Hacking the IKEA Pax into a Fully Custom Closet

When I first started imagining how I wanted my closet to look, I became stuck on this image of Jenny Wolf’s closet. I absolutely adored the blue, custom cabinetry and decided I was going to figure out a way to get a similar look in my own house with a non-custom budget.

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I initially assumed that we would make all the cabinetry from scratch, but Cory brought me back to reality with the truths that 1) we’d never built a cabinet in our lives, let alone lots of drawers, shelves and boxes, and 2) the cabinetry would take forever, and would make this room impossible to accomplish for the One Room Challenge.

So, I sought out a closet system that I could customize and paint to match my vision. And in this search, the IKEA Pax kept coming up as the most common, highest-rated, and budget-friendly closet system. I’m no stranger to the concept of hacking IKEA products, though we actually had never done it ourselves. In my research, I discovered that lots of people have hacked the IKEA Pax or IKEA Billy systems to create a built-in look. But there were some upgrades that I wasn’t able to find any examples of in the wild, including recessing in-cabinet lighting and adding drawer fronts for an inset, full custom cabinetry look. The drawer fronts were critical to my vision: the IKEA Pax drawers look very modular and modern to me, making them stick out like a sore thumb in our 1940’s home. Most people hid the drawers by adding doors on the wardrobe units, but we didn’t have the space, or the desire to add so many unnecessary cabinet doors to our space.

The transformation

So, let’s get started on how we transformed our closet from this:

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To this.

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The High-Level

In order to achieve the high-end custom look I envisioned, we added baseboards, crown moulding, shoe moulding, recessed puck lights for in-cabinet lighting, refaced the fronts and sides of the wardrobe units with wood strips, added wood drawer fronts, added plugs to cover the unused shelving holes, wallpapered the back of the units, primed and painted everything, then swapped out the metal hanging rods for stained wooden rods, and finally added drawer hardware.

We tried to be as detailed as possible in the below steps, so I’m going to give a disclaimer that this post is massive. Let me know in the comments if anything needs further clarification and I can update to address those questions.

How we did it

1. Planned the size of the wardrobe units and the placement of the organizational accessories

This is where the Pax Planning tool on the IKEA website comes in handy. We cataloged how much space we each needed for our clothes (High, Medium, Low) and storage type by clothing category in a spreadsheet, and then I referenced it as I created each of our sides of the closet to ensure we had enough space for our existing wardrobe items and our storage preferences. For instance, I fold my jeans, while Cory prefers to hang his, and he dresses business casual for work, meaning there’s a lot of shirts to hang. When it came to choosing accessories, I opted out of the slightly gimmicky IKEA accessories, like the pants hanger, the shoe trees, etc. in favour of clean, classic closet designs. This isn’t to say that they aren’t helpful to maximize storage, but it’s very challenging to make them look seamless in a high-end custom closet. This limited our options down to hanging rods, drawers and shelves.

For reference, the room is 14.6′ long by 6.5′ wide, and we opted for the deeper IKEA Pax units on one side (23″ deep) and shallower units on the other wall (13″ deep), which allowed for a wide walkway between the two units.

2. Built the units and made certain they were level.

We only have standard 8” ceilings, so we had to build the units in the room and also couldn’t build a platform for the wardrobe units to sit on. If we had higher ceilings we would have elevated the units on a wooden base to ensure that we weren’t losing any potential storage space when we added baseboards. We shimmed under the units to ensure they were completely level, ensuring that the units were level to one another, so when we ran the baseboards across the front of them, everything looked flush.

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3. Installed the puck lights

We ordered these puck lights off Amazon and hardwired them into an electrical box, so we could switch them on and off when entering the room. In order to reach all six of our closet units, we had to order extra extension cords. We fed these cords in a chain, where for each unit, one light branched off and fed into the unit from the very top in the back. Because we knew we were going to have rattan boxes on a top shelf, we knew the cords would be invisible.

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In order to make the lights look very custom, we recessed them into the front of the top shelf in every unit. To recess the lights, we used a router to trace a template we made in a scrap piece of wood. If we had more time, we would have used a Kreg Concealed Jig with a Forstner Drill Bit for a more perfect round circle, but they look pretty great. We set a routing depth equal to the thickness of the puck light, so it would be completely flush with the lower surface of the shelf.

Once we routed the holes for the lights, we drilled a hole straight through to accommodate the cord for the puck light itself. Then we installed the shelf and ran the puck light through it on each unit. We used a small bead of construction adhesive on the back of the puck light to secure it into the recessed hole in the shelf. Once all the lights were installed, we moved on to the next step.

4. Installed the baseboards

Next up, was installing the baseboards to the front of the units. We ran the baseboards all the way around the room, for a fully-built in look. We used these baseboards from Metrie, which are part of their Fashion Forward collection and play very nicely with applied wood trim. Because the top of the baseboard profile is flat horizontally, it allows the wood that we applied later on to the fronts of the cabinetry to flow seamlessly.

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We attached the baseboards to the front of the wardrobe units with construction adhesive, and added nails where the baseboards sat flush with the vertical sides of each individual wardrobe unit. If your floors are not level (old house problems), always start at the lowest point in the room and simulate where the top edge of the baseboard will fall, so you don’t get into any trouble as you make your way around the room. We set up our laser level (we’ve named it our tool of the year since it has made our lives SO much easier) to keep our baseboards level. It’s critical that your baseboards are level across all the units, because you need to create square openings for your drawer fronts later on.

5. Build up bottom of unit to be flush with baseboards

Using some spare Pax/Komplement shelves, we installed them on top of the interior base of the units to bring it up to flush with the baseboards, since we had to apply them to the front of the Pax units themselves. For this, we used some scrap strips of 1/8th inch tempered hardboard to bring the shelf up to level and secured it with screws. This step was only relevant for the wardrobe units without drawers at the bottom.

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6. Installed the wood trim

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This is where things start to really begin to look custom. We used 1/2 inch thick Poplar boards that we cut down on the table saw to create strips to cover where the wardrobe units met and the filler boards on the sides, where the wardrobe units didn’t quite reach the wall. The poplar had to be ordered for delivery to our house, since it wasn’t available in stores. We used a nail gun and finish nails to attach the vertical wood strips to the Pax units.

