Before and After: A Clever $700 IKEA PAX Hack Turns a Hallway into a Practical Home Office

published May 4, 2022
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About this before & after
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Before: A large shelving unit in front of a map

You’ve heard of closets-turned-offices, corners-turned-offcies, and under-stair offices, but have you heard of the hallway-turned office?

For Lauren Carlotto (@l.a.ct), replacing the “collector of dust” bookcase in her hallway with a command center was a much better use of space. “Although my house is 2,000 square feet, there is A LOT of dead space,” Lauren explains. “After having a baby a year and a half ago and losing my home office, I didn’t have a great alternative for workspace. Pre-COVID, losing my home office to our nursery wouldn’t have been a huge inconvenience. But now with working from home two days a week, I needed a better solution.”

She was inspired by a DIY she saw on Apartment Therapy where two IKEA PAX wardrobes and a slab of butcher block became a built-in workspace on a budget. “I sent a text to my best friend, Melissa, who is such a creative spirit,” Lauren recalls. “I like to think of myself handy, but man, that girl is amazing at fun DIY projects. As soon as I texted her she was booking flights to me!”

Once Melissa was in town, the pair got to work. The first challenge of the project was waiting for the IKEA PAX to actually come in stock, Lauren remembers. For the smaller set of drawers on the left, they went with a Wayfair option instead. Melissa (@runmellierun) used lumber from Lowe’s to create the open shelving.

Melissa also built a support for underneath the smaller drawer unit so it would reach the height Lauren wanted for the butcher block desk, and they attached the butcher block to the wall using 2x2s. They ended up adding a supporting leg to the front of the desk — a game-day decision that Lauren does not regret. Lauren says she was worried about drilling into the side of the cabinet and attaching such a heavy slab of butcher block to it.

One other issue that they ran into was that they planned for the wardrobe to go right where the HVAC intake vent was. One of her takeaways from the project? “Measure a million times, and definitely look up at your dang ceiling,” she says. Thankfully, she and Melissa found a workaround that didn’t disrupt the airflow in Lauren’s home.

“We finally settled on completely flipping the intake so it would open the opposite way,” Lauren says. “Originally we had planned to frame the wardrobe completely to the ceiling. We couldn’t do that now, but ultimately, that was okay!”

Another challenge from the project was painting the big-box furniture. “I watched endless bloggers saying ‘you have to sand,’ ‘no you don’t have to sand,’ ‘use this paint,’ ‘no never use this paint!'” Lauren says. “It was sort of a headache.”

Lauren says what ended up working best for her was using a deglaze liquid, lightly sanding the wardrobe, priming with a shellac-based primer, and then adding the brick red cabinet paint (Sherwin-Williams’ Fireweed). Lauren says if she could change one thing about the project, it would be to practice painting on a smaller piece of IKEA furniture first, but overall, she loves the bold color.

“My entire house is various shades of blue and gray,” she says. “My husband and I are not color people. So we LOVE the red and how bold it makes the space look.”

After the paint was dry, Lauren and Melissa fitted the cabinets with sleek brass pulls from CB2. Lauren’s other favorite detail is the gallery wall behind the desk. She added peel and stick wallpaper and Etsy prints “with all things that bring [her] joy” so that her office would reflect her personality. All told, the project rang in at about $700.

“That really was the part of the project that tied everything together for me,” Lauren says.

Mostly, she’s proud that she got to work on this project with a friend. “I’m so proud of getting to do this with Melissa and all the meaningful memories we created,” she says.

Lauren’s advice for future DIYers is to “look around your home for those dead spaces, and really ask how it can be improved for function and usefulness,” she says. That certainly paid off for her big time in this small-budget project.