Using the Ikea Pax system as storage in my craft studio is a case of “If You Build It, She Will Come!!
Today, I’m going to highlight how to install an Ikea Pax system to maximize your storage. We inset our cabinets into a niche to give us a built-in effect.
It all starts with Ikea Pax wardrobes. As we’re installing the cabinets, we’ll show you some of the indispensable tools to install the Pax wardrobe, installation tips specific to Pax drawers and how we adapted an Ikea Pax pullout to work at the bottom of one of our cabinets. I’m also going to show you how I’ve started to use the Pax wardrobes to organize all my craft goodies and tools!
In part II of The Making of a Craft Studio, we showed you how to use the Ikea Pax Planner to design a storage solution for your craft studio (see Canadian version and US version here). So check that out first if you’re in the process of designing storage for your own craft room.
Putting Together an Ikea Pax System
Ikea’s instructions are quite good. So I’ll just hit on some of the highlights to be aware of when putting your units together.
Be sure you have enough headroom to build it on the ground and then stand it up. For the 79 1/4″ high units that we built, you will need a minimum ceiling height of 80 3/4″. If you don’t, Ikea provides instructions for building it upright too. The front of each cabinet has adjustable feet in case your floor happens to be out of level.
When you’re hammering on the backing, Ikea provides a great little gadget. It prevents you from missing the nail and hitting your fingers instead (ouch). I don’t know about you, buy I need my fingers intact to craft!
Insert a nail into the holder. Squeeze the sides then hammer away. Stop just short of the top of the plastic. That will give you room to pull it away before hammering the rest of the nail in.
Attaching Ikea Pax System
Once everything is where you want it, now is the time to screw each cabinet together. This is where it got a little frustrating for us and where you’ll want to heed the following warning:
In Ikea’s instructions, the diagram they provide for where to screw together the cabinets is somewhat deceiving. We actually misinterpreted it which called for a complete do-over when we discovered our error! Looking at the picture below, we thought you could screw the cabinets together any where along hole 1 through 5. However if you look REAL close, you can see the number 5 is slightly larger. The drill is also pointing at that hole. Hole #5 is the only place you should be using to screw the cabinets together if you are using doors! We used hole number 3 which interfered with the hinge placement for the doors. So we (meaning my husband!) had to take EVERYTHING apart, re-drill, clamp and screw….. again.
Wouldn’t it be better if they put an X through numbers 1 – 4? I don’t know about you, but I can barely read these days. I have to squint pretty hard to to count the actual number of holes. I actually got on the phone to customer service to suggest that the pictorial could be better. But it fell on deaf ears; they felt it was fine as-is.
Use clamps to keep the cabinets stable as you drill and screw them together.
How to Secure Ikea Pax System to Wall
I can’t emphasized enough that once your cabinets are screwed together, you MUST also secure them to the wall. My cabinets are going to be full and HEAVY. The last thing you want is for it to come crashing down on yourself or a child. Take the time to secure to the wall!
Ideally you should screw the cabinets into a stud. Because we were building the room from scratch, Hubs inserted blocking at the correct height along the wall.
Here’s how you fasten the cabinets to the wall. Put a screw through the middle of the metal bracket at the back of the cabinet. Slip on the keyhole plate as shown, then tighten the screw until it’s tight against the plate. Then snap on the plastic cover. Repeat for the rest of the cabinets and it will all be safe and secure!
Ikea Pax System: Dealing with Baseboards
Before installing our Ikea Pax system, we installed baseboard in the niche where they will go. If we sell the house and take the cabinets with us, that niche will at least be consistent with the rest of the room.
By installing baseboard all around, it prevents the cabinets from sitting tight up against the back wall. We might have been able to notch the cabinets out on the bottom at the back so they would clear the baseboard, but they are over 5″ high and I didn’t want to cut that much out. My husband thought when we installed the screws, as shown above, that the cabinets might rack and twist a bit if we over-tightened them.
To prevent that from happening, we cut and installed spacers in between each cabinet (mounted beside, not directly in back of where we were screwing) to hold them out from the wall the same distance as the baseboard. We made sure to mark the strapping behind the drywall on some green tape. Pin each block behind the cabinet so half of it it sticking out to support the next cabinet beside it once in place. The photos below show the blocks going in, then a side view showing the consistent gap and then all four cabinets installed.
The first cabinet is in!
The complete shell:
To Build in or Not
I should mention that we could have trimmed everything out with baseboard and/or crown molding, to make it look built-in, but I didn’t want a built-in look. I intentionally left a gap between the cabinet and the wall on the right side so I could store tall rolls of paper, which I frequently use. I also wanted to add some additional hanging space outside the closed storage unit with this Komplement Valet Hanger so I could hang patterns-in-progress and keep them accessible while I work.
