Built-In Wardrobes: How to Update Your Fitted Storage for a Modern Look

built in wardrobes transformed with a bit of paint and wallpaper
How to update old fitted wardrobes – with a little paint and wallpaper

I have a confession to make, I’ve never been a fan of built-in wardrobes in the bedroom. When we moved into our new house, my first thoughts were to rip them out, I had no intention of looking for built-in wardrobe ideas!

One of the main reasons we loved our new house was the size of our new bedroom, it was nearly double the size of our last bedroom. The large master bedroom has an en-suite, 3 built in wardrobes, and a balcony with amazing sea views. This meant we could finally invest in a super king bed. 

We desperately needed one as my 6-year-old Son likes to sneak into our bed in the middle of the night and a super king bed would mean we wouldn’t lose any sleep due to an elbow or foot (seriously children, why must you wriggle so much at night ) in our faces.

We quickly realized what a fantastic use of space the built-in wardrobes in the bedroom were. It meant I could fit all my clothes in and do away with a stand-alone wardrobe. Just my clothes though, Mr. B’s clothes are confined to his own separate little wardrobe in his office!

old built in wardrobes in the bedroom
The built-in wardrobes we inherited. Perfect for all our bedroom storage but a little unsightly.

Deciding that the built-in wardrobes were here to stay, I started researching how to update them and looked online for built-in wardrobe ideas. Our custom-made wardrobes were built back in the 1980s and were not original designs for the house.

The doors were painted in magnolia and they were hanging off and vintage-style wallpaper still adorned the back of the wardrobes. They were quite a prominent part of the bedroom so I knew I needed to integrate them with the rest of the décor when I started to create our bedroom makeover plans

The built-in wardrobes themselves were fine. They are sturdy, a brilliant space for storage, and don’t take up too much room, so I decided all we needed to do was change or upcycle the doors.

Built-In Wardrobe Ideas

How to update wardrobe doors? There’s been a few people recently updating their wardrobes so I started taking a little inspiration from them and found some ideas for our wardrobe renovation.

dark painted built-in wardrobes in the bedroom
I love how these built-in wardrobes by @asmalltownhouse easily blend into the decor of the room
pink built in wardrobes with rattan doors
Amanda had these built-in wardrobes made to fit the space and I love them! Photo credit: @houselust
IKEA wardrobes with glass doors transformed by painting them cream and adding new handles
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Lins stories when she updated her glass-fronted wardrobes into a super sleek design. Image credit: @linsdrabwell

As I was painting the rest of the room one color, I wanted to add a bit of pattern and eclectic design to the fitted wardrobe doors. This is when I came up with the idea of adding wallpaper to make it look like they were windows to the outside! 

How We Created Our New Built-In Wardrobes!

To begin with, we had the old fitted wardrobe doors from the built-in wardrobes removed and we asked a carpenter friend to make new doors for us with a paneled frame. Once these were fitted, I set about finding the perfect color and wallpaper for the doors.

custom made wardrobe doors being fitted in the bedroom
The custom-made wardrobe doors are being fitted. I was extremely excited about this!
custom made wardrobe doors
The finished built-in wardrobe doors! Even before being painted, they already looked so much better!

I knew I wanted to paint the rest of the room a dusky pink shade and had settled on Faded Rose by Zoffany. I decided to match the doors from the built-in wardrobes with the rest of the room.

I painted the fitted wardrobe door frames in this Faded Rose and found a tropical wallpaper print to put in between the paneled frames. This would give the impression that we were looking out to a palm tree landscape.

Wardrobe Door Ideas – Wallpaper

I love wallpaper, but I always find it so hard to choose a design because I want them all. Ilovewallpaper.co.uk got in touch with me asking if I would like any wallpaper for my new house and when I looked at their amazing designs, I settled on Jungle Escape Mural Green quite quickly.

green tropical wallpaper design
Jungle Escape Mural Green – ilovewallpaper.co.uk

It was the perfect tropical print that had dark green tones that would match our Jade headboard. It also had underlying pink tones which would help it integrate with the rest of the room.

Tools For the Job

How to paint wardrobe doors? Here is what I used: 

zoffany paint, primer, wallpaper, paint rollers and brushes and a wallpaper smoother


Upcycling these built-in wardrobes was quite an easy procedure, but as with everything when it comes to DIY, prep is key! As the doors are made out of MDF, it is extremely important to use a primer first. MDF is incredibly porous so any paint you put directly onto it would be soaked up.

