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Built-in wardrobe using IKEA Malm
DIY, Life

IKEA Hack: Built-In Wardrobe Using Malm Dressers

A long long time ago (or what seems it), I did a lot of DIY around the house that we lived when we were in Rochester. Our house was pretty old. Like 1890s old. And the house needed a lot of love.

One of the main challenges that we faced once I moved in was storage space. The house, being as old as it was, had only one closet. One closet! And it was not in either of the bedrooms. Richard had been using a dresser and a wardrobe for his storage needs. When I moved in, we brought up another dresser from the basement for me to use. We were still pretty space challenged, so we decided to do something about it. We had a lot of ideas floating around, but ended up doing an IKEA hack to build a built-in wardrobe using Malm dressers.

Before: Tight quarters

Our bedroom was only about 8′ x 12′. With the bed and storage on both sides of the bed, we had about 6 inches of clearance for getting around the room.

Before: two dressers

We wanted to figure out a way to try to consolidate all of our storage onto one side of the room so that we could free things up a bit. That’s when I schemed up the plan to build a built-in wardrobe on one side of the room.

Before: Large wardrobe

Fast forward through a lot of brainstorming and planning and I successfully completed an IKEA hack and built a built-in wardrobe along one side of the bedroom. I don’t miss a lot of things about Rochester or the house we were living in, but this is the one thing that I get a little misty eyed over. We just didn’t have enough time with the fruits of our labor!

Materials I Used

You’ll likely have different room dimensions, so you may need to alter what you need. However, for your reference, here are the main materials I used:

  • IKEA Malm 6-drawer chest
  • IKEA Malm 6-drawer dresser
  • Glass Top for Malm Dressers
  • Lots of Paint (I used Behr Satin Interior)
  • Behr All-in-one Primer & Sealer (or your favorite bonding primer)
  • 2 x 6 boards for the base
  • Plywood or MDF (More on this later)
  • Caulk
  • Lattice strips for trim
  • Closet rod and hardware

One thing to note about the IKEA dressers: I had contemplated approaching this built-in from a number of angles. Should I try to build my own drawers? Can I find something off of Craigslist to get the job done? Is there some sort of pre-made thing that I can buy? I went with Malm because this IKEA hack gave me the best of both worlds – I was able to tailor it to exactly what I needed, but I didn’t need to build anything from scratch.

A number of tools were pretty pivotal to the success of this project:

Putting it Together

I completed this project over the course of three months. That was because I hit a couple of snags and I was working on it intermittently. If everything goes well, you could have this done over the course of one or two weekends (since there is a lot of down time due to painting and caulking and whatnot).

1. Remove the “crown moulding”

Removing trim from the room

Whoever put up the “crown moulding” in the bedroom was kind of a dummy. It was basically just a 1×2 nailed to the ceiling. It didn’t look good and I knew I would need to remove it to put up the wardrobe. So off it went! As part of this project, I added new crown moulding in the bedroom, but I didn’t really document that process.

2. Paint the wall

Starting to repaint the wall

The built-in wardrobe had an open back. I didn’t put any sort of material on the wall (like a bookcase would have). Since I was going to have the built-in be gray, I started by painting the wall gray. I figured this would be easier that trying to navigate a small space with more corners after the built-in was assembled.

3. Lay the base

Laying the wardrobe base

Once I had the wall painted, I was ready to start laying the base of the built-in. I created the base from a number of 2×6 boards. One of the challenges that I faced in building the built-in was the placement of our heat register. The base helped elevate the dressers and left room for the air to still flow out.

4. Paint all of the pieces

Painting all of the pieces before assembly

As I was working on building the base, I was also busy cutting and painting all of the pieces that I would be using to assemble the built-in. Painting ahead of time makes it much easier, because flat surfaces are much more pleasant and easy to paint when compared to surfaces that have a lot of corners and such.

5. Figure out that I chose poorly

Plywood fail

Like any good DIY project, I experienced a number of bumps in the road. I assembled the dressers, had the base ready to go and then realized that the plywood that I purchased was going to be a showstopper. I had tried to pick a plywood that was flat, but ended up with a piece that was faaarrr too warped and curved. As you can see, there were huge gaps between the wall and the plywood. The gaps were so big that I wasn’t able to put plywood between the two dressers as I had planned.