Then fun part begins; building and installing all the interior components for the Ikea Pax system! It might have been easier to leave the doors off while we were installing the interior, but I preferred being able to see where the door hinges would impact the final placements. This is what the unit looked like a few weeks ago after Hubs finished off the doors:
Using Other Ikea Components for Storage
He also made use of a niche we built specially to accommodate a lack shelf. He finished off this little beauty by covering up one of the support posts holding up our house; it’s a great way to eek out a little more space! Here it is before.
The after shows a nice way to display my vintage iron collection.
Indispensable Tools to Put Together Ikea Pax System
The things we found most useful to help with assembly were the clamps you saw above, a battery operated drill (with a light), drill extensions, and plastic sleeve (see Installation Tips below this section). Be sure to set the drill at the lowest setting (#1 in our case) so you don’t drive the screws too deep or strip them.
Another thing to be mindful of, when installing the Ikea lack cabinet in particular, is that you will need a looooong screwdriver extension. Because the hanging plate is located right at the top of the shelf, you’ll be installing it close to the ceiling (especially if you’re installing it in the basement where ceiling heights tend to be lower).
Access, and being able to actually see where you’re drilling and attaching, will be an issue unless you have drill bit extensions. This is where it’s also helpful to have a drill with a guide light on it – or a friend to lend a helping hand by shining a flashlight into the gap between the shelf and ceiling.
Installation Tips – Drawers
Ikea packs their drawer glides in two different coloured plastic sleeves: blue and clear, which is great for figuring out where each one goes! The colours differentiate between which side of the drawer the slide to install – blue indicates right and clear is left. Ikea makes it SO easy to get it right!
After dropping a few screws while trying to install the drawer actual glide, we used was a plastic sleeve over the drill bit. It prevents your screws from falling and getting lost as you attach them! My husband was raving about it; it’s a real time saver.
When you’re installing pull-outs, don’t forget to put on the plastic caps – before the screws. It helps to have all the attachments in one spot before you start working (we forgot to install one pair and had to unscrew and reassemble because we weren’t as diligent about keeping our parts together)!
Build with What You’re Storing in Mind
Printing the detailed plan from the Ikea Pax Planner helps (it shows which holes to use!). However, also make sure to have some of the actual items on-site that you will be storing.
While assembling, check that the height of these items will fit. Here you can see I’ll be storing some plastic bins on the roll-out. Before installing the solid drawer directly above, place the bins on the rollout to check clearance. Better to do it once and do it right!
Here is the progress so far. The glass front drawers are great for storing all my sewing thread and spools of yarn for my knitting machines. I can easily see what I have and keep these items dust free! Compare that to clutter of the pegboard I was using in my old studio; I’m so happy with how it turned out!
The first solid drawer below the glass ones will store all my sewing patterns. I’ll likely design some kind of DIY divider system to keep them neat and tidy. Then I’ve got closed storage at the bottom with covered bins on a pullout that can easily accessed when needed.
Organizing the Drawers
Ikea has these great felt trays for the large drawers – they come three to a pack.
I didn’t see them in the Ikea Pax Planner, and I missed them online before I went to purchase my items. But I immediately snapped some up when I saw them in the store! They’re perfect to keep my sewing hams and yarns (soon to come).
The pullouts shown below are PERFECT for storing all my tools. I’ll have separate pullouts for stained glass tools and various other tools I’ll use on a regular basis. I’ll be customizing these pullouts even further once I’m more organized (tutorial to come!)
You’ll notice that I’m still missing a few pull-outs; when we were ready to purchase, everything was in stock when we printed our shopping list in the morning, however Ikea was sold out by the time we got there mid-day…drats! Hubs has a mission this week to scout them out at another location, so I’ll just have to be patient until then 🙂
Customizing a Pullout for the Ikea Pax System
The second-hand glass doors we bought second-hand for the two end cabinets had hinges that were located too low on the door, which meant we couldn’t install an Ikea pull-out tray using the hardware supplied.
With a little finagling, we discovered that we could still use the pullout! However we needed to find different hardware and modify the pullout in a way that it would clear the hinges and slide in and out without a problem.
Here’s what we did to customize the pullout: using our own bottom-mounted full-extension hardware (purchased at Lee Valley), we dry-fit the drawer in place to insure it would clear the hinge. In case anyone is interested in doing the same, the drawer glide is 22″ and full extension; below is the product code of the drawer glide hardware from Lee Valley:
With a piece of cardboard used as a spacer on the left hand side (opposite the hinges on the door), we had plenty of clearance to get by the hinge on the right side.