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We then added horizontal poplar strips that aligned with the bottom of the crown moulding, so the bottom edge of the crown would look properly built onto the units and not recessed into it (in the above photo you can see that there’s some wood behind the crown moulding). We found it was easiest to sand the edges of the poplar strip that would be exposed before installing. We also used an orbital sander to sand down any visible faces as well, since this makes a huge difference in the finished look.

On the exterior sides of the Pax units, we added some additional strips of poplar to give the sides a more finished look once painted.  These we attached with construction adhesive and used clamps to hold them in place. We couldn’t use nails here, because there was no solid surface for them to grip into or they might have become visible on the inside of the units.

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Finally, we added the smaller horizontal strips. This was something I was very concerned about because the shelves in the Pax units don’t sit flush with the sides of the Pax units, so the depth of wood needed here was thicker than the 1/2 inch Poplar we used everywhere else. Turns out they don’t sell 5/8 inch Poplar, so Cory ended up finding stain grade flat pine board at Lowes that worked like a charm. You can see that the color looks different, but once it was all painted, you’re none the wiser.

Once all the wood was installed, we used Bondo to fill all the holes and seams where the wood strips met. We also used glue to add shoe moulding to cap off the space between the baseboard and the floors.

7. Hung the crown moulding

We again used the same Fashion Forward crown moulding from Metrie and installed it along the top edge of all the wardrobe units. This really capped off the built-in look and totally hid the gap from the top of the wardrobes to the ceiling. We then caulked all the seams.

8. Created drawer fronts

Using the vanity in our adjacent bathroom as the guide for how we wanted the drawer fronts to look, we opted for a flat front, which is a nice streamlined look and also lower effort than a shaker style. The drawer fronts were actually simpler than expected, where we used the same 1/2 inch Poplar board and just cut it down to size. We left an 1/8 inch gap around the drawers. We sanded the drawer fronts down and then brought them into the room.

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We then test fit all the drawer fronts on to the drawers themselves using two screws per drawer, drilled from the inside of the drawer into the new front (make sure your screws aren’t too long that they come through the front of the drawer face). Here, we used a laser level to ensure the drawers lined up throughout the room horizontally in each unit. Don’t worry that the drawer fronts may not sit flush with the trim on the front of the units, we address that later. Once we had test fit all the drawer fronts, we used tape to label the drawer and the drawer front, so we could match them up later once they were painted, and then separated the drawer fronts from the drawers.

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8. Wallpapered the backs of the wardrobe units

One of the tell-tale signs of an IKEA Pax is the seam that runs down the back wall of the wardrobe unis. Because the MDF comes folded 1-2 times, there’s an unightly seam that definitely screams low quality. I didn’t want to put all this work into making the Pax look custom only to have a seam give it away that these are indeed IKEA!

So, I tracked down paintable faux grasscloth wallpaper and installed it on the back wall of the wardrobe units. I wanted a paintable wallpaper so it looked seamless with the units and I also love the hint of added texture. Since the paper is pretty thick, it completely hides the seam when painted out (it was still visible through the paper before it was painted as it was somewhat transparent). It’s a small detail that you may not notice, but is one of those things that you certainly would have noticed had it not been installed.

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9. Plugged holes

A little known secret is that IKEA sells packs of plugs designed to hide the many, many holes in the Pax system that are used for shelving, etc. They sell packs of 100 plugs for $1, and while they are more difficult to install than expected they are totally worth the effort. I think we went through at least 12 packs of these plugs. You can see in the above shot that we had installed the plugs.

As a note, we didn’t add in the plugs on the side where we have only shelves, since we wanted them to be adjustable long-term.

10. Primed Everything

A lot of you expressed concern over how we would paint the shiny IKEA laminate finish, and I can assure you it’s totally doable. The key is to prime with a shellac based primer (specifically this one) and you will have no trouble at all painting over the IKEA finish. I will warn you, this primer, Zinnser BIN Shellac Primer, is awful to use – it’s runny and high-fume, so I would recommend wearing a respirator and having some patience. I also read that leaving the paint can open for a little while can help thicken it up, but we didn’t notice that.

We applied the primer with a high-density foam roller and a paint brush in the spots that were most difficult to reach. Most tutorials I read online indicated that they primed once, we actually did two coats because the primer dries really fast and we’re a little bit neurotic. We also primed all the wood trimwork twice, to ensure we were creating the best possible base for the paint. We primed the drawer fronts separately outside of the room using standard high-coverage primer.

11. Painted all the cabinetry

We painted the room using a spray gun, which allowed for a super professional look. Our biggest learnings from using a spray gun on a few projects now are: 1) preparation is everything, make sure to mask effectively and to totally cordon off the doorways, 2) make sure to spend the extra time cleaning your sprayer between uses, it will absolutely make or break your finish, 3) make sure you test spray a low visible area (or the masked off area) to ensure proper paint flow and that your coat is not too thick, 4) make sure to have a lot of light sources when you’re spraying so you can catch any drips early, and 5) use a low grit (extra fine) sandpaper to smooth out any missed drips or errant spray between coats. When spraying, it’s better to do multiple thin coats of paint than heavier ones to allow for greater durability.

We painted the removable shelves and drawer fronts separately in our garage (we created a spray booth to keep the paint contained).

For the paint, we used Farrow and Ball Inchyra Blue in the Modern Eggshell finish, and it’s one of my most favourite moody colours of all time. Depending on the time of day it can change from a peacock blue to a dark sage green. When it comes to paint, make sure to go with a paint that is rated for cabinetry, since the closet gets a lot of hands on use. Another go-to paint for cabinetry is Benjamin Moore Advance, which has held up really well on our downstairs bathroom vanity and is more widely available and more budget-friendly.

12. Installed the drawer fronts

Allow the paint to cure for a day or two before installing the drawer fronts. Once the drawer fronts were ready to go, we installed each drawer front one at a time, with screws in each of the four corners and a fifth screw along the top edge in the middle to prevent the wood from flexing. Since the drawer fronts weren’t quite flush with the added frame, we used washers between the IKEA Pax drawers and the wood fronts at each screw location to bump the drawer front out slightly to be flush.

