Larry Nordseth credits a keen observation and fortunate timing with his success in becoming the closet king of Washington.
When Nordseth founded Capitol Closet Design in 1995, most people pretty much tolerated whatever closet space their home came with. New homes were being designed with more and bigger closets, but even those were pretty much rectangular blocks stuck between bedrooms or beside the bathroom in master suites.
“Whether you have a one bedroom condo or a mansion, the biggest complaint everyone has is closet space,” Nordseth said. “They have the builder put in a great kitchen and bathroom and a family room with high ceilings. Then, in the closets, they put in one rack and $1.89 wire shelving.”
Capitol Closet Design covers the entire Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and Nordseth said he has a huge client base in Loudoun County. Nordseth grew up in McLean and now lives near Belmont Country Club in Ashburn. He said he started in business as a general home improvements and renovation contractor around Northern Virginia.
That was when he made an observation that led him to specialize in closets and storage spaces.
“I noticed a trend,” he said. “We would spend 30 days on a whole-bath remodel and they would always be asking for more closet space. We would spend 30 days there and do all this amazing work, and a closet guy would come in and knock out a close in one day. I asked one guy, and he said in this market the average closet job was $15,000 to $18,000.
“I went out and bought a bunch of industrial machinery and started designing and creating custom closets. We were only the third firm in DC that got into closets.”
Nordseth quickly learned that there was a strong market for custom closet designs made with high-end materials.
“There were a few franchises around, but they had their corporate blinders on. They only had a few designs made with only a few choices for materials,” Nordseth said. “It was like ordering off a menu. I saw this huge market out there if you could do a high-end system with real wood.”
That move toward custom design and high-quality materials has paid off handsomely for Capitol Closet Design, but it drove off Nordseth’s original business partner.
“I wanted to go into this expo design space that was really high-end,” Nordseth said. “There were a lot of zeros after it. He said nobody would buy it.
“The very first day they had their doors open, we were there kind of standing around our display. A guy comes in and said he has an 800-pair sunglasses collection. I told him the display model is like $38,000. He gets out his checkbook and says, ‘Can I pay now?’”
Nordseth said he bought out his business partner and started building a client list throughout the region. He began landing some high-profile Washington clients, and by word-of-mouth, he became the “closet guy” to get.
He gave the example of how he renovated closets for DC’s oddest political couple – liberal commentator James Carville and conservative analyst Mary Matalin. From that job, he got referred to Hillary Clinton.
“I have done closets for dozens of senators and congressman and ambassadors,” Nordseth said. “People like this, they might make five appearances a day, and they can’t be seen wearing the same outfit. About 75 percent of the time, the initial contact is made by a woman. Then, a lot of the repeat business is when the husband calls and he also wants his space done.”
Nordseth said one of his more unusual clients was a woman who had 1,600 pairs of shoes and wanted them enclosed in a glass case.
“She said the cheapest pair she had was probably about $300,” Nordseth said. “She likes to look at them, because they make her happy.”
Capitol Closet Design has grown, and Nordesth said he now employs 25 people at his production facility in Alexandria and four crews that do installation within 75 miles of Washington, D.C. He has showrooms in Alexandria and Tyson’s Corner, and he plans to open another showroom soon in Loudoun County.
“On a weekly basis we do about $100,000 in closets,” Nordseth said. “I have probably done about 350 of the houses in Belmont alone, mostly by word of mouth. But, we are customizing closets from Leesburg to Lansdowne, Ashburn, South Riding and western Loudoun.”
For more information, call 703-827-2700 or visit CapitolClosetDesign.net