This IKEA Pax hack creates a built-in closet that looks authentically turn-of-the-century

DIY molding gives this built-in wall closet a paneled look that blends seamlessly into this period property

A pink color drenched bedroom with a built in IKEA pax wardrobe
(Image credit: Frances Ellen Shaw / Benjamin Franklin (@itsnotsogrimupnorth))

When it comes to creating a built-in closet you can always rely on the IKEA PAX. With this versatile system, the size and shape of your wardrobe are decided by you to maximize every inch of your storage space. But alas, the simple ubiquitous design of IKEA's flat-pack furniture often falls short, and it certainly doesn't belong in a turn-of-the-century home. Or does it? 

This latest IKEA hack shows that with a few simple tweaks, contemporary flat-pack furniture has a rightful place in period properties. Homeowners Frances and Benjamin - who share the renovation of their 1899 home over Instagram (@itsnotsogrimupnorth) - wanted a built-in wall closet that fitted seamlessly into their turn-of-the-century hom. By combining the PAX with a few EKET cabinets and putting their DIY skills to the test, they came up with this elegant IKEA hack that blends in beautifully in their color-drenched bedroom. 

Here, the couple share how they transformed their IKEA flat-packs into an authentic-looking Victorian built-in wardrobe. 

Lilith headshot for bio
Lilith Hudson

Lilith is an expert at following news and trends across the world of interior design. A personal fan of the Scandi-inspired interior, her job entails keeping up with everything there is to know about the Swedish powerhouse IKEA. Paired with her insight into the latest home renovation projects, she regularly shares IKEA hacks with readers to inspire their own DIY projects in home design.

A gutted bedroom before renovation with stripped back walls and floorboards

(Image credit: Frances Ellen Shaw / Benjamin Franklin (@itsnotsogrimupnorth))

Frances and Ben's home is a typical turn of the century home found in cities in the northern hemisphere - high ceilings, bay windows and decorative period features like ceiling roses and crown molding. However, like many other Victorian homes, it also has awkward spaces that don't utilize space. 

After knocking out part of the wall in their master bedroom in an effort to make their alcoves more symmetrical, they realized they couldn't remove the structural area in the middle (likely the chimney flue), so they decided to accommodate it in a built-in storage solution. 'We’re in the process of renovating the entire house so bespoke built-in units were out of our budget,' explains Frances. 

Naturally, they turned to the next best thing available; a trusty IKEA hack. 'We knew this way we could get the classic symmetry we wanted while saving some money and hiding the awkward architecture by only compromising a small section of the interior in one of the units,' Frances notes. 'With some careful planning and IKEA's PAX planner builder tool, we managed to come up with a design that would work in the space.' 

A bare bedroom with an ikea pax in the process of being built against one wall

(Image credit: Frances Ellen Shaw / Benjamin Franklin (@itsnotsogrimupnorth))

To bridge the gap between the closets in each alcove, they bought two EKET cabinets with double doors. Frances admits that she and Ben are more attuned to design than DIY, so, when it came to construction, they had a little extra help in the form of Ben’s dad. (You're never too old for a helping hand from your folks.) 'We used a jigsaw to cut the back of one of the PAX units to fit perfectly into the shape of the alcove and also slimmed down the EKET units so that they fit in line with the PAX frames,' Ben explains. 

Once all the dimensions of the individual systems were flush, Ben and Frances (and, of course, Ben's dad) then built a frame out of timber to lift all the units off the floor. To create the built-in look for their bedroom, they then used MDF boards to fill the gaps between each section. 'Afterward, we plaster-boarded from the ceiling down and lightly skimmed everything in,' Ben says. 'The ceiling had been lowered and plastered anyway as it was covered in horrible artex so this was the ideal solution for us.'

A pink color drenched bedroom in process of fitting a pink ikea pax closet

(Image credit: Frances Ellen Shaw / Benjamin Franklin (@itsnotsogrimupnorth))

After the frames were complete and everything was fixed to the wall, they then used an MDF window board with a bullnose edge as a DIY shelf on top of the EKETS. To create a traditional paneled look on the simple IKEA cabinets, they added pine wood molding to all the doors.

Once these were dry, it was time to paint. Ben and Frances knew they wanted to color drench their space by painting their fifth wall the same shade as their other walls for a bedroom that feels airy and elegant but with a modern twist. 'For the color, we loved Lick’s Pink 03 - we were aiming to create a room that had the feeling of a Parisian boutique hotel,' says Frances. (If I'm honest, it's the manifestation of my dream bedroom as a kid!) After going in with a coat of Zinsser B-I-N primer, they then added the color. 

A pink color drenched bedroom with a built in IKEA pax closet

(Image credit: Frances Ellen Shaw / Benjamin Franklin (@itsnotsogrimupnorth))

According to Ben and Frances, it was the painting that was most time consuming of all. 'We found that the key to a smooth finish is to sand very lightly between coats and to paint the molding with a brush first before going over the door with a small roller to keep as flat of a texture as possible,' explains Ben. 'It was a pretty monotonous process but definitely worth the effort.' They finished off the wall closet with a coat of clear furniture varnish and added some modern brass hardware from Plank (the STACK ribbed T-bar handle and the LOVELL circular knobs) to give them a more modern, transitional style

To help their wall closet look as though it was an original feature of the property, they chose to add coving around the top edge which they carried along the entire ceiling. This attention to detail is what makes this built-in wardrobe look so traditional and authentic. It really is the little things that count.

A pink colore drenched bedroom with a built in ikea pax closet with dresser

(Image credit: Frances Ellen Shaw / Benjamin Franklin (@itsnotsogrimupnorth))

'We absolutely love the final result,' says Frances. 'As our combined design style is a blend of traditional with some more contemporary touches, we can’t imagine anything else working as well for us in the space without spending on custom carpentry.' They've already found a legion of fans on Instagram who are hailing Frances and Ben's bedroom as ‘the pink room of dreams’. It's a label Frances and Ben would be more than happy to catch on!

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Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.