Adding Custom Fronts to the IKEA PAX Closet System Drawers

June 8, 2020

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A couple weeks ago we shared how our closet looked after painting everything. In case you need a reminder:

Painting Master Closet - Chris Loves Julia

Yes, those are IKEA PAX closets. We built bases for them to raise them up the height of our baseboards; filled the extra holes and added facing; added base, crown, and a ceiling treatment; and painted everything the same, beautiful, Farrow & Ball Lamp Room Gray. And this week, we brought the cabinets home with custom, flat drawer fronts for each of the drawers, and we want to share as many details as we can on how we did it.

The Ikea Pax system comes with great, soft-close drawers but there is a lot of space above the the drawers so you can easily open them. We didn’t add drawer fronts to our last closet–you can see how it looked here. Still nice, but not as custom looking.

Customer Drawer Fronts for IKEA PAX Closet Drawers

Mounting Custom Drawer Fronts on IKEA PAX Closet Drawers
The trickiest part to this was honestly getting the drawer sizing and spacing nailed down. The problem is, areas with 5 drawers have less spacing per drawer than areas with two drawers. Not huge differences – like less than 1/16 of an inch per drawer, but it adds up and if you use the same spacer for areas with differing drawer counts, you’ll be left with too much or not enough space at the top.

We made out of drawer fronts our of solid pine, cut to 7 3/8×37 1/2 (for the ~40in wide PAX cabinets). This would give us 3/16 spacing around each drawer on the 5-drawer cabinets, and fractions over that on the 2 and 3-drawer cabinets. We painted them the same color as the rest of the closet, and predrilled for hardware.

Custom Drawer Fronts for IKEA PAX Closet Drawers

We used a leftover piece of pine from cutting the drawer fronts to length as a template for our hardware. We simply marked the spacing for the hardware on the template, laid it over each drawer front on each side, and drilled into the face of the drawer.

Now this might seem like an odd time to mark for hardware, but the problem is this: you need to mount your drawer fronts from inside the drawer, so you don’t have visible screws. But you need the spacing right before you can mount it. So we decided to use our hardware locations to temporarily mount our drawer fronts in place from the front, then we could open the drawers, attach them from behind, and remove the screws from the hardware holes (so the hardware could be added). Did that make sense?

Of course, you also have to find a way to mount the drawer fronts before you screw them in, so they can be adjusted until the spacing around each drawer is correct. Our solution for this wasn’t super elegant, but it worked great.

Custom Drawer Fronts for IKEA PAX Closet Drawers

We stuck 3 command strips onto each drawer front, then used a spacer underneath the drawer as we put it in place and centered it. Then pressed it into the command strips.

Custom Drawer Fronts for IKEA PAX Closet Drawers

Custom Drawer Fronts for IKEA PAX Closet Drawers

Obviously the weight of the drawer fronts is a bit much for command strips to hold for long, so you have to work quickly. But they held even when we added the weight of another drawer front as we spaced them out from bottom to top.

Custom Drawer Fronts for IKEA PAX Closet Drawers

And once we had the spacing we were comfortable with, we mounted the drawer fronts with temporary screws through the hardware locations.

Custom Drawer Fronts for IKEA PAX Closet Drawers

From there, we used 6 screws, 1 3/8in long, to secure the drawer front from behind (2 at each end and 2 in the center-ish). Then loosened the screws in the hardware holes about halfway out to use as temporary drawer pulls so we could still open them as needed.

Custom Drawer Fronts for IKEA PAX Closet Drawers

Custom Drawer Fronts for IKEA PAX Closet Drawers

Adding the Hardware
Remove the temporary mounting screws from the drawer and drill a hole large enough for your hardware mounting screw to fit through.

Custom Drawer Fronts for IKEA PAX Closet Drawers

Drawer hardware almost always comes with screws for mounting, but if it’s one that mounts from behind (like ours) they’re likely too short for this type of drawer set up. Essentially we’ve doubled the thickness of the expected mounting location by adding a drawer front. You can either take one of your pieces of hardware to the store and find longer screws with compatible thread sizes, or do what we did.

Custom Drawer Fronts for IKEA PAX Closet Drawers

I used the bit for my Kreg Jig to drill holes from inside the drawer, so our screws could reach the knobs. Kreg Jig bits come with an adjustable depth stop, and the size of the bit was perfect for the heads of our mounting screws to sit inside the pilot holes.

Custom Drawer Fronts for IKEA PAX Closet Drawers

Custom Drawer Fronts for IKEA PAX Closet Drawers

After I finished each drawer, it was just a quick vacuum and dust to clean them out. which I had a little help doing.

