We Asked Interior Designers: What’s Your All-Time Favorite IKEA Hack?
DIYs that are worth the try.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:07 AM
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By now you know that we live for epic IKEA hacks. And while, yes, there are companies that will basically hack your furniture, hardware, and decor for you, we have a soft spot for the creative DIY’ers who are able to turn the Swedish retailer’s iconic staples into reimagined masterpieces all on their own. Whether you call it trickery or utter ingenuity, you have to admit the internet’s creative takes on IKEA’s home essentials are nothing short of inspiring.
We’re always on the lookout for new and noteworthy transformations. Some recent ones that got our attention include incredible Tarva dresser updates, easy Kallax upgrades, and even a tabletop-turned-headboard. So who better to source clever hacks and reinventions from than the pros who know their way around IKEA best?
We recently caught up with a few of our favorite designers to learn which re-creations blew them away, including projects they admired from afar and ones they tried with successful results. Consider these 15 hacks worth the try.
Bold Seagrass Baskets
Baskets aren’t just for throw blankets anymore. Erica Domesek, the DIY’er behind P.S. I Made This, used IKEA’s woven Fladis baskets for displaying fresh blooms. The catchall’s round belly makes it a suitable home for leafy greens. Domesek upgraded the plain basket by tucking in the top and spray painting the bottom half. Get the full how-to here.
Modular Cabinet Shelving
Lauren Sventrup of Studio Sven loved how IKEA’s Tingsryd cabinets complemented the emerald green tile in this moody kitchen, but the standard system fell short in terms of flexibility. “Specifically, [I wanted] an open cabinet with a finished interior,” says Sventrup. Instead of having something custom made, the designer bought a few of IKEA’s end panels and had her contractor make the open cabinets on-site. She then added a recessed Hafele sliding track system along the entire width of the cabinet so the doors could slide from side to side. “It’s a great way to achieve a fully custom look using stocked, affordable materials,” she adds.
Elevated Playroom Storage
Sventrup’s second favorite IKEA hack comes in the form of a boho-chic play area. Behind the tent and toys sits the Besta cabinet console. The designer upgraded the streamlined storage staple by adding a dark wood top that ties in with the natural tones of the woven baskets above.
Sophisticated Wall Treatments
Custom wall treatments cost a lot more than you’d think. Meghan Price’s trick for skirting around this pricey pick boils down to layering. “I like to double up on the panels to give the illusion of fullness, and then hem them accordingly,” says the designer and creative director behind Maple and Plum, noting that she usually purchases curtains that are at least 98 inches so she has enough wiggle room. “It’s an easy way to elevate your windows with a semi-custom look, without the custom price. Hemming the bottom so that the drapes skim your floor is the key to having that custom look.”
An Airy Built-In Console
“By just omitting the legs and floating IKEA’s Besta sideboard on the wall, you can quickly elevate this very versatile piece,” says Los Angeles–based Homepolish designer Mandy Cheng. You can also take the look one step further by adding metallic hardware or leather pulls. “If you’re afraid of scratching the top but want to keep it white, have your local glass store cut a 1⁄4-inch thick piece of glass to place on top.”
A Rustic, Reclaimed Headboard
If you aren’t familiar with Stikwood, it’s essentially reclaimed wood that has already been finished and boasts an adhesive backing. Here, Rose took the IKEA Malm bedframe and puzzled together Stikwood along the headboard to create the look of a piece that had been finished by a professional woodworker. Get the full how-to on this rustic-chic bedroom hack on Sugar and Cloth.
A Sneakily Disguised Ottoman
“We like to slipcover IKEA pieces, courtesy of our local seamstress, to elevate the experience and make the furniture seem unique and special,” says Jason Oliver Nixon of lifestyle brand and whimsical home decor and fashion company Madcap Cottage. “Case in point: In this living room, we took two Bosnas ottomans and slipcovered them in the Madcap Cottage print Mill Reef in the Palm colorway—$17.99 ottomans never looked so chic!”
Now swathed in a fresh, dynamic pattern, you’d almost never know this duo came from IKEA.
A Day-to-Night Accessory
Who would have ever guessed that a former placemat could double as an incredibly rad handbag? Apparently, Joy Cho, the bold and colorful creative and founder behind Oh Joy!, did. This perforated, summer-approved purse is one of the designer’s favorite IKEA projects. “We love taking one thing and transforming it into something you might not expect!” Cho writes in her DIY guide.
