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Dressing Room Design: An Interview with Francis Nicdao


As Principal and Chief Creative Officer, Francis Nicdao drives the firm’s creative direction, ensuring a standard of excellence in design and client service. With over 14 years of experience, Francis combines his passion for art and design with formal education from Pratt Institute and international exposure from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.

Francis shares his insights in our exclusive interview to learn more about the ins and outs of dressing room design.

Uptown Eclectic - Pembrooke & Ives - Eclectic luxury closet with polished gold hardware. Interior...
Uptown Eclectic, Photography by Genevieve Garruppo

How do you approach the design for a dressing room?

We always start by envisioning the space through the lens of luxury retail. It’s crucial to understand that for many clients, their dressing room isn’t just a storage space; it’s a sanctuary for their most prized possessions. We consider factors like dust prevention and fabric protection while creating an environment that feels both functional and luxurious.

We treat the dressing room as a display case. Like high-end retail store design, the items inside should be showcased and create an aspirational “shopping” experience for our clients. Dressing rooms, once an overlooked space when touring a home, have really evolved into important extensions of primary suites. We prefer to call them ‘dressing rooms’ instead of ‘closets’ to emphasize their significance as focal points of luxury and style.

P&I 655 Got Genevieve Garruppo LR 397

How does a client’s wardrobe affect the design of their closet?

True luxury, in our perspective, lies in giving each item a designated home. To achieve this, we begin by meeting with the client to understand their current wardrobe. This allows us to identify any specific storage requirements or organizational challenges they may face. Through this research, we gain valuable insights into their lifestyle, habits, and aesthetic preferences, which inform the design direction.

Some clients may prefer more folding space for items like sweaters and jeans, while others may want hanging space for these same items. By actively involving the client in this collaborative process, we ensure that the final design not only meets their practical needs but also resonates with their personal style and preferences.

Many of Pembrooke & Ives’ dressing rooms feature high-gloss lacquered millwork. Why is that one of the most popular finishes requested?

We work with many materials in dressing rooms, but a high-gloss lacquered finish tends to be our most requested for a few reasons. First, it brings some glamour to the space, especially when paired with metal detailing. This combination of materials adds luxury and sophistication that resonates with our clients who want a premium aesthetic.

The high-gloss finish also reflects light in a really beautiful way, enhancing the overall brightness of the room to feel more open and inviting. This creates a spacious atmosphere.

Finally, it also evokes a timeless design. Its sleek and polished appearance transcends trends, ensuring that the closet maintains its elegance and relevance for years to come.

Red Mountain - Creamy white walk-in closet with opaque glass doors and center island. Interior...
Red Mountain, Photography by JC Buck

What are some additional luxury features for closets?

One feature we are always happy to see is an advanced lighting system that offers flexibility to adjust light levels. High CRI LED integrations make colors appear truer and can substitute for daylight when needed. This not only enhances the space but provides practical benefits for tasks like selecting outfits or applying makeup.

For clients with more limited space, solutions like rotating or motorized racks have gained popularity. These innovative mechanisms optimize storage capacity and accessibility in compact and unconventional layouts.

Another feature that adds both functionality and elegance is a central island. It not only provides additional storage, often in the form of drawers for clothing or handbags, but also serves as a surface for tasks like folding clothes or packing.

And finally, clients often look for enhanced protective measures for their valuable belongings stored in their dressing rooms. Integrating elements like cedar panels, known for absorbing humidity, repelling moths and insects, and radiating a pleasant scent, provides an effective solution for preserving clothing and accessories. Clients may also choose to install safes to lock valuables away for added peace of mind. Often, these safes can be designed and displayed as a showpiece to add a layer of sophistication to the design, or concealed into the millwork for a seamless and unsuspecting option.

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