Custom Drawer Fronts for IKEA PAX Closet Drawers

We used these 1″ round knobs in brass, and opted for two on each drawer since the drawers are so wide. Also, can you believe how good that ottoman looks in here with the rug and the paint?

Custom Drawer Fronts for IKEA PAX Closet Drawers

We’ve had a lot of questions about why we used IKEA in the first place if we were going to do so much custom work. The answer is simply that we aren’t cabinet builders. And if we didn’t use IKEA as a starting point, we would be doing everything we’re already doing, as well as learning how to build cabinet boxes from scratch (and drawers and shelves etc.). So even though it may seem like customizing IKEA is just as much work as building custom cabinetry, it’s really not. Not even close, haha. And we couldn’t be happier with how it’s turning out and are so excited to show you the whole thing, finished (!), next week. But… one last peek…

Custom Drawer Fronts for IKEA PAX Closet Drawers


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What do you think?

  1. Alyssa says:

    Hi! I love this space!
    I am currently trying to design my closet with pax.
    Can you share what height pax you ordered?
    I couldn’t find it anywhere in the post, so sorry if I missed it!

    I am trying to decide on drawers vs hanging clothes and shelf height and what you did looks perfect!

    • Chris says:

      We ordered the shorter versions so we could add baseboard and crown. But we have tall ceilings. What you order will depend on your ceiling height.

  2. Kristin says:

    So beautiful! Can you you tell me how you got the drawers flush with the frame? From what I can tell the PAX drawers are flush (or very close to) the frame. It would seem like adding the custom drawer fronts would stick out? Also, did you use the provided backing on the frames or just your drywall? Thanks for sharing and the inspiration!

  3. Jessica says:

    Did you guys use the backer board that came with the ikea shelves? I’m currently installing the billy shelves and there is a very large gap without that board…wondering how you guys did it? Thanks!

  4. Sonia says:

    Can you show how Chris did the floating shelves?? I’ve been wanting to do the same in my closet but lost on how to begin.

  5. Katy says:

    I’m planning my own pax closet right now and was just wondering what you’re doing for your hamper situation. In your last house you had the pull out hamper right? Maybe I missed it, but I’d love to know what your solution is!

  6. Ashley says:

    Do those wide drawers open easily with just a simple tug of one knob? Or, do you need both hands to open and close the drawers?

    Looks great!

  7. Kayla says:

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU for all the instructions and inspiration that you shared. I’ve been working on our closet and literally followed every step you shared on Instagram and on this blog. I’m currently filing a millions holes on the closets and even though its tedious, i know it will be so beautiful after painting.

  8. Kristine Rose says:

    may I please borrow you and your husband for an in-person tutorial in my (much smaller, but wanting to be that big) new closet? like a week or two? no seriously… want to visit Hailey, Idaho?

  9. You have explained! in this post, in a wonderful way and it has become a piece of cake for me to understand it very quickly and easily…

  10. Paula Moss says:

    Your post deserve to be pronounce, impressive. I had no trouble reading through the content. The good thing is I have learned something new today! Cheers…

  11. Kimberly says:

    The customization was worth it. The closet is looking great! Looking forward to seeing the final reveal.

  12. B says:

    Beautiful! I’m interested to know if the paint holds up on the PAX system since it’s kind of a plastic-y finish to begin with. We have the system and I would love to upgrade it. Thanks!

  13. monica says:

    Love, love , love so many parts of this closet! Wondering however, why you chose to place shoes in such a prominent place? Typically worn and real shoes are not something you want to gaze at from far away, are they (as opposed to fancy shoes in a store)? Seems like it would have been a great chance to do some sort of feature wall?

  14. Ashley says:

    Looks great!

  15. Laurel says:

    Interesting. Relevant.

  16. Nicole says:

    This looks amazing!! Do you mind me asking the size of this room? It’s the perfect amount of space!!

  17. Danielle says:

    It looks like some of the filled shelf holes aren’t smooth – is there anything you would do differently for filling/painting those if you were to build another closet with Pax?

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      There are a few places where screws hold the wardrobes together. It’s necessary and we decided to just paint over the screws to disguise them as much as we could.

  18. Jean says:

    How does a person start with a redesign of their own closet? I have no idea where to begin on our own closet

  19. Megan Von Wald says:

    Love this look! It is beautiful. When you painted, did you spray or roller the shelving?

  20. Emily Richards says:

    Stunning! Would love to know more about what you used to spray the drawer fronts. It looked like a bouncy castle or maybe a tent on stories, I need to do something similar to keep the bugs away while my paint job dries.

