Materials: 1 Billy bookcase, 2 PAX wardrobes, PAX door hinges, PAX shelf inserts
Before we were married, I knew that my now-wife and I would live in an apartment and we would desperately need storage for items related to her direct sales businesses (fashion jewelry, bags and teaching couponing techniques etc). To show my support for her interests I wanted to come up with a solution for our apartment that provided a lot of storage and added a focal point to our living room to make it feel more warm and homey. In older homes the fireplace and mantle was the center of the home, and I wanted to create a feeling reminiscent of an old fashioned hearth but using furniture.
PHASE 1: Plan
My plan was to use Ikea furniture to add storage, but a lot of the furniture marketed as living room storage at Ikea centers around home theater systems and televisions. Much of it is not deep enough to house large boxes and bags. I found two discontinued PAX wardrobe units in a honey oak color still in their boxes in the AS-IS section of my local Ikea store that were perfect for this purpose.
I hid my shelves away in my parents’ basement until I was ready for the next step. Te time came when I found shelving inserts that would fit my unit for $5 for a set of two, but they were a contrasting color, a red-brown. I also had to find a way to bridge the two units and I found that a Billy bookcase piece would do nicely. It was a similar red-brown and I saw that the two colors would look good together.
I planned out the layout and assembled the shelves. The shelves were secured to the wall based on Ikea’s instructions, but I also secured the two ends of the Billy bookcase to the Pax shelves with four connector bolts. to do this I had to prop up the Billy unit by stacking plastic storage crates underneath to bear the weight while I drilled and screwed. When I was finished the shelves stood this way for two years.
PHASE 2: Getting started
To complete the ensemble I wanted to cover the units with doors. This was always part of my plan but I had other priorities until recently. When I came back two years later, Ikea didn’t have doors in a color that would look good with my shelves and plus they were very expensive compared to the little I spent on the rest of the project. More importantly I wanted them to be special.
I recently discovered an online laser cutting service and had used them to cut out pieces of 1/4 inch thick plywood for a decorative project for my church. I saw the chance to do something unique with my living room, and that was to create doors that have silhouette art in door panels. I come from a graphic design background and I have had experience with woodworking, so I wanted to combine these two talents to make something that shows my love for my wife!
Gathering the pieces
To build my doors I needed to study real PAX doors first. This was easy for me because I live less than a half mile away from Ikea in Canton, Michigan. I measured the doors on PAX cabinets that were the same size as mine, and even picked up a short PAX door from the as-is section to use as as template for hinge placement. On the same trip I was able to find two bags of eight PAX hinges for $1 a piece in the AS-is section. This was a major score!
Next I had to choose what pictures I was going to make the silhouettes from. It is very difficult to find the right photos for silhouettes because there is little sense of depth when relying on just an outine to define a shape. Overlapping subjects can be problematic and so many photos have overlapping elements. After poring through hundreds of photos of my wife and I, I found a handful that were memorable and expressive. I traced the images in Adobe Illustrator, sent my files to the laser cutter and began working on the rest of the doors.
Building the doors
The door panels are made of 1/4 inch thick Baltic Birch plywood. I had the wood shop cut them to size to save time. The door frames are built from Pine 1×3 cut with a 1/4 inch router bit to create a groove. Because they are less expensive varieties of wood, using them helped keep costs down to nearly half the cost of actual Ikea doors, even including the cost of the laser cutting! The tradeoff is that this was a very labor intensive project, but I wouldn’t have it any other way given the result. After assembling the doors I measured the PAX units to find the right heights for the hinges to be installed at so they follow the grid of holes that are shared between the adjustable shelves and the door hinges. Next came door handles. I chose simple rubbed bronze finished handles in a rounded square pattern. They are simple and echo the rectangular shape of the panels.
Putting it all together
Since my new doors are patterned after true PAX doors, including their width, the gap between doors and the spacing between the edge of the doors and the hinge mechanisms, they function just like PAX doors. The look is striking and I’m very proud of my hack. I hope it makes my wife smile!