Do you have a small bedroom that you want to add more storage without scarifying style? Using IKEA hacks is an affordable way to do just that, and it saves you time from building cabinets from scratch. In this blog post, I will walk you through the steps to create this beginner friendly built-in wardrobe.
|Skill Level||Project Cost||Time|
(including IKEA cabinets and lumber)
Step One: Planning
The space we were working on has a 9 feet ceiling and a 12 feet wide wall. After playing around with different configurations (see the sketch here), we landed on combining 2 PAX wardrobes with 3 BESTA cabinets to form an alcove around the sleeper sofa. This gave us 3 inches of wiggle room to shift things around.
Tip: Your space may be different. Draw the design to scale to visualize how different combinations look. I like to use pen and paper. Excel and SketchUp Free are good options too.
Step Two: Demo
I was nervous about removing our brand-new baseboards. But since it’s standard to have built-ins to sit flush against the wall, I decided to ask my husband for help and give it a go.
I prefer to use a trim puller to remove baseboards, because drywall repair can be a mess (don’t ask me how I know!). Start by scoring the seam between the wall and the trim. Tap the trim puller with a mallet, and gently wiggle the trim to separate it from the wall. A well-designed trim puller (like this one) makes your job easier.
After the trim is removed, remove the finishing nails. For stubborn nails, we used both the trim puller and a pair of locking pliers to pry them off. It worked like a charm!
Step Three: Building the base (optional)
If your ceiling height is 8 ft, there will only be a 3-inch gap you need to fill. You can skip this step.
Since we have a 9-feet ceiling in this room, we wanted to add a base with 2x6s to minimize the gap on the top. This way we don’t end up with a disproportionally large soffit on the top.
The depth of the base should cover the full depth of the PAX wardrobe (22 7/8″). The width of the base should be the width of the wardrobe (39 1/4 ” or 29 1/2″) plus 2-3 inches (clearance for doors to open freely).
Clamping it down with corner clamps. Countersink the screws so they don’t interfere with the baseboard.
We built two separate bases, one for each PAX wardrobe, secured them to studs with construction screws. Then added plastic shims so that they are level in all directions.
You can see here I messed up with the measurement and had to add blocking to the sides. When designing built-ins, you want to leave 2-3 inches of clearance to allow the doors to open freely, otherwise the metal handle or knobs will hit the wall easily when you open the doors.
Step Four: Installing IKEA
We used our impact driver to assemble the IKEA closets and set the torque at the lowest level to make sure we don’t over-tighten the screws. IKEA don’t recommend using power tools for assembly, but it saves so much time this way.
We also learned after stripping a few screws that IKEA products often come with Pozidriv screws. They look similar to Phillips screws but have additional cross offsets at 45 degree angle. If you assemble IKEA furniture a lot, grab a Pozidriv screwdriver or Pozidriv driver bits. They’re life savers.
OK, a couple other things to consider in this step:
- Is your ceiling less than 8 feet high? If so, you’d want to build the PAX wardrobe standing up. If your ceiling is too low, you may not be able to stand it straight up after assembly and will have to take it apart (like what DIY Playbook ran into here).
- Do you have outlets on the wall that you want to access? Make the cut-out before securing the wardrobe to wall, so that you won’t accidentally block the outlet.
Installing the BESTA wall-mounted cabinets was a bit tricky. Having an extra pair of hands is a huge help. My tip is to triple check that the reference line on the top is level all the way through, then have one person holding a long level to support the suspension rail while making sure the rail is level, and the other person doing the marking and drilling.
Our wall studs are 16″ apart. The holes in the IKEA suspension rail are 12″ apart, so not every screw can be secured to a wall stud. Try to hit as many studs as possible, and use drywall anchors for the rest.
Step Five: Making IKEA look custom
This part of the build was the most challenging. Knowing what I know now I would have done a few things differently from the very beginning. If you want to avoid these mistakes and save time, check out the build plans for this built in wardrobe (coming soon!). They come with detailed measurements and 3D renderings to guide you through the process.
Filling the gaps on the top
For a small gap, crown molding works great. Add blocking on the top of the cabinets and nail crown molding to it. Young House Love has a great blog post here.
In our case, there was roughly a 9-inch opening from the top of the cabinets to the ceiling. A pretty large gap. We needed to build a solid frame for the pine board to attach to.
We first located the ceiling joists with a stud finder. Then measured, cut, and screwed the 2x2s with star drive screws. These GRK ones are our favorite. They’re high quality and easy to drill. After using them for a few projects, it’s hard to go back to the other screws.
The top frame was secured to the ceiling joists. The bottom frame was glued and nailed in from inside the cabinets. After it was all done, we had a framing structure that ran along the perimeter of the cabinets.
Then we ripped down some 1/2″ plywood and cut the ends at 45-degree angle to create miter corners. This way, the rough edges are hidden.
I was so excited to install that last piece of plywood to close the gap. Selfie time.
Wait a minute. Something looks off here.
Our initial plan was to have the soffit flush with the closet box, like most kitchens. After adding the PAX FORSAND doors, we realized we didn’t like the recessed look (insert facepalm).
