Wednesday, October 6, 2010

IKEA Love/Hate

The back bedroom, which will become our nursery is rather small and didn’t have a closet. So we thought about how we could incorporate some storage without eating up too much valuable floor space. The easiest thing to do would have been to frame up a small closet with bi-fold doors and install a rod to hang clothes from, but if you’re going through the trouble to build something from scratch, why not try to take it to the next level? While a framed closet with bi-fold doors and a single hanging rod is fine, it could be so much more functional with proper organizers and if it were built-in, it could become part of the architectural detail of the room. So we decided to do a semi-custom built-in (if that makes any sense). As our base we used IKEA’s Pax line of closets. It’s a bit strange (and maybe it’s just me), but anytime I think of IKEA I automatically start experiencing these mixed love/hate feelings. Love the prices, but hate the purchasing and eventual assembling experience, as well as the fact that no matter what you get 2 million other people will also have the exact same item.

As far as closets go, there's definitely more to love about the Pax system than hate. I love the price, the infinite combinations of organizers and the quality of the cabinets, drawers and hardware. What I hate is that no matter how many door styles IKEA comes up with everyone instantly recognizes them as being from IKEA. So we decided to customize ours. Many top designers take IKEA kitchen cabinets and customize them until they look like something that came from a high-end carpentry shop. One of my all-time favourite kitchen blog posts, by one of my all-time favourite design heros, talks about how to do this. So we figured why not apply that same creative thinking to the Pax.

Here’s what we did to disguise the ugly melamine side and make it look more like a custom built-in.

I started by building a solid level platform out of 2x6's and plywood:

Then I lifted the Pax units on to the platform and anchored them solidly to the back wall using toggle bolts. This is pretty key for safety reasons, cause if the units ever tipped forward, their weight could cause serious injury:

I then cut a piece of mdf to cover the melamine sides (these pieces are often referred to as gable walls), the space at the bottom (often referred to as the toe kick) and the space at the top (to extend the unit to the crown moulding, often referred to as a frieze). Mdf paints up really nicely, but the cut edges need to be sealed before painting in order to get a good finish. To seal the edges I just smear drywall compound on the edge and then sand it smooth once it dries:

We painted the IKEA doors that we got. The doors that we chose were actually really low quality basically it's a wood grained sticker over top of pressed mdf. The sticker surface of the doors doesn’t hold paint very well. Eventually we may order new custom doors should the paint start to get beat up. Anyhow to finish it all up, I installed baseboard, quarter round and crown moulding around the room to give the unit a built-in look:


  1. These suckers are heavy so bring some friends to IKEA to help you wrestle them onto your cart and through the checkout. I would recommend the IKEA delivery. Same day delivery is $10 cheaper.

  2. Again these suckers are big, heavy and awkward, so have friends help you when you assemble them or move them.

  3. The units have height adjustable feet at the front. These stupid things either fall out or come loose if you try to move the unit or even if you try to adjust the height. I built a level base so that i could just throw these stupid things away.

  4. I'd recommend cutting, sealing and painting the mdf before attaching it to the Pax units. Less mess and cutting-in with a paint brush.

  5. If one of your Pax units butts up against a wall, be sure to leave a bit of space between the wall and the unit, otherwise the doors won’t open wide enough to allow the KOMPLEMENT drawers to work. This space can be filled with a trim piece (i.e more painted mdf).
UPDATE:  Click here to see another set of built-in PAX go in to my master bedroom


Kathy said...

Holy smoke, that looks awesome ! Out of all the PAX doors, I like those the best.

Roncy Vic said...

Thanks Kathy! The new version of the HEMNES doors are much higher quality now. They're actual solid wood, i wish they had those when we were buying.

threeacres said...

Wow that looks amazing! Great job.

Maggie @ Okay, now what? said...

Amazing again! Are we going to get to see the finished nursery? From experience I totally agree with #3. We ended up breaking off most of ours.

Rambling Renovators said...

PAX units are so great for customizing. We did the same thing in our closet-less nursery. Can't wait to see the rest of the room.

Roncy Vic said...

Who knew? I've seen pics of your nursery and i actually thought yours were custom built-ins. I love your window bench/rad cover!

Shannon said...


This is probably what we should do...but we do not have any skills...i bookmarking this project FO SURE!


Good jobbie!

kathertzler said...

I just sent this link to my hubby--he's been wanting to make a closet for our new bedroom. I love what you did! Great inspiration. Thanks for sharing:)

CREED said...

Hi Kyle,
Wow what can I say,,,I couldn't have designed it better myself. Fantastic job! Its good to know someone has been inspired by my tips and advice (actually I'm thrilled to know someone reads my blog, period! ha ha) - but seriously you are like my 'DIY hero'.

I'm actually working on a large gut reno and redesign of an old bungalow in Etobicoke and planning a wall of Pax in the master suite. But don't be expecting any fancy crown or custom paint job on this one. ; ) We're going simple and modern....


Lizinka said...

This is fantastic - and I can't even count how many houses we looked at in Toronto where one or all of the bedrooms had no closets. This is a beautiful and classy solution!!

Fatcat said...

That looks good.

My daughter and I made the mistake of driving 3 hours to an Ikea and buying a wardrobe. We had to get help to get it on the cart and then ask for help again to get it into the back of our truck.

Next time, we're going to have take some muscle. :-)

Unknown said...

Hi there. I'm just wondering you got your gorgeous chandelier from. I am looking for something similar for my kitchen. Bec

Roncy Vic said...

We got our chandelier from Union Lighting in Toronto, their address is 1491 Castlefield Ave. I can definitely say they have an enormous selection.

Alex said...

Love the look of this and I'm planning to shamelessly copy your design, with some slight modifications. I have one question, the answer to which is not clear to me from your description or photos. How did you deal with the gap between the wardrobe and the wall? I don't see a seam, but in your 2nd photo there is a clear gap. In the 3rd photo the gap seems partially filled in. Is that the mdf? How did you affix it to the wardrobe?

I'm particularly worried about that for our room because I'm sure the walls are going to slope.