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Growing up, Slav and I both stored clothes and linens in wardrobes and armoires. We like that they give more structure elements to a room, and prefer their furniture-like look to bi-fold or sliding doors commonly used on built-in closets. Not surprisingly, when the time came to design our master bedroom storage, the only request from Slav was using free-standing wardrobes.

Aside from this request, the rest of the decision was left completely to me – what kind of wardrobe system to use, the style/color, where to put them in the room, the overall dimension, and the interior design. Having to make all these decisions were stressful to say the least – although Slav does not like to make decisions, he does have preferences and high standard. After a few weeks of research and price comparison, I decided to give IKEA PAX a try.

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Why PAX

The reason of choosing PAX is three-fold. First, the ceiling in our basement is only 90″ tall and hard to accommodate pre-assembled wardrobes. Second, we have two windows and one doorway in the closet room. Their location greatly limits the layout of wardrobe. Only IKEA PAX, whose frames come in different width and depth can enable maximum storage around these obstacles.

The first picture below shows the two basement windows, which we have to get around. I planned one of the closets be at the corner in between the windows, and another on the right side of the window on the right.

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This picture shows the same corner from another angle. The second closet would locate between the right window and the soffit, which can be seen at the right upper corner of the picture.

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The third closet would be on this short wall, on the other side of the bedroom. It needs to fit between the vertical column/soffit and the light switch.

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The last and the most important reason of choosing PAX is its highly customizable interior. Slav and I have very different needs regarding clothes storage. He has a lot more clothes and much more hanging items, whereas most of my stuff are folded. Therefore, the same pre-assembled closets will not meet our separate needs as well as the PAX.

Purchasing and getting the PAX home

was part of my responsibility too. Usually Slav is very helpful with anything requiring heavy lifting, but this time he was really out of commission due to the busy work schedule. I ended up making three separate trips to our local IKEA, which is 45 minutes away from my house to get the materials home with my mini-SUV.

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One note for myself if I were ever doing this again, will be to have the PAX delivered. These flat boxes are heavy and frankly speaking, hard to drive with. Our whole order contained 43 flat boxes: 7 frames, 9 doors (including three mirrored glass doors), 19 drawers, and 8 dividers. In addition there were bags of metal hinges, clothes rails, pulls, etc. Consider the driving time spent on three trips, as well as the manpower consumed to move the heavy boxes through the warehouse, load them onto and unload them from the car, the delivery fee is simply worth it.

Look at these boxes on the floor, which are just for my side of the closet – about 1/4 of the entire order…

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The assembly

Assembling individual elements of the PAX, such as drawers and frames, was surprisingly simple. Basic tools including a power drill, a handheld screwdriver and a hammer were all I’ve used. It does take time though: the material handling, including unpacking, transporting parts, and taking the packaging out took surprisingly long time compared to the actually assembly.

For frames, I laid the parts for each frame on the floor and followed the simple instructions. Roxie was around for emotional support and slowing down the process by kicking the hardware around:

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Below are a series of pictures I took while assembling one of the frames – I assembled 7 total! I usually lay everything out on a the cardboard first:

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Then put in the screws, dowels, and corner pieces in place according to the instruction:

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From this point the whole thing just came together like a Lego. Do not forget to tighten the connections:

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The last step of the assembly was to put on the back panel, which not only closed up the frame, but also kept the frame square.

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Standing the frames up was a real struggle. They got so heavy after assembly, which was unexpected. I definitely recommend two people for this part. You do have the option of assemble the frames standing up, but this also requires two people in order to keep the frame square.

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Compared to the frames, assembling drawers was easy and quick. All the PAX drawers are put together in the same way, regardless which width, depth, or what kind of front panel they employ.

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I assembled the first drawer by itself and then started to tackle multiple drawers at a time. The progress was quick and very satisfying.

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Secure and link the closets

All three of our closets are composed of multiple frames. To make sure that the frames were align with each other, we linked the neighboring framed as well as secured them onto the wall behind. If you wish to do the same, make sure you get to this step before installing interior organizers such as drawers or shelves.

Using my side of the closet as an example, it is made up by two frames and should go onto a short wall pictured below. We cleaned and vacuumed the spot before putting two frames here side by side:

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Notice that we did not install any baseboard prior. Unlike the BILLY bookcase, the back of the PAX frames is straight and does not have any cutout to allow existing baseboards.

As you can see, there are three vertical lines of holes on the sides of each frame. Putting bolts (included in the purchase) through the corresponding holes between the two neighboring frames could align and secure them to each other.

