A Malm With Sage Green Slats and 14 More Elevated IKEA Dresser Hacks

You don’t have to settle for plain pine.
Lydia Geisel Avatar

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It’s a tall order to find a stunning dresser that is also affordable. Large armoires are an investment (both budget-wise and from a square-footage standpoint). So what do you do when that dream piece does not exist? Cue IKEA, a can of paint, fresh knobs, and a few other craft supplies. 

From Hemnes to Malm to Tarva, all the Swedish retailer’s offerings can be made to look custom if you’re willing to dig out your toolbox and pick up a few extra materials from the hardware store. Choose your favorite look from these 15 IKEA dresser hacks and put aside a weekend to get to work. 

Slap on Slats

green slatted dresser
Photography by Kayla Nelson

The beauty of the six-drawer Malm dresser is that it’s basically a big blank canvas, given the piece doesn’t have any hardware. Kayla Nelson saw it as an opportunity to add some color, personality, and texture. For $200 she covered it in 228 slats cut from MDF and coated it in Gray Heron by Behr

Turn It Into a Nightstand, Part 1 

burgundy nightstand
Photo Courtesy of Jenna LeBlanc 

DIYer Jenna Sue has noticed a shortage of large nightstands at an affordable price point, so this creation, which all started with a three-drawer Malm piece, is her giving the world what it craves. Her design hinges on adding pieces of trim at the base of each drawer to give it more of a traditional look, painting it in a chocolaty red hue, and tacking on brass knobs from Amazon

Turn It Into a Nightstand, Part 2

blue fluted nightstand
Photography by Ryia Jose

Ryia Jose (the blogger behind Kin and Kasa) wasn’t in need of a dresser for her daughter’s bedroom, but she did need a nightstand. So she turned IKEA’s Rast dresser into an ideal storage piece for $75 total by leaving off the toe-kick and bottom drawer, adding fresh feet to the base, cladding the drawer fronts in fluted wood trim, and painting it all in a dark blue. 

Add Definition

white dresser with brass detailing
Photography courtesy of A Beautiful Mess

After struggling to find a campaign-style dresser for less than $1,000, A Beautiful Mess’s Elsie Larson spruced up a Malm staple with Lewis Dolin bar pulls (they actually cost more than the furniture, but she says the overall savings is still significant). Next up? Corner braces, which she spray-painted to match the shiny brass rods.

Wrap It in Raffia

dresser with raffia doors
Photography by Lone Fox

Rather than drop a cool $4,000 on a piece like Serena & Lily’s raffia-covered Blake dresser, Drew Scott, the YouTuber behind Lone Fox, hacked his Tarva piece for $220. After applying a strip of fine raffia cloth to each of the drawer fronts with Mod Podge, he secured trim around the door edges and painted the wood parts in Benjamin Moore’s Pale Oak.

Beef Up the Pulls

plain wood dresser with large handles
Photography By Paper & Stitch

For less than $20, Paper & Stitch blogger Brittni Mehlhoff upgraded her Moppe mini storage chest (a great dresser alternative for a small space or nursery). Her trick: ¾-inch-thick pinewood dowels. She cut the pieces down to size, sanded them, and wrapped them in strips of leather. 

Spice Up the Texture

ribbed dresser
Photography by Peony and Honey

Erika Lauren of Peony and Honey also used dowels for her DIY—but not the typical wood kind. She cut up rolls of foam, painted them a nude tone, and glued them to the surface to create a channel-quilted look. 

Create a Peekaboo Effect

dresser drawers with cane
Photography by Kourtni Munoz of House on Longwood Lane

After assembling her Tarva dresser, blogger Kourtni Munoz of House on Longwood Lane made rectangular cutouts on the drawer fronts using a jigsaw. Then she stained the whole piece so it had a weathered oak finish and stapled cane webbing to the inside of the openings for a beachy-chic feel. 

Build a Dresser Out of Billy Bookcases 

built in wardrobe
Photography by Home on Harbor

Who said you have to actually start with a dresser? In the awkward hallway that leads to her primary closet and bathroom, Callie Plemel of Home on Harbor installed three IKEA Billy bookcases that were previously in her library and used the framework to design an integrated dresser from scratch. Her construction-savvy husband added drawers to the bottom half of the central bookcase, accounting for one small pullout on the top for jewelry. 

Elevate It (Literally)

wood dresser with large brass mirror and pink walls
Courtesy of Burnett Bungalow

IKEA’s Ivar three-drawer chest technically doesn’t come with hardware, but blogger Janelle Burnett changed all that by adding Pretty Pegs’s Greta legs and Stina knobs to two of the dressers (she displayed them side by side to make them look like one piece). The additions were designed specifically for the brand’s furniture, so they attach seamlessly. 

Turn It Into a Changing Table 

white dresser in a nursery
Photography by Erin Kelly

Skip specialized nursery furniture by transforming a basic Tarva dresser with some white paint and a colorful pad. Blogger and photographer Erin Kelly sewed the fabric for this cushion herself. 

Go Nuts With Knobs

white dresser with textured edges
Photography Courtesy of My Dear Irene

In order to replicate the look of authentic Jenny Lind furniture, Angelica Kalatzi of My Dear Irene glued flat-back ball knobs around the edges of the drawers. The bright white primer (the blogger used Kilz Adhesion sealer) instantly disguised its dark brown surface. Covering up the knobs will be your biggest time suck, so Kalatzi recommends listening to a captivating podcast for that part.  

Get a Hold on Things With Leather Pulls

blue dresser with leather pulls
Photography Courtesy of Inter IKEA Systems B.V. 2016

It only takes one unexpected material to turn a basic piece of furniture on its head. You don’t have to buy fancy premade pulls for this update. Create your own straps with leather and brass screws. The paint color is all up to you. 

Craft a Mini Library

green changing table with cubbies
Photography Courtesy of Fresh Exchange

Can you spot the second IKEA hack? After painting this dresser green and adding sleek knobs to it, Megan Gilger bought two brackets from the company, painted them white, and installed them above the makeshift changing table. She topped the supports with basic wood planks from Lowe’s. Between the cubbies and the shelves, there’s plenty of room for books. 

Go Two-Tone

brown and white dresser
Photography Courtesy of A Cup of Life

Shifra Jumelet stained the bottom portion of this dresser a rich brown tone and painted the top a crisp white. But the real surprise was when she swathed all the knobs in a dark dye to create an optical illusion. No one would ever guess it isn’t 100 percent bespoke.