6 hacks to add drawers to closets: Easy to hard IKEA DIY

drawers for closet ikea hack

Many closet spaces are 3 walls behind a door with no compartments to store items or rods to hang things up. Banish clutter and make the most of your closet space with an IKEA hack.

Here are 6 drawers for closet hacks, ranging from projects as easy as placing building IKEA furniture inside the closet, to a more involved gilded dresser hack that you’ll want to show off. Take your pick!

Jump to:
Gilded TARVA dresser hack
MALM-GALANT drawers for closet
IKEA MALM built-in drawers
NORDLI-MALM closet storage
KALLAX custom shelving
IKEA RAST dressers for closet

1. Gilded TARVA dresser in custom closet

I really wanted to incorporate the TARVA into my custom closet, but I wasn’t sure how to do it without it looking basic. I found my inspiration in the form of a $1200 Birch Lane dresser with gold recessed hardware and metal accents.

My inspiration piece …

birchlane dania dresser
Photo: Dania Dresser | Birch Lane

IKEA item used:

IKEA TARVA Dresser (1)


Miter saw
Router with a plunge bit

Other Materials:

Gold recessed hardware (10)
White latex paint
Paint brush and paint roller
Aluminum strips
Rustoleum gold spray paint
Loctite construction adhesive

Hacking a gilded IKEA TARVA dresser

Assemble your TARVA carcass per the instructions, stopping after the drawer slides are installed. IKEA has oh-so helpfully separated the carcass from its drawers into Box #1 and Box #2.

Open Box #2 and remove your drawer fronts.

Set your drawer fronts on your working surface. Next, you’ll want to practice routing out your recessed hardware on a piece of scrap wood. Once you have a good template, fill the hole with putty and trace onto a piece of paper as a template.

Route an opening around all of the existing hardware holes.

Prior to securing your hardware, paint your drawer fronts and dresser in your final desired color. Spray paint 1/4” aluminum strips and cut them into 2” strips with a miter saw.

Secure the hardware to your drawer fronts.

Next, add your aluminum strips, applying a bead of construction adhesive to the back (you can place a weight on top of your drawer while the adhesive dries). Let everything dry and then assemble your drawers. Install the drawers and that’s it!  

I love gold trim. The gold finishes make everything feel more modern and distinguished.

IKEA TARVA gilded dresser added as drawers for closet

How long did it take and how much did it cost?

It took me about a day to complete this build and hack. It cost me $200 for the dresser plus another $100 in materials.

What’s the hardest part of this hack?

The hardest part of this hack was using my router with a plunge bit for the first time. I am pretty new to routing.

See the full tutorial on Top Shelf DIY.

~ by Erin Devine

2. Adding MALM drawers for closets

Many years ago when I was a kid, I had a built-in wardrobe with some lovely wide drawers with a set of shelves directly above. I looked for something similar commercially available, but it was either too narrow or not deep enough, and I wasn’t really keen on starting fresh thanks to the crown moulding the halfwit who owned my place previously had put around the existing wardrobe.

Eventually I hit on the idea of seeing if I could hack an IKEA dresser to add some shelves on top, but I eventually hit upon the GALANT shelving unit. Not only is it 80cm-wide like the MALM dresser I’d settled on, it had the added advantage of the shelf being adjustable.

How to add shelves and drawers for closets - IKEA hack

Drawers for closet IKEA items used:

MALM 6-drawer chest
GALANT 80cm shelving unit

Note: My built-in wardrobe is 180cm wide and about 48cm deep inside the tracks for the sliding doors.


And, as it turned out, if you left off the black kickboard/feet section it would bring the whole thing to just a hair under 200cm – that meant I didn’t have to try and relocate the top shelf that was already sitting at that height! In addition, the combined cost of the two units and a new hanging rail came back at $20 cheaper than the closest insert I could find at Bunnings.

Installation of the MALM drawers

When it came to actual installation, my carpenter neighbour did the hard work of actually screwing it in place. We did put some little pieces of wood underneath the MALM to bring the whole unit up to the shelf, but if you’re doing this in a fresh wardrobe that shouldn’t be an issue. Aside from screwing the shelves to the chest, he screwed the chest to the rear wall, the top shelf down onto the shelves, and both the shelves and chest to the right-side panel.

Once the new hanging rail was installed there was no possible way that anything was going to budge, even though we didn’t attach the chest itself to the rear wall. He used self-tapping screws and an electric drill with a screwdriver attachment and the job took less than an hour all-up (would have taken less, but his missus took off with the hacksaw we needed to cut the hanging rail).

How to add shelves and drawers for closets - IKEA hack

Only problem I’ve had with the entire set-up in the few days its been there is that one of the drawers will hit the side-panel thanks to the front panel being a little off-kilter thanks to my construction technique. It doesn’t prevent me opening or closing the drawer, I just have to remember to be careful because I don’t want it to fall off.

~ by Danielle L

3. IKEA MALM built-in closet drawers

My new home had a closet 36″ wide with no closet system in it. I needed shelves and drawers for closet organization. Browsing IKEA, I found the 32″ wide IKEA MALM chest of drawers. It was the perfect thing to start with. Best yet, I found one on Craigslist that was stained, beat up, and cheap.


IKEA MALM 3-drawer chest in white

How to add an IKEA drawers for closet

I had to disassemble and reassemble the dresser into my closet. Then, braced it to the wall. I put one 2×4 behind it, and used scraps of 2×4 cut into precise sizes to brace it into the wall with screws.

adding mdf on top of the chest

I bought MDF board (which I later primed and painted) to cover the top. This was the base of my closet.

I used crown molding to hide the braces, and give it a built-in feel.

built-in MALM dresser
closet with built-in drawers IKEA hack

Next, I put up the rest of the MDF boards in my closet, and used some simple molding. I nailed it into place with my nail gun.

closet with built-in drawers IKEA hack

Finally, I caulked the molding and put hardware on the MALM to finish the high-end built-in closet look.

~ by Matt W, Dallas, TX

4. NORDLI chest form the base of this closet

drawers for closet

If the MALM is not your cup of tea, you can try the NORDLI chest. Here it’s used with two MALM dressing tables, with one flipped upside down to create a compact closet with drawers. Add rods under the MALM desk to hang up coats.

5. KALLAX custom shelving for closet storage space

Kallax shelving for storage in closets

This is a simple design. It uses two KALLAX shelving units to build up closet storage, vertically. The KALLAX at the bottom is a 2×2. Stacked on top is a 4×2 KALLAX storage unit, with only the top 2 cubes assembled. This leaves the middle section open for a closet rod and enough length for shirts and scarves. Each cubby can be customised with shelf inserts, drawers or doors. Pretty ideal if your built-in closet cavity is tall and wide enough to fit the KALLAX with drawers.

6. IKEA RAST drawers for lots of closet storage

Rast chests built in storage

Another popular method is to use the ever versatile RAST chests and build them in as drawers in the wardrobe, if you have a wider closet space. It’s neat, affordable and offers lots of storage.

Jules Yap