The Much Easier Way To Build A Desk in a Closet

desk in ikea pax closet

A home office in an IKEA PAX closet (cloffice!) you can set up in no time.

As many of us are working from home, we often want a working space that doesn’t permanently take up a lot of space. In my prior apartment, I had an office armoire, where I could close it up and hide both by workspace and the related messy desk.

I found this useful for establishing something of a boundary, so I wasn’t staring at my desk all weekend. When moving into a new apartment, I wanted something similar, but unfortunately my office armoire didn’t fit.

I therefore sought out to incorporate a desk space in what is essentially a walk-in closet/ multi-purpose room/ laundry room (we live in a metro area with small apartments).

I was inspired by this post, and appreciated that the desk had been incorporated into the PAX unit without taking up a lot of space that would otherwise be used by clothes.

Also, like this other poster, I wanted to be able to have a second monitor. While I considered undertaking this design, it all just seemed to be a lot for me — I live in an apartment without access to a lot of tools, and was a bit anxious about lining things up correctly.

So, I wanted to share the alternative solution I came up with, which I think requires slightly less engineering expertise, and relies more heavily on existing IKEA pieces.

This version uses a KOMPLEMENT pull-out shelf for the desk surface, and a monitor arm installed on one custom shelf (the only real custom piece required).

pull out desk in PAX closet
Pull out desk in closet

After the pieces are assembled, this can be put together in less than an hour (minus paint drying time).

IKEA items used:

PAX wardrobe frame, 79”H by 39” W- 202.145.66
KOMPLEMENT pull out tray 39” w- 702.463.86 (2)
KOMPLEMENT drawer liner 39” w- 304.055.65 (2)
KOMPLEMENT drawer 39”W- 902.463.52 (3)
KOMPLEMENT clothes rail- 802.569.40
BERGSBO PAX doors (or similar)- 202.074.10 (2)
KOMPLEMENT soft closing hinge – 002.145.05 (2)

Other materials and tools:

Custom cut wood shelf, 1” thick (measurements below)
White paint (or whatever color matches the inside of your PAX)
Monitor arm
White brackets (4)
Drill (if you want to cut the wood yourself, saw)
If you want to do last additional step:
Two allen wrenches, or screws
Two small scrap pieces of wood
3M command strips

IKEA HACK Desk in PAX closet

I started with a 39” wide PAX frame (202.145.66). Mine is actually part of a wall of PAX frames, with several pressed together to look like a custom closet wall. It is possible that if this is going to be a standalone PAX frame, you may want to reinforce the back as I have seen some other posters do. Assemble the PAX frame as usual.

For the necessary custom shelf, I had a hardware store down the block cut the shelf for me, but you could do it yourself if you have the tools. They used a 1” thick piece of wood (you want it to be sturdy enough to support the monitor arm). The measurements for this shelf are similar to any other KOMPLEMENT shelf, with cut-outs for the hinges, as follows:

cut out diagram for custom shelf

Drill a hole through the shelf, which the post for the monitor arm will go through (so maybe .25” diameter—look at the monitor arm). In my shelf, this hole is approximately 5” back from the front of the shelf, and 3.5” from the left side, as indicated by the red circle in the picture.

Sand and paint the shelf white (or whatever color the inside of your PAX system is).

Attach the doors to your PAX. (I think this is easier to do before putting the shelf in, and will ensure that your hinge cutouts are large enough). I used the standard hinges, but you could use the 180 degree hinges if you think the doors on the side will feel too close for you.

The right height for your setup

The exact height at which you place everything, including your desk surface, will depend on how tall you are. I am 5’ 6.5”, and the following configuration results in a desk surface that is 28.5” from the ground, so adjust accordingly based on your height. If you would like to configure your PAX in the exact manner I did, reference point 5a for the heights of each element below:

The 79” high PAX has 59 holes on the side from top to bottom to screw things into. Counting from the top of your PAX (so, the first hole from the top is 1), the elements described below are screwed into the following holes:

2+3: top and bottom of clothes rail
30+31: top and bottom of door hinge
32: the first screw for the bracket supporting the custom shelf goes in this hole. The second screw should fit in 33, but see note on brackets below.
36: screw in the track for the drawer. 37 is covered by the drawer track.
39: The allen wrench/screw to hold the desk out will go here.
40: screw in the track for the pull-out shelf. 41 is covered by the shelf track.
46: screw in the track for the drawer. 47 is covered by the drawer track.
53: screw in the track for the drawer. 54 is covered by the drawer track.
57+58: Door hinge
59: Screw in the track for the pull-out shelf used for shoes. I cut off the piece of the plastic track cover that normally hangs down, so I could put this shelf in the very bottom and not lose any space.

The brackets to support the shelf

The brackets I found are close to the PAX hole spacing, but not exact. If someone finds ones that are exact, please post in the comments!

Take the brackets, and hold them so the side with four holes is pointing down. The first two holes should line up close enough so you can screw them into 2 holes on the side of the PAX. For holes 3+4, you can either leave them alone, or just basically drill new holes into the PAX to screw through those holes as well. You want to install 4 brackets, so one in each hole set (two on each side of the PAX.) These will support the custom shelf.

Place your custom-cut shelf onto the brackets. The best way to do this is to put it in at an angle near the top, then flatten it out, and lower it down onto the brackets. From the underside of the shelf, screw the brackets into the wood shelf so they are connected (you can drill small pilot holes first if you choose).

fixing the custom shelf to the PAX frame with brackets

Installing the monitor arm

Install the monitor arm onto the shelf, using the option of the rod that goes through your “desk.” You can also do this configuration with two monitor arms. I originally planned this, then opted to use my laptop for the second monitor instead.

Installing the monitor arm to the custom shelf

Install a KOMPLEMENT pull-out shelf with liner, which will serve as your desk surface. If you are the same height as me, the track for this will screw into the 40th hole from the top.

Install your remaining clothes rail, drawers and shelves.

Attach your monitor to the monitor arm.

With this configuration, you can either fold the monitor all the way back against the wall to the side of the closet. Or push it back in between some clothes (this is what I usually do because its easier). I place my laptop dock on the wooden shelf, which puts it at a good viewing height.

Adding a stopper for the desk shelf

I used the configuration just like this for over six months, but had one or two instances where I bumped the shelf in and knocked over my coffee, so I’ve added this extra optional step, which allows you to avoid this problem.

Take two small pieces of wood (I had a few small scraps lying around), which have at least one flat surface and are at least 1.25” tall (see how I have them configured). I painted these white to match my shelf, and drilled a hole through them which is about as thick as a PAX hole.

From the “bottom” of this piece of wood, the hole should be about 19/32” up. I then used two 3M strips to attach these pieces of wood to the edge of my shelf which acts as my desk. I then used two allen wrenches I had lying around to essentially act as pins.

So, when I pull the “desk” all the way out, I push the allen wrenches through the hole, and through the PAX wall, which holds the desk in place and prevents me from accidentally pushing it in.

For power, I was planning this out as we were renovating our apartment, so I had an outlet put in the back of this PAX. But you could easily run a power strip into the back, by cutting a hole big enough for the plug to run through.

I hope this is useful for someone!

~ by Caitlin B.

Jules Yap