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      We searched “Inflatable paint booth” on Amazon! Chris and Tristan also considered this a fort :)

  21. JJ Wahl says:

    Really, you have no comments about the recent tragic events? As a long-time follower, I can’t help but be disappointed by your silence.

    • Julia says:

      We were actually really active all last week on Instagram, muting our own voice and content and amplifying the voices that matter at this time. There are two highlight bubbles dedicated to our actions and what we’re committed to moving forward if you’d like to see.

      • Mcmaco says:

        Just. Be. Nice.
        I’m tired of good people like Julia being unfairly shamed for inaction, while at the same time many of those who speak up are similarly shamed, as in, “You can never understand because you’re not black, so be quiet”. Who are we to judge and yes, bully others on line, where we can see only a tiny bit of the whole person? I know racism is real. I consider it despicable, as do the majority of people I know, both liberals and conservatives. believe that most people are good. We need to stand together rather than attacking others.
        I am so, so tired of all of the bad news, and of “woke” people assuming the rest of us need to be schooled. This is a home decor blog that I (and probably many others) turn to as an escape. I am not being insensitive. I fight racism elsewhere. Please, no politics here.

      • Ginger says:

        well said thank you! appreciate your honesty & frankly I too have been ‘turned off’ by some on this site going somewhere other than why we are here in the first place. I love remodeling ideas & this is where I’ve been coming all along, let’s keep it that way. p.s. Chris & Julia, I can’t wait to put my PAX closets in our island home!! :)

      • Joanna says:

        So strongly agreed on all of this, especially the home decor blog/escape bit. I understand that *I* don’t control the content here and you guys decide what you post, but I really prefer not to be pummeled with opinions on current events when I’m just looking for renovation updates and recs on rugs or lamps. If on-topic content isn’t an option (again, dealer’s choice), I prefer the silence. I’ve been reading since before you laid the wood tile in the last house and have always appreciated your lack of political or religious commentary.

        Love following the house remodel. It’s coming along beautifully, and the property is enchanting.

    • thelongbranchdrive says:

      She has been doing so much over the last week. I am amazed that you’d make a comment like this considering you are a long time follower. They have clearly set the bar on the right social media behavior and are so sensitized+thoughtful in how they are amplifying melanated voices.

      • Sharon says:

        I am not on Instagram, so my only connection with Chris Loves Julia is this blog. And on this blog, the brand/ business did not comment. I assumed their silence on the blog this past week was out of respect for recent events, but I would have appreciated that being said, either when the moment of silence started, or when it ended.

        It sounds like you guys did some great work on Instagram, that’s great to hear. Where are the highlight bubbles? If they are only on Instagram, then, why? I know that not everything you post on Instagram makes it to the blog. But everything on the blog does make it to Instagram.

        I’m curious to hear why you made the distinction between your platforms.

      • Julia says:

        It’s only on Instagram and we felt that was where we could share the most immediate information available.

      • Sharon says:

        Certainly, Instagram is an immediate type of communication. I can understand why you would utilize it. I think my perspective is that if you are intentionally keeping silence for a period of time, then say so. It invites others to join in, or at least understand you are being intentional. Keeping it simple, yet communicating, is helpful. There have been multiple times in the years I’ve read this blog that there haven’t been posts/ random schedule of posts, and it’s been acknowledged at a later point that there were some health concerns going on. Not posting on the blog for seven days and not saying anything is out of the ordinary. Expecting your readers to know why is expecting an awful lot.

    • Mara says:

      I was surprised too, JJ.
      However, CLJ was very active on IG posting black designers and ways to help. I assumed there would be a summarizing post on Monday (or Sunday) given that they posted an action list including scholarships for their Good Influencer brand offered to POC. Most major blogs I follow posted something to summarize what you are doing.
      A gentle reminder CLJ, not everyone has Instagram. I took a break from it at the beginning of the year and I realized that I am missing 60-70% of your content (allll the construction updates!!). What you post on Instagram is not yours and it isn’t guaranteed to be permanent. Your blog is yours and you get to decide what is on here permanently. If I hadn’t been following you on Instagram, I wouldn’t have known why you stopped (though I could have guessed), why you decided to start again and what you did.
      My guess is that it will be a casual Friday post? Maybe? Maybe not? The point is, you took a stand and did something good and you didn’t just take a “vacation”. Let us know!

      • Lori says:

        I was thinking the same thing!

      • Lane says:

        I’d love to see a post on the designers the featured in instastories. Many if them were so great, but I couldnt just click and visit their profiles, because they were nit clickable. Searching and adding was difficult and time consuming as I was making spelling mistakes and had other responsibilities. I couldnt see them all as a result.

