IKEA PAX Hack – How We Did It

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Thank you so much for all your positive feedback on our Master Closet Makeover! If you have yet to check out how we completely transformed our walk-in closet using IKEA PAX, make sure you check out the entire post filled with some pretty satisfying before and afters. Today I’ll be sharing how we did the IKEA PAX hack and how it really finished off the look of the wardrobes. This post does contain some affiliate links.

IKEA PAX closet makeover, walk-in closet organization

The Hack

As with anything, it’s the finishing touches that take something from ordinary to special. While anyone familiar with PAX wardrobe systems can tell the finished closet is from IKEA, I still wanted it to feel higher end. The photo below shows how the wardrobes looked installed before we did any additional work.

I won’t go into detail on how the individual pieces were assembled since we just followed IKEA instructions. But, I will point out that prior to adding our own customizations we did anchor each piece securely to the wall using these separately purchased anchors, and each piece was anchored to the piece beside it using the supplied IKEA connecting pieces per their instructions. I say this because while researching PAX systems online I saw several had not been properly anchored and you could tell they were shifting. So, take the time upfront to ensure everything is level and anchored properly before going forward.

Crown Molding

IKEA PAX hack, walk-in closet makeover, closet organization

Adding crown molding to the top visually connected all the wardrobe sections and immediately changed the feel. If you do one thing to change up the wardrobes, this should be it! To do this, a 1×4 piece of primed wood was screwed along the top of the units with about an inch overhang toward the front. Crown molding was then nailed into the lip of the 1×4.


More primed 1×4 was nailed along the base of the units. Again, this visually connected the separate wardrobes and made it feel more like built-ins. Now, there was an issue with the sections that had glass doors due to the doors sitting lower. To work around this, I cut a 1×4 down to about a 1×3 and placed those shorter pieces below the doors.

Vertical Trim

Where the different wardrobe sections come together there is a seam. I nailed in a thin primed 1/4 x 1 1/2 strip of wood to cover it.

IKEA PAX built-in closet

If you are placing units right up to the side of a wall (like we did on the wall with the mirror) there will more than likely be areas where the wall isn’t completely flush with the side of the wardrobe. A small piece of trim was added there to help conceal the gap.

Additional Decorative Trim

IKEA PAX hack, custom trim in walk-in closet

As soon as you walk into our closet, you can see the side panel of the wardrobe on the left side. This certainly could have been left as it, but it didn’t take much work to make it substantially nicer. More 1×4 was nailed to the side panel to mimic the fronts of the glass doors. I LOVE how it finished off the look.


When adding trim pieces, don’t forget the caulk. It gives you a clean, seamless, professional look. When ran along the edges of the wardrobes and the wall, it finishes off that built-in look. Make sure you use paintable caulk.

Color Matching Paint

I was fully prepared for the nightmare that I imagined would be the process of finding a white paint that matched IKEA’s PAX. There are a million different shades of white out there! Would you believe me if I told you I just happen to have the perfect shade hanging out in my garage?? And, that I had JUST enough left? I COULDN’T BELIEVE IT MYSELF!! I had some leftover Benjamin Moore Simply White in Semi-Gloss from another project and it ended up being a perfect match to IKEA PAX white.

Painting Note

color match paint for IKEA PAX white

For this project, the wardrobe pieces did not get painted, only the primed wood trim and crown that I added were painted (as well as touching up the old baseboard I reinstalled in other areas). IKEA’s pieces have a laminated coating that doesn’t accept paint unless it has been properly primed. If paint gets on it it beads up and won’t stick. So, keep this in mind when painting any trim you add to the piece. It’s much easier to tape off the unit when painting the trim than dealing with the paint not sticking to the IKEA piece.

Adding Wallpaper to the Backs

linen closet in master closet

The PAX wardrobes have a fiberboard backing that is nailed into the back of the units. Their larger width wardrobes are packaged with the backing folded in half, so when it’s opened up you can see a seam running up the middle of the back. To me it makes it look really cheap. While looking at other PAX hacks I came across Erin Kestenbaum’s closet (you will be blown away with what they accomplished) and saw that they solved the same problem with paintable wallpaper.

I ordered this wallpaper and painted it with the same PPG White Chip I used on the trim. One coat was all it took to cover the wallpaper and make that seam disappear.

wallpaper backed built-in, paintable wallpaper
adding paintable wallpaper to the back of built-ins, IKEA PAX closet

No More Peg Holes

The nice thing about this closet system is how you can change up so much of it to fit your needs. With that comes a lot of peg holes for moving shelves and accessories around. IKEA sells cover plugs that you can pop into those holes so they aren’t a visual annoyance. Once we had our shelves, drawers, rods, and other accessories in place I added the plugs for a cleaner look. Time consuming, but worth it to me. And yes, you can remove them if you decide later one you want to move shelves around. I did just that myself!

Cabinet Hardware

extra large orb cabinet pulls

For the glass doors, I added these extra large pulls. They’re the same ones I used in our playroom built-ins. The size is perfect for the tall doors and I like the contrast of the oil-rubbed bronze against the white.


Now, I know this isn’t part of the IKEA PAX, but I want to share with you how we added the large wall mirror. Mirrors are just plain expensive, and when you start pricing out extra large wall mirrors it gets SUPER expensive. In addition the the large size, I needed it to have a slim profile so it wouldn’t interfere with the drawers on either side. I decided to have a mirror company cut and install a large mirror for us. The mirror and installation came in at $360. You can see in the photo below the small metal lip the mirror sat on as well as being glued to the wall.

Later, I installed $20 worth of 3/4 x 3/4 strips of wood that I stained Minwax Classic Gray. The wood was simply glued to the front of the mirror with mirror adhesive and taped in place while the adhesive cured.

Ok, I think that’s it! I’ll include a short list of items I mentioned in this hack at the bottom, as well as some of the other decorative and organizational pieces. If you haven’t already, be sure to head over to the full closet makeover for all the before and afters and much more!



  1. Lisa Avatar

    I love how you customized this system Shelley! The crown, vertical trim and end panel moulding really take it up a notch. We have a built in system in our tiny closet but you have me dreaming of redoing it to make it more functional! Such a great hack!!!!

    1. Shelley Avatar

      Thank you so much, Lisa!!! That’s what I really like about this closet system. You can change it up over the years to suit you better as your needs change. I can’t wait to see what you do with yours!

  2. Pamela Avatar

    I can’t stop looking at this closet makeover. So clean, organized and simple. Thanks sweetie for including me in changing the closet. I enjoy being a part of your bigger projects. Fun working with you as always. Love you.💞

    1. Shelley Avatar

      I always love having you as my project partner! You know what has been a blessing I didn’t anticipate with this closet? Now when Archer gets into the closet, he can’t steal socks anymore!!

  3. Cassie Bustamante Avatar

    i have serious amounts of closet envy right now.

    1. Shelley Avatar

      I can totally see you doing something like this, Cassie!

Meet Shelley

Hi, I’m Shelley! My belief is that with a little creativity and elbow grease, you can make your home look like a million bucks without spending it.

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