6. MDF to the rescue!

Wardobe skeleton assembled but not painted

I ended up deciding to scrap the plywood that I had purchased and purchased MDF instead. With MDF, I knew it was going to be straight. If I could do it again, I probably would just start with MDF. With the MDF, I had room for the piece between the two dressers. I also attached a piece at the top to add some stability to the three vertical pieces.

7. Painting and touching up

Skeleton of wardrobe assembled and painted

I ended up using a lot of caulk to smooth out the various cracks and crevices. I also painted the dressers, since they were white and I wanted the built in to be gray like the wall. Since the dressers were laminate, I used a base coat of Behr’s All-in-one Primer & Sealer. I didn’t like it as much as Zinnser’s bonding primer, but it did the trick and it is not oil-based so I didn’t have to deal with the fumes in the bedroom.

8. Ready for use but not done

Wardrobe ready to hang stuff but not done

This project took a long time to complete. Partly due to the setback with the plywood, partly due to my laziness. I eventually got to a good enough point and took a break for a couple of weeks. At this stage, we could store our clothes, but the built-in didn’t look as good as I knew it could.

9. Trim it up

Trimmed added to IKEA hack wardrobe

When I finally got around to finishing up the project, I added trim around the shelves and the sides of the built-in. This made it look so much more cohesive and finished. I also eventually got around to painting the faces of the long dresser. You’ll also note that I added the crown moulding around the bedroom.

10. Touch up the trim

Caulking the trim on IKEA hack

I can’t stress this enough: caulk makes a huuuuuge difference for these types of projects. It seals everything up. You just need to make sure you’re good at caulking, because it’s easy to have the caulk dry up too quickly and you don’t get as smooth of a look as you would have hoped. My trick was to use a wet rag and run it over the freshly applied caulk every few inches or so.

11. Paint it all up


The last step is painting everything. And obviously let it dry for a while. And you’re done!

Finished IKEA hack built in

The Skinny on the IKEA Hack built-in wardrobe

It’s been a while, so I’ll do my best to give you the skinny on this project.


3 of 4 money

Since it’s been so long since I did this project, I don’t have exact numbers on how much this project cost. Since it’s likely that you’ll be having to customize it to your particular needs, I’m not sure how helpful this would be. However, I can still give you some high level details/estimates for materials:

The only tool that I needed to purchase for this project was an air compressor. I purchased the Porter Cable 3-Tool Combo Kit which included the compressor, a nail gun, a brad gun, and a staple gun. This was useful for a number of projects around the house including an upholstery project and installing board and batten and moulding throughout the house. I can’t remember how much I paid for it unfortunately, although I think it was around $200.

All said and done, I spent around $611 on materials and supplies (excluding tools). Of course, this is an estimate so your mileage may vary. One thing that is a bummer is that we couldn’t take this with us when we moved! We had to buy new dressers instead. I like to think that this expense helped contribute to the quick sale and selling price of the house though, so I don’t see it as a complete wash.

If you are looking to cut costs from what I did, you could try to find the dressers on Craigslist. I like Malm because they are boxy, look modern, and can blend in with a lot of things.


I’m not really sure how to accurately estimate time for this project. Let’s just say it took a lot of work! I started in February and didn’t really wrap up the finishing details until April. Over the course of those months, I probably spend anywhere between 60 and 100 hours. I really don’t know! Just assume that it will take a while.


3 skill

This wasn’t the most technical project in the world, but it did require a lot of planning and thought. It also required the use of multiple power tools that require a bit of skill and safety precautions. For that reason, I rate this as a 3 of 4 skill level.

What do you think of this IKEA hack? Have you ever done anything similar?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them, I receive a small commission for referring you. As always, all of my opinions are my own!

DIY, Pets

How To: Hidden Cat Litter Box

For the majority of his life, Zeke (my cat) has had the luxury of ample room for running, playing, napping, and using his litter box. His litter box was always in a basement, which gave him ample room to do his business and plenty of privacy to do it.

Unfortunately, now that we are living in Arlington, space is at a premium and we no longer have a basement. In fact, in our apartment, we barely have any extra room. When we moved, I knew that finding a place for the litter box would be a challenge. We were battling a couple of issues:

  • We don’t have any extra closets or out of the way places to store a litter box
  • Stella (our dog) likes to … um… snack on Zeke’s unmentionables, so we can’t just have it sit out
  • Zeke needs some privacy do to his business
  • The idea of having a litter box just out in the open in our living area grosses me out

So, I decided to figure out what I could do to create a hidden cat litter box storage unit. Maybe I could build something. Maybe I could hack something. Maybe I can do some other creative thing. I wanted the end result to be not extremely expensive, multi-purpose, and easy to put together. And, as luck would have it, I think I accomplished all three goals!

