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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How to refinish your hardwood floors with natural hardwax oil

After years of dreaming about having beautiful hardwood floors, we’ve finally made it happen and I’m so thrilled with how they turned out. But seriously, ever since the floors have been refinished in our Master Bedroom, I’ve made a habit of walking past the room just to ogle them every morning (and evening, if I’m being honest). Let’s dive into the details.

We opted to use Rubio Monocoat, a natural penetrating hardwax oil for a lot of reasons, which I laid out in detail here. But in a nutshell: it’s VOC-free, all-natural, and is applied in a single coat. Oh, and the finish is absolutely gorgeous.

Depending on your square footage, this is at least a two day process. I’m going to break what you need by day one (prep and sanding) and day two (stain application), but recognize that you may need more days to complete your own space.

Here’s what you’re going to need:

Day One

Day Two

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How to make a tufted French Mattress

As soon as I realized we’d have the space for a window bench in our sunroom, I immediately envisioned a tufted French mattress as a cushion. But, upon doing some research, I realized that having them made professionally can be very, very expensive (think $1K+ for a long one), since it’s such a labour intensive process. I’m not one to be deterred by a high price tag and realized that while there aren’t too many tutorials out there for how to sew one yourself, it’s actually a fairly manageable project.

It took us around two weeks from start to finish, working a few hours some weeknights and then a solid weekend morning to knock out the tufting.

To get you motivated, let’s share some after photos and then check out the tutorial on Domino here!

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And how this cushion looked pre-tufting

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I think the charm the tufting brings to the space is undeniable. Check it out!

An update on the sunroom

Well, this is turning into a very drawn out makeover, but when the weather turned warm, we shifted our focus to our outdoor spaces. Since I last checked in on this room, we’ve made a lot of progress with building out the window bench, installing electrical and replacing the flushmount lights.

Starting with the bench, Cory built out a base and covered the front with drywall, which we then cut out holes for radiator screens. We painted the radiator screens Decorator’s White to match the rest of the room and used basecap trim to create picture boxes that match our hallways and guest room. Cory brought electrical up from the garage below and installed outlets on top of the window bench to power library sconces. Once we have the cushion in place, you’ll barely know they’re there.

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Inside the bench will be plenty of off-season storage, though since this covers a functioning radiator, it will only be storage space for the spring through fall months. We made the bench nice and deep, so it’s a super cozy place to hang out. Next up is sewing the bench cushion and LOTS of pillows. I ran into a small snag with the fabric, where I wanted a soft grey linen from Loom Decor, but it’s 6 weeks back ordered. So, I’m working to source an alternative. We debated a pattern vs. a solid and at the end of the day, a solid felt nicer in the context of the bold flooring and will be a great base for lots of patterned pillows.

And because there isn’t a whole lot of pretty in this post, I pulled together a little inspiration board for this side of the room. The hanging chair is still a heavily debated topic, please take my side on this one!

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On this board, I worked hard to focus on texture, with a mix of linen, velvet, needlepoint, sheepskin, rattan and brass. Combined with a mix of neutrals, pattern and a bold splash of color, I’m pretty thrilled with the direction this room is headed in.

Building an outdoor dining table

One of the appeals when buying our house was the ample outdoor space. But when it came time to furnishing both spaces, our little folding teak two seater table and chairs that fit great on our small patio weren’t going to cut it.

Given that we have a lot of space on our stone patio, we wanted a big table for entertaining and to visually fill up the space. I did a lot of searching and quickly came to the conclusion that:

  1. Outdoor furniture is very expensive
  2. Most outdoor furniture at the mid- and low-end looks super generic and boring

And since we were furnishing the patio on a ‘new-homeowners-with-a-lot-of-projects-to-tackle’ budget, I didn’t want to pay a lot for something that I wasn’t obsessed with. Our starting point was a set of modern, clean-lined washed wood chairs that we found at Homegoods. They weren’t super cheap once you added up the six, so we quickly narrowed the scope of our budget for the table.

After a lot of searching, I remembered that the ultimate diy-ers Yellow Brick Home had built a beautiful table from scratch last summer. So, I presented the plan to my husband who said it was doable and before I knew it, he had already picked up all the wood from Home Depot and had gotten started on making the cuts. We spent a few weekday evenings assembling the base, an afternoon putting the rest of it together and then knocked out painting the table on a Saturday. And because it surprised us, I will warn you that the lug nuts required a ton of manual effort to get in place (thanks Cory!).

All in all, this 10 foot table cost us about $200, including paint and offers us more than enough space to seat eight and even ten, in a pinch.

We followed this plan from Design Confidential to pretty much a T, with the exception of raising the height of the base by about an inch to ensure enough clearance for the arms of our chairs. The table is a replica of a Restoration Hardware table and is simple enough in design to go with a lot of different vibes.

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(Don’t worry we shimmed up those two middle planks so they were even before painting)

For paint, we debated at length what color to paint the table, knowing that we already had wood chairs that would be very hard to compliment. We also used pressure treated lumber, which isn’t great for staining, so paint was a must. Though, I do think this table would look awesome in a natural wood finish.

White won out for a few reasons: there’s a white sort of wash on the chairs so white seemed the most complimentary and it would stay the coolest in the hot sun. Grey and black were close contenders but they would have become much hotter to the touch. We also know that we’re going to have to repaint the table every few seasons, so we can always mix it up in the future. And let’s be real, while I wanted to do gray, I knew it would take me ages to decide on the right shade and summer is practically already here, so we were in a hurry to enjoy it.

For paint, we used Superpaint (an exterior grade primer + paint) from Sherwin Williams in Extra White. We’ve had a small amount of bleedthrough on the spots we filled in with wood filler, but otherwise it went on great.

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We still have a lot that planned for this space, including adding vines to the fence behind to table to break up the expanse of white, and lots of twinkle lights. Regardless, we’ve been taking advantage of this table for every meal at home, or at least we were until it started raining for a week straight.

We can’t wait for all our summer bbqs and to host friends and family around the biggest piece of furniture we’ve ever built.

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