To install the drawer fronts, we taped the washers to hold them in place, as it is next to impossible to slip them in between the drawers and the wood front. Then we screwed the drawer fronts on from the back, going right through the tape.

13. Installed the drawer hardware

We worked with Emtek on this project and opted for gorgeous, super heavy unlacquered brass cup pulls and attached them through the drawer front and the drawer itself. We used our favourite laser level to ensure all the drawer pulls were aligned horizontally on both sides of the closet.

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14. Added wood hanging rods

We painted the original IKEA hanging rod hardware to match the closet paint and then cut down basic wood hanging rods to fit each wardrobe. We gave them a light sand and stained the wood rods using leftover Rubio Monocoat Oil from when we refinished the floors.

And that’s it! Now the closet looks super custom and you can see how all components came together in a space that feels much more high-end than a basic IKEA hack!

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Edited to include quick interior iPhone photos of the interior of the drawers:

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179 thoughts on “Hacking the IKEA Pax into a Fully Custom Closet

  1. Thanks for this post, Erin! SUPER helpful as I am in the process of planning my own Ikea hack wardrobe. Just so I fully understand, for the drawer fronts you just added them on top of the existing Komplement drawer fronts, or did you remove the fronts and add your own? Thank you!

    1. We just added the drawer fronts right on top of the existing drawer, so they’re super sturdy and stable, making the drawer fronts purely cosmetic 😊

      1. This is stunning and truly inspiring. My fiancé and I are using this as a guide on ours. Can you tell me why you replaced the hanging rods?

      2. Amazing! Sure – the rods are white, which was looking really stark against the dark paint colour, so swapping them for wood rods felt more elevated in our space. Hope that helps!

      3. Looks fabulous. How exactly did you attach the poplar drawer fronts to the PAX drawers?

      4. Hi Lisa! We attached the drawer fronts using screws into each corner through the back – there’s more detail in step #12

  2. Thank you😍
    Firstly well done your room and the cabinets look incredible!
    And secondly thank you for posting such a comprehensive blog, we’ve just moved into our dream home but it is a MASSIVE DO-ER UP-ER, think 1840’s house with everything ripped and and replaced in the 70’s and then not touched since🙈😂. We plan on doing something very similar to this in our room so I have saved your fab post! Best of luck with the rest of your housey endeavours!
    Em xxx

    1. Thank you! And good luck, sounds like an incredible project (restoring a mid-1800’s house is my dream!)

  3. Thank you for taking he time to write or such a detailed and user friendly post—so helpful!!!
    May in inquire as to what brand/finish/paint you used to spray the color in both your closet and master bedroom? I must say again, the results are stunning and I hope you’re fully enjoying your suite!!!

    1. You’re so welcome! The closet paint is Farrow and Ball Inchyra Blue in Modern Eggshell and the bedroom is Benjamin Moore Smoke in the Regal Pearl finish. We’ve been thrilled with both paints, so far!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing all this info, this is absolutely STUNNING and I cannot wait to see if my husband and I can figure out how to do this in our much smaller space. I did want to ask, historically I’ve found that the cabinet backs and drawer bottoms from Ikea break out over time & with use; did you replace any of those with sturdier materials, or just use what comes in the kit?

    1. Thank you so much!! We didn’t replace the inside of the drawers with sturdier inserts and haven’t noticed any issues so far. I had that issue with an old IKEA dresser years ago that drove me bonkers, but, I think because we have so much more space than we need right now, we aren’t stuffing the drawers (unlike 22 year old me living into a tiny NYC apartment, ha!), and the drawer bottoms seem more substantial than on most of their other products? The back we also left as is, but wallpapered it to disguise the sad MDF, and hasn’t shown any wear at all.

    1. Sure! So, this is a bit back of the envelope math and excludes any of the drawer hardware because that was gifted and is a big variable cost…. the 6 IKEA units + drawers + shelves were $1,300, and we spent about another $1,200 on the wood, trimwork (sponsored, but included at retail cost), primer, lights, paintable wallpaper, caulk, wood rods, and paint. So that comes to about $2,500, but, we used pretty high-end Farrow and Ball paint, so I think the cost could have been closer to $2,100 total with more budget-friendly paint 🙂 Hope that helps – the cost will vary a lot with differing layouts and wardrobe unit counts.

    2. Hey Erin! This looks stunning!! You shared that you wallpapered after the drawers and shelves (on the hanging side) were in place and then primed. Can you clarify the steps: Did you actually remove them and wallpaper the entire MDF, or did you take the time to wallpaper each section to shape/size? And did you prime the wallpaper with the rest of the system prior to painting, or did you cover and tape it off?

  5. You are my hero, this is the most beautiful ikea hack that I’ve ever seen, and your house is just beautiful. I love your attention to detail and vision. Keep up the amazing work, and please continue sharing your new projects!! Thanks for the detailed blog post about this 🙂

  6. Lovely, lovely closet! Incredible vision and attention to detail for which we all benefit! Thank you! I am interested in the source of the ceiling light fixture and the ceiling wall paper. Also, did ikea already have the half-width drawer system shown at the bottom of the right most closet unit? I haven’t seen this option at ikea and am curious how you fastened the drawer hardware and right side drawer support “wall”? Did you apply a bullnose to the front of the bottom of the closet units (above the base), or is the base profile include what I’m calling a bullnose at the top portion of the baseboard? Expertly done and it shows! Was this your first time doing a carpentry project or a spray paint cabinetry project? Would you recommend first timers to spray painting do a different or smaller project before tackling a large closet project such as this? Thank you!!

