We recently redid our main bedroom and as part of that, completely re-did the closet. I’ve never had a fancy closet, so I figured that this was my chance! I decided to do an Ikea Pax Hack. So I used the affordable IKEA wardrobes and then added trim to build them in. I thought I’d walk through the build in case you want to try this too.
Ikea Pax Hack
Let’s start with the video tutorial so you get an overview on what I did. Then, I’ll dive in with more details below:
If the video doesn’t work here, you can watch it on YouTube here. I’d be over the moon happy if you subscribed to my YouTube channel! Videos are actually released on YouTube first (usually the night before they’re published on the blog). Thank you!
- 2×4’s (to build the top support)
- 2×6’s (to build the base)
- 1/2″ x 1-1/2″x8′ boards (to cover seams on the wardrobe)
- 1/2″ x 2-1/2″x8′ boards (to cover seams on the wardrobe)
- Plywood (to make drawer fronts)
- Ikea Pax Wardrobes
- Hardware Pulls
- Hardware Knob
- Crown Molding
- Wood Filler
- Finger Sander
This year, our big home project has been redoing the layout on our main floor. We had a guest bedroom we changed into the main bedroom. When we redid it, we addressed the layout issue- that it was an L shaped room and the corner by the closet was a place for a bunch of clutter.
So we closed that corner off to make the main closet. We finished up the renovations on the bedroom and now its time to finish the closet!
Here’s what the space looked like before we added the Pax system-
Plain drywall, shiplap ceiling, and plywood floors that we soon added the same LVT to the floors as what’s in the bedroom.
Before starting this project, go to IKEA and see what you like from the Pax section. Open drawers, make notes about features you like, take pictures.
Then, don’t buy anything! Go home and use the free software IKEA supplies to draw out your closet and customize what you want where inside it.
Once everything is designed, start buying parts fo the Pax wardrobe. We finished this project in October, but started buying stuff in May. Parts were out of stock and it took many trips to buy everything we needed as it slowly came back in stock.
step 1- build a base
Now that you have all of your supplies, start by building a base for the Pax wardrobes. The wardrobes could go directly on the ground, but the bases make it so a baseboard can go below the closet and look much more built-in.
How high should the base be? Ours is 7″ tall and that was on purpose so that the top would be the perfect height for our crown molding. So make sure to know what crown molding you’ll be using so that you can measure how far down it comes so you can leave that much of a gap at the top.
For our base, we used 2×6’s. There’s two on top of each other. The lower one is vertical and it’s topped with a horizontal 2×6. Again, the base isn’t necessary for structure, but it helps give the built-in look.
step 2- build wardrobe boxes
Next, follow IKEA’s instructions to build the Pax wardrobe boxes. Once assembled, put them in the closet on top of the bases. We had 6 wardrobe boxes to build for our small closet. First, we’d build one wardrobe box and then put it in before continuing onto the next one.
Note, we have a tiny closet and so with one wardrobe, we cut it down by 2-3″ so it’d fit perfectly. We had to drill our own holes in the top and bottom for screws to lock the side pieces in place. Note, if you cut down a wardrobe you won’t want to use drawers in that section or they’d be too big. You’ll also have to cut down any rods or shelves you use.
Once the wardrobes are in place, add in any components you bought. For us, that was drawers, shelves, and rods. Get those exactly where you want them. We put our clothes and shoes in place so we get get everything in the perfect place. Because we’ll be adding in trim and covering the holes, it won’t be changeable when it’s complete. This is your chance to get it right!
step 3- support pieces
Between the top of the Pax wardrobes and the ceiling, we added support pieces. We built a box on top of the wardrobes out of 2×4’s and screwed those into studs. Why? This gave a backing for the crown molding. The support pieces also gave another way to anchor the wardrobes.
Note, we didn’t use the IKEA rail system to attach the wardrobes. So they’re screwed into the wall studs and the support box above the wardrobes.
step 4- cut out corner access piece
For our closet, we have a corner. To maximize that space, we put in two wardrobes next to each other and then cut out the side of one so we can access the back corner.
