Adding Ikea Wardrobes For A Built-In Bed Nook & More Storage

We started 2008 with a home improvement bang like no other. We were up at 8:20 am and on the road to Ikea by 9. What would motivate two sleep-deprived twenty-somethings to get up that early on our last day off? How about the thought of gaining not one, but two more bedroom closets?! That’s right, we finally decided that one tiny closet in the master bedroom (which forced John to keep all his clothes in the guest bedroom) was not enough. So on New Years Day we (fittingly) resolved to do something about it.

Here’s the New Years Day play by play:

8:20 am- Up and at em’.

9:00 am- Hit the road for Ikea.

11:00 am- Arrive. Hightail it to the closet department.

12:30 pm- Leave $460 poorer with two giant wardrobes to flank the bed (plus tons of interior fittings).

2:00 pm- Arrive home. Rest.

2:05 pm- Enough sitting around. The wardrobes aren’t going to put themselves together.

2:06 pm- Forget to shoot a “before” photo, but here’s an old pic for reference:

2:15 pm- Move out the side tables and get out the dreaded allen wrench.

3:50 pm- One wardrobe frame done, one to go.

4:30 pm- Build second wardrobe frame. Re-hang curtains on back wall in an attempt to enlarge that tiny window

4:35 pm- Enjoy a victory bowl of cereal after shooting this “during” photo.

Wardrobe During

5:25 pm- Quick trip to Lowe’s to get long screws to anchor the behemoths to the wall, which annoyingly Ikea didn’t provide.

6:15 pm- Install six glorious shelves and a hanging bar in Sherry’s wardrobe.

7:30 pm- Install three drawers and a hanging bar in John’s wardrobe (two shelves were also meant to be added, but we realized we bought the wrong size- d’oh)

8:30 pm- Burger King run. We can’t survive on cereal and home improvement endorphins alone.

9:30 pm- Finally get all of our clothes, shoes, bags, and belts into our two fantastic wonderful beautiful new closets (the guest bedroom closet is now empty- amazing).

10:00 pm- Hang matching white curtains on both wardrobes. Step back and HATE them (we thought it would look soft and elegant- it wound up looking like a cheap Trading Spaces project).

Bedroom Curtains

10:05 pm- Realize we both like it infinitely more with the curtains pushed to the side (they look more like fancy built ins, and not like a cheapo bookcase swathed in fabric).

Wardrobes After

The next few days were full of progress. We ran to Home Depot and grabbed 7 inch molding to add to the tops of the wardrobes so that they appear more flush to the ceiling (bridging that 4″ gap that used to be painfully obvious on top of each wardrobe). Our next stop was Linens N’ Things where we picked up a few heavy curtain panels in rich chocolate brown. Back home we extended the wardrobes to the ceiling with the molding, hung the new brown panels around the window, and rehung the curtains in front of each wardrobe flush with the ceiling. Here’s what it all looks like now that we’ve bridged the gap. The wardrobes were definitely looking better with the gap bridged, but we weren’t so crazy about the dark chocolate curtains.

Actual Bedroom

So we returned ’em and went on a curtain shopping spree. In fact you wouldn’t believe us if we told you how much money we spent. But we’re going to tell you anyway- close to $500. Yeesh. That’s a lotta loot. But we realized we needed lots of different curtain choices to make a final decision, so we got oodles of options (from Bed Bath & Beyond, Linens N’ Things, and Target) and then took them home for a little curtain fashion show (don’t worry, we returned every pair except for our favorites).

Here’s Burger sniffing out the competition:

Burger n curtains

Although we had many (many) curtain panels to choose from, there was immediately a clear winner. The gorgeous khaki chenille-esque curtains with the subtle crosshatched pattern for a little added texture from Bed Bath & Beyond. Bellisimo.

Bedroom After

As our curtain crisis came to a close, then came the exciting hunt for plug-in swing-arm lamps for above the bed. Ok, maybe “exciting” isn’t the right word, but I tend to get a little thrill when I can check any project off my list.

After striking out at several places including Lowe’s (no swing-arms), Restoration Hardware (too pricey) we had just about given up on Richmond’s lighting stock. Luckily, we ended up visiting my parents in Northern Virginia and stumbled upon a Lamp Factory Outlet.

There, amongst endless rows of table lamps and chandeliers, we found the perfect option: two brushed nickel, plug-in, swing-arm lamps for only $40 a piece. About $200 dollars cheaper than most of the other options we saw. We snagged ‘em (the last two in stock!) and as of last night they’re officially swinging from our bedroom wall. We couldn’t be happier with the dramatic result:

Bedroom with Lights

The room definitely looks more finished and hotel-ish, so we can’t wait to curl up with a good book and order some room service. Ok, wishful thinking.

Here’s a close-up. You can see how we tucked the base behind the curtain and angled the lamp arm around the edge for a more polished look.

