Renovation Before & After

Ditching the Linen Closet Gained This Homeowner a Showstopping Reading Nook

Complete with a ceiling that stops you in your tracks.
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woman in closet nook

The first time designer Marie Cloud of Indigo Pruitt toured North Carolina’s Greensboro Showhouse, an annual charity event put on by the local Junior League, her guide almost didn’t mention the linen closet. When Cloud was presented with the opportunity to participate in this year’s decorating challenge, she, along with 17 other designers, was assigned a room—or, in her case, more of an area. Cloud was tasked with transforming an often overlooked space: the upstairs hallway and laundry room. “I knew from the very beginning, if I was going to do this, I was going to make this the best damn hallway people have ever seen,” says Cloud. 

When the Charlotte-based designer spotted the large closet, she asked if she could extend her renovation plans to the storage space. “They were like, ‘I guess, if you want,’” she recalls. Instead of a passageway, she’d use the tired hallway—linen closet included—as an opportunity to invite people to stop, stare, and stay a while. 

Double Up on Wallpaper

plain upstairs hallway
The hallway, before.
wallpapered hallway

Color is always Cloud’s starting point, and in this narrow space, she commenced with two graphic wallpapers from York Wallcoverings. On the walls, the designer opted for a peacock-pattern print—a nod to the neighborhood’s classical architecture.

beige ceiling
The ceiling, before.
wallpapered ceiling

Then she swathed the ceiling in a treatment made from translucent capiz shells. “I saw it [for the first time] last year and fell in love with it. I was just waiting for a project to use it,” says Cloud. Because black and white can often feel traditional, the designer freshened up the duo with a third addition: blue paint (the color on the trim is Sherwin-Williams’s Poolhouse).  

Save a Seat

doors open to linen closet
The closet, before.
blue shelves in nook

When Cloud heard that the home’s new owner was a lawyer and his walk-in dressing room (not included in the house’s transformation) was located directly across from the former linen closet, the thought hit her: It needs a bench. “I was thinking, how cool would it be for him to sit down and put his shoes on out here?” she recalls. She worked with the original footprint of the niche and ripped off the doors, and she tasked a millworker with building the bench and shelves. To ensure ultimate comfort when sitting in the nook, she covered the interior wall with an upholstered panel. 

Light the Way, and They Will Stay

blue shelves in nook

Setting the mood in any room starts with lighting, even if that room is a place you’d usually walk right through. An oversize cone-shaped brass fixture by Uttermost invites you inside the cozy niche. For the sake of time, Cloud used a rechargeable bulb to operate the fixture, but she notes a similar arrangement could easily be hardwired given most large closets like this have existing electrical. 

Tap Into the Viewer’s Emotions

Cloud’s requirements for choosing art for the space were twofold: “It had to stop people in their tracks and, above anything else, be a beautiful representation of Black skin,” she shares. The designer sought expressive pieces that any guest could relate to, so she turned to the work of Surrealist painter Deandra Lee, whose portrait titles often represent feelings, like Defeated and Connection. “The woman [in the images] is so entrenched with what’s happening, she’s so in the moment; it makes you want to pause,” says Cloud. 

Bring Chores Into the Fold

dingy laundry room before
The laundry room, before.
laundry room with dark cabinets

Diagonal from the linen closet–turned–lounge is the laundry room. To make the space appear one with the adjacent hallway, Cloud continued the ceiling wallpaper into the space but pared back the walls with a subtle plaid treatment. Also sticking to her mission, she introduced an accent pillow on the bench in Sheila Bridges’s beloved Harlem Toile fabric—her favorite ever, she admits. “It felt like the perfect touch to add some heritage,” says Cloud. We wouldn’t be surprised if guests congregated up there for happy hour.

Lydia Geisel Avatar

Lydia Geisel

Home Editor

Lydia Geisel has been on the editorial team at Domino since 2017. Today, she writes and edits home and renovation stories, including house tours, before and afters, and DIYs, and leads our design news coverage. She lives in New York City.