Dressing rooms: design tips and real project inspiration

Walk-in wardrobes have become top of most people’s wishlists when it comes to updating their home. So, to help you design your new dedicated dressing area, KBB journo Laurie Davidson has talked to the experts and found some amazing projects.

The beauty of the dressing room, aside from having a bespoke area to store your clothing, is that guests are unlikely to see this room – which means you can really indulge yourself when it comes to the décor.

large luxurious dressing room with herringbone floor glass wardrobe doors and a large blue cushioned seat
Interior designer Nicky Dobree created this dressing room as part of a restoration of a 1920s listed villa. Photography: Philip Vile.

Whether you’re converting a spare bedroom, have a walk-through area in an open-plan master suite, or want something a little more bespoke than freestanding wardrobes in your bedroom, you can create a dressing room that works specifically for you and your storage needs. “Dressing rooms are always on the client wish list,” says Jeffreys Interiors.

“What better way to prepare for the day (or evening) than a dedicated space for primping and preening? One where everything has its place and you aren’t at risk of losing your favourite mascara by balancing on the edge of a sink!”

So, what should you think about before planning your new dressing room?

Bold white and gold vintage wardrobes with herringbone floor and blue seat
Nicky used gold Art Deco detailing in this dressing room project. Photography: Philip Vile.

Finding the space for your dressing room

Concerned you haven’t got room for a dressing room? Then think again – you need less space than you might realise. This is where an expert can advise you on minimum sizes for walk-throughs and standard wardrobe sizes. Plus, they’ll have ideas of what you can do with tricky areas. Maybe a small alcove you’d ruled out could be used for folded items, for example, or you could utilise your ceilings in a small space and take your wardrobes up high to the ceiling.

“We recommend ensuring you have an absolute minimum of 900mm floorspace in front of any robe so you can comfortably stand and dress there,” advises Cathy Dean, founder of Studio Dean. “Storage is king in these spaces, so use all of the ceiling height you have and push it right to the top. Those top-level shelves are great for boxes of out-of-season clothes; switch around as the weather changes.”

Minimal dressing room with a soft taupe wardrobe doors and brass handles
Amy Stoddart Studio used soft taupe wardrobe doors with oak internals and an antique brass handle, paired with
the bespoke oak veneer dressing table to create this dressing room.

Whether you have a full room of hanging space, a central island or you need some slimline wardrobes built to fit, having bespoke joinery in your dressing room is the key to utilising every last inch of space. “We’re all fans of open-plan living these days, but I think it can be really helpful in awkward spaces to add walls back into a layout,” says interior designer Amy Stoddart.

“Walls give you the ability to put wardrobes or dressing tables against them. You might be able to create a quirky walk-in wardrobe just before you walk into a bathroom, for instance,” adds Amy.

Amy included some luxurious details like this velvet seat and matching pink chandelier.

What to consider

Before you start planning your colour scheme, take some time to think about the key ingredients you’ll need for your dressing room. “Being it’s a space that you’ll use every day, a dressing room has to be super practical, but it also has to be a destination,” says Nathan Kingsbury of Nathan Kingsbury Design. “Just like in a kitchen, it’s important that everything is just where you need it to make sure it’s fully functional.

Large walk-in wardrobe with blue doors and moon detail
The inspiration for this moody dressing room by Nathan Kingsbury of Nathan Kingsbury Design was ‘feminine full moon’.

Consider what you need in the space and ensure all the elements you want are included. For example, will you just be using the space to store clothes? Do you need a dressing table with a mirror? And will you want a mix of hanging storage, shelving and drawers? Once the practicalities are thought through, you can then start to think about the design elements, from materials to finishes and colours.”

If you’re including a dressing table, think about where best to place it. Although the room layout may dictate where it fits, it’s best if you can place it close to a window so you can benefit from the natural light to do your hair or make-up. 

Blue wardrobe doors with oak interiors
Nathan utilised the little window to bring in more light into the space, which would have been quite dark with the deep blue shade on the doors.

The look

When it comes to choosing your décor, it’s down to your own individual taste. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. Open wardrobes are often seen in drool-worthy dressing rooms, but unless you have a beautifully curated capsule wardrobe, bear in mind that they can look a lot messier with lots of pattern and colour on show. They are, however, ideal if your home is prone to mould, as they keep clothes much more ventilated. 

Luxurious green bedroom with tall wardrobes with a library ladder
Jeffreys Interiors used library ladders to make sure the top cabinets were accessible.

Next, you’ll need to decide on the design of the cabinetry. What about glass or rattan in-set panels in the doors? The finishing touches can turn a dressing room from a room with wardrobes into a sumptuous space you want to spend time in.

Feature lighting, quirky mirrors and wallpaper will all help your dressing room stand out,” says Amy. “The handles, too. I love Beata Heuman’s Bow handle and Matilda Goad’s knobs – they’re a great way to add sass to your wardrobes.”

Meanwhile, Nathan likes to add touches derived from the clients’ tastes and influences. “Start from here and you often find it leads to original ideas that truly belong to the owners,” he explains.

Jeffreys Interiors designed a new dressing room that features an exceptionally high ceiling and bespoke floor-to-ceiling wardrobes, designed for maximum storage. 

Top tips for designing your new dressing room:

  • Space can feel tight in a narrow room, so consider using the same colour for both walls and furniture to create the impression of a larger room. 
  • You may not have a spare bedroom to turn into a dressing room, but if your landing area is large enough you could always consider stealing space from there and adding some floor-to-ceiling wardrobes.
  • Make reaching for items easy with pull-down rails and library ladders that help you access hard-to-reach shelves and cupboards.
  • If you have open wardrobes with cubbies, why not line the backs of them with wallpaper or fabric to add some softness to the design?
  • Factor in a full-length mirror, whether it’s a stand-alone design or on the back of a wardrobe door. “You need
    full-height mirrors you can step back from and see your whole outfit put together,” advises Cathy.
  • Getting the lighting right is important if you’ll be using the room to do your make-up, so use a front-lit mirror or install wall lights on either side.
Large dressing room with island and open closet
Cathy Dean, founder of Studio Dean, created this luxurious yet practical dressing room in a Northumberland coastal renovation.

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