Enter IKEA Ivar


Source: IKEA

I decided to utilize IKEA’s IVAR storage system, which is a totally customizable system for creating shelving storage units. You can choose how wide you want your shelving, how tall you want your shelving, and a number of different add-ons like cabinets, shelves and even a wine rack!

In the picture above, you can see that they set up their IVAR with a cabinet on the bottom and shelves on the top and it’s two columns wide. I decided to do something a little different: one column, cabinet on the bottom, tall enough to reach nearly the ceiling in my apartment. So, let’s walk through the process in case you ever find yourself needing a hidden cat litter box!

Materials You’ll Need

If you want to replicate what I did, you’ll need the following items from IKEA:

My apartment has pretty tall ceilings and I wanted to maximize my use of vertical space, so that is why I went with the 89″ side units. You can of course go with the shorter ones and less shelves, if that fits your space better. However, the key to this project is getting the 20″ deep side units, shelves and cabinet – the litter box sits in the cabinet, so it needs to be deep enough to fit that!

Other materials I used were:

Putting It Together

Once you’ve gathered all of your materials, you’re ready to start making your hidden cat litter box storage. It was pretty simple to put everything together, but I ended up assembling everything over the course of a few weeks. That was mostly due to me being lazy, so it’s likely you can put everything together in a much quicker fashion.

1. Assemble the IVAR cabinet base

Cat Litter Box Storage - Cabinet Assembly

The first step you need to take is putting together the cabinet. This is fairly easy to do. Just follow IKEA’s directions.

2. Map out a cat door

Cat Litter Box Storage - Draw Hole

Once you have the cabinet put together, determine which side of the cabinet your cat will use as their entrance/exit. Be sure you don’t accidentally put the door on the botton of the cabinet floor or at the top of the side (rather than the bottom). Triple check this.

3. Drill holes to start cutting out the cat door

Cat Litter Box Storage - Drill Holes

Cutting out the cat door hole is a two step process. First, you need to drill a hole in each of the four corners that you drew out. Make sure you use a bit that is big enough for you to put the blade of your jig saw through. You’ll use these drill holes to guide where you saw and to get the hole started.

4. Test out the waters with a dry run

Cat Litter Box Storage - Dry Run

Zeke had never had his litter box in an enclosed space before, so I wanted to ease him into the experience. The last thing I needed was him doing his thing in places that he shouldn’t. To help ease him in, I left out the cabinet without doors and not in the rest of the unit for a while.

5. Line the cabinet with light panels

Cat Litter Box Storage - Light Panels

One sucky thing about wood for this project is that is sucks stuff up. To help reduce damage for the inevitable accidents, I decided to line the interior of the cabinet with plastic light panels. All I did was cut the panels to size and line the interior of the cabinet (walls, floor, doors) and then caulk around all of the edges to seal everything up. You could probably use a number of different materials to line the cabinet, but this was the best solution I could find.

Use a utility knife to cut the light panels, but be super careful. The panels are very brittle, so it’s easy for them to snap in a direction that you don’t want them to snap.

6. Assemble the rest of the cabinet

Hidden Cat Litter Box - Put It Together

Eventually, you need to actually assemble the storage unit. The cabinet is pretty chunky, so it took a bit of effort to get everything juuuuust so.

Hidden Cat Litter Box - Full Unit

Eventually, we were even able to put stuff on the shelves above. Multi purpose? Check!

7. Test out the waters again

Hidden Cat Litter Box - Dry Run 2 Once I had the cabinet assembled, I placed the litter box inside of the storage unit. I left the doors to the cabinet open for a week or two so that Zeke could enter through the cat door or through the front of the open cabinets. During this time, it became clear that Zeke was having some trouble aiming into his litter box. It seems that the enclosed space made him feel like he didn’t need to be as careful. To help combat more accidents, I decided to get a high-sided litter box. Luckily, this did the trick and we haven’t had any issues since!

Also, I used one of the two shelves that comes with the cabinet. This created a perfect space to keep all of the other cat litter stuff – cleaner, bags, scoop, and hand broom.