IKEA sells corner pieces, but the measurements didn’t work for our closet. And the IKEA one wastes around 6″ of space. Because we have such a small closet, we wanted to utilize every inch possible.
step 5- wire in LED tape lights
For a truly high end look, we added LED tape lights from Kichler. They light up the upper shelves and clothes. The lighting makes the closet look bigger and brighter. Plus it enhances how the space feels.
I have a blog post that goes into how to install LED tape light.
Essentially, we had the closet wired for a double box with the light switch for the main light on half of the box and the tape light controls on the other half.
Wiring for the lights was simple, we connected the tape lights to the wiring in the box. Then we drilled holes for where the lighting needed to be routed. Once everything was wired together, we removed the backing on the tape and stuck it where it needs to go. It’s pretty easy to do, but it is time consuming.
step 6- add baseboards
Once everything is in place, start adding trim. First up, over the base, install baseboards. The bottom or our Pax wardrobe is 7″ high- which is too high for any baseboards from our hardware store. Plus we wanted to cover up part of the bottom of the the wardrobe. Because of that, we decided to double up the baseboards to get the 10-1/4″ baseboard we needed.
What we’ve found is that installing two baseboards (one on top of the other with the tops touching in the middle- the upper baseboard will be upside down), it’s a great way to customize the height. We also added a third piece of baseboard (just the flat section) on bottom to get the perfect height.
By having the flat edge on top, it creates a really nice transition to the face trim that we will add. Note, when buying trim, we make sure to use baseboards that are 1/2″ thick at the bottom for simplicity or use whatever thickness will match the face trim.
The baseboards go all the way around the room and make it feel like a finished space. Especially with the baseboards under the cabinet, this gives a fully built-in look.
step 7- add face trim
And now, add wood face trim to the front of the cabinets. Why? When two of the IKEA cabinets touch, they have a seam and you can see where one starts and where one stops- it looks cheap. By adding the trim, it covers the seams and looks much more custom.
Another reason for adding face trim is when you add the front on the drawers, this makes it so the wardrobes are flush with the drawer fronts.
For this trim, we use flat 1/2″ thick pieces. Remember when I said the baseboards are 1/2″ thick too? It’s so these can match up perfectly. On the front of the wardrobe, measure each section. Then cut the 1/2″ trim to size. Last, nail directly into the Pax wardrobe.
We used a few different width of trim. Where we needed to hide the tape lights and wiring, we went with the wider trim. Sometimes, we cut the trim to be a custom width to make the drawer fronts work.
step 8- add crown molding
Next, install the crown molding to the top. Between the ceiling and the Pax wardrobes, we installed 2×4 support pieces in step 3. Once that support is in, add crown molding to the top of the wardrobe to bridge the gap between the ceiling. This gives such a nice high-end look!
Crown molding makes everything look fancier. The Pax usually has a gap above it between the ceiling and the top of the wardrobe. By adding crown molding, it fills that gap and brings the eye all the way up to the ceiling.
step 9- build drawer fronts
The drawers that come with the Pax have a space around the drawers- the top has a large gap so they can be opened without adding hardware. This looks a little cheap, so it’s nice to add drawer fronts. Also, since we will add extra wood on the seams, creating a simple drawer front makes the drawer fill the space and it makes it flush with the wood trim on the seams.
To create the drawer fronts, cut them out of plywood. For our closet, we bought one 4’x8′ sheet of plywood to cut down with a table saw. We went from the top of the drawer to the bottom of the gap. After cutting, we sanded the front until it is smooth.
We went one at a time because for some reason, each drawer had a different size front due to the inconsistency in how IKEA makes their drawers. So we’d cut one, install it, and then cut the next drawer.
To install the wood drawer fronts, we used short nails on the front of the drawer into the back of the plywood drawer front. Next, we installed the hardware for the drawers. They were super sturdy after this.
step 10- finish work
Once all the trim is installed and the drawer fronts are on, it’s time for finish work.
