How to get a dressing room like Jennifer Aniston’s (without an A-list budget)

A space transformed by the kitchen and carpentry specialist Herringbone
A space transformed by the kitchen and carpentry specialist Herringbone

Jennifer Aniston garnered headlines last week as she scooped the award for Drama TV Star of the Year at the People’s Choice Awards for her role on The Morning Show. But the buzz was arguably less focused on her win, and more centred on the reveal of her gargantuan home dressing room.

An Instagram post of the Friends star getting red-carpet-ready at her $21 million-dollar mansion in Bel Air ahead of the awards offered a glimpse of a space the size of a studio apartment, replete with illuminated shelves of neatly folded cashmere jumpers and rails of dresses on matching hangers. “Dream closet” – as fellow actress Elizabeth Tulloch commented – was the general consensus.

Of course, neither space nor budget is an obstacle for an A-lister to make their clothes storage resemble a Bond Street boutique. But on this side of the pond, dressing rooms are becoming increasingly “non-negotiable” for wealthy property buyers too, according to Will Watson, a partner at the specialist agency the Buying Solution. “Principal suites” with adjoining bathrooms and his-and-hers dressing rooms can add value, especially against neighbouring properties. The estate agency Hamptons notes how developers are incorporating them wherever possible, creating personalised sanctuaries that replicate the feel of a high-end retail experience.

Herringbone carpentry
Dressing rooms are becoming increasingly popular with wealthy property buyers on this side of the pond - Herringbone carpentry

While a walk-in wardrobe accommodates clothes, a dressing room by definition takes function to the next level, often including a drawer-filled island for storing valuables such as jewellery and watches, as well as a hair and make-up station.

Designers at Neville Johnson, where prices start from £3,000+VAT for fitted wardrobes, have noticed a spike in clients referencing imagery from social media (the model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who posts outfit selfies from her wooden wardrobe enclave in London, as well as her marble-clad set-up in Malibu, is no doubt on many an inspiration board). Over at premium maker Neatsmith, customers are investing the same spend as a luxury family holiday in their wardrobes, with elevated extras such as recessed LED lighting and mirrored doors.

Thanks to Ikea's PAX system and custom-made doors, Chelsea Stonier got her dressing room for a fraction of the original price
Thanks to Ikea's PAX system and custom-made doors, Chelsea Stonier got her dressing room for a fraction of the original price

In the suburbs, box rooms are being readily handed over to make the bedroom “chairdrobe” (a chair eternally laden with clothes not quite ready for the laundry basket) a thing of the past. But the cost of going bespoke can be prohibitive.

Enter Ikea’s customisable PAX system, which has been “hacked” (or tweaked to look 100 times more superior than its flat-pack roots) by bargain-conscious renovators, who share their innovations on social media. One such is Shropshire-based Chelsea Stonier, who was initially quoted £32,000 for the floor-to-ceiling oak-fronted joinery she wanted for her dressing room.

For less than a fifth of that price, she got the look thanks to PAX and custom-made wood-veneer doors. Even more cost-friendly – albeit less easy on the eye – are open, doorless units. A London fashion editor who ran out of funds at the end of her renovation spent £1,250 on carcasses, using Ikea’s virtual planner, and paid £455 to a pair of tradesmen she found on Taskrabbit to build them and remove obstructive skirting boards for a neat fit. “That was the best money I spent,” she laughs.

Here, we detail all the top tips and cheats from those who have carved out dressing rooms – minus the celebrity price tag.

How much space do you need?

William Durrant, the owner of the Kent-based kitchen and carpentry specialist Herringbone, advises a minimum walkway or door clearance of 85cm (33in). For small spaces, he suggests leaving wardrobe doors off entirely so that you don’t have to allow enough space for them to swing open. However, the beauty of bespoke joinery is that anything is possible, so narrow doors can be created to enclose whatever is hanging, if wished.

Consider your build 

Ultimately, the main question here is open (also referred to as “naked”) versus closed off. Content creator and writer Lisa Dawson inherited fitted Ikea wardrobes in a small nook off her bedroom in her Grade II listed home in York. But she ended up ripping them out: “They didn’t take full advantage of the space, and as I couldn’t see everything that was in there, I’d forget about lots of items.”

