled up alongside sweatshirts, and a silk-covered bench to sit when putting on shoes—all details that were intentionally layered into the design. The result oozes luxury.

ED: Did you weave in any impressive high-tech solutions?

BA: Yes! Lighting is key. We really wanted a wow factor, so we included lighting on every shelf. The Avera system’s lighting feature also has a dimming option, which really pushes the design to the next level. The push-to-open and soft-close drawers are amazing and extremely high-tech.

ED: What do you love most about the color palette?

BA: Our Avera closet is in the stone finish, which feels fresh and modern. The palette is warm and masculine and this elevated the result even further. The finished product looks built-in and definitely custom. Closets are often made of inexpensive-looking materials in jarring white finishes, but this closet design set the bar. It was the obvious choice.

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