To get this job done, you’ll need a simple woven placemat (like the SAMTLIGA placemat), rope, parachute cord, monofilament, an embroidery needle, and a hot glue gun.
Colorful, Kid-Friendly Storage
Another Joy Cho–approved transformation? With two kiddos of her own running around at home, the designer understands the value of savvy toy storage. “We started with this inexpensive IKEA coffee table that was simple to put together. But we wanted to add a little color and fun, so we busted out the spray paint and painted each one a different shade of blue,” Cho explains in her guide.
Talk about a practical and cool way to wrangle your little one’s go-to toys. The best thing about IKEA’s Lalleröd coffee table is that it stops clutter from accumulating on the floor while letting you easily spot and grab what’s inside.
A Budget-Friendly Faux-Denza
“The ‘Fauxdenza,’ which we implemented in our own house all the way back in 2012 after seeing it on Brick House (a blog we miss), completely changed the decor game, in my opinion,” says Julia Marcum, one part of the husband-and-wife duo behind the award-winning renovation and design blog Chris Loves Julia. “Using IKEA cabinets hung on the wall as a credenza opened so many doors and has made its way into so many homes for good reason. It is practical, stylish, customizable, and budget-friendly.”
A Billy Bookcase Built-In
“My all-time fave IKEA hack was when Jenny Komenda made the Billy bookcase look like custom built-ins by adding arched details to the top, trim down the middle, and contrasting paint to the inside,” recalls Shavonda Gardner, the blogger behind SG Style. “It felt very Moroccan, and I had never seen anything like it at the time. She also did a Pax closet hack that’s pretty phenomenal too.“
“Bookshelves that have been hacked to look custom” also reign high on designer and stylist Dee Murphy’s favorite hacks list. Though simple by design and functional in nature, IKEA’s Billy bookcase can easily be transformed into a statement-worthy storage accent with a little paint and a lot of love.
In the same vein as Jenny Komenda’s rendition, this arched, color-coded display from Design*Sponge aims to impress.
An Easy Desk Upgrade
“I’m a big fan of keeping things simple, and there’s nothing more straightforward than putting the Lack shelf on top of a standard table to instantly transform it into a standing desk when desired,” notes Whitney Leigh Morris of The Tiny Canal Cottage. “It might not be the prettiest transformation, but it is practical, versatile, and can be tucked away in an instant to maintain a room’s stylish and polished look.”
Jacquelyn Clark of Lark and Linen is also a seasoned IKEA hacker. Her friend and go-to DIY’er Jess Blazejewski created a next-level workstation by covering a standard desk in linen. Get the full how-to for the project here.
An Accessorized Sinnerlig
“My own version of the Sinnerlig hack consisted of taking a colorful pom-pom-tassel garland from Crate and Barrel Kids and hot-gluing it onto the border. It added instant color, texture, and pattern to the already-popular lamp for my girls’ colorful room,” says Anita Yokota.
Want to see more genius ways to spruce up your Sinnerlig pendant? From a holiday-ready paper ribbon iteration to a light fixture–turned–side table, you can check out a few of our favorite re-creations here.
A Foolproof Workstation
“IKEA’s mix-and-match table bar has turned out some amazing hacks—designers make some really chic workspaces using the various tops and legs. A little paint and styling, and it looks really modern,” dishes artist and desert dweller Lindsay Hollinger.
Need a bonus spot to catch up on your crafts? What about an at-home nook for when Fridays at the office are optional? Consider this hackable surface your new, all-encompassing workstation. Get the how-to for this marble table on Design*Sponge.
An Elevated Nursery Dresser
“My favorite IKEA hack is from Sarah Sherman Samuel,” dishes small space–living expert and Cali-based blogger Katrina Blair Sullivan. “She took a basic IKEA dresser painted it a sweet color, added extra long gold handles, and cut the feet off the dresser at an angle to elevate the look. The dresser turned out amazing and was perfect for her son’s nursery.”
The key to hacking any IKEA statement piece of furniture with minimal effort? A cool paint color and fresh hardware have the power to change the entire look and feel of a once-tired staple item be it a bedroom dresser or kitchen cabinet.