8. Add in the cat door, if you want

Zeke sitting by window

I thought I would end up using the cat door, but I never really got around to installing it. Also, I discovered that since the cat door was designed to be installed in something as thick as a door, there is a large gap between the plastic and the cabinet. If you’re interested in installing the door, it would be pretty easy to get some scrap trim and line the door to fill the gap between the cabinet and the plastic on the cat door. As you can see from above, Zeke is kind of a chunky dude, so I think for now it’s okay that we don’t have that extra bit making the entrance/exit smaller.

The Skinny on Making a Hidden Cat Litter Box

So now that you know how to make your own hidden cat litter box, let’s go over some details about the project itself.


Tools & Materials Costs:

  • IVAR Storage Unit: $160
  • Light Panels: $30
  • Caulk: $9
  • Cat Door: $20
  • High-sided Cat Litter Box: $11
  • Jig Saw: $30

Total Tools & Material Costs: $260

Overall, I spent $260 on making this custom hidden cat litter box. The majority of the cost came from the storage unit itself. I could have reduced cost in the following ways:

  • Buying less light panels (I purchased one more than I ended up needing)
  • Not buying the cat door (I had already purchased it a long time ago and thought I would use it, but didn’t)
  • Not upgrading litter boxes (Maybe you have a cat that is capable of aiming)
  • Borrowing a jig saw from someone (Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone else in the area who has a jig saw)

When I look at it all added up together, I’m tempted to feel sticker shock – kind of like how I did when I built my workbench in Rochester. However, the hidden cat litter box storage unit has become a pivotal part of our apartment. It does the crucial task of hiding the litter box, it keeps the litter box away from our dog, it helps minimize smell, and it acts as a storage unit for a bunch of other stuff. This is also something we’ll be able to take with us to future apartments, because it’s unlikely that we’ll end up in a place with a basement (or extra space) for a long time.



I took a long time to put this together because I had a lot going on and I kept having to go back to the store for supplies. However, over the course of a few weeks, I only really put in a few hours of work onto this project. If you’re motivated, you could easily have this entire project done in an afternoon or about 3 to 5 hours.


2 of 4 skill

This is a really simple project. You need to know how to use a drill and you need to know how to use a jig saw. Since there is some dexterity needed with the jig saw and some power tools involved, I give this project a 2 of 4 in terms of skill needed.

Have you ever made a hidden cat litter storage unit? Would you?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them, I receive a small commission for referring you. As always, all of my opinions are my own!

how to build a workbench

How to Build a Workbench

One of the nice things about moving to Rochester is that I’m now living in a house rather than living in an apartment. More specifically, a house with a very large and spacious basement.

So much room for activities!

Throughout the months, I’ve found that having a big basement in and of itself isn’t necessarily useful. You need some infrastructure to help reign in all of the STUFF (hanging onto the STUFF is a conversation for another time).

Part of our strategy to keep our stuff organized has been to install a number of shelving units around the perimeter of the basement. Shelving units are only good for so many things though. With all of the DIYing we have done in the past few months, we’ve acquired a number of different tools. One way that we’ve reigned in the tools and other DIY accoutrements is to build ourselves our very own workbench. I did a bit of research to figure out how to build a workbench that fit our needs, but was also soft on the budget.

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Creative Ways to Reuse Things You’d Otherwise Throw Out

Today is Earth Day. Although the Earth has been around for billions of years, this year marks only the 43rd Earth Day! I don’t know about your feelings on the topic, but I believe we have a lot of catching up to do in celebrating Earth Day. To start, we can each make every day a little bit more like Earth Day by making eco-friendly and eco-conscious decisions. One approach to celebrating Earth Day every day is to find creative ways to reuse things you would otherwise throw out.

To help you (and myself) be more mindful and take that extra step towards reducing waste and recycling when possible, I’ve scoured the web for creative ways to reuse things you have around the house. Bonus: not only are you doing a favor for the environment by doing these projects, you’re also doing a favor for your wallet. Most of the ideas below would undoubtedly fall into the “frugal” category, as you’ll likely already have these things around the house or apartment anyways.

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DIY is coming soon to Living in Flux

Coming Soon to Living in Flux: DIY

Have you ever looked longingly at something in a store and wished you could have it, but it wasn’t in the budget?

Have you ever looked at two items lying around in the house and thought that you could put them together in a way that makes them more interesting?

Have you ever looked for a simple, at home solution, to things that often are time, money or effort intensive?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, Living in Flux is going to be the place for you even more than it already was!

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