5 Ways to Hack IKEA’s Most Famous Dresser

Bespoke on a budget.
Photography by Trisha Sprouse

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IKEA may as well be the unofficial mascot for first apartments. Occasionally vexing assembly instructions aside, the pieces are simple, versatile, and most of all affordable—a design trifecta making the retailer’s products prime for small spaces and less-than-ideal rentals. But when it comes time to graduate from flatpack furniture, there’s no reason to toss your trusty IKEA items. Instead, try your hand at upcycling. Not only is this an eco-friendly trick to extend the life of your furniture, but you can also save a few bucks while you’re at it. In terms of the best IKEA products to upcycle, almost no item is better suited for DIYs than the Tarva dresser.

The Tarva dresser series comes in two models—one with three drawers and another with six—and ranges in price from $119 to $179. Featuring a sleek Scandinavian silhouette that will mesh with virtually any design aesthetic, the Tarva dresser is a decor chameleon; even more so because its untreated wood finish lends itself perfectly to a slew of customization options. Even if you’re not looking to upcycle a trusty piece, buy this dresser new to save on a more expensive dresser, and then get creative.

From intricate-looking murals that are actually quite easy to replicate to gradient hues, the internet is chock-full of genius ways to hack IKEA’s most versatile dresser. Below, see five of our favorites that even the most novice DIY’er will be able to tackle.

The One That’s a Tiny Nursery’s Lifesaver

Photography by Erin Kelly

This Tarva is actually a changing table. With a fresh coat of paint and the simple addition of a changing pad, blogger Erin Kelly turned the Tarva into the focal point of her little one’s nursery: She stained the wood to give it a more finished look and DIY’ed a woven yellow pad for a pop of color. Mimic the look by picking up a stylish changing pad and saving on a full-on changing table. When space is limited, multifunctional furniture is the name of the game.

Try it out: This rich berry-hued changing mat looks a lot more expensive than it is and will bring a burst of vibrancy to the top of your newly minted dresser-turned–changing station.  

The One That’s All About 3-D Texture

Glued-on wooden dowels add an unexpected hint of texture to an otherwise minimalist, cream-colored dresser. Trisha Sprouse’s gorgeous Tarva makeover is a bit more involved than other DIYs—it requires cutting and gluing wooden dowels on top—but her easy-to-follow instructions make it a fun weekend project. Just be sure to enlist the help of a friend or roommate to make the process go a little smoother.

Try it out: Sprouse painted her dresser’s legs to add a bit of contrast; mimic the elevated look by swapping out the legs altogether for a chic tapered option.

The One That’ll Make You Fall in Love with Ombre Again

Photo by Patric Johansson for IKEA

This idea came from IKEA’s website, so it comes with a Scandinavian style endorsement. If you love color but don’t have a lot of time, go for something easy that’ll really pack a visual punch. A gradient never fails to impress. The application is super basic and takes next to no time, and the ombre color scheme will liven up any corner of your bedroom. Plus, if you have a few paint samples left over from past projects, this is a great way to finish them up and save money.

Try it out: Opt for different shades of warm tones to bring a sunny vibe home. For your darkest color, try a mustard hue—a sample pot (what you’ll need for one drawer) only costs $8.

The One That Even Beginners Can Master

Photography by Chandra Fredrick of Oh Lovely Day

Blogger Chandra Fredrick of Oh Lovely Day is proof that sometimes, basic is best. Her Tarva hack features only a fresh coat of white paint and updated drawer pulls, but it looks eons away from the raw wood original. Effortlessly elegant, the brass pulls provide just enough design interest without overpowering the dresser. Thanks to their old-timey brass finish, they make the Tarva feel like a cool antique; the perfect way to fake old-school luxury on a budget.  

Try it out: If you want to emulate a similar charming style, scour your local vintage or thrift shops for genuine antique pulls that really bring the character. Otherwise, choose pulls in an antique brass color and intricate silhouette to imbue your Tarva with some simple sophistication.

The One That’ll Help You Tap into Your Inner Artist

Photography by Giuli e Giordi

This craft comes courtesy of photography duo Giuli e Giordi, and while there are no explicit instructions on how to achieve this hack, we have two words for you: masking tape. Get creative with abstract shapes and patterns, using tape to trace the silhouette, and then paint over the lines to create a mini mural. The draw here is the hack’s flexibility—try a cool geometric pattern or go simple with vertical stripes. It’s up to you. For an added pop of color, take a page from this colorful kids’ room dresser and spruce up your Tarva with multicolored drawer pulls that complement the paint you’ve chosen.

Try it out: For some serious contrast, keep the base of this dresser in the original raw finish and opt for a bolder, darker color. We love this forest green hue from Clare for a shade that really brings the drama.

See more genius IKEA hacks: The Godmorgon Cabinet IKEA Hack Your Living Room Needs These Clever IKEA Hacks Will Transform Your Bedroom These Companies Basically Do Your IKEA Hack for You

Elly Leavitt

Writer and Editor

Elly enjoys covering anything from travel to funky design (tubular furniture, anyone?) to the latest cultural trend. Her dream apartment would exist on the Upper West Side and include a plethora of mismatched antique chairs, ceramic vessels, and floor-to-ceiling bookcases—essential to her goal of becoming a poor man’s Nora Ephron. You can probably find her in line at Trader Joe’s. You will never find her at SoulCycle.