    1. Thank you so much! The sources are actually all linked in the reveal post of this space here (https://erinkestenbaum.com/2018/11/07/one-room-challenge-fall-2018-the-reveal-week-six-master-bedroom-closet/), where the ceiling light is the Rye Flushmount from Hudson Valley Lighting and the ceiling wallpaper is Farrow and Ball’s Closet Stripe in Downpipe. IKEA does indeed sell the L-shape divider (called the Komplement frame divider) that allows you to install the narrowest drawers in a wider frame. I’m not 100% sure what you mean by the bullnose, but the Metrie baseboards that we installed have a rounded profile on the top that gives it the decorative look. This wasn’t our first carpentry project, but it was definitely our biggest one to date. We had previously done a good deal of trimwork and moulding installation, as well as constructed window benches and the like, but this was definitely the most involved. For spray painting, I’d start with a smaller project first to get the hang of it – we previously sprayed our bathroom vanity – because there’s definitely a learning curve. But, once you get the hang of it, the closet wasn’t too different from spraying walls or furniture. Hope that helps!

  7. BEAUTIFUL WORK! The light switch on the side of the cabinets–what type of clearance was needed inside of the drawer for an electrical box? Did you alter the depth of the drawer?

    1. Thank you! We actually installed the drawer that’s intended for the shallower 13″ Pax unit into the 29″ unit where the electrical box came in, which allowed us about 15″ of room to play with for the electrical box. The shallower drawer installed perfectly into the deeper unit and looks exactly the same as the other drawers from the front 🙂

      1. This amazingly beautiful! Quick question—if we used your guide to trimming out a Pax, but we kept the drawer fronts the same, how do you think we could we go about making sure the drawers are level with the added trim, since there wouldn’t be an extra drawer front and washer? Trying to wrap my ahead around this!

      2. Hi Hope, I don’t think it would look quite right if the drawers weren’t bumped out to be flush with the trim. It looks great with the shelves (we did that on the other side, where the shoes, etc. are), but I’m not sure about the drawers. You could forego the trim on the front of the units and just add baseboards and crown as Chris Loves Julia did here: https://www.chrislovesjulia.com/master-closet-ikea-pax/ or as Sarah Gunn did here: http://sarahgunn.com/one-room-challenge-the-reveal-2/

  8. Erin, you are my IDOL!!!!! You are simply👏🏼Amazing👏🏼!!!! Thank you for the effort you make to include details in your posts. It’s awesome to have such clear steps to follow. You’re one talented lady!!

  9. Omg you literally took my image from my brain, different color. Thank you so much for the how-to. Question: do you mind sharing a link to your paint sprayer? We have one, but it was pretty inexpensive and goes everywhere, so works fine when you want to paint a whole room, but not so much when you are trying to paint cabinets.

      1. Thank you! We bought a spray gun on a whim and it isn’t really designed for big projects like the walls, but we’ve made it work anyway, so I’m not sure I have the best recommendation :/ (it’s the Wagner Home Decor Sprayer). We’re strongly considering picking up the Wagner Flexio 3000, though, since we’ve ended up using the sprayer SO much more frequently than expected!

  10. This is gorgeous. I am curious why you did not choose to paint all the pieces first before you assembled them in the closet?
    I find when i do an upgrade on big box furniture i add thin plywood to the entire back behind the foldedpanel and nail it to the bookcase , dresser etc. Its made all of my items much more sturdy and durable.

    1. It’s definitely a good idea if you have the space to paint the pieces first! We didn’t have the room to do so (and it being winter ruled out spraying outdoors), as well as knowing that we were going to be adding all the trimwork and wallpaper onto the units itself made painting it all in advance seem like we’d be painting everything twice.

  11. Bravo! This is the most stunning IKEA hack I’ve seen to date. I’m saving this for a future home. Thank you so much for sharing Erin!

  12. Hi – Do you have a source for the baskets at the top. We also have an ikea PAX closet and I’m having trouble finding baskets that fit in that little top shelf. Thanks!

  13. This is so great! I was just wondering… what would you say was the difficulty level/your experience with woodwork? It seems like a lot of work and I was going to ask if you or your husband were experienced cabinet makers, but then I read at the begining that you’d never made cabinetry before. I’m scared a project like this would be too ambitious for me.

    1. Hi Genevieve! We weren’t terribly experienced in cabinetry or woodworking at the time, but we are very handy. I definitely would consider this a pretty advanced project as a whole, however, there are aspects of it that are definitely easier individually and on their own would still make a big impact, like adding baseboards, wallpapering the backs of the units, and painting them. For instance, Sarah Gunn painted her Pax blue and that change alone makes the IKEA closet look so much more elevated (http://sarahgunn.com/one-room-challenge-the-reveal-2/), and Jenny Komenda hacked hers with paint and added doors, which means much less woodworking is required to achieve a really professional look (https://www.domino.com/content/ikea-pax-wardrobe-closet-jenny-komenda-little-green-notebook-hack/). Hope that helps!

  14. Wow, and wow. This is stunning and if someone showed me these pictures I would have said “definitely custom”. Also love, love the paint color you used. We’ve installed Ikea Pax in our master closet but we have 10 foot ceilings. There is about an extra 2 inches on each side, so it doesn’t fit wall to wall on the side. I’d love to do something like this but not sure how to deal with the ceiling height…plus the light switch is 21 inches from the back wall so it is inside the depth of the Pax unit which is 22 7/8 inch deep. It looks like in one of the photos that you moved your light switch. Did you and what did you do?

    1. Thank you!! On the sides, we added flat panels of wood to cover the gaps between the Pax units and the wall. For the extra height, you can either add some extra shelving (I’ve read the Kallax might work, but there are posts on ikea hackers that discuss height extensions for tall ceilings, sadly we didn’t have this challenge ha!), or build a soffit that comes down to the top of the Pax. For the light switch, we did indeed have that same issue and routed the electrical through the back and side of the unit – we built a box to house the electrical and then added a drawer on the front that’s designed for the shallower pax units, which allowed it to be flush on the front with the other drawers but also gave us space behind the shallow drawer for all the electrical. Even better, the rails on the shallower 13” drawers aligned perfectly with the deeper 29” Pax units. Hope that helps!

      1. Thanks Erin. I like your idea of extra shelving, great for storing seasonal items out of the way. I’ll check out the Kallax.

      2. Erin, would you please just clarify one thing for me. I don’t quite follow what you meant by “Finally, we added the smaller horizontal strips”. That paragraph under the picture in #6. Where did you add the strips to? The front of the shelves? How did you attach them, glue? Thanks

      3. Oh yes, we nailed the wood strips on to the front edge of the shelves and then also on the frame surrounding the narrower stack of drawers in the unit on the right. Hope that helps!

