Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

The major change (or one of the major changes) in our upstairs renovation was the installation of a new closet in the master bedroom. The reason we started this project is really because the original closets were 80s-looking built-ins with some nasty wire racks in them.

The wire racks reminded me of a suburban house in the 80s:

So, we weren’t loving this look. What we do love is the PAX system from Ikea. There are several configurations, great reviews and it just looks nice.

Doesn’t that just look sooooo much better?

The PAX systems are great but they’re also meant to stand alone and not fit inside an existing closet.

Thanks to the trusty internet, I found this great PAX hack. These brilliant folks built around their PAX system to make it look like a built-in!

Inspiration

I searched high and low for the exact look I wanted for this closet. All of the closets I liked weren’t exactly recreate-able.

The best example I found was this cute closet built into a nook (which we couldn’t do). 

I never found exactly what I was looking for, so I’m taking a leap of faith with my design.

Design

Originally, both the master bedroom and the middle bedroom had built-in closets that created little juts out into the rooms.

We decided that we wanted to steal back a bit of space in the master bedroom and push the closet back so that it was flush with the wall. This also meant losing a built-in closet in the middle bedroom, but we were ok with that.

Then we had to decide what size closet to build.

Closet Size

The PAX system has standard widths (100cm, 150cm, 200cm, etc.). We had a maximum of 230cm to work with, so we chose to purchase 200cm worth of closet space (1x100cm and 2x50cm frames).

Once we determined that we wanted a 200cm-wide closet, we then had to make an opening that would fit exactly around the wardrobe. Our drywaller framed and drywalled the wall exactly to our specifications. The wardrobe unit is 200cm, or 78.75″, so we built the opening to 79″. There’s a bit of dead space inside the wall, but we weren’t about to start moving other walls (that were likely structural).

Once the opening was fully drywalled and sanded, we also painted it so it was completely ready for the PAX.

While we were drywalling, we purchased some temporary stand alone closets from Ikea so we had somewhere to put our things. We chose ones with a canvas cover to help protect against any dust. 

Which we then placed in the closet opening while we were camping out.

Buying PAX

We waited for Ikea’s semi-annual wardrobe sale to purchase our PAX system. We bought 3 white frames: one 100cm frame and two 50cm frames, totaling a 200cm-wide closet.

But when we went to buy the interior fittings a few months later (at their next sale), I wasn’t so sure white was the right choice. The white interior fittings look a lot cheaper than the oak ones. We decided (well, I decided and Alex reluctantly agreed) to exchange the white frames for oak.

The boxes are really heavy. Like, really heavy. So the exchange was painful. Both physically and emotionally. Gus even tried to stop us.

But, when I get something in my head, it’s hard to get it out. So back to Ikea we went and purchased the same thing in oak.

We also chose the FARVIK sliding doors.

Interior Closet Design

To help determine which PAX configuration works best, there is an online tool on Ikea’s website. Personally, I found the buying guide easier to use than the online tool. 

We first had to think about how we would use the space. We decided that the closet would be for our day-to-day clothes, as well as our fancy clothes (like dresses and suits), but would not include coats or linens.

Here’s what we decided our closet would look like:

Each part is sold separately, so we had to carefully figure out exactly what we needed to buy: we bought shelvesrodspull-out trays and pant hangers. It wasn’t overly complicated and we didn’t need any Ikea staff to help. We simply thought it through and wrote down the quantities and sizes of each piece. We then went to the store and wrote down the corresponding aisle and bin numbers so we could find it in the warehouse.

We then filled the car with all our boxes and transported them home to then sit and wait 14 months before actually building them.

Building PAX

We purchased our PAX system well before we installed it. We wanted to buy them on sale in the winter and couldn’t install them until our floors were installed in the spring. They were also pretty expensive, so it worked out well because it meant that we had covered the cost well before our huge and expensive basement renovation project.

The only complaint I ever read about PAX was that they were difficult to build. They weren’t overly complicated, but they were time-consuming.

When our floors were finally installed and finished, we excitedly dragged the PAX boxes upstairs and started putting them together.

The moment of truth came when we went to see if it fit in the opening. It did not.

The right side of the closet was the perfect height, but the left side was about ΒΌ” too short. A quarter of a frickin’ inch. If I had more energy, I would have cried. But I didn’t. 

We spent some time thinking about possible solutions: shaving off some of the PAX height, removing the floor, selling the house… None were great options. The only real option was to take down the ceiling of the closet and try again.

So we did. We removed the existing ceiling, re-measured, and then re-drywalled and painted. This time we actually built the PAX frame and made sure it fit before we finished the space.

After each PAX frame was built, we put them in place.

They were a very snug fit, so we attached them outside of the closet space to see if we could reduce any gaps. We also built the doors (which consisted of a frame and glass panels) and attached them since we knew once we put the closets in place, they were never coming out again.

It took a lot of convincing and some brute force, but we managed to get them in the hole!

We still weren’t without issues, however. Because the doors add a bit of height (thanks to the rails and pieces holding the rails in place), the hole wasn’t quite big enough. So we still weren’t able to freely open and close the doors without them rubbing on one side.

The solution was to cut a small trench in the drywall and repaint it. The trench isn’t great, but it can’t be seen unless the doors are open. There was just no way we were re-drywalling that closet again. Plus, I don’t think those closets are ever coming out of the hole, so there was no other choice.

Once the ceiling was repainted, all the marks disappeared and the trench couldn’t be seen at all.

Installing Komplement

Once the closet was in place it was time to build the interior pieces, all named Komplement.

And then installed all the interior pieces.

Building the interior took forever. Especially when combined with the lighting work. We spent a full morning (at least 4 hours) putting in all the interior pieces. It wasn’t complicated, but it was slow and boring.

Lighting

Ikea has a few different lighting options for its PAX system. We purchased the Striberg LED light strip, which looked nice and has a sensor built in.

All of Ikea’s wardrobe lighting is powered by a plug in the wall. So we had to create an opening in the back of the PAX so that we had access to the closet plug (which all happened before the PAX was fully built).

We started by putting the PAX frame in place and making a little template. The multiple holes in my template represent the multiple attempts to just get the hole right. Once we got the template right, we put the backing piece in place and used the template to draw the hole we needed to cut. We didn’t take any pictures of this step because it required all available hands. We made sure our hole was square (and re-measured a couple of times) and then cut the hole with a utility knife. For once in our lives, our measuring actually worked and we had a perfectly positioned hole!

Installing the lighting was challenging because we wanted to minimize the number and size of holes in the PAX. All of the wiring sits inside of the PAX and runs from one unit to the next via a cable. The cable also has to plug into a small box. So we thought through how we wanted to run the wires so we were as efficient as possible and the wires were out of sight.

We installed the light strips on the shelves and then placed the shelves in the PAX. This method was much easier than trying to screw them in above our heads.

Then we drilled small holes for the wires to run from one unit to the next and hooked up all the lighting.

The lights are great. We can see inside the closet in the morning without turning on any lights, which is great!

Cost

The PAX system isn’t cheap. It’s cheap compared to a custom-built closet, but it’s certainly not cheap. When we added it up, the closets cost us just over $1,000. Here is the breakdown:

Frames (58cm deep, 236cm high):

  • 1x100cm frame = $150 each (on sale for $127)
  • 2x50cm frame = $130 each (on sale for $110)

Doors (236cm high):

Interiors (58cm deep):

Total Cost (with 13% tax): $1094

If we hadn’t bought everything on sale, it would have cost us $1275, so we saved almost $200 or 20%.

Now that the closet is installed and we’ve moved in, we’re really happy with our purchase!

Final Reveal

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