Avoid using a latex primer as this will cause the MDF to expand. Try and find a solvent-based primer and be prepared to put on a few coats. I used Valspar Wood Primer & Undercoat

cupboard doors with primer
This is the doors after two coats of Valspar Wood Primer & Undercoat
me painting the doors with primer
Applying primer late at night!
primer painting complete
All the doors are primed and ready for paint.

Paint the Frames

As wallpaper will be going in the panels, you only need to paint the frames and around them. I used Zoffany Faded Rose and because the doors were primed, the paint went on evenly and only needed two coats.

I used a roller to do the frames and a small paintbrush to do the joins.

painting the door frames pink
The first coat is on.
the full built in wardrobes
Painting the frames of the doors.

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Wallpapering the Panels

wallpapering tools including wallpaper paste, paint roller and brush, wallpaper, scissors and wallpaper smoother
Wallpapering tools

Once you are happy there is good and even coverage of paint on the frames, you need to paste the wallpaper to the doors. If you have put enough primer on the doors, the paste should work easily. If you find the paste just sinks into the MDF, you need to apply more primer.

It is easy to apply the paste with a small roller.

using a small paint roller to apply wallpaper paste
Using a small roller, I applied wallpaper paste onto the doors.

The Jungle Escape Mural Green comes in sections so it is easy to cut the strips up and then line them up to the door. I wanted this to imitate a window, so I made sure the wallpaper continued as if it was under the door frame.

I held the wallpaper up to the panel and positioned it until I was happy, then using my wallpaper smoother tool, I pressed the wallpaper into the edge and corners of the frame so it gave me a rough edge of where I needed to cut.

putting up the wallpaper in sections
Holding the strip of wallpaper up until I was happy with the position of the pattern. I used the edge of the door to line up the wallpaper to make sure it was vertical.
close up of putting the wallpaper up
Using my wallpaper smoothing tool, I pressed into the frame to give me a rough guide of where I needed to cut

I then cut about an inch around the indentation on the wallpaper and pasted the door. With the cut bit of paper, I pressed it back into position and used my smoothing tool to make sure there were no bubbles or creases, like when I’m wallpapering a wall.

If it didn’t sit straight or there were creases, it’s really easy to peel it off and try again.

wallpaper with frame creases
Creases clearly visible
The palm print of the wallpaper

Once I was happy with its position, I used my smoothing tool again to push the wallpaper into the frame and used my wallpaper-cutting knife to trim off the edges.

smoothing the wallpaper down with a wallpaper smoother
Smoothing the wallpaper into place.
cutting off the excess wallpaper
Using a very sharp wallpaper-cutting knife, I then trimmed off all the excess paper.
the finished wallpapered panel
The finished panel
one complete fitted wardrobe door panel completed
One down, 14 to go!

And that’s it really!

I had to repeat this process for all the panels and it took me about 2 hours in total. As soon as the first panel was in, I knew I was going to love it and I wasn’t wrong. It has absolutely transformed these built-in wardrobes!

It does give you the impression that you are looking out into a tropical paradise, a wardrobe renovation job well done!

the first panel section done on the wardrobes
The first section done
complete cupboard
Two doors complete
all the wardrobe doors complete
Nearly there!

The final piece was to choose some handles for the fitted wardrobe doors. I went with gold handles from Amazon. The gold goes nicely with the pink and green and is the perfect choice to finish off these wardrobes.

gold door knobs from amazon
Gold door knobs from Amazon
built in wardrobes with transformed wardrobe doors
The completed wardrobe renovation
close up of the doors
Botanical built-in wardrobes in the bedroom!
built in wardrobe doors in the bedroom and green velvet chair
built in wardrobes
Built-in wardrobes in the bedroom are complete, now we need to add carpets and finish the window dressings.

There’s still a lot to do in this room. I have to panel the wall behind the bed, paint the rest of the room, and new window and patio door fittings, the floor needs to be sanded down and varnished…. I could go on and on!

But these bespoke fitted wardrobes are pretty much what started the whole room scheme and I am so pleased with them.

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will receive a very small commission if you click through and make a purchase. These links help to pay the editorial costs of writing a blog. For more information, read my full affiliate disclosure here.

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  1. I have old sliderobes with mirrored bits in the middle they are curved inside oh god they are awful but do you think something like this could work on them?

    1. Hi Sonya, yes absolutely! Pattern and paint can work on any piece of furniture, the bolder the print the better I say!

  2. This looks stunning, thanks for the inspiration. Will this work on Ikea wardrobes ?

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