How to Transform Built-In Wardrobes for a Modern Look

I have a confession to make, I’ve never been a fan of built-in wardrobes and when we moved into our new house, my first thoughts were to rip them out!

One of the main reasons we loved our new house (I wrote about our new house here) was because of the size of our new bedroom. The large master bedroom has an en-suite, 3 built-in wardrobes and a balcony with amazing sea views. It is nearly double the size of our last bedroom which means we can finally invest in a super king bed so that when my 6-year-old Son sneaks into our bed in the middle of the night, we’re not having lost sleep due to an elbow or foot (seriously children, why must you wriggle so much at night ) in our faces.

how to transform built-in wardrobes

But we quickly realized what a fantastic use of space the built-in wardrobes are! 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!

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. They were probably bespoke built back in the 1980s, the doors were painted in magnolia and they were hanging off. They are quite a prominent part of the bedroom so I knew I needed to integrate them with the rest of the décor in the room. I wrote about our bedroom makeover plans here.

Plans for our Master Bedroom

The built-in wardrobes themselves were fine, a brilliant space for storage and didn’t take over too much room so I decided all we needed to do was change or upcycle the doors. There’s been a few people recently updating their wardrobes so I started taking a little inspiration from them.

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

But it wasn’t until I saw this amazing design on Pinterest that I knew exactly what I wanted to do!

I love how the framed design makes it look like a window peering out into a tropical paradise. Image credit: House & Garden. Photography: Paul Massey

How we created our new built-in wardrobes!

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

The wardrobe doors being fitted. I was extremely excited about this!
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, so I would paint the door frames in this colour and find a tropical wallpaper print to put in between the panelled frames so that it gave you the impression we were looking out to a palm tree landscape.

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.

Jungle Escape Mural Green – ilovewallpaper.co.uk

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

Tools for the job

  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Wallpaper
  • Wallpaper paste (I prefer paste the wall)
  • Paint rollers x 2
  • Paintbrushes
  • Wallpaper smoother tool
  • Wallpaper cutting knife
  • Sharp scissors

Primer

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 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

This is the doors after two coats of Valspar Wood Primer & Undercoat
Applying primer late at night!
All the doors 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 it. I used Zoffany Faded Rose and because the doors were primed, the paint went on evenly and only needed to coats. I used a roller to do the frames and a small paintbrush to do the joins.

The first coat on.
Painting the frames of the doors.

Wallpapering the panels

Wallpapering tools

Once you are happy there is a 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 roller, I applied wallpaper paste on to the doors.

The Jungle Escape Mural Green comes in sections so it is easy to cut the strip 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.

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.
Using my wallpaper smoothing tool, I pressed into the frame to give me a rough guide of where I need 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 then used my smoothing tool to make sure there are 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.

Once I was happy with it’s position, I then used my smoothing tool again to push the wallpaper into the frame and used my wallpaper cutting knife to trim of the edges.

Smoothing the wallpaper into place.
Using a very sharp wallpaper cutting knife, I then trimmed off all the excess paper.
The finished panel
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 and it really does give you the impression that you are looking out onto a tropical paradise.

The first section done
Two doors complete
Nearly there!

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

Gold door knobs from Amazon
The completed wardrobes
Botanical!

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, new window and patio door fittings, floor needs to be sanded down and varnished…. I could go on and on! But these built-in wardrobes are pretty much what started the whole room scheme and I am so pleased with them.

Mel x

4 Comments

  1. 30/05/2021 / 9:31 am

    I love it, what a great way to personalise and update a space PLUS it’s fun ! x

    • Melanie Boyden
      Author
      03/06/2021 / 4:04 pm

      Thank you Louise, they’ve turned out better than I hoped!

    • Melanie Boyden
      Author
      11/06/2021 / 9:35 am

      Haha, thanks Tasmine! And to think I nearly ripped them out! x

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