11 IKEA Built-In Hacks Clever Enough to Fool Any Millworker

When Swedish design becomes one with your home.
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IKEA hacks come in all shapes, sizes, and DIY levels. On one end of the spectrum, you have tricks like turning a breadbox into a side table. On the other end? Making a stand-alone cabinet shell look like bespoke millwork. Here, we’re focusing on the dupes of all dupes: IKEA built-in hacks. Want a library but don’t want to pay $5,000 for it? What about the walk-in closet of your dreams? By using the retailer’s most well-known cabinet systems (Billy, Pax, Sektion), and getting smart with your shopping at the hardware store (paint, crown molding, and caulk are musts), you can get custom storage at an affordable price. We’ve rounded up our favorite transformations ahead. 

The IKEA Closet Hack With Shaker Doors and Lots of Drawers

gray-beige closets outside of bathroom
Photography courtesy of Stefana Silber

The biggest helping hand Stefana Silber got in transforming her Pax wardrobes was not from a professional contractor but rather from Fast Cabinet Doors. The design blogger ordered exactly 16 fronts from the company and then, once they arrived three weeks later, the rest was up to her: She painted the pinewood doors in Sherwin-Williams’s Accessible Beige, installed the hinges, and added crown molding on top and baseboards on the bottom. 

The IKEA Closet Hack That’s Meant to Look Old

After hearing estimates of $10,000 to $12,000 for a custom bedroom storage solution, Sarah and Kevin Reid-Morris turned to IKEA. While they relied on the Pax units, just like Silber, the couple’s main goal was to make sure the built-ins looked like they could be original to their 1800s Victorian house. They kept the original doors from IKEA and added chunky chair rail molding to the fronts, creating two boxes (one tall and one short) across each two-door spread. Peep their full breakdown here

The Arched IKEA Bookcase Hack, Part One

brown arched shelves
Photography courtesy of Elisha Kelly

Arches have officially entered the IKEA hack chat. Elisha Kelly faced her two framed-out Billy bookcases with pieces of ¼-inch plywood. Her secret to nailing the perfect arch? She took a piece of scrap lattice trim and drilled a small hole in it—just wide enough for a pencil point to fit through. Then she screwed the other end of the trim into the plywood, making sure the distance between the screw and the lead was her desired length. With this steady tool in hand, she carefully traced a seamless arch. 

The Arched IKEA Bookcase Hack, Part Two

black cabinets with arched tops
Photography courtesy of Elisa Mastrocolla

Three Billy bookcases plus six Oxberg doors, some wood screws, arches, caulk, prime, and paint equal Elisa Mastrocolla’s living room hack.  

The IKEA Kitchen Cabinet Hack 

kitchen cabinet built ins
Photography by Henrik June Home

Stephanie Lidin of Henrik June Home lives in a builder-basic home that has crannies to spare, one of which was this recessed nook in her dining area that was dead space. The DIYer made use of it by filling it with custom drawers (that she constructed from scratch) and two tall Billy units that now hold her dishes. 

The IKEA Library-Bar Hack

green dining room cabinets
Photography by Rebecca Plumb

Often, the final step in any IKEA built-in hack is paint. But it’s not as easy as you’d expect. Take it from Rebecca Plumb, who added a whole wall of storage to her dining room by combining the Billy bookcase and Sektion cabinets. Once it was time to swath them in Oakmoss, she first applied Sherwin-Williams’s Extreme Bond Primer, let it sit for 24 hours, smoothed them down with varying grits of sandpaper, painted them using an electric handheld sprayer, and left them to dry in her garage with a heater to speed up the process. 

The IKEA Walk-In Hack

gray walk in closet
Photography courtesy of Chris Loves Julia

When the quotes for a custom walk-in closet came back with a $30,000 price tag, Chris and Julia Marcum turned to an old favorite: the IKEA Pax system. For a mere $3,000, they carved out nooks and drawers to hold all their things. Julia got a hanging zone for her jeans, while Chris chose mostly closed storage for T-shirts. 

The Colorful IKEA Living Room Hack 

green closets in living room
Photography by Dana Tashima; Styling by Kate Berry

New York–based creative Jordan Ferney was feeling inspired by the year she lived in Paris when she and her family moved into an apartment in Greenwich Village. Her old pied-à-terre had epic floor-to-ceiling living room cabinetry, so naturally she brought the memory back to life with six Pax wardrobes, raised on 8-inch-tall platform risers, and custom Shaker fronts painted in a bright teal called Kale.

The $500 IKEA Library Hack

white library shelves
Photography by Elise Joseph

Elise Joseph bought five Billy bookcases for a grand total of $295 and made them look built in by adding white height extensions (essentially extra shelves, also from IKEA) to the borders. ​​To create the illusion that the units are actually one with the room, Joseph painted the frames with Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace, the same color as the walls.  

The IKEA Kids’ Room Hack, Two Ways

red kids room closet
Photography courtesy of Maria Gilzean

IT project manager Maria Gilzean crafted wardrobes for her daughter’s playroom by picking up two units that come with the glass-paneled Oxberg doors. Next, she painted the doors with a wood primer and water-based acrylic paint before attaching them to the unit. To hide all the stuff inside, she purchased a little over 4 yards of fabric and turned it into panels. 

blue kids room closet
Photography courtesy of Johanna Leung

Johanna Leung pulled off a similar transformation by building a platform along the wall opposite her daughters’ beds and securing two IKEA Pax wardrobes to the base—also now complete with fabric-adorned cutouts.

Lydia Geisel Avatar

Lydia Geisel

Home Editor

Lydia Geisel has been on the editorial team at Domino since 2017. Today, she writes and edits home and renovation stories, including house tours, before and afters, and DIYs, and leads our design news coverage. She lives in New York City.