Making Space: Ruffino Custom Closets

Written by: Simonette Berry
What are you always trying to find? Hint: There’s never enough of it. “Time” is probably your first answer, followed by another biggie, “space.” If only we had the time and energy to make the spaces around us exactly how we want them to be””beautiful, unique, and useful. Thankfully, Ruffino Custom Closets offers a rare custom option in a world of prefab space-makers. Partners Christian Russell and Matt Ruffino have opened the door to a myriad of creative options that just aren’t possible with factory made products. “We help people organize their lives,” says Russell. “We know how to maximize any space so you can get the most out of it.” “We’re a local company that manufactures our product from beginning to end,” says Russell. “This is not a closet in a box. Each one is custom tailored to fit the client’s needs and desires. We want to make the things they do every day easier and make a place for everything in their lives, so they can spend more time doing what they like to do. We want to facilitate new growth as well, so whenever they get new things, they have a spot for them.”

Russell and Ruffino joined forces to create Ruffino Custom Closets not long after Hurricane Katrina. “After Katrina, things exploded in our business, especially in the wire shelving department. People were buying a lot of wire shelving at first as they were renovating, just so they would have a place to put things as they got them back.” After the first year of post-K rebuilding, Russell saw the market trending slowly away from strictly utilitarian shelving and towards higher-end custom jobs.

“I thought we could make the product better in house than any manufacturer could, and pass the savings along to our customers, too. I convinced Matt that we needed to change with the market and should get the equipment to do so. Four years ago, we made the jump,” he says. “The workmanship, the functionality, and the design quality have improved tenfold since then. We are the only company in this region that does truly custom closets with fully customizable, in-house work.”

“When we bought the equipment, there was a learning curve for a month or so. Neither my partner nor I had experience with these machines. We were so lucky to have a mentor, Wilson McGuire, who took pity on us neophytes. He took us under his wing and taught us a tremendous amount. He has been in the cabinetmaking business for 35 years, so he knew the process in and out.”

“Now, three and one-half years later, we’re doing extraordinary jobs we’d never have dreamed of doing if we couldn’t create them ourselves. Nothing can really catch Matt and me off guard, because now we’re able to be involved every step of the way.”

Being thrown into the world of custom-made closets has allowed Russell and Ruffino to attract a whole new category of clientele. “We handle everything from the smallest, most meager jobs to the huge $35,000 luxury walk-ins. Clients usually have a wish list. We’re lucky enough to draw from a wide variety of specialized vendors. We’re able to do so much with accessories that we can make any dream a reality. We’re unique in that aspect. We can get specialty doors, custom dovetailed drawers, hardware, baskets, rods, and any type of organizational accessory. We do as much as we can locally. We feel really strongly about that. Why send business out of state when we can help our local economy?”

“A lot of people these days are trying to make their bedrooms larger by eliminating furniture like armoires and chests of drawers. Ideally, they should be able to go into their closet, get dressed, and then have more space in the bedroom to do what they want and go about their day,” he says. Russell and Ruffino also work with many customers building or renovating their master suites. “We meet with them on a preliminary basis and do a consultation to figure out how much room they need to accomplish what they envision. Then, they go back to their contractor and work up the blueprints, and when it’s time, we’ll come back and create the closet. A lot of clients now want functional islands in their closets, for example, and you need a certain amount of space in order to have one.”

“These days, I see a lot of people wanting to put shelves and drawers in their closets. Women especially love shoe shelves. Depending on the height of the ceiling, we can also add a third tier of hanging space up high. We offer an automatic wardrobe lift that people just love; you pull it down and it lifts back up by itself when you want it to.”

“Most of the closets we do are straightforward, but sometimes we get wild ones. One, we called the ‘crazy shoe closet’. A woman on the Northshore had a beautiful collection of about 400 pairs of shoes. We made a smaller closet within her large walk-in with shoes that went three rows back. It looked great and it was convenient; she loved it.” Another fun one was a man who had a nice condo downtown; he wanted glass on all his drawer fronts so he could see what was inside of them. We really enjoy designing and creating out-of-the-box ideas.”

“We stand on our integrity and gain the customers trust by making them happy with our work; we stand by what we do. We’re not going to promise you the world, but we deliver what we know we can do very well. We have the loyalty of our clientele because of that.”

Ruffino Custom Closets
110 Campbell Blvd # 1B
Mandeville, LA
(985) 809-7623
ruffinocustomclosets.com