Detail Light

But alas, this project wasn’t quite finished. Instead of having two refrigerator sized boxes on either side of the bed, we wanted them to look more finished. So we decided to mount a wide piece of wood to the ceiling that would hang in front of both wardrobes and serve as a header (to make the bed feel like it’s tucked into a built-in nook). I know that sounds confusing, so I’ll just let a few pictures do the talking.

Here’s a photo of the wardrobes before the header:

Bedroom Before

And here’s a during shot:

Bedroom During

Now I’ll ask for a drum roll. After painting the header and re-hanging the curtains, the eight inch plank of wood makes a major difference. And the crown molding is the icing on the cake. Here’s a detail shot so you can get up close and personal with our new master bedroom built-in:


And here’s a shot of the full monty:

Bedrooom After

Now laying in bed truly feels like you’re tucked into a cozy little nook instead of squeezed between two large, unrelated pieces of furniture. The whole layout looks a lot more deliberate, which is exactly what we were going for.

So that’s the story of two people trying to turn a 12 by 13 foot room into something special. Fifty year old houses don’t have giant master suites with monster closets and attached bathrooms, so you gotta do what you can to make a tiny room (that looks just like the other bedrooms) appear special. So what do you think? Mission accomplished?

***UPDATE: Since a lot of people have requested them, we snapped some photos of how the curtain rod is attached behind the header on the ceiling. You can see below how it’s a cheap-o curtain rod that sits on a bracket we attached to the piece of molding bridging the gap between the wardrobe and ceiling. We had to hang it down a couple of inches from the ceiling so there was enough room to lift the rod off (you can see the two holes above the bracket proving we learned this the hard way!).


  1. prettythings says

    I have to say, I’m totally loving your site, and this bedroom make over is Over The Top! I can’t get over how you transformed this room with Ikea wardrobes, fabric, paint and a header (okay, maybe I’m over simplifying here)for a gorgeous custom look!

    We’re getting ready to put our house on the market (a 50’s craftsman cottage) and looking at wonderful old homes in CT… your work is making me impatient to move ASAP and get started on dream renovation projects! Love it!

    • says

      Aw thanks PrettyThings! It’s still one of our favorite makeovers to date because it felt like such an impossible situation (boring small and boxy room with no closet space) that we somehow transformed with some pretty affordable materials and a lot of hard work.


  2. Steph says

    Your blog, your life, your marriage, your house…. it’s all amazing!

    I have a quick question about the light in your bedroom – I’m looking at something similar for my bedroom but I’m concerned it will not be bright enough for me to see the interior of my wardrobe (a somewhat similar set up to yours). Do you find that light bright enough for day to day stuff?

    • says

      Good question! The good news is that it’s plenty bright. In fact it might be brighter than something with a fabric or paper shade since it’s more breezy and open so light just radiates from it. We LOVE ours. Hope it helps!


  3. Rachel says

    Working on this project- on a smaller scale. Our room is a few feet smaller- so we can only fit the 20″ wardrobe on either side. But we have a very similar floor plan with only small closets in each of our 3 rooms. To me- every little bit of extra storage helps! I am wondering- where did you find your bed? We love the simple clean lines and it is harder then I assumed it would be to find a bed without all of the frills. We currently have a homemade headboard, circa 2004, which I am a bit bored with. And can you suggest where to get the floor to ceiling white curtains used as doors.

    Oh and before I forget, is there a gap between the wardrobe and the walls? I thought I saw a picture with a gap that the curtains cover nicely. Just wondering if we need to take the trim off at the floor level. Thanks for your help!!!


    • says

      Hey Rachel,

      Our bed is the Malm bed from Ikea. Cheap and simple (plus you save money on a boxspring since you don’t need one with a platform bed).

      When it comes to the small gap you see on the left side, we intentionally fitted the wardrobes perfectly on either side of the bed for a seamless look when the curtains are drawn but there was still a bit of space between the left wardrobe and the wall, which we actually use to store our ironing board. Gotta love turning a negative into a positive! The best part is that once the curtains are drawn nobody knows the built-ins aren’t perfectly fitted.

      As for taking off the baseboards, just see how things look. We didn’t need to remove ours for a seamless look since the curtains obscured any gaps (because we were sure to hang them totally flush to the wall). Hope it helps!


  4. jessica says

    i just found out about your site from my aunt..& i can’t tell you how happy i am that she sent it to me!!!! We have exactly the same problem in our bedroom(although our house was built in the 80’s so we don’t have any of the charm of a small, older home :D ) as soon as my husband came home, i showed him what you guys did & he was excited too!! I can’t wait to do our project!! Besides that it seems like your site is a WEALTH of information for all the issues we’re currently facing in finding space in our 800 sq ft home..In fact as I write this, I’m sitting in my new “office” my hubby made from our front closet..! 3 shelves & a table top & filing cabinet. Anyways, thanks for this site and I’m looking forward to finding more gems that I can translate into my house!! GREAT JOB!

