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Solid-wood closets offer environmentally friendly luxury

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Real Estate,Susan Wittman

With a place for everything, gleaming solid-wood closets give master suites an extra bit of luxury -- and they can be an environmentally friendly indulgence.

Armen Panosian of Solid Wood Closets, based in California, uses natural rubber wood and brushed-nickel hardware to build luxurious, eco-friendly closets.

"Nowadays people use the word 'green' very loosely," he said. "It could be green, but is it environmentally friendly? A closet designed with solid wood is a rare find."

He said most closet systems use particleboard, which buckles with moisture, and melamine, which gives off formaldehyde.

The rubber tree, on the other hand, is a renewable resource and its wood is strong, heavy and dense. It displays an attractive grain and stains true to color. Panosian panels and finger-joints the wood to resist warping, hand-staining it to bring out the grain.

Most of his closet systems come in standard, ready-made sizes but can be customized on site. Installation is simple for someone who is handy, but the company offers help with design and installation. Reach-in closets range from $480 to $15,000, and a 10-by-8-foot walk-in can cost from $600 to $3,500.

Eric Orellana, owner of Acacia Woodworking in Alexandria, estimates a price of $10,000 to $15,000 for an installed top-of the-line, 10-by-8-foot walk-in closet fitted with solid-cherry planks, shelves, drawers and accessories.

Hardwood Artisans, with five showrooms in the area, primarily makes furniture but gets the occasional request for hardwood closets, said partner Mark Gatterdam.

"We don't advertise closets, but these clients want better quality," Gatterdam said. "They don't want melamine, particleboard or off-gassing."

Solid wood expands, contracts, twists and warps over time, so flat panels of solid wood may not be the best material for closets, said Greg Gloor, general manager of Hardwood Artisans. He prefers a three-quarter-inch veneer hardwood plywood.

Plywood also costs a bit less. A well-equipped mahogany reach-in closet by Hardwood Artisans costs $5,000 to $10,000. A 10-by-8-foot, highly organized walk-in is $15,000 to $25,000 in mahogany and about 10 percent less in cherry, Gloor said. Veneered plywood is 10 percent less than that.

But if a client is set on solid wood, Hardwood Artisans can do frame-and-panel construction -- which Gloor recommends. "The panel floats inside the frame, which allows it to move as the humidity changes."

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