  15. Hi! Awesome closet!!! Just wondering what the drawers look like when opened! Can you see the gap between the wood panel and the drawer front?

    1. Hi! I got this question a lot on IG and shared some photos there but I can’t seem to include them in my comment here, so I’ve added them to the bottom of the blog post 🙂 I left the interior drawers white and you can barely see the gap between the drawer front and drawer itself, if we find ourselves with some spare time, we might run a bead of caulk along the top to ensure you can’t see any gaps at all, though.

  16. Well I found out that I can’t really do something like this (crown to ceiling) as our access to our attic is slightly over one of the pax units 🙁 The carpenter didn’t center it in the closet ceiling. Totally bummed now.

  17. How wide was your closet before installing the pax on both sides? It looks like oubhave 2-3 feet in the middle?

  18. Hi Erin!!! Stunning closet!!! Would you be able to give the dimensions of the walkway space between the two units? 36 inches across from unit to unit for example?
    Thank you!!!! Just found your blog and LOVE it!

    1. Thank you! The walkway is 37” across (a little less if you measure from the quarter round and not the face of the units), hope that helps!!

  19. Hi,
    Amazing job. Thank you for sharing.
    Can you please share custom drawers s faces dimensions?

  20. Hi Erin,

    this is absolutely stunning!

    Would it be possible to post a floor plan of the project (how the wardrobe fits inside the room)?

    I am wondering if I could do the same but I have two windows facing the entrance door and I don’t really want to cut one off.

    Thanks!

    Valentina

    1. We had the same situation with a window in the center off the wall of closet. We actually built a custom box under the window where after we tried that along with the pax system, appears to flow fluidly in between the shelvings. We made it into a little bench seat that looked like a custom upgrade.

  21. AH-MAZING!! I am going to try this in a high end flip we are currently working on. Thanks so much for the very detailed post.

  22. Its amaizing! We just going to try do this like u did. I just wondering how u did this fantastic ceiling? Did u paint this or did u use wallpapers?

  23. Ok your ikea hack closet is just stunning! You have fabulous taste and I’m so impressed with all your hard work. Huge props and thank you for sharing. So inspiring and such fun to marvel!

  24. Hi! This looks so amazing, congratulations! But, it does seem like a TON of work for a DIYer, and that you would need a professional carpenter to help with all the details. Was it that much less expensive in the end? I’m curious what the final cost was versus what it would have been to hire a closet solutions company.

    1. Hi Johanna, since we did the work ourselves we didn’t get a quote for a custom closet, and we wanted a very specific built-in look that equated to the highest end at most closet solution companies. This closet came in at under $3K if that’s helpful info, I know that a California closets would have been 3x more at a minimum, so it was an easy choice for us, but we didn’t hire a carpenter, so I don’t know what it would have cost in labor.

  25. I am curious. Did you tape off all the rails etc when you sprayed? It looks like you had the closet complete before that step. I understand you took out the drawers and shelfs but what about all the attachments that keep the shelf’s in place?
    You primed with a roller but sprayed the finish…correct?!
    The closet is a STUNNER! Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Hi! On the right side (with the shoes), we took out all the shelves, including the adjustment pieces and sprayed both the shelves and the plastic things that hold the shelves up separately. On the left side, (where there’s hanging rods), we left the top shelves in place because we had built them into place and sprayed those shelves in place. We masked off the interior area where the drawers all slide in so we wouldn’t waste paint there and left them white on the interior to match the interior of the drawers (you never actually see this space though). Let me know if that wasn’t clear – I can try to explain it more thoroughly 🙂

  26. beautiful closet! Quick question, the link for the poplar board takes reader to Home Depot with purebond. Is this what you used for your project? If so how did you get the drawer front edging smooth, did you put a wood veneer tape on them edges:? Just curious they look very smooth from the drawer open pic.

    Thank you for the inspiration.
    Amanda

    1. Hey Erin! This looks stunning!! You shared that you wallpapered after the drawers and shelves (on the hanging side) were in place and then primed. Can you clarify the steps: Did you actually remove them and wallpaper the entire MDF, or did you take the time to wallpaper each section to shape/size? And did you prime the wallpaper with the rest of the system prior to painting, or did you cover and tape it off?

      1. Hi Ashley! We left the drawers in place but removed any shelves (except the top ones since we fixed those in place) to wallpaper, then we primed everything (including the wallpaper) and then painted everything. In retrospect, we could have wallpapered the entire MDF back panel before we added any trim at all and it would have been easier than cutting to size (but we might have used more wallpaper that way). Hope that helps!

  27. Hi Erin! Beautiful closet. We are just wrapping up a similar project and used your site heavily for inspiration and instruction.

    Kind of a silly question—how did you go about exchanging the clothing rods (wood dowels)? Did you insert 1” rods into the IKEA holders or did you add your own? The IKEA holders have a small hole that allows one to “snap” the ikea rod into place, so I was just wondering if that was a hinderance.

  28. Looks great! Love the color and what you did! I’m a total beginner when it comes to DIY and may be an off-topic question, but would like to add a pegboard to the side of my PAX sliding door closet. Do you think it is possible to add an IKEA pegboard to it?

  29. I am so impressed by this! I was thinking about installing the wardrobe frames without the cardboard back and just letting my shiplap walls show through the back. Is there any reason why you must install the back panel? I am assuming it’s not structural…

    1. Thank you! It’s counterintuitive, but the MDF back actually does provide quite a bit of structure. We assumed the same thing until we went deep into the ikea hackers forums and discovered how important the back panel is, and thus settled on how to mask the backs rather than do away with them.

      1. Hi Erin,
        Just wanted to let you know how popular your blogs are. I was actually online today with an IKEA PAX design planner and she mentioned that I look you up—isn’t that something? I told her I already had!. You’ve done such an amazing job with your PAX install—love it.

        I did have a question re: item no. 5: Build up bottom of unit to be flush with baseboards… I did not understand how or why you did this? Can you please explain and if possible share some pictures of the build up in process—like an area of the base that was built up next to an area that was not?
        Was the baseboard you used more in height than the actual base of the wardrobe frame?

