The epic closet battle of 2011

This past weekend was indeed a symphony of sawing, hammering, and cursing, as I had predicted. My task: to install an IKEA PAX customizable closet system into a space with dimensions smaller than the rectangular framing of the wardrobe out of the box.

I chose the PAX system after countless hours (really years, 3 years to be exact) of deliberating on how I could best utilize the closet space we had. I balanced every possible combination and solution, none of which really gave me what I was looking for. Remember, this is a budget build, so full custom closeting was not an option here, as I don’t really want to spend upwards of $10k on this space. I’d rather save that money for something useful, like a new roof or kitchen remodel 😉

To give you an idea of the space I was working with, here is a before picture, showing the cheap clothes rack as a temporary (as in 3 years) workaround:

Before the battle, clutter abounds.

You’ll note in this picture, the beam height, sloped ceilings/walls, and wall mounted space heater (the whole house is electrically heated via baseboard or wall mounted heaters like this). Combine all of those items and you have a difficult space with very few out-of-the-box installation solutions. As such, I determined that the best way to obtain the covered closet space I needed, as well as utilize the space as best I could, was to buy an off-the-shelf system and bend/cut it to my will. Now, because I’m no carpenter, I opted to go with a budget system from IKEA rather than risk destroying any nicer furniture in the process. Plus, we have found that the finishes of the IKEA browns fit nicely with the existing furniture we already have in the space.

Last Friday night, after work and a filling meal of Indian cuisine at Abhiruchi, I tackled cleaning out the space in preparation for the next day’s fight. Here’s the wide open space with piles of clothes on the dresser awaiting a space to rest in covered slumber:

The first wave, scorched earth...

Saturday was the day of reckoning. I began working at about 11am by triple checking my angles and measurements before cutting. I started with one of the inner frame walls, as I knew that a mistake there would be easily rectified and hidden if it were uglier than expected. After my initial cuts to fit the frame against the angled/sloped ceiling, I brought it upstairs for a test fit. No dice. Sigh. Apparently my measurements were not generous enough, so it was back downstairs for further adjustment. A few more cuts with my circular saw and jig saw, and back upstairs for another test; still not enough… third initial cut, and another test fit, this time the side frames finally fit. Using the first frame as a template, I scribed the rest of the cuts onto the other frames, and proceeded to kill myself with sawdust in the garage.

Back upstairs with all my modified frames, I begin piecing the rest together in typical IKEA fashion; by which I mean using the various bits of included hardware and one tool to put it all together. It was just as I was starting this work that Jean left for a meetup with her knitting group. Likely the smartest thing she could have done at that point, since not a minute after she left, catastrophe struck and set the stage for the rest of the build. I was following the directions, which noted to connect the top and bottom to one side frame on the floor, then lift and attach the other side frame while it was standing up. Easy enough, except the instructions called for two people, and I wasn’t thinking clearly as the unsupported top and bottom pieces tore out of their mount points shearing away the pre-drilled holes and crashing back down to the floor causing the first in a long series of non-reproducible curses to flow freely.

Thank gods for the nail gun! While my instruction sheet didn’t call for one to be handy, I quickly rectified my initial failure with brute force and gas-propelled finish nails. Of course nothing comes easy, as when I finished building the frame, supported on all sides this time around, and raised it up, somehow the sides (previously checked and refit 3 times after the cuts I had made) now did not fit under the main beam. I sat for a bit pondering not only how that could be, but what I could do to correct it, as my methods previously used to cut the bits would not be as useful now that the frame was fully built. Then inspiration hit me in the form of my reciprocating saw. A simple and quick two cuts and I was back in business as the frame slid snugly into place under the beam; my angle cut fitting precisely as I had hoped… at least I got one cut right the first time!

The rest of the build progressed at a normal pace as I’d hammered out most of the issues by this point and the second frame was a breeze. Ah, the lessons we learn 😉 Of course, once both were built, I ran into one final issue with the door mounts. Because I had to drop the top of the frames by a few inches to fit under the beam, the holes I used to mount the tops turned out to be the holes which the doors expected to be hung from. (As an aside I -did- check out the build instructions for this system before I bought it, to wrap my head around it and ensure it would work for me. I just missed the doors install, but had accommodated for all other issues.) Luckily for me, my brain was still working at this point and I was able to re-drill new holes for the doors only 3/4 of an inch off the originals, and hung them with ease.

Another half hour of cleaning and a quick shower, and I was done for the day. It was then I looked at the clock and realized I had been working, non-stop for over 8 hours. So, I opted to not fill the closet quite yet, but instead sit on the couch with some Aleve and a hard cider and just relax after a battle hard fought and hard won. Sunday, I filled the closet and snapped a few ‘after’ pictures too. So, here you go the loft with newly installed ‘custom’ closet system:

Victory is mine! Chaos controlled!
An inside look at victory

The story all-told, you’ll understand why I didn’t have the energy to work on my 1930’s vintage hand crank telephone and operator headset to functional digital system hack. That WILL be coming, just not this past weekend as I’d hoped. Stay tuned 😉