How to Transform IKEA Wardrobes into a Built-In Home Office

Budget-friendly storage furniture combines with a plywood tabletop to create a DIY workstation with tons of style.

workspace with olive green cabinets
Photo: Blaine Moats
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 2 days
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Turn a blank wall into a hardworking home office with this DIY built-in workstation. The project starts with a pair of IKEA Pax wardrobes, which are available in several sizes and configurations, to create closed-door storage for office supplies, paperwork, and more. Between the cabinets, a sheet of plywood mounted to the wall forms an efficient desktop surface. The standard height is 30 inches, but you can install your tabletop 44 inches from the floor for standing desk height or 36 inches for counter height. Personalize the wardrobes with a coat of paint (we chose Chimichurri CSP-810 from Benjamin Moore) and textural wallpaper inside the door insets. To boost organization, outfit the interiors with a combination of shelves, baskets, drawers, and other storage accessories. Add task lighting and artwork around the work area for a stylish and functional office.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Circular or table saw
  • 1 Clamps
  • 1 Fine-grit sandpaper
  • 1 Tack cloth
  • 1 Angle paintbrush
  • 1 Drill/driver
  • 1 Crafts knife
  • 1 High-density mini foam roller

Materials

  • 1 2x4-foot sheet of 3/4-inch maple plywood
  • 1 8-foot 1x3 maple board
  • 1 Wood glue
  • 1 Water-base clear coat (We used Minwax Polycrylic.)
  • 2 IKEA Pax wardrobes (39 3/8 x 23 5/8 x 79 1/4 inches)
  • 1 Primer made for glossy surfaces (We used Sherwin-Williams PrepRite ProBlock.)
  • 1 Semigloss paint (We used Sherwin-Williams Pro Industrial DTM Acrylic Coating color-matched to Chimichurri.)
  • 1 1 1/2-inch wood screws
  • 1 Metal bracket
  • 1 Grass-cloth wallpaper
  • 1 Crafts glue
  • 1 Cabinet hardware

Instructions

  1. Measure and Cut Plywood

    Measure and cut the plywood to 21-3/4x48 inches. Cut the 1x3 into one 48-inch-long nose piece and two 20-inch cleats. These pieces will form your tabletop.

  2. Assemble Tabletop

    Using wood glue and clamps, attach the nose piece to one long side of the tabletop with edges flush. Allow to dry 24 hours. Remove the clamps, and sand the surface until smooth. Remove dust with a tack cloth.

  3. Apply Clear Coat

    Apply clear coat to the tabletop using a high-quality angle brush. Be sure to brush in one direction with the grain. Let dry for 2 hours, and then lightly sand to remove air bubbles.

  4. Paint Wardrobes

    Using fine-grit sandpaper, rough up the finish of the unassembled wardrobe parts and doors. Wipe away dust with a tack cloth. Prime all wardrobe parts and the cleats from Step 1. After the primer has thoroughly dried, paint all the primed pieces, allowing to dry between coats.

  5. Assemble and Position Wardrobes

    After the paint is cured, assemble the wardrobes according to the manufacturer's instructions, but leave off the doors. Position the wardrobes against the wall 48 inches apart.

  6. Attach Cleats

    Measure 29-1/4 inches from the floor and draw a level line on both wardrobes to mark the tabletop placement. Attach cleats directly below the lines, screwing in from the interior of the wardrobes.

  7. Secure Tabletop

    Place the tabletop on the cleats. Screw through the bottom of the cleat into the bottom side of the tabletop so as not to disturb the finish on the top. To add stability, install the metal bracket into a stud or using drywall anchors. Attach tabletop to bracket.

  8. Finish Wardrobes and Customize

    Install the wardrobe doors, and add desired hardware. Trim wallpaper to fit inside the door insets and adhere with crafts glue. Customize the interiors with organizers to boost storage capabilities.

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