      • Julia says:

        All of them are saved on our highlights and ask of the names were clickable and all of the photos were shared directly from their accounts so all you have to do is click on their name or the photo of something caught your eye!

    • Cassie says:

      oof, this was a really difficult comment to read and it certainly made some assumptions about the CLJ brand’s stance and the humans behind the blog and brand. I follow CLJ on Instagram so I have seen how they have muted their own content and been very active in trying to elevate voices in the black community.

      This comment stung when I read it, but it also did make me think about how it might have felt confusing or frustrating for followers who are not on Instagram to see no mention of CLJ’s efforts here in this space. We should give folks the benefit of the doubt, in this case, that CLJ has been muting their content to support the Black Lives Matter movement. But in doing my own work I have learned that impact is more important than intent, and there’s always an opportunity to do different. Hopefully, we’ll see some overlap between the blog and insta on topics like this in the future.

      ps: I LOVED seeing the diversity in the post about transitioning babes from cribs to beds!

    • JJ Wahl says:

      To be clear, I am not an Instagram follower so this is my only exposure to the ChrisLovesJulia brand, which was why I was unaware of your response. I understand your position, but please also realize that there are undoubtedly many more like me who are not active in other social media areas and who would love to hear about your good work amplifying those voices on this forum as well. The more we hear from people speaking up the more others will feel empowered to join in the movement!

  22. Jo says:

    I mean, C’MON! This is stunning. It looks like a 15K closet for sure, with all your time and thought and brilliance poured into it. Its amazing.

  23. Sarah Layton says:

    This space is just so gorgeous. What a dream!

  24. Mary says:

    Hi there where did you get the hardware? I’m looking for same style brass balls! Thanks- looks great

  25. Mary says:

    It looks amazing! Your hard work is definitely paying off!

  26. Nicolette says:

    Proof that you can get the custom looking closet of your dreams on a budget with some elbow grease! Always going above and beyond expectations.

  27. Jennifer says:

    I’m on mirror watch!! Can’t wait!

  28. Gordana says:

    It looks great! I love the moodiness, and almost restrained simplicity and minimalism ( of course, now when the closet isn’t filled with clothes ????). The ottoman and that burgundy velvet chair ???????????? ( I hope it’s burgundy, can’t see it very well ) Love it, and can’t wait to see the room with lighting installed

  29. Gorgeous! Also, starting with IKEA is more economical and it saves you so much time since it’s pretty much ready for you.

  30. Debbie Ricks says:

    looks amazing!!!

  31. Jenna says:

    Dang y’all this looks good. I’m not planning to design my own closet anytime soon but I would 100% return here for guidance if I needed it!

    Also want to say, thank you for taking the time last week to let black voices and black businesses shine. I gained a ton of respect for you both as people and as a business. I followed some incredible black women on Instagram as a result of your shares. Keep up the hard work <3

  32. EP says:

    The spacing really gives it that high end, inset look! It’s amazing. Totally beyond my skill set but I’m very impressed.

  33. Katie says:

    This is beautiful! You two truly have a gift. How did you decide what direction to run the tongue and grove on the ceiling? Every decision you made was perfection!

    • Julia says:

      We talked about that in this post. We didn’t want any seams.

      • KP says:

        It looks so good! Gentle comment for consideration: I have heard you talking today on Instagram about the mirror “you designed” and I know you originally shared a photo of your mirror inspiration (pretty exact). I’m wondering if it’s right to say that you designed it when it’s a replica. Someone else designed it, you had one made based on that design. I know you drew it up and made up the measurements but It’s important to acknowledge the work someone put into the original design.

      • Julia says:

        Yes! I shared that right here in the post about the mirror I drew up! Definitely inspired. I just meant–it’s not a mirror that our audience could buy since we were getting a lot of requests for a link.

  34. Louise Walker says:

    These are so stunning. They look chic and timeless.

  35. Maddie says:

    Hello :) I’ve been following along with you guys for 3-4 years now. In the past few months, I have noticed an increase in ads on your blog, to the point that its very difficult to read on desktop. Its much better on mobile but sometimes I really want to get a good look at your posts. Is there anyway to minimize the amount of ads for a better reading experience?

  36. Megan says:

    That looks like a lot of work. Job well done. It is beautiful.

  37. Candi says:

    Closet of my dreams!!!!! Looks amazing!

  38. Sara says:

    Looking fantastic! So great to have you back :)

  39. Sharon Capone says:

    I love love love this closet. I can’t believe the restraint you are showing. I would be hanging clothes and adding shoes while Chris was doing the drawers. Can’t wait to see it completely done and filled, it’s so luxurious.

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We believe we should all love where we live.

We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 

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