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Seamless, integrated MALM drawers for walk-in closet

I decided to use the MALM chest of 4 drawers as the solution to an integrated drawer in a walk-in closet.

The MALM’s minimalistic and flat frontage made it a great choice for a project like this.

It was much simpler and cheaper to hack the MALM unit than build something bespoke.

IKEA items used:
  • MALM chest of 4 drawers, Oak veneer, 80x100cm
  • IKEA VIKEDAL mirrored doors to form the access to the walk-in closet area. One is used as a door, whilst the other is hung on “Z” brackets to form the illusion of a door (to create symmetry of design but also to throw light in to the room).
Other materials & tools used
Tools:
  • Saw (handsaw or chopsaw)
  • Screwdriver/drill driver and screws
  • Bucket (used for both the self-adhesive tape activation and mixing the filler)
  • Wall trowel / filler knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Paintbrush, rollers, etc.

Integrated MALM drawers hack instructions

Preparing the MALM drawers:

1.1. Install MDF on either side of the unit to meet the top piece. This will act as the edge of the unit that will be integrated with the MALM drawers.

walk in closet space - before

The closet space – before

1.2. Create a sturdy frame in 3”x2” timber, the same size as the footprint of the MALM unit, and attach the bottom.

This should raise the MALM unit from the floor enough for the skirting to pass seamlessly. (You may need to raise higher depending on the size of skirting board used in your room.)

studwork and plasterboard

Studwork in, starting to plasterboard and the MALM unit fitted

1.3 Lightly sand the drawer fronts and any other front-facing elements of the MALM unit.

1.4. Paint the drawer fronts and other front-facing elements of the unit with a suitable undercoat.

Creating the overall closet and installing MALM drawers in to the wall

2.1. Build stud walls using 3″x2″ timber. Ensure you leave enough room for your door casing for the door to hang within. (For my project, as I was using the VIKEDAL flush-mount door, this was simply a case of leaving a gap the width of the door).

2.2. Whilst building the stud wall, build in the MALM unit (as prepared earlier) and fit the stud-work to the top and sides of the unit. (This will make it really sturdy).

Note that you will need to ensure that the MALM unit protrudes exactly as much as the plasterboard so that you can get a flush look. Also check that the drawers still run freely and the unit remains square.

2.3 Once the studwork is all installed, run any cabling that you require (for lighting or power supply. Consult an electrician if necessary).

2.4 Install plasterboard on both sides of the stud wall.

plasterboard and opening to closet

Plasterboard completed. (You can also see the “z” brackets for the false door)

2.5. Install the door casing for the entrance to the closet.

Preparing the surface for paint

2.6. Tape all joints of the plasterboard, including taping around edges of the MALM unit (I used “Wet n Stick” self adhesive paper tape – it’s more expensive but much easier for novices)

Integrated MALM drawers in walk in closet

Plasterboard filled, sanded and base coat applied

2.7 Skim over the tape and screw holes of the plasterboard with dry wall filler, also known as “fine-fill”. This should take at least two coats, but you may choose to do more after sanding depending on the finish. (Multiple thin coats will get a much better result than thick coats.)

Integrated MALM drawers in walk in closet

Plasterboarded plus skirting board fitted

2.8 Once fully dried, sand the filler using fine sandpaper. (No harsher than grade 120 grit.)

2.9 Repeat 2.7 and 2.8 as necessary until you are happy with the finish. Pay particular attention to where the MALM unit meets the plasterboard – you want this to be seamless.

Painting the drawers and closet front

2.10 Paint the whole thing (walls, MALM unit and MALM drawers) in desired finish. It’ll need to be a tough paint as you will need to do the drawers and walls in the same finish to get a seamless result. (I used Dulux Easy Care matt emulsion due to its hardiness).

Integrated MALM drawers in walk in closet

Close up of the integrated MALM drawers

2.11 Connect / install any lighting or power sockets as appropriate (using an electrician if necessary).

2.12 Hang the VIKEDAL door to the door casing using the standard hinges.

2.13 With the second VIKEDAL, install “Z” hanging brackets to the rear and wall, and align with the Vikedal door. This should then look like two doors, but only one opens in to the closet.

Integrated MALM drawers in walk in closet

All done!

2.14 You can then install rails, shelving, etc inside the walk-in closet. (We maximised space by running them down each side, which is why we needed to only have one opening door).

Points 2.3 and 2.11 are optional depending on your circumstances and may require expert help from an electrician.

How long did it take?

In total it took approximately 4 days to complete the entire project but that includes the wider walk-in closet and the need for drying times (between coats of filler)

How much did it cost?

Cost of MALM unit (with Family discount) £40 and VIKEDAL doors including hinges £90.

Overall cost of building materials (for entire creation of the walk-in closet, including internal shelving and rails, c.£100)

What was the hardest part of this hack?

Ensuring the drawers and plasterboard / filling are perfectly flush. If they are even 1mm off then this could impact the overall look as you’d see the join.

What to pay special attention to?

You need to ensure the carcass of the MALM unit is firmly fixed in place to allow no movement when operating the drawers. When fixing in place you also need to ensure it remains true and square so that the drawers continue to line up and fit properly.

Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

Seriously, I’m not sure I would. I took a long time planning it and am very pleased with the result.

I would have liked to have completed it sooner. (We had a 5-month gap between starting and finishing the project due to a serious cycle accident at the start of the year, just as I’d started to build it!)

The end result is just what I imaged — the illusion of seamless integration with the wall. The drawers truly look like they’re part of the wall.

~ by Chris Moores