        Also, re: building up the drawer fronts: Do the IKEA PAX drawers not come with front frames? Why did you you have to build new ones? Did you just add the fronts to increase the depth of the drawers, or did you remove the original PAX drawer fronts and install your own? I was really flummoxed about this step. Please clarify in as layman terms as you can.

        Thanks a lot.
        Rita.

      2. Ha! Thank you for sharing! For the baseboards, we wanted the units to look built in and didn’t have the ceiling height to add a platform for the PAX units to sit on for the baseboards to run in front of, so we had to steal some space from the bottom of the Pax for the baseboards to affix to. Does that answer your question?

        For the drawer fronts, they do come with drawer fronts but they are modern in appearance and don’t look very ‘done’ to me. We added the drawer fronts purely for aesthetics and to make the cabinetry look built in and custom. I do know of some people who have left the drawer fronts as is and just painted everything, also for a nice effect. I want to note that all the upgrades we made were purely for aesthetics.

      3. Hi Erin,

        Thank you so much for answering my question so promptly. Very impressed with your humility.

        I understand now, about why you had to build up the base using the shelves. We have high ceilings (108″) so we probably have the height to build a platform on which these PAX units can sit, and then cover the edges of the platform all around with base board molding to give it a seamless, built in look.

        We have a new home, with one walk-in closet assigned to each of us, husband and wife, and 1 each to the 3 kids, that I’m trying to design economically, yet as tastefully as you’ve shown can be done.
        Trying to find a light metallic champagne gold color for the master closet and a metallic champagne silver finish for my daughter’s closet wardrobe. Do give me suggestions if you happen to have any.

        You have mentioned that “…… On the exterior sides of the Pax units, we added some additional strips of poplar to give the sides a more finished look once painted…..” My question is, could we add a mirror the same height as the PAX frame, to fit in between these strips? If yes, how do we do it?

        I also understand why you chose to install the drawer fronts and how much of a difference it makes in seamlessly tying into the custom closet look after looking at some PAX installations without the drawer fronts.

        However, I am not quite understanding the whole mechanism of attaching the drawer fronts to existing drawers (even though it seems from all the comments, that you have really explained it as simplistically as possible). Carpentry always confused me. It is complex for me to understand, simply because I cannot visualize it. Do you, by any chance, have a video tutorial with a step by step explanation, that I could watch, so that I can understand visually, exactly what each and every step in this process is?

        Last but not the least, maybe I’m the only one, but I just wish they offered similar gleaming metallic surface finishes in the closet frames and doors, as in their Besta units/Kitchen cabinets.
        I also wish that they offered smaller height and width, paneled, hinged doors, so if one wanted to cover just the top or bottom part of the wardrobe frame with the doors, it could be done.

        Btw, is there any way that a pair of Besta unit doors can be used to cover the top part of the frame of a single PAX wardrobe frame, but the bottom part housing the drawers could be left as is, or covered with a separate set of hinged doors from the Besta series??

        Thanks once again,
        Rita.

  30. Hi Erin, just coming across this post and it’s great! Your closet turned out beautiful. I’m in the process of designing our IKEA pax closet and had a question – i noticed you did regular shelves instead of the slanted shoe shelves. I’m more inclined to do the regular shelves like you did because then if I wanted to rearrange my bags/accessories/shoe placement, it’s easier. Whereas with the shoe shelves I’m stuck to always putting my shoes there. Did you think about that when you were designing the closet?

  31. Hi! I’m wondering what you used to get the wall paper to stick to the back board? I’ve been finding all my attempts result in the paper rolling away (prepasted paintable wall paper). Did you use something different like a spray adhesive?

    1. Hi! We used the Zinniser primer first on the surface to make it matte and then used Roman wallpaper glue to install the wallpaper. Did you prime first?

      1. Unfortunately no… the primer step is listed after the wallpaper. So that explains why nothing is sticking. So much paper wasted!

      2. Oh no! I just looked back again on the photos and I actually didn’t prime the boards first before wallpapering :/ We didn’t have any issues with peeling though on application. Have you tried using a heavier coat of wallpaper glue?

  32. STUNNING SHOW STOPPER! Your project inspired me to believe a plain ole boring closet is an extension of the adjoining space and not just utilitarian.

    You inspired me so much so that I have now assembled 8 PAX units in my walk in. The project seems to be getting bigger as the ideas and inspiration from your posts flood in.

    I’m at the trim stage now. I am having the same troubles you had sourcing the poplar boards from my local HD or Lowes. I am using your very well documented and detailed project diary as my “project bible” if you will. I am considering using the 3/4 inch think boards on all the cabinet drawer fronts. I do have a concern this thickness may be too heavy as a drawer front.

    Is there a specific reason why you went with 1/2 inch thick vs 3/4 inch thick?
    How did you handle the transition between vertical trim and baseboards?

    Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

  33. Your closet turned out really beautifully, and I wanted to do something similar. I did have a bad experience with Zinsser BIN paint, though. I, too, did two coats, allowing a few days for offgassing and curing before the second coat, and keeping windows open and fans running during painting and afterwards. A month later, I have yet to move into my closet, and can’t sleep in my own bedroom, because the smell is still unbearably strong. In doing a little more research online, I discovered that many people have had the same problem with the intense and long-lasting chemical smell of this paint, *especially when they do two coats instead of one,* and there’s essentially nothing to be done about it except to wait several months until offgassing is complete. I had much better luck painting my closet shelves with BIN, which I did outside in the hot sun. I did only one coat this time, leaving it outside for 4-6 hours afterwards, and the smell was barely noticeable when I brought the shelves inside at the end of the day. If readers are thinking about using this paint and are at all sensitive to chemicals, I’d recommend painting closet components outside prior to assembly, just to be on the safe side.

  34. Hey! I’m curious, I noticed that in one of the unfinished pictures I can see the puck light wiring on the outside of the pax unit. How did you hide/cover this in the end? I’m also wondering how you continued the wire between units that weren’t connected, such as unit on opposite sides of the closet. Thank you!

