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hatrack coat tree

The basic hatrack is functional and beautiful, which is what good design is all about. Here’s the lowdown on using one for organization and storage.

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If you haven’t already brought out your cool weather outerwear, you will soon.

For me, the perennial question is where to hang it where it’s convenient to get to, yet out of the way. I have a eucalyptus lattice room divider between my kitchen and living area, and close to the front door. I keep decorative fabrics draped over it to brighten up the space and block the low, late day winter sun. Accidentally, it has become a catch-all for coats, sweaters, and the occasional towel.

Now that I’m starting to sort and wash my fall and winter jackets, I am once again faced with, ‘Am I going to cover up the room divider all season?’ The other option is the ever-present and handy kitchen chairs.

I am getting serious about looking for an old-fashioned hat rack that won’t take up much room, but will hold a bunch of hoodies, parkas, vests, scarves, and hats. I want it to be decorative, funky, and functional.

Traditional Staircase by Cambridge Kitchen & Bath Designers Heidi Pribell Interiors

Hatrack history

In the 1800s and before, clothes were stored in trunks, wooden chests, and armoires or wardrobes. Built-in closets were very small and mostly in the homes of the wealthy.

The hatrack, or hall tree, was also a sign of wealth. In Victorian homes, it was an important piece of furniture usually of oak or walnut. Right inside the front door, it had a commanding presence that spoke of the status of the residents.

There were hooks for hanging coats, hats and scarves, a rack for umbrellas, a tabletop probably of marble, drawers, and a mirror. Some had a seating bench with a hinged lid for storage. The hall tree was a beautiful and functional piece of furniture on its own.

When built-in closets became the norm in the mid-20th century, the hatrack and hall tree went out of style.

Freestanding hatrack designs

wood hat rackI won’t say hatracks are stylish or trendy, but they do have a place in the modern home. When friends visit me in winter, they take off their coats, and their facial expressions say, ‘Where should I put my coat?’ I point to the room divider. This is what I want to change!

If you have children who actually use the hatrack, their clothes won’t be dropped on the floor. That would make cleaning and laundry easier.

A hatrack can be as simple as a pole with half a dozen pegs.

That idea can morph into a million creative designs. Paint the basic design turquoise.

Add an umbrella rack.

Get an organic flavor with a tree trunk with the stumps of branches as hooks.

Paint it turquoise (seems to be a popular color choice!) and complementary colors.

Add a few birds for a more outdoorsy feel. I can hear them singing!

Sleek, contemporary designs take up little visual space. They come in wood or metal.

A Mission style hatrack has two drawers for small items and a receptacle for umbrellas.

A similar design includes a mirror and a shelf, or baskets and shelves for storage.

Other styles

I am settled on a freestanding rack, but if it suits you, consider a wall-mounted rack. They, too, come in metal, wood, organic, contemporary, and vintage flavors. If you are a DIYer, the design possibilities are endless. Upcycle pallet wood as the base and a shelf, and add recycled vintage faucet knobs or doorknobs as hooks. Tree branches make excellent hooks, too. Shop thrift stores, flea markets, and yard sales for materials, and let your creativity loose on this small project!

A traditional hall tree is not a bad idea, either. I’d consider this simple Amish design if I had the room. There is a small cabinet/closet, hooks, and a bench, which may have storage beneath the seat. So much functionality in simplicity!

I’ve gotten inspired to get on this project before winter sets in. This year my friends won’t have to wonder what to do with their coats. It will be handy for them and me!

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.