Using the Ikea Pax system in my craft studio for storage opened up a new world of creativity for me (and our blog). Pax isn’t just for the bedroom! Although we adapted in our basement specifically for my craft room, it’s a perfect solution to get you organized in any room in the house. Build it anywhere and store just about anything.
Today, we’re highlighting how to install an Ikea Pax system to maximize your storage so you can actually see what you’re storing.
It all starts with Ikea Pax wardrobes inset into a niche to give us a built-in effect. As we’re installing the cabinets, we’ll show you some of the indispensable tools to install the Ikea Pax system, installation tips specific to Pax drawers and how we adapted an Ikea Pax pullout to work at the bottom of one of our cabinets. You’ll also see 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 (see Canadian version and US version here). So check that out first if you’re in the process of designing storage – whether for your own craft room or other areas of your home.
Putting Together an Ikea Pax System
Ikea’s instructions are good but the pictorials can sometimes be frustrating. So we’ll hit on some of the things to be aware of when putting your units together.
To start, 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 plastic gadget. It prevents you from missing the nail and hitting your fingers instead (ouch). I don’t know about you, buy I want my fingers intact for other home improvements!
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 built, now is the time to screw each cabinet together. This is where you want to pay particular attention.
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 anywhere 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 actually got on the phone to customer service to suggest that the pictorial could be better. Of course, it fell on deaf ears; they felt it was fine as-is. Anyway, if you’re reading this, you can learn from our mistake :).
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, the niche will at least be complete.
However, the baseboard prevents the cabinets from sitting flush against the back wall. We might have been able to notch the cabinets at the back to clear the baseboard. But they are over 5″ high and we didn’t want to cut that much out.
Hubs also thought that the cabinets might rack and twist a bit if we over-tighten the screws. So, to prevent that from happening, we install spacers in between each cabinet the same thickness as the baseboard. This holds them out from the wall a consistent distance. We make sure to mark the studs behind the drywall with green tape. Then pin each block behind the cabinet so half of it supports the next cabinet beside it. The photos below show the blocks going in, a side view showing the gap and then all four cabinets.
The first cabinet is in!
The complete shell:
To Build in or Not
First, I should mention that we could have trimmed along the front with baseboard and/or crown molding. That would make it look built-in. But instead, I intentionally leave a gap between the cabinet and the wall on the right side. That’s so we can eventually build this slide out pegboard craft organizer to maximize the space even more! No an inch goes wasted.
In the meantime, to add additional hanging space outside the closed storage, we install a Komplement Valet Hanger. Then I can hang sewing patterns-in-progress and keep them accessible.
Once the shell is built, the doors can be attached.
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 after installing the doors.
Using Other Ikea Components for Storage
Hubs also makes use of a niche built to accommodate an Ikea Lack shelf. This little beauty is actually hiding one of the support posts holding up our house; it’s a great way to eek out a little more space!
Here, my vintage iron collection is starting to go in.
Indispensable Tools to Build Ikea Pax System
The things we find most useful to help with assembly are clamps, 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 above 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 helper to lend 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. The colours differentiate between which side of the drawer to install the glide: 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 glide, Hubs uses a plastic sleeve over the drill bit. It prevents your screws from falling and getting lost as you attach them! The other thing you can do is magnetize your screwdriver as we explain in how to use a magnetizer.
When you’re installing Ikea 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.
Before installing the drawer directly above, we check clearance. Better to do it once and do it right! Now the plastic bins fit perfectly on the roll-out!
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!
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 those covered bins on the bottom pullout easily accessible 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. 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 shallow 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. But I’ll have even more storage than these Ikea units once the craft studio is a little further along (see organize a craft room).
You’ll notice that I’m still missing a few pull-outs: everything was in stock when we printed our shopping list in the morning. However Ikea 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
To save some money, we bought second-hand glass doors for the two end cabinets, But because of the hinge placement, it meant we couldn’t install an Ikea pull-out tray on the bottom of the cabinet (where you see those red symbols).
