IKEA PAX Custom Closet

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Hey guys! Recently I finished the master closet makeover over at my mom’s house and I am so happy with how it turned out! 

This is the first time I have done a project this large for someone else and I was definitely a bit nervous about it, but for my mom I was willing to give it a try.

I decided to build the closet using the Ikea Pax System. I have had a lot of questions about why I used Ikea rather than building from scratch since I modified it anyway. The shortest answer is time and money.

A few years ago it would have cost about the same to build the closet from scratch, but because of recent wood prices it was cheaper to go this route. Using the Ikea system was also supposed to be a lot faster because the drawers and pullout shelves are already built for you.

If you followed along on this project on Instagram you’ll know it actually took a bit longer than originally planned because Ikea has been out of most items for quite some time, so it took me awhile to track down all of the pieces I needed… but we did it! – If you weren’t here for the process head over to my Instagram page and checkout the closet highlight!

Now, this project took some time so I am going to try to walk you through the whole process. I am also going to make a separate blog post for the custom pullouts I added to the back of the closet. In this post I will just explain the Ikea build out. 

So let’s get started!

As I mentioned I used the Ikea Pax System and added elements to make it look like a custom built in. If you’re not familiar with the Pax system, Ikea has this line where you are able to customize your own closet using their wardrobe pieces. On their website you can actually virtually plan out your closet and see which pieces will fit your closet and which inserts you would like to use. The inserts that go with the Pax system are called Komplement

They have many different sizes to choose from (height, width, and depth). For this closet I ended up using the shorter units, and I will explain why later on, the deeper units, and 1 Large, 2 Medium and 1 Small (in reference to the width)


Ikea Pax Sizes Available:

Height: 92 ⅞” | 79 ⅛”

Depth: 13 ¾” | 22 ⅞”

Width: 19 ⅝” | 29 ½” | 39 ⅜”

I added 3 Drawers (1 small and 2 medium), 5 hanging bars, 8 Pull out shelves, 4 regular shelves, and 5 Norrfly lights in various sizes.


Ikea Units Cost Break Down:

Frames: Total = $400
Insert Total = $410
Lights Total = $185
Ikea Total = $995

** DISCLAIMER: I actually purchased some of my shelves and a unit used on OfferUp, so my cost was slightly lower, but these are the prices if you purchased everything new in the store **


Other Costs:

Wood = $250
Paint + Primer = $100
Wood Filler + Caulk = $40
Handles = $25

Step 1:

Build a base frame with 2x4s and attach it to the studs in the walls using 3 Inch wood screws.

To assemble the frame I used my Kreg Jig, although you can also attach it using wood screws and a countersink drill bit. 

Step 2: 

Assemble the Ikea Pax Units. 
I did not use the backs that came with the units when assembling mine. Instead I used utility plywood for the backs. This can be found at any store such as Home Depot or Lowes, and can be cut to size using a utility knife. No saw required!

Step 3: 

I filled in all of the holes I wouldn’t be using for my inserts or hanging bars with wood filler. Although this step is very time consuming and not required, it really added to the finished look of the closet making it look custom and not Ikea.

Once the wood filler dries you will want to sand it all down so it’s flush and smooth. While you do this you will want to sand down the entire inside of the units. This will need to be done for the primer and paint to stick.

Step 4:

Prime and paint your units. 

If you didn’t sand in the last step you will need to do that prior to priming and painting. You have two options here, you can either sand them down with sandpaper, or use liquid sandpaper. This is a chemical and you will want to use a mask and gloves to use this, but it is much less messy than traditional sandpaper and works just as well!

Once you have sanded, you will need to prime the units. You will probably want at least 2 coats of primer before painting to make sure you have coverage. I always use this primer on Ikea furniture. It adheres the best to the furniture and allows the paint to stick.

** I also recommend sanding in between coats of paint to get the best finish**


120 Grit – Before primer and in between primer coats

220 Grit – Between painting coats and after last coat of paint

Make sure whatever paint you use is good for furniture. Each brand has their own furniture paint, so depending on what brand you choose they can help you find the best type. 

I chose a Behr color so I used the Behr Ultra Scuff Defense.

Step 5: 
Install your units. Make sure your units are secured. I used L brackets to attach each unit to my base as well as the studs in the wall.

When attaching your units make sure to leave a space between the units if you plan to install lights. This way you can feed the wires through this space. I used a ¾” spacer to attach the units together

Step 6:

Add all of your inserts. Drawers, Shelves, Pullout shelves, ETC.

Step 7:

Add your front frame board and baseboards. 

I used Select Pine boards for my fronts, but I also recommend Poplar Board for this step. Both are finished woods and work great. I chose select pine for this project because they were slightly cheaper and the boards at my hardware store were straighter. 

This step takes a lot of time adjusting to get all of the boards flush with each other, but this is the most important step! It changes the Ikea look into a custom built in!

Step 8: 

Wood fill and caulk all of your fronts

Then prime and paint to match the rest of the units.


Add lighting!

I used the Norrfly lights from Ikea. I attached them underneath each shelf above my 5 clothing rods. 

I then drilled a hole into the side of the units and fed the wires into the space we left between the units so the wires aren’t visible.

I also added a piece of plywood across the entire top because we wanted to be able to add baskets above the units for extra storage. This is why we went with the shorter units.

Do you have any other questions I didn’t cover? If you try it out yourself tag me so I can see!

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