We measured the placement of the hardware where we wanted to position it in the cabinet (sides, front and back) and transferred those measurements to the underside of the pull-out. There’s a lip underneath the pullout that has to be filled in so the hardware can be attached and slide out properly; so we cut two pieces of wood to act as spacers to be attached onto the underside of the pullout to make it flush.
We transferred our measurements to the back of the pull-out tray with pencil so we had a guide to position our spacers.
Using Double Sided Tape
I didn’t want to screw into the underside of the pullout because the material is so thin, so we used double sided taped to attach the wooden spacers onto it instead.
If anyone reading this knows of a faster method of getting the plastic backing off this stuff without struggling with it for more than five minutes, let me know in the comments! Double sided tape is great but it’s the bane of my existence when it comes to time management!
We drew a line right down the middle of each wood spacer to centre our screw holes, then we separated the two pieces of hardware. We put a small piece of double face tape at either end of the solid piece of metal (the one without all the bearings as shown below). We lined the hardware up with the centre line we drew, then pressed it down firmly to hold it in place.
We predrilled in three places along the length of each spacer; to prevent yourself from pre-drilling the hole too deep, wrap a piece of green tape around the drill bit at the depth you want to drill to. Once the drill bit reaches the top of the tape, it’s time to move on and pre-drill the next one!
We installed the screws where we predrilled. We then reattached the piece of hardware we removed, flipped the whole thing right-side up again and positioned the pull-out tray in the cabinet against the cardboard spacer, ready to be screwed down.
Slide the sliding mechanism out from the pullout at the back part way and line both ends up against the back of the cabinet. Make sure that it’s also tight against the cardboard spacer (seen on the left).
Once the pullout was positioned exactly where we wanted it, we then predrilled and screwed the back end into place. Hubs wanted me to pass along to you that pre-drilling the hole actually strengthens the bond of the screw because you’re not ‘ripping’ the fibres apart. There was only one exception where we didn’t pre-drill, which you’ll see below, to prevent sawdust from getting into the ball bearings.
You may notice that the cardboard spacer is on the right side in the picture below; that’s because we’re doing another pull-out tray here on the opposite side of the cabinet, so everything is flipped around.
Clean as You Go
Vacuum up wood debris as you go and pre-drill the middle of the drawer glides through the bottom of the cabinet (we used three screws – at the back, middle and front for each side – for a total of six).
When the back and middle are screwed in place, it’s better to remove the tray from the hardware and finish off the front, then remount it when you’re done. As mentioned previously, Hubs didn’t pre-drill the front holes because he didn’t want to create sawdust that might get caught up in the ball bearings and clog them up. He simply screwed in the front without pre-drilling.
Here is the adapted pullout all done; now it houses my glass grinder.
Rinse and Repeat
After the first pull-out tray was done, I wanted another one on the opposite side of the cabinet too so we placed the two drawers side by side and repeated the same steps (allowing us to transfer all the original measurements as a ‘mirror’ image):
Here is how the other side of the cabinet looked before we installed the pull-out tray. Notice that it’s hard to reach into the back to get the plastic bin (even for hubs who has long arms, unlike me!):
And here is the completed pull-out tray before we put the glass shelf back in place:
Now that the pull-out trays are done, here are another few shots of the completed interior organizers. Now I just have to fill it all – which WON’T be a problem 🙂
Not an inch of space will go wasted. I even have a stationery shelf that will hold larger flat items such as my cutting mats and tissue paper:
Costs of Ikea Pax System
If you’re wondering how much my Ikea storage solution cost in the end, I would like to answer priceless; I wish I had done this in my old studio! However, below you will find the breakdown in Canadian dollars, taking into the account the 15% discount (Ikea was running a Pax promotion at the time I bought), sales tax and the fact that I purchased my doors (and three drawers) second-hand for only $200. I honestly thought I would have to budget around $4K in order to pack so much functionality (and beauty) into organizing my new studio!
Well, that wraps it for now — until I’ve transferred all my stuff from my previous studio! I hope you’ve enjoyed playing ‘Pax-Man’ (or in my case Pax-[wo]Man) as much as I did!
Pin for Later
If there’s a craft studio in your near future, tell me about it in the comments. Don’t forge to pin this project for later. Pinning is always welcome and appreciated!
Here’s a sneak peak of the final reveal of my craft studio which you can find here.
UPDATE: Now that my craft studio is done I’ve launched a brand new category on my site – Birdz of a Feather ~ Craft Rehab – that’s dedicated solely to crafting. Check it out and you’ll not only find cool (and sustainable!) crafts, but a post on how I finally organized my craft studio.
Here are just a few of the projects I’ve done on Craft Rehab:
At Birdz of a Feather, we’re feathering the nest… one room at a time. Follow our blog here to get tutorials on other DIY projects, in and around the home. You can also follow us on Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.