Before and After: An Elevated IKEA PAX Closet Hack for the Ages

This closet, featuring IKEA’s PAX system, was already great. Nice and bright, totally organized, and super practical, but one dreamer believed it was possible to keep all those positives and add some vintage glam.

This is splendid. The paint color is luscious and looks gorgeous with the wood floor, the drawer pulls are oh-so-classy, the ceiling light is like a well-placed brooch, and the ceiling wallpaper is the touch that takes this closet from fantastic to utterly glorious. The closet looks 100 times better holding the same amount of clothes—on the same hangers, it appears—and it’s a nice touch that the baskets are still in use.

Erin Kestenbaum made all this magic happen in just six weeks and should be proud of doing such amazing work and should not feel guilty about making almost everyone who sees it eternally dissatisfied with their own, horribly lesser closets.

While the project in question is the closet renovation, this photo offers a fun glimpse of the bedroom, which was renovated too.

Erin explains how this makeover came about:

When remodeling our closet, we ripped everything out and started from scratch with an IKEA PAX system. It’s one of the most budget-friendly and flexible systems on the market, but also one of the most basic and modern looking, which doesn’t make it look particularly seamless with our 1940s Colonial.

We were upgrading from a closet with one long hanging rod and loved the sheer storage from the PAX system, but it didn’t look like it belonged. We knew with some creativity and hard work we could hack it into the custom closet of our dreams.

What a wonderland of storage! The asymmetry of the two PAX units looks modern, while that crystal doorknob has a regal antique air. A fun touch is the way the black-and-white stripes on the ceiling point toward the black-and-white stripes on the zebra rug on the floor. The black, white, and brass chandelier also coordinates with the closet quite nicely.

The storage units are obviously IKEA’s PAX, the green paint is Inchyra Blue by Farrow & Ball (they call it “dark blue gray”), the drawer pulls are the Unlacquered Brass Cups by EMTEK, and the wallpaper on the ceiling is Closet Stripe in Downpipe by Farrow & Ball.

Here’s Erin’s telling of how the project went down:

We tackled this closet as part of our One Room Challenge, where it took six weeks from start to finish. My husband and I tackled the project on our own, which also included replacing windows, rerouting electrical and framing for an entirely new wall to divide the closet from the bedroom. Hacking the PAX closet to appear custom involved a lot of complicated trim work and problem solving.

One surprise was that our original plan for laying out the wardrobe frames in the room didn’t allow for enough of a walkway or a spacious enough feeling room, so we amended the plan to use shallower depth wardrobes on one of the walls, which lead to entirely rethinking how to maximize the PAX units.

This is a great juxtaposition: the softness and sweetness of the colorful antique rug against the bold black-and-white modern art. The borderless frame contributes to the feeling of freshness.

In addition to creating this incredible closet, Erin came up with the perfect phrase to describe it:

We adore the color of the units (Farrow & Ball Inchyra Blue) and how it feels like walking into a little, glamorous jewel box every morning. We also love how our closet no longer gets messy because there’s a home for everything and we added so much extra storage that we still have some empty shelves. We also love that the room is so well-lit with the addition of in-unit puck lights, and the overhead lights (on a dimmer!).

As if all of that wasn’t already too much fabulousness to deal with, the closet tour ends with this dreamy window seat, just made for lounging in a caftan while sipping a mimosa or curling up on with an afghan and a book. Forever.

While achieving this level of closet enviability is difficult-to-impossible without a massive closet and lots of skills, Erin does have some advice that applies no matter how simple or ambitious your project is:

Careful measurements and planning are the key to a successful hack. It’s so important to take the extra time to make sure everything is square and level.

Thank you, Erin Kestenbaum!

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