    1. Hi! The way we did it, we ended up gluing the wire down to the top of the highest shelf and then ran it up the corner vertically in the very back to exit the unit. Since it’s on the very top and so far above our line of sight we literally never see the cord, but would be interested to hear if you could figure out a way to totally hide it! We continued the wire through the ceiling (we have attic access and just drilled a hole on each side of the closet and fed it through 🙂 )

  35. What is the width of the walkable area between the two cabinets (first photo in section 14)? Do you find it is tight? Working on an addition with closet and want to ensure I leave enough space between wall and cabinetry.

  36. Your closet is awesome, Erin! We are in the midst of doing ours much like you have and I have a question. Have you had any problems with the wallpaper you used to cover the back wall seams? I have read comments on bubbling, lifting, being difficult to cover with paint, etc. Would greatly appreciate any input!

    1. We covered the interior of the drawers sections (including the rails) with paper and taped off the area (we didn’t want to waste paint on the interior that nobody would ever see).

  37. I’ve shown this project to so many people, it really blows me away. I’m also dying to know what you’re storing in all those little baskets.

  38. This is just amazing! I’m so inspired by this. I’m curious how you’re liking the shallower 13” side with hanging clothes. We’re looking at the deeper frames on one side and shallow on the other as well for the same reason as you to have a wider walkway but curious if that’s enough with hangers.

    1. Thank you! We were a bit bummed at first about having the shallow frames on the one side but it’s actually been AMAZING!! It’s the perfect spot for folded items (sweaters, jeans, shorts, etc) and shoes. We far prefer having a more expansive walkway/ space to change over the extra storage we could have eked out of the bigger units but a much more cramped closet. Hope that helps, and good luck with your closet!

  39. We are in the midst of doin our closet now and just like yours we have a few units on two sides of a walkin closet. My question is concerning the lights when you purchased the puck lights from amazon how were you able to connect the lights from each side of the room without the wire being exposed. did you bring wire. The pack i purchsased allows for you to connect 6 lights but how is that possible for the lights on the opposite side. I hope im making sense!

    1. We ended up ordering an extra long cord to connect the two sides through the ceiling (we have attic access)

  40. Looks great! How did you move the electrical outlet? I looks like it is in line with the top drawer.

    1. We moved it inside the pax unit and that top drawer is actually a drawer designed for the shallower frame, so it’s half the size of the standard drawers, allowing space for an enclosed electrical box behind it

  41. Hello Erin! your closet is absolutely exquisite! I am just getting started on my install. My question is regarding the wallpaper. (Thank you for making the correction on priming) how were you able to get the wallpaper to fit so perfectly after you assembled the wardrobe being that it’s hard to reach the back w/o stepping on the bottom of the unit to reach the back?

    Also..I have one more unit to put together, I am thinking about trying to get very thin plywood instead of using the back with the PAX system, (cut to size of course). I will definitely prime it 1st, then paint it! Your thoughts?

    1. A plywood back might be a good idea, I hadn’t considered that, but we’ve used a thin ply as the back of other units we’ve built from scratch and it’s been great! I didn’t find reaching the back of the unit too hard (I may have stepped on the interior, but we hadn’t painted yet, so I wasn’t too concerned).

  42. Could you please tell me how you were able to recreate the fronts on the drawers? Did you just cover the existing wood fronts, or remove them and remake them?

    1. Hi, I believe this is covered in step 8 above, but we cut the wood drawer fronts to size and then attached them to the existing Ikea laminate drawer fronts using screws, screwed from the inside of the drawer. Let me know if you need further clarification.

  43. This is absolutely beautiful! Hoping to create something similar in our master closet. When you painted, how did you keep the paint from filling the holes that you wanted to leave open on the adjustable shelves?

    1. Hi! Because we used a spray gun, we got a super light cover of paint in the holes but it didn’t impact our ability to use the holes for adjustable shelves.

  44. Hi. I have PAX lighting that I’m using in another part of my house. I need an extension to one of my cords to reach the bridge connector. Did you have to find extensions for your lights? If so where?

  45. As you added spare shelves to match the height of the baseboard for the bottom of the wardrobes, I noticed you added a shelf divider (shown in your point 5).

    Was putting a shelf divider on top of a shelf an issue? I am considering stacking two shelf dividers one over the other for my project and I would love to know if you had a problem/how your divider was attached to your shelf?

    thank you!

  46. This looks incredible!! I would love to do this as looking into Pax wardrobes but want a more expensive custom look but have a question, obviously the baseboards and crown moulding are glued/fitted to the floor and ceiling, but I would still love to add the wood trim and drawer fronts. Do you think this would be possible to do with the thought of moving and taking the wardrobes down in the next couple of years? Im trying to work it out but as I’ve never assembled Ikea furniture I’m not sure with these added extras if this would be possible?

    Thanks very much!

  47. Hi Erin, your post has inspired me to attempt redoing our walk in closet with the pax system, with customization as well. I was wondering how well the paint is holding up after all this time with use? Any chipping or lifting of the paint form the laminate? Thanks so much!

  48. Hi Erin,

    This closet is beautiful! We’re trying to decide if we should also Pax and then add customization like this as well. Question: If you have (and we MAY also have) all these carpentry skills, why didn’t you just build the cabinets from scratch? What advantage did buy the Pax units give you?

    Thanks!

    1. It’s a good question! At that point in time, we had never built cabinetry before, so it was pretty intimidating to do so and would have taken us A LOT more time to build out. One of the advantages to the IKEA system is that we could use existing drawer bases, internal organizers, and other organization pieces to max out the organization of the closet. Cost-wise, I don’t think we would have saved much by building out the entire closet from scratch in wood. That being said, having grown our skills today, we would potentially tackle the full build-out from scratch today (if we had the dedicated time), just because we love a new challenge ha!

  49. Erin, this is truly outstanding work. really thinking outside the box. The PAX system is great but it absolutely leaves little to be desired on the esthetic side. What you have done is quite perfect. As a designer, I am quite critical so grand complements to you. What was the total cost on this project?

    1. Thank you! I can’t *exactly* recall the cost of the project, but I do know that the Pax came in at around $1,500 before modifications and my best guess with the wood, trimwork, paint, puck lights, and hardware, that it was in the range of $2,500 – $3,000.

