Genius reach-in closet IKEA wardrobe hack for double the storage space

reach in closet ikea pax hack

I provide furniture assembly services, and a client showed me an Instagram inspiration photo (pictured below), which incidentally was a bedroom closet project featured on IKEA Hackers.

The client wanted to know if I could make a built-in wardrobe to cover the existing reach-in closet with a secret pass-through to double the storage space.

I loved the challenge and jumped at the chance to work on this massive IKEA PAX hack. This hack is a superb storage solution if your closet area doesn’t allow for a walk-in closet design or you have an existing closet space you want to maximize.

wardrobe with hidden walk in to closet
Inspiration photo | Image credit: Jonathan Gaudreault and Nathalie Turgeon

IKEA items used: 

  • IKEA PAX wardrobe system
  • KOMPLEMENT Interior Accessories
  • ÖVERSIDAN Lighting
  • TRÅDFRI 19W Transformers
  • FÖRBÄTTRA Cover Panels

View the full shopping list pdf for the back and front wardrobe design.

Other materials and tools: 

This one took an entire van of tools.

  • Table Saw
  • Miter Saw
  • Pin Nailer
  • Circular Saw
  • Electrical Tools
  • Hammer Drill with Chisel Scraper Bit
  • 5 Minute Mud
  • Joint Compound
  • Paint Supplies
  • Multi-Use Tool
  • Laser Level

Reach-in closet on the inside, PAX wardrobe on the outside

reach-in closet ideas
Reach-in closet plan | Image credit: Matthew Jenkins
reach in closet with pass through
Exterior PAX wardrobe design with pass-through to reach-in closet | Image credit: Matthew Jenkins

We started with a confirmation of measurements and an on-site design consultation based on the layout we created using the IKEA online design tool. We imported the design option into IKEA’s iSell sales system for ease of customer purchasing. When everything was in stock and delivered, we were ready to hack.

The first job was to demolish the existing closet, including removing the sliding closet doors, top and bottom track, old closet rods, and top shelf in the reach-in closet. We also removed the old carpet from the reach-in closet.

Then, drywall mud was applied to patch any damage from the demo. We used a joint compound topper to skim coat over the drywall mud after it dried. When the wall was dry, we touched up the interior paint of the reach-in closet.

New flooring in a closet

Flooring transition from reach-in closet to bedroom floor | Image credit: Matthew Jenkins

Next, the plan was to map out where to remove existing mahogany flooring to lay new laminate down so that interior closet flooring is all one laminate with no transition strip and flush to the old floor.

We dive cut with a circular saw and multi-use tool into the flooring, almost like cutting a section of brownies out of a pan.

We used a crowbar and 5 and 1 paint tool to pry the flooring from the floor. The flooring was glued to the plywood subfloor using a notched trowel. We used a hammer drill with a chisel scraper to remove the glue from the subfloor.

Finally, when the flooring was clean, we laid down plywood and laminate padding so the laminated wood flooring would be flush with the old hardwood floors.

Moving the switches

Image credit: Matthew Jenkins

We removed the single switch in the interior of the reach-in closet and turned it into a double gang with a non-switched outlet for a charging station. Also, I added a switched outlet above for IKEA lighting.

We swapped out the old light fixture with a new flat 7-inch LED light in the interior of the reach-in closet.

Fitting out the reach-in closet

fitting the reach-in closet with pax compatible frames
Image credit: Matthew Jenkins

We wanted to do a blind reach shelving on the left side to maximize shoe storage. So we got a few PAX-compatible frames from West World Cabinet company. 

However, we still utilized IKEA KOMPLEMENT shelves and clothes rails in the interior closet to keep the aesthetic similar. This also kept the interior fittings cost down.

Next, with a table and miter saw, we custom-cut closet shelving in the depths and widths as needed for the closet’s interior.

Then, we installed IKEA ÖVERSIDAN lighting off the newly installed switched outlet.

We also built custom 2 by 4 spans off the studs to flush the far left and far right PAX frames out to the existing reach-in closet, as the closet doorway protruded 3.5 inches from the room wall.

Building the exterior PAX wardrobe

PAX wardrobe for outer layer
Image credit: Matthew Jenkins

We built IKEA PAX frames for the exterior wardrobe span. Custom cut down the middle two frames, removing most of the bottom of the cabinet, leaving a 3.5″ piece that was edge banded to remain with finished edges.

Then, built-up toe kicks with a milled down 2 by 4 between them.

We cut down the backer board to a new height and used another piece of the bottom of the cabinet as a ledger to attach the backer board at the old reach-in closet header height.

I used a ledger to hide the ÖVERSIDAN lighting in the exterior IKEA PAX wardrobe closet span.

We took deco strips and 36 by 96 FÖRBÄTTRA cover panels and milled them down on a table saw and miter saw to make the exterior wardrobe look built-in from floor to ceiling.

Finally, we installed lighting on the exterior PAX to be auto-sensored off the PAX doors. Installed the closet doors, and we were done.

Lastly, I took a leaf blower and blew off sawdust from the deck connected to the bedroom that was my cut station. And done!

PAX wardrobe installed
PAX wardrobe installed with entryway to walk-in closet | Image credit: Matthew Jenkins

All that’s left is to organize the closet with storage bins and fill up the shelves and drawers.

double closet with reach-in closet behind IKEA PAX wardrobes
Image credit: Matthew Jenkins
PAX wardrobe with solid and mirror doors
Close the doors to Narnia and hide the clutter | Image credit: Matthew Jenkins

How long and how much did it cost?

Labor charges for the installation were approximately $3,000. Materials in total were similar between PAX purchase, custom PAX compatible cabinets from West World Cabinet Company, flooring, and electrical supplies – roughly $3,000.

What do you like most about the hack?

The power switches and remotes to the right of the entire exterior wardrobe, as it previously was a double gang switch and would have been blocked by the wardrobe span. I was trying to figure out the minimum number of finish cover panels I could install along with minimal filler on the left side while still getting the far left door to open far enough for the door to clear interior drawers. We made it by 1/4 of an inch without cutting into the light switch covers.

What was the most challenging part about this reach-in closet PAX hack?

Removing the flooring, especially scraping the notch-troweled glue off the floor with a hammer drill with a chisel scraper bit.

What to pay special attention to?

reach in closet section behind PAX wardrobe
The hidden reach-in section behind the PAX wardrobe. Plenty of space for hanging storage, a shoe organizer and a slim hamper | Image credit: Matthew Jenkins

Assembling the custom-modified PAX units for the pass-through vertically took a lot of delicate time to ensure I didn’t drop any piece when dry-fitting it all together while perched on a ladder. I have vertically built thousands of PAX, but never one where I stretched the limits of the materials like this.

Looking back, would you have done it differently?

To not do this in 90-degree heat, as San Diegians are weather wimps, especially in humidity.

I love it when people try to put down the IKEA PAX closet system as cheap and flimsy. It is super solid when assembled and installed correctly; it’s functional, easily hackable, and customized to look like a custom closet for a fraction of the price. I feel like I will be getting quite a few requests to do something similar now that I have a roadmap on its feasibility.

~ by Matthew Jenkins. Follow me on Instagram.

Watch the video walk-through of the double closets below.