I Hacked an IKEA PAX Wardrobe into a Pantry — And Now My Small Kitchen Has a Lot More Storage

published May 5, 2023
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Pax pantry in a kitchen
Credit: Trisha Spouse

While living in a home that was built in the 1940s has its upsides (namely, loads of historical charm and original architectural details), the small kitchen that is typical of homes built in this era is certainly not one of them. It’s not necessarily the limited footprint that I find to be problematic, but rather the lack of a formal pantry

Without one, I had to sacrifice some of the precious storage space in my cabinets to house all of my canned goods, baking supplies, grains, condiments, snacks, and other food items that would normally be stored in a dedicated pantry. Needless to say, my cupboards were constantly bursting at the seams. 

My family of four made it work for a while, but after my entire basket of baking supplies came crashing down when I went to pull out the olive oil, I decided it was time to figure out a better system. I had seen lots of IKEA PAX hacks before, where DIYers made the unit look more like a custom built-in closet, and I realized I could pull off something similar in terms of transforming it into a kitchen pantry. 

Even better, the flexibility the PAX wardrobe offers in terms of adjustable shelving, drawers, baskets, and pull-out trays sounded like the perfect solution for our storage struggles. 

Credit: Trisha Spouse

How I Hacked the IKEA PAX Unit into a Pantry

My goal was to get the maximum amount of storage without having a huge unit overwhelm my kitchen’s diminutive square footage, so I started by taking measurements to determine which size would work best in the space (the PAX unit comes in various sizes). I settled on this size because it was deep enough to house not only food items but also small appliances. I also liked the width because it allowed me to have two doors, which would create the look of a typical pantry cabinet. 

While I wasn’t going for a fully built-in look, I wanted to ensure that the unit blended in with my cabinetry and looked like it belonged in the space. But at the same time, I also wanted to give it a little extra detail to create some visual interest, so I decided to add decorative molding and brass pulls to the doors for a more bespoke touch. Therefore, I opted for two of the FORSAND doors because they are plain and easy to zhuzh up however you’d like.

After mocking up various layouts for the molding on the doors with painter’s tape, I settled on one long top box and one small bottom box, similar to the PAX hack I spotted in this gorgeous house tour. I calculated the dimensions needed for the molding, and cut each piece to size with a miter saw to create 45-degree angled ends. With the doors laying flat on the floor, I glued the molding pieces in place with constructive adhesive and followed up with a few brad nails in each piece to ensure they were securely attached.

With my PAX wardrobe assembled in its permanent place in the kitchen and anchored to the wall for child safety, I attached the doors to the unit with these soft-closing hinges to mitigate any potential slamming from my kids. Afterward, I caulked around the edges of the molding to create a seamless look and filled in the nail holes. All that was left to do after that was prime and paint (I used this bonding primer and Behr Polar Bear paint), and once that dried, I attached the brass door handles. It turned out so beautifully, and I love the character it brings to my kitchen!

Credit: Trisha Spouse

How the PAX Unit Has Helped Me with Pantry Storage

Perhaps the greatest attribute of the PAX system is just how easy it is to personalize according to your needs. In terms of my family’s priorities, a big pain point for us was the kids’ snacks. We used to store them in our upper cabinets, but my 6-year-old twins couldn’t reach them, so either my husband or I would have to get them down — and any parent knows just how often kids like to request snacks. So I decided to install a KOMPLEMENT drawer situated low enough in the pantry so they could reach it. I placed a few baskets inside the drawer to organize their various sweet and savory items, and now they can get their own snacks. This alone has been a game-changer! 

Because I also wanted to be able to access canned or jarred goods without having to knock over items while reaching to the back of a shelf, I decided a second drawer was in order. We placed this below the snack drawer, and now it’s a breeze anytime I need to reach for a can of soup or a jar of sauce. It’s also super helpful when I’m planning my grocery shopping list because I can easily see everything, as opposed to missing things that were previously hidden in the back of my cupboards.     

In addition to the two drawers, I opted to install three KOMPLEMENT shelves because I wanted to utilize the pantry to house small appliances as well. This gave me plenty of room to store the toaster, coffee maker, and microwave (we cut a small hole in the back to pass the plugs through), with enough space left to set up a coffee station with our Nespresso pods, milk frother, and French press. Having a small kitchen, I can’t tell you how much counter space it freed up by relocating these appliances, and how much I appreciate being able to close the door on this kind of visual clutter. It’s like having an appliance garage and pantry in one.

Now that we’ve enjoyed the PAX pantry for a couple of months, I wish I had thought of the idea sooner. Not only has it tripled the amount of storage in our kitchen (even for things that I haven’t yet mentioned like pet supplies, cutting boards, lunch boxes, and beverages), but it has also simplified some aspects of our daily routine. And, in my humble opinion, it sure is pretty to look at, too.

This post was originally published on Apartment Therapy. Read it there: I Hacked an IKEA PAX Wardrobe into a Pantry — And Now My Small Kitchen Has Way More Storage