Time to pivot. we decided to add 1x10s on top of the plywood, then nailed and super glued them with 3x strength construction adhesive. This stuff works on most surfaces without prepping. Since the one by materials are ¾” thick, same as the PAX doors and only 1/8” thicker than BESTA doors, it worked out perfectly.
Filling the gaps on the sides
Something we learned in this project that really surprised us was that houses don’t have perfectly straight or square walls. The inside corners of a room may be slightly larger than 90 degrees. Walls and ceilings are crooked, which make fitting filler pieces around built-ins tricky.
Scribing is a carpentry technique that transfers the shape of the wall onto the workpiece. I learned to scribe using a trick I saw on YouTube. It wasn’t perfect, but after caulking, the seam mostly disappeared.
Then I cut along the pencil line with a jig saw and used my orbital sander to smooth out the edge.
Tip: Tilt the sander slightly to remove more wood from the inside that is not visible. This creates a tighter fit. If you have a table saw, you can also rip along the edge at 45 degrees.
To secure the filler piece, I first nailed a long strip of 1×3 from inside the closets, then nailed the filler piece (also 1×3) on top of it.
If I could go back, I’d cut a few pieces of scrap wood, same width of the gap, and screw them from inside the closets as support blocks (reference Installing pantry and base filler panels | kaboodle kitchen). This is stronger and is easier to do than fitting double layers of wood strips.
Covering the bottom
PAX doors don’t cover the full length of the closet. To make the whole design more seamless, we needed to find a way to cover the exposed legs as well as the 2×6 base.
There was roughly an 8-inch gap at the bottom (2×6 base height at 5-1/2″ plus 2-3/4″). We ripped down a 1×10, then glued and nailed it to the front of the base. It looked pretty sleek with the top and bottom both covered up and flush with the doors, so we didn’t add any baseboards. You can see the before and after in the pictures below. So much better, isn’t it?
If you want the trim piece to tied in with the rest of the room, you can install the same baseboard along the bottom. Watch this video to learn how to cope baseboards. I tried it out with an orbital sander to shave off the underneath MDF, and it made a much more professional and seamless joint.
You may have noticed the trim was off-white and didn’t match the color of the IKEA FORSAND doors. It was a lot more noticeable on the top vs. at the bottom. Proves that white paints can look very different in different lighting conditions. After looking through lots of paint samples, I finally found:
Sherwin William Pure White (7005). This is the closest paint match for IKEA FORSAND and LAPPVIKEN. It’s a cool white without much undertone.
Step Six: Finishing touches
After everything was installed, I spent a couple of days filling nail holes, caulking, and touching up paint. All the tedious but necessary tasks.
To spruce things up a little bit, I also did a few enhancements.
Faux Wood Shiplap
In the center, I installed 2 shiplap panels. They were painted in a faux white oak finish with Retique It furniture paint (Smooth Finish in Barn Wood color). This finish was so perfect that it’s by far my favorite DIY faux wood look.
Tip: Paint and stain the shiplap before installing. The faux wood grain would look more natural this way.
I also recommend taping the spot you will nail in first, before actually nailing the shiplap in place. After patching the nail hole, you can just peel off the tape without worrying about sanding off the wood finish. The patched nail hole will blend right in.
Elevating PAX with trim
Next, we added decorative molding to the PAX doors. This step completely elevated the look of the built-ins. We went with 13/32 wide chair rail moulding from Lowe’s. They had a slim profile and gave a subtle touch of elegance without being too chunky or overpowering.
To finish it off, we added some beautiful brass knobs. These were the most affordable I had seen online and so high-quality. They added warmth and a bit of bling to the space.
6 weeks after I started removing the baseboards, these floor-to-ceiling built-ins are finally DONE! You can complete this project in a couple of weekends yourself, if you have help and can spend big trunks of time on it without going back and forth with miscalculations (that’s why getting detailed build plans is so helpful!)
This room actually feels a lot more spacious now. The built in wardrobe not only added a ton of storage, but also beautiful details that took the aesthetics to the next level. It’s grand, functional, and timeless. We can’t be happier with the result!
Detail Cost Breakdown
Here is the detail cost breakdown to help you decide how much to budget for a project like this.
- Lumber $150
- 2x6x8 pine board $5.35 (Quantity = 4)
- 2x2x8 pine board $2.98 (Quantity = 4)
- 1x2x8 pre-primed pine board $7.72
- 1x3x8 pre-primed pine board $6.92
- 1x10x8 pre-primed pine board $25.62 (Quantity = 4)
- IKEA $1,058
- PAX wardrobes
- BESTA wall-mounted cabinets (LAPPVIKEN doors)
- FORSAND doors
- Materials appx. $200
- 4×8 shiplap panel $36 (Quantity =2)
- 13/32″ decorative molding $5 (Quantity = 5)
- Retique It furniture paint $60
- Sherwin William trim paint $34.17
- Brass cabinet knobs $37.29
- Others (wood filler, caulk, adhesive, tack cloth, etc.)
- Total project cost: $1,500