      1. This is like the best hack ever!! I do have a question though, how do you catch drips when painting with a gun before it dries? Do you use a brush??

      2. We keep a painters towel to pick up any small drips (but since we’ve upgraded our spray gun, we’ve experienced almost no drips)

  50. Hi!! What an amazing job! Can I hire you to come do this at my house!?!!?! Please! We’re trying to build built-in closets in our closet-free brownstone and we’re not sure where to begin since our ceilings are 11 ft. Woof!

  51. Hi Erin,
    Your closet is beautiful and been such a help because our soon to be closet is also 6 and a half feet wide by 10. I love everything about it. Not putting anything on back wall makes sense to create a nice walkway. I almost had something there but your layout really looks good and we eliminated it based on your photo. Here is my question. I scanned all info and questions but didn’t find. You say your Pax units are 29″ deep and 13″ but I can’t find any pat units that are 29″ deep? Could they be 22″ deep? It would be very helpful to me if you could confirm width of pax wardrobe and depth? Thanks!

  52. Hi, I love what you’ve done! Are you sure the one side is 29″ deep? I can’t find any on Ikea’s site. My width is the same as yours so I am using yours as a guide.

      1. Hi Cathy – My apologies, I get a lot of comments and if I don’t have an immediate answer to the question and need to do some research, they can sometimes fall through the cracks. You’re right, they are 24″ not 29″ units. Correcting now!

      2. Erin, I am sure you are flooded with messages! Thank you so much for your response. I will move forward with mine since yours is so beautiful! The depth offered at Ikea is actually 22.8″. 😀

  53. Hello! Could you please tell me where the beautiful artwork is from and who the artist is?
    Thank you
    Charmaine

  54. This looks great.. I am going to attempt doing this in my closet.. few quick questions
    1. When you attached the front trim using a finish nailer, did it not split the idea frame wood (since its not real hard wood and not that thick)
    2. Why would your custom drawer fronts not sit flush with your trim if you used the same thickness wood everywhere.. is that ikea drawer itself not flush with the frame. I need to check this by installing one but I was curious to ask you

    Thanks
    Sam

    1. Hi,
      1 – we didn’t have any issues with the wood splitting
      2 – correct, the drawers don’t sit flush to the pax frame

      1. Interesting.. so I just installed 1 drawer and they are flush.. maybe the new ones do and the old ones didn’t. hopefully I dont have that issue. Thanks for the info.

      2. Hi, You also mentioned that once you had test fit all the drawer fronts, you used tape to label the drawer and the drawer front, so you could match them up later once they were painted, and then separated the drawer fronts from the drawers. Why did you have to do this? Aren’t all drawers the same size?

      3. And you were right about the drawers not sitting flush with the frame. I will use the method you described of using washers. Thank you!!

  55. They look fab. 1 tip, if you don’t want to use Zinsser, is to use Fusion Mineral Paint Ultragrip, that will make the paint stick to anything and it’s water soluable so low fume

  56. Your hack is so amazing! It really inspired me to have a built in closet in my small condo! I absolutely love the color choice! I initially thought it looked green until you mentioned the shade name, wow! Consider this page permanently bookmarked in my DIY list!

    I hope you don’t mind answering a few questions of mine considering its been almost 3 years since this was posted. I’m very curious how the closet have held up and if there’s anything you would have changed since then?
    Do you have any idea what the cost would be like if you did it from scratch instead of from Ikea? I’m on the fence in buying IKEA’s already made PAX closets then hacking it or buying the plywood from Home Depot and cutting/building it myself while also using the PAX’s Komplement as add ins. Obviously the other would be labor intensive but wouldn’t it at least be cheaper and longer lasting?
    I’m debating it because I doubt that the IKEA closet would last 10 years with it being constructed out of particle board. Do you feel yours is still sturdy after 3 years?
    Do you still like how the shelves’ holes have been plugged or maybe plugging it with wood filler would have been better in hindsight?
    Thank you!
    Rose

  57. Rose – just wanted to address your comment on the Ikea particle board – in 2003 my wife and I needed a new kitchen in a hurry, thanks to a burst pipe. We’d just bought our house and had very little money, so we bought the lowest run of the ladder ikea kitchen. It went in well, and surprised us, but I figured, esp. with water/heat/steam produced in a kitchen, esp. around the sink, stove and dishwasher, that the kitchen would not last long. It was a bandaid, but would get us 4-6yrs down the road, when we’d have some money to do it properly. In 2013 we bought another house and rented out that house, and fully assessed the kitchen. There was literally no wear to it in 10 yrs. I needed a solid clean, but cleaned up very well. 3 years later, we decided to sell that house. The kitchen is often a big selling point, and we knew our now 13yr old lowest tier ikea kitchen would hurt the value. So we replaced it with one of the higher end Ikea kitchens with the lighting system. I thought as soon as we started taking out the old kitchen, it’d probably show its age and just start falling apart. Not only did it not fall apart, it was actually in really good shape – such good shape I felt I couldn’t just ditch it. We gave about a quarter of it to my mother in law for her garage, and took half to our garage and installed it there. It now holds all my tools and the old kitchen countertop is a great work surface – almost at the 18yr mark now. I had zero hesitation buying the Pax, esp. given the more favorable conditions typically in a closet vs a kitchen.

  58. A great work you have done, and I’m planning to do something similar.. but why such a bad color? Dark green, really? White was much better.

  59. Beautiful closet. Maybe I missed it in the article, but how did you hide the silver cam locks at the top and bottom of each unit?

  60. This is so dreamy and I would love to see a follow-up now that it’s been a few years! You know – how the paint finish has held up(???), if there’s anything you’re particularly glad you did, or anything you’d do differently now, etc. You two really did such a brilliant job with it; I cannot get enough!

  61. AMAZING!! I read your article and shared it with literally everyone I know, I am in the process of finally updating my closet and I will be using the same paint and details. My closet size is similar in size as yours. Do you have any advice on when to paint the cabinets? before or after I install , also is there anything you would have done differently or knew before you started the project?

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