First up, fill all the holes with wood filler. Let that dry for 15-30 minutes. Then, once dry, apply a second layer of wood filler. Again, let dry for 15-30 minutes. Now that the second layer is dry, sand smooth with a sander. Use your finger to make sure you feel a smooth surface. If there’s a ledge, sand more for a clean finish. Wipe all surfaces clean from the sanded dust.
Then, on all the seems, use caulk to fill the seems. Caulk is needed where the trim hits the wall or floor. For caulking between the floor and baseboards, I always put down painter’s take first. Then I paint the baseboards. After the paint is dry, I use a razor blade to cut the dry caulk and paint. Last, pull the tape for a super clean line.
Paint all of the trim. I like to use the same white paint I use on my ceiling and walls for simplicity (I use Ultra Pure White in a satin finish). Since I go with a pure white color, I apply two-three coats of white paint.
With all the trim in this little corner, just this step took a full day of work.
step 11- cover the shelf pin holes
IKEA cabinets come with a line of holes on the sides so that the shelves can be at any height. But the holes make the Pax look cheap and distract the eye. To make this closet look custom, it’s best to fill the holes so they disappear. To do this, use wood filler, sand, and then paint them the same color as the wardrobe.
Instead of filling holes and painting, I decided to wallpaper the inside of the wardrobes. I hadn’t seen this done before, and so I thought it was a clever solution.
The wallpaper I used is custom designed for the room. When we were tearing out the old (tiny) closet, we found some vintage wallpaper on the wall- just a small scrap.
I took a picture and then designed new wallpaper in a similar style with updated colors and botanicals. I thought it was fun to use this wallpaper as a nod to what was once in that same space.
Since I was going over laminate wardrobes, I used peel and stick wallpaper. To be honest, covering the inside of the wardrobe was time consuming and slow work. Why? All the shelves were built in so I had to cut small pieces of wallpaper and then I matched the wallpaper across the inside of each shelf. So that was tedious.
I love how it looks in the end! It’s fun and playful and the colors are great for the space. I even sewed a dress out of matching fabric so I could match it- lol.
Besides being a slow project, the other thing I didn’t like about the wallpaper solution is that it kind of made it look like the wardrobe was just a wall in the closet. It would’ve saved us a lot of money to just mount the rod into the wall. I wanted the higher end look of a wardrobe, so I was disappointed at that unexpected consequence.
step 8- finishing details
Finally, we re-installed the cabinet hardware. This adds a jewelry look to the space! Note, we installed the cabinet hardware before painting to make sure the drawer fronts felt sturdy enough. We were also using the drawers to hold our stuff at that point, so that made it so we could actually open the drawers.
There’s not really any way to open the drawers without hardware since they’re flush with the wardrobe. Plus, we didn’t want to install the hardware after they were painted to avoid messing up the paint job.
And here is closet all finished! I am thrilled at the outcome! We worked hard to find great storage solutions for all of our clothes. For example, the valet rod my dress is hanging on.
Honestly, just having the clothes in the room was nice after them being in another room for months. And now they can really be showcased. Doesn’t it look like a little boutique shop in here?!
Here’s my husband’s side of the closet. He asked me not to wallpaper, so it’s a little more plain. Plus his clothes are less colorful- lol. That S is from when a building was torn down. He’s been wanting a place to hang it so he got it with his side of the closet. The black plug is for the fireplace in the bedroom.
If you’re wondering what the grey mirrored unit is, it’s a Samsung AirDresser. It steams and de-odorizes clothes. Isn’t this view pretty with all that pastel color?!
For my top drawer, I put my jewelry in. I went to the vintage shop and found old dishes and trays to hold my jewelry. These have all been in boxes for years. So to be able to see all my favorite pieces is really special.
So there you have it! My finished closet! This Ikea Pax Hack took us a few weeks to do. It was a lot of work, but now I have my dream closet with tons of beautiful storage. Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments.
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