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Each frame also came with two adjustable feet, which help the frame to stay level. After the two neighboring frames were linked and leveled, we used designated hardware (also included in purchase) to attach them to the wall. Now this whole closet was solid and not going anywhere.

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Interior Organization

After securing the frames to the wall, it was time to install drawers and shelves. I used the IKEA design tool to plan our PAX closets. When printing out the design, it included very clear instruction on where exactly the interior organizers should go. Remember the vertical lines of holes on the sides of the frame? The drawer slides, shelf supports, and door hinges were instructed to go into specific holes (numbered on the instruction). This is to make sure that each part operate smoothly without interfering with the operation of others.

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With the help of instruction, the installation went pretty fast. For electrical outlets behind the closet, Slav exposed them by cutting open the back panel of the frames.

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For my side,I chose to have two hanging bars and two sets of drawers. It is a relative simple design, which allows for maximum storage.

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I also added a pull-out hanger for scarves, as well as a hanging clip for hanging bath robe and nightgown. Again, the customization feature is the No. 1 reason we chose PAX.

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Slav’s closets

After learning from my mistakes during assembling my side of the closets, I got a lot smarter putting together Slav’s side. His side includes two standing units: a corner unit, and a straight unit. The straight unit is basically a replica of mine; the only difference is that his is made of two narrower frames:

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Before securing the straight unit, I built the corner unit to ensure the same space was left on each side of the window:

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The corner unit is composed of three parts: one deep frame next to the window (pictured above and below), one add-on frame which sits 90 degree next to the deep frame, and one single-frame addition. The add-on frame and the single frame are shallower than all the other frames to save the floor space.

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The picture below was taken from the bedroom doorway. Using deeper frames on the left side would have blocked too much of the view while entering the bedroom. I prefer the lighter visual effect offered by shallower closet, to the storage we lost by not using deeper frames.

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After everything was positioned correctly, we linked all the neighboring frames and secured them onto the wall. Then the drawers went in:

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Slav’s straight closet contains 8 (!) deep and wide drawers and two hanging bars. This guy has lots of shirts!

The straight closets will get sliding doors eventually, and I chose mirrored doors for the corner closet. The mirrors certainly made the dark closets to feel lighter and the basement bedroom brighter.

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The (almost) final product!

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Here are a few shots I took in the morning after installation. All three closets were leveled, secured, and completed with all the interior organizers. The corner closet received its mirrored doors. The only work put on halt was the sliding doors, which will go in after we are 100% happy with the interior organization.

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The space under the window will be filled with a bench or some kind. We are also on look out for a new laundry basket. Slav’s college pop-up laundry hamper will finally retire from our master bedroom!

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We put the closets together around Thanksgiving. A week has passed since then, and we are generally happy with the quality, the layout, and the interior design. Lining the closets on both side of the room did not make the room feel narrow, and the storage they provide was more generous than we expected.

Costwise, I think we spent ~$2600 on all three closets (not including our time and gas to transport them). Our order includes 7 frames, 19 drawers, 3 pull-out trays (they are more expensive then fixed shelves), and several additional shelves for the add-on frame.

Timewise, it took me four days in total, from the design to installation. Around 8 hours were spent in local IKEA store to research the internal organization, design the closets with the help of IKEA employee, and collect/purchase all the items. This 8-hour period does not include the driving time. At home, I spent three solid days on assembly and installation, including one 8-hour day for my side (with fair amount of mistakes made along the way), and ~12 hours for Slav’s side.

Thoughts on PAX

Looking back, I think the most time-saving approach to PAX purchasing, will be to design the PAX in store with an expert’s help, then have the parts delivered to the room in which you want them to be installed.

Another good service to consider is the Click and Collect service. With this service, instead of pulling the items off the shelves yourself, you pay for the whole shipping list either in the store or online, wait for the whole order to be collected (usually next day), and pick up the whole order at the main lobby. It only costs $5 per order, which will be given back to you in the form of a gift card to use in the store (so it is virtually free).

The advantage of the Click and Collect service is that you are guaranteed to get the entire order without missing pieces. Let me tell you, there is nothing more annoying than buying a whole closet but being told that the store was one drawer short for your dream closet, and have to come back again just for that drawer!

Okay! This concludes a long post for a looooong PAX journey. If you are still reading, I am impressed. You deserve a hug. Here is a hug. And if you are hugging me back, I could use some massages on my back too. As a return to your kindness, I will be uploading pictures of these PAX loaded with our stuff and the whole master bedroom really soon. See you in a few days, friends!