  5. Heidi Harder says

    I like your website! Do you think this set up could work with a dining/office room, with the desk being sandwiched in the middle of the two closets? It is the first room you see out in front of you when you first walk in the house. Also, where did you get your ceiling to floor curtains? Thanks-Heidi

  6. Chris says

    I love this setup! I gotta totally pumped to do something like this in our bedroom, which is similarly sized. My wife is hesitant, because she thinks it would feel like sleeping inside a cave. I was wondering if you guys feel like that at all?

    Keep up the great work. We are doing a lot of stuff to our condo and have drawn some inspiration from your place!

    • says

      Good question Chris! We actually remarked that it feels cozier ever since we added the built-ins. It’s less like a cave and more like a snug and inviting little sleeping nook after a long day. Hope it helps!


  7. shopgirl says

    Hello, I love your concept! I was wondering where I could find those curtain rods that you got- the u shaped metal. If you can give me a specific store name that would be greatly helpful.

    Thanks and keep us the great work.

    • says

      Hmm, we don’t have the specific brand or name but you can probably find them at JC Penney or Macy’s or even Bed Bath & Beyond? Maybe asking the sales people there is the best way to track them down (and you can call ahead to save all that driving around). Hope it helps!


  8. Julie says

    Hi, I love your blog, I have dropped by a couple times in the past few months. I have a question regarding your capiz chandalier. I have been searching for one for our master bedroom for at least a year now. I checked out the West Elm web site as I noticed you said yours was from there….but it doesn’t look the same as the one they show. Yours looks fuller. Home Depot has one that I was considering but you can see directly up underneath it to the light bulb, (not full enough). Is yours perhaps last years version?

    Thanks so much!

    • says

      Hey Margaret,

      We actually keep our bedside stuff (cell phone, alarm clock, jewelry, contact case) inside each of our wardrobes on a shelf that’s around the height of a side table- which is still easily reached from bed. We just slip our hands behind the curtain and grab whatever we need… and it’s easy and clean-looking since it’s all out of sight. Hope it helps!


  9. Steve says

    Hi, love your site…and from the looks of your DIY designs it seems you two make a great team.

    My wife and I are about to move into a new apartment and we have been debating back and forth on whether the same setup would work…so it is fortuitous that I came across this. Thanks for helping me win :) Love the header idea.

    Quick question, what did you use to mount the PAX wardrobes to the wall, just a simple toggle bolt or did you actually mount into the stud?

    Thanks and keep up the great work!

    • says

      Hey Steve,

      We did find a stud behind each wardrobe (which was easy to do given how wide they both were) and drilled right in for a tight, secure fit that has held up really well over time. Hope it helps!


  10. Regina says

    Wow! I love all of your projects! I am getting ready to move into a new home and am excited to try the wall of curtains in my new master bedroom – what a great idea! Thank you so much for all of the inspiration! :) I was also very inspired by the Bower Power site….thanks for the link!

  11. Sarah says

    I cannot tell you how much I heart you guys right now!!! I have been desperately trying to think up a solution for the lack of closet space in our master bedroom. My husband also has to keep his stuff in the spare room. This post absolutely made my day. We don’t have a window above our bed, but I’m thinking pale blue velvet curtains all the way across, hanging arm lamps peeking out and a upholstered headboard in between the wardrobes…..maybe a mirror centered above the bed. If I ever get it finished I’ll let you know. Cheers and thanks for the inspiration.

  12. Jill says

    Hi Sherry! LOVE this idea and it’s perefct for our 100 year old (and 10-foot wide) rowhouse on Capitol Hill in DC. We’re attempting to do the header/curtain idea this weekend, and my husband wants to make it as safe and sound as possible. We plan on drilling into studs, but you only used extra-long screws to hold the header to the ceiling? And am I correct in assuming you drilled down from the top (in the attic) into the stud and then into the header? In a previous comment you say you drilled in “from behind” but I just want to make sure I’m clear. Thanks so much for all the tips and inspiration!

    • says

      Hey Jill,

      Yup going from the studs down will totally work. We actually went from a small strip of wood up into the studs from our room (after we were sure of their location) and then mounted the header to that sliver of wood, which was then hidden by crown molding. But if you’re going in from above it should work just as well and eliminate the need for that strip of wood and any crown molding. Hope it helps!


  13. Sharon says

    You guys are so awesome! We just bought a 50’s house and the tiny closets were one of my biggest concerns. This is a great option and it looks so nice! Are the wardrobes two different sizes (widths)?

    • says

      Yup, the one on the left is slightly wider because the window above the bed is actually off center so we did our best to cheat everything so it looks more balanced. Hope it helps!


  14. amy says

    I think you guys are unbelievably talented and creative, so please don’t feel offended if I tweak your “build-in” with a suggestion. It might be a good idea to paint the inside of the “build-in” facing each side of the bed the same color as the “header” and wall. I think it might create even more of a “build-in” look. What does everyone else think?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *