For a while I thought my closet was messy because it was too small, but at 3’ x 5.5’ feet, I came to realize that it wasn’t too small, just not being used to its full potential.
Bear with me here…pictures are pretty tough to take of this space because its tight, but I took a comics class in college so I’m going to do my best with these little drawings 😂I didn’t take any before photos, but I did story about it on instagram, so check that out here if you’re interested! This space is tight enough that video is necessary for full clarity.
With budget, space/function, and DIY ease in mind, we decided to spring for the very affordable IKEA RAST 3 drawer dresser. It’s solid wood and ready to be painted! I planned on upgrading the hardware, but ended up really liking the knobs it came with!
If you want to do a similar project, the first part is to take a good look at what you have in your closet and figure out how you would ideally like to store everything. This step was dramatic for me. I made the decision to try out a capsule wardrobe (so far I’m loving it, but updates to come!). This step is super important. If you have 10 hats that you love and can’t part with, or maybe 30 pairs of shoes, plan for those to be part of your closet! Get creative with it!
Once you have your plan, you can get to the fun part!
Step One: Assemble your Ikea Rast dresser
Follow the instructions it comes with, but don’t totally finish it. Build the base and the drawers, but hold off on actually putting the drawers in.
Now is a good time to gather all of the other supplies you will also need:
Step Two: Reinforce the dressers
If you have two (or more!) dressers like we did, clamp and screw them together to reinforce the stability of the dressers. We used screws we had on hand and just made sure that they wouldn’t go through to the other side. It’s pretty rough work but it doesn’t matter because it is completely hidden in the end result.
In this step, we also nailed a piece of 1×4 in between the “legs” of the dresser to give it a smooth look all the way up.
Step Three: Paint the dresser
When we did this project, I painted after the dressers were in the closet and regret it. It is so much easier to paint before your drawers are locked in and with more room around you. The painting goes super quick using a 6” roller. We used the same paint we used for our trim, and ended up needing about a half gallon of paint and 3 coats for both of our closets.
Step Four: Demo toe kick from where the dresser will be going in
We used a pry bar and hammer to rip our toe kick out. Try to be gentle here because you might be able to reuse this in the last step! Our toe kick is just a simple oak quarter round and was put in with a nail gun, so removing it took a little bit of elbow grease but nothing too crazy.
Step Five: Build a frame for your dresser to sit on
We have 1×6 baseboards, so we used 1×6 pine to build our frame. We measured the length and width of the combined dressers, built an L shape, and rested our dressers right on top. We also put a board down the middle to add support, but it’s probably not necessary.
The back of the dresser rests on the baseboard that was already there. The front of the frame is now your new front baseboard! If you have a more decorative baseboard, try to get the material to match and adjust accordingly. To secure everything in, we nailed the back and side of the dresser to the wall (or you could find the studs and screw it in to be extra secure) and nailed in the little front piece of the dresser.
We have a small gap between the wall and the dresser. We are thinking that we will go back with putty or caulk to close the gap and make it look even more built in, but we haven’t gotten to that quite yet.
Step Six: Put the drawers in
Once it’s all fastened in, we put our drawers in. If you want to build dividers or anything fancy for the drawers, you should do that first because it is pretty tricky to measure for that after it’s in the dresser. I put some dividers in my drawers with 1×4 trimmed to fit. We nailed those in with our nail gun.
Step Seven: Get your shelves in
This step will be different for everyone depending on what you want for your shelves. We started by measuring and cutting our wood (we cut everything with a pull saw). We secured a 1×12 common pine vertical piece with a few nails on the top and a few on the bottom. This is another area that we could definitely go back and use some putty to make it look a little better.
For the horizontal shelves, we added little strips of wood under to reinforce the shelves. Something to think about is what you’re going to be storing on your shelves and accommodate for that. So, if you’re storing heavy items, make sure you’re shelves can support all of that! For shoes and jeans, you won’t need much.
This is what we ended up doing for our closets!
Step Eight: Clean and Paint
Wipe down your surfaces first with a wet sponge! There is probably some dust and debris around from the cutting and nailing, and you really don’t want that mixing with your paint. Use a combination of brush and roller to get the job done! It’s not a big space to paint, but it does take some time to get all the details.
Step Nine: Finishing Touches
The finishing touch for this project is adding that toe kick back in. Just use your nail gun to tack it in place and you’re good to go! This is the key element to really making the dressers look built in. But the fun finishing touch is putting all of your clothes in and making it your own!
We were instantly kicking ourselves for not doing this project sooner. It’s already made every article of clothing we own feel so much nicer, which has made me a lot happier and I can already feel the ripple effect!