With a little creativity, we sourced different hardware to modify the pullout in a way that it will clear the hinges and slide in and out without a problem. Instead of a side mount like the rest of the pull outs, we’re customizing the bottom of the cabinet using our own bottom-mounted full-extension hardware ( 22″ full extension glides from Lee Valley), to clear the door hinge.
It just requires you to offset the pullout in the available space. So with a piece of cardboard used as a spacer on the left hand side (opposite the hinges on the door), we have plenty of clearance to get by the door hinge on the right side.
Once the placement is figured out, just transfer those measurements to the underside of the pull-out.
One other challenge is that 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 under the glides 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
Not wanting to screw into the underside of the pullout because the material is so thin, we used double sided taped to attach the wooden spacers instead.
Double sided tape is great, but it’s the bane of my existence when it comes to time management! Can anyone remove the backing in less than 5 minutes lol?
Draw a line down the middle of each wood spacer to centre the screw holes. Separate the two pieces of hardware.
We actually also put a small piece of double face tape at either end of the solid piece of metal (the one without all the bearings) to line it up and hold it in place before attaching with screws.
Pre-drill in three spots along the length of each spacer. To prevent from pre-drilling too deep, wrap a piece of green tape around the drill bit at the depth you want. Once the drill bit reaches the top of the tape, it’s time to move on and pre-drill the next one!
Install the screws and reattach the other half of the glide.
Then flip the whole thing right-side up again and position 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 is positioned, predrill and screw 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, to prevent sawdust from getting into the ball bearings.
Clean as You Go
We vacuum up wood debris as we go.
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. 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.
Here is the adapted pullout all done; now it houses my glass grinder.
Rinse and Repeat
After the first pull-out tray is done, we repeated the same steps on the left side of the cabinet. Placing the two drawers side by side allows us to transfer the original measurements as a ‘mirror’ image.
Before installing the pull-out tray in the left side, 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 putting the glass shelf back in place.
With the pull-out trays done, that completes the interior organizers. Now I just have to fill it with my craft stash – 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 these cutting mats.
Costs of Ikea Pax System
If you’re wondering how much this Ikea storage solution cost in the end, the answer is priceless. I wish I had done this in my old studio! However, below is the breakdown in Canadian dollars, taking into the account the 15% discount (Ikea was running a Pax promotion at the time), sales tax and the fact that I purchased my doors (and three drawers) second-hand for only $200. I honestly thought we 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!
If there’s a craft studio in your near future, tell me about it in the comments.
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You can find the final reveal of my craft studio here.
UPDATE: Now that my craft studio is done, there’s a new category on our site – Birdz of a Feather ~ Craft Rehab – that’s dedicated solely to crafting. Check it out for unique and sustainable craft upcycles.
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.
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Sara, this is brilliantly designed and executed. You’ve thought of everything. I love the clear-faced drawers and the flexibility of the system. Those drawers are perfect for all the crafting supplies that will soon live there, and hurray for storage that looks fabulous when closed but is easy to get to. I love what you’ve done.
I smiled when I saw your paper patterns and hangers. What a flashback to my theater costuming days. I remember them well. I have a good friend who also worked as a pattern maker for Gunne Sax in San Francisco for a time, and she too had a studio at home.
I’m really enjoying seeing your craft room unfold. I hope we get to see the man cave when it’s completed as well.
Finally, this is a great tutorial for anyone wanting to do the same.
Thanks for taking the time to read it and provide your feedback; I value it greatly! You will get to see the Mancave unfold eventually: my husband is taking care of the design etc. and I think he wants nothing more than to throw a couch down there and do nothing but finally relax. He’s done the entire basement on his own from start to finish, so he deserves a break 🙂
So beautiful. Big job, with a huge wow factor! I love the display shelf. What a great use of space. Your collection is adorable! I’d love to have this in my craft room! Lucky you! 🙂
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This ís absolutely fabulous