Lisa Dawson ripped out her fitted Ikea wardrobes in order to take full advantage of the space in her room
Lisa Dawson ripped out her fitted Ikea wardrobes in order to take full advantage of the space in her room

Her solution, after wallpapering the area in the same botanical print as her bedroom, was a pair of scaffolding poles (prices on The Metal Store’s website start from £4.20) to use as rails in the alcove: “They’re screwed into the wall and they do not budge,” she attests.

She then hired a local carpenter to create two tall shelving units out of MDF, which are fixed to the wall. Although some say that exposed clothes get dusty, she has found that constantly moving them around on the rails (and her daughter raiding her supply) has resulted in the opposite.

But a guest bedroom that doubles as a walk-in may benefit from enclosure. Stockport-based influencer and vintage maven Sophia Barrese learnt lessons from the messy-looking open rails that she had in her previous home. In her dressing room, thanks to doors with diamond-shaped panelling and rattan inlays, sprayed in Farrow & Ball’s Red Earth, her clothes don’t cannibalise the space; and she can still pop a sofa-bed in there when people come to stay.

Sophia Barrese has fully maximised the space in her room
Stockport-based influencer Sophia Barrese tucks away her clothing with rattan inlays and panelling in Farrow & Ball's Red Earth

The inner workings

Rails versus drawers versus shelves… You’ll probably need a mix of all three, but what you actually need to store should dictate how you divide up your wardrobe space. High rails are a no-brainer for long dresses – but don’t forget jump-suits and dungarees too, as well as off-season coats. Configurations for men often call for shorter hanging room as trousers and suits command half the length that a frock does, freeing up space below for wide drawers.

Custom-made slanting shelves work well for those with shoe collections; and while modular options (such as Ikea’s PAX) don’t have the sleekest of finishes on the inside, the beauty of it for Stonier is that it has given her the flexibility of converting a tall unit into extra shelving for her “trainer-obsessed” husband. And don’t forget external details: a horizontal rail on the outside of cupboards, or strategically placed hooks, will provide a moment for garments to air out as you put together your next outfit.

Making every inch count

Going floor to ceiling is the best way of maximising space. Barrese’s top-corner area houses suitcases, and having found that drawers actually ate up precious space in her previous project, she rates simple shelves for knitwear.

Controversially for some, Dawson hangs her jumpers, making her industrial-style rails work even harder – and freeing up room on her shelves for denim. Chimney breasts are a common issue to work around in older British homes; Stonier concealed hers with 14in-deep shelves, which are ideal for shoes and sit flush with cupboards in the alcoves either side.

Chelsea Stonier has plenty of space for her shoes in her dressing room
Chelsea Stonier has plenty of space for her shoes in her dressing room (pictured in the building stage)

How to keep costs down

Forgoing doors is an obvious way to slash costs, but in Barrese’s case, doors were non-negotiable. Her initial estimate from Cheshire Bespoke Joinery was for solid wood used throughout, yet the price was cut almost by half when MDF was mooted for the carcasses instead (the visible ends and the doors are all in solid oak). It’s proof that providing honest feedback, rather than ghosting tradesmen when the price isn’t quite right, can lead to happy compromises.

Drawers, which are labour-intensive to make, can also be replaced with cheaper options; Durrant suggests metal anthracite drawer boxes.

Barrese and Dawson are basket fans: Dawson keeps underwear, accessories and swimming costumes in large baskets bought at HomeSense, perched on her fitted shelves. A free-standing chest of drawers is also an obvious consideration: Stonier created what looks like a custom-made island from two Ikea Hemnes drawer units placed back to back, with the legs removed, and side panels added (the opulent marble top was a budget-busting move, but elevates the whole effect).

If there is an element of easily achievable DIY, take it: Dawson painted her shelves herself for a cohesive look, and estimates to have spent around £600 on the entire project. And then there’s lighting; if the room has a natural light source, you can get away without fancy add-ons.