before and after

before & after: ikea dresser redo + painted desk

by Kate Pruitt

These Ikea dressers should be inducted into some kind of furniture hall of fame. I know we all have a complicated relationship with Ikea furniture, but the Malm dresser is inexpensive, attractive, easy to assemble, holds a TON of stuff and — as this makeover from Josue clearly illustrates — is essentially a blank canvas for creative minds, which is the best outcome of Ikea’s success, in my opinion. Josue has totally transformed this dresser into a sharp, graphic, stand-out piece, just by making a few brilliant paint and hardware choices — and hours of sanding, I should say :) Fabulous job, Josue! — Kate

Time: 3 days

Cost: $25 (not including the dresser)

Basic Steps: I figured that since the dresser was new, I wouldn’t have to sand it! WRONG! On the first day, I spent about an hour painting. After it dried, I accidentally scratched one of the drawers with my nail, and it came off like nothing. I was pretty puzzled, and I started scratching it more and realized none of the paint stuck. So after some frustration, I started to sand the dresser; it took almost 2 hours. You have to be careful because you don’t want to sand too much because these types of dressers aren’t real wood, so digging into the compressed wood isn’t the best thing.

The next day, I added the first coat of paint. While that was drying, I then started to cut the trim that I purchased. It took about 30 minutes and I had my dad help me out with the measurements and cutting. I sanded down the edges and any rough spots. After I wiped them down, I started the first coat of white paint. While that was drying, I added the second coat of gray to the dresser, then went back to finish the trim. After that, I cleaned the old hardware from the desk, then spray-painted them a bright olive green.

The next day I added the trim to the drawers and the sides of the dresser. It was a bit tricky trying to nail the trim; I had to use a little pick so that my hammer wouldn’t’ damage my freshly painted trim. I went back and did some touch ups on the spots where my hammer missed the pick, and after that, I started to drill the holes for the hardware. Yay! I’m finished! Took it home, added the hardware and it was ready to go! — Josue

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

CLICK HERE to see Josue’s incredible desk redo after the jump!

This is Josue’s second amazing makeover of the day; this time, the subject is an old, well-worn desk belonging to Josue’s father. Again, it took a lot of sanding and some very precise brush work, but the result is lovely and fresh. I also really appreciate the mismatched knobs and the sense of playfulness they add to this well-tailored piece. Another great makeover, Josue!

Time: 3 days

Cost: $25 (for supplies)

Basic Steps: My dad bought this desk when he was in his twenties. It’s been a part of my life ever since I was a kid. When he got a new desk, I decided to take it off his hands and redesign it. The first day I spent about 3 to 4 hours sanding; getting all those nooks and crannies took up most of my time. On the second day, I started to fill the holes that were left from the old hardware, since I only needed  one hole for the majority of the drawers. After an hour, I sanded down the excess putty, then drilled the new holes. I wiped off all the extra saw dust then started painting the desk. It took about 2 hours.

On the third day after the first coat dried, I added a second coat of gray paint and let it dry. After that was done, I then painted the trim and legs white. I really liked the bright contrast between the blue-ish gray and snow white. Finally it was done! I then took it to my new apartment, attached all the new knobs and handles. I then added a piece of glass on top of the desk. Underneath the glass I scattered some vintage looking postcards to add some more color.

If someone wants to attempt a similar project, all I can say is “patience”! I absolutely hate sanding! Especially pieces that have a lot of curves and delicate areas that you can’t tackle with a electric sander. It takes time to make these pieces, but in the end, it’s so worth it! Trust me! — Josue

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  • The malm makeover is genius! Now to convince my husband that we need a new dresser so I can make over the ones we have and put them in my craft area!! :)

  • I have this Malm dresser from Ikea, too! I’ve been thinking about thrifting it during my next move, but now I’m inspired to keep it and gussy it up :) Nice job.

  • Are these DIY-ers painting with a brush or sprayer? Is there a particular brush you recommend for even application? I’m a terrible painter, and I’m hoping a miracle brush will save me.

  • LOVE it. Can’t wait to tackle a similar project in the next few months. WHERE did you get the octopus on the wall?

  • How do you calculate costs….they all seem a bit low to me. Paint alone costs $25 (even if you get a little thing) and that doesn’t include the primer, sand paper, knobs, etc. I think these are all a bit of false advertising

    • hi megan

      i’m sorry you feel that way, but i can assure you this isn’t false advertising. costs for projects like this vary greatly based on where you buy materials and what you already have. i live above a paint store and i’m able to pick up paint and primer together for $25. this sort of hardware can easily be found at a thrift or hardware shop and won’t set you back more than $5, especially if you find an older set. so this might drift toward $30 depending on where you by things, but most people don’t include the cost of the things they already have around the house like sandpaper, etc. and i don’t want to force people to make up amounts for things they already have (ie: tools). that said, we’ll make sure that people keep in mind any costs they may have forgotten (like knobs)- but often these projects are submitted by people who use hardware from an old piece they already have for something new.


  • I love that color wheel knob from Anthro. on the desk…I have the same one on one of my own dresser makeovers… good choice :-)

  • I have a couple of these Malm drawers and have been thinking of painting them. This looks great, can I ask what kind of paint you used?

  • While I love the re-do of the desk, I also love the BEFORE version – something about the shabby wood really speaks to me.

  • I love these two projects! Especially the desk. I’m looking to do something similar to my mother’s old china cabinet, thanks for the ideas!

  • @Megan – I have to agree with Grace here! Josue mentions that the hardware for the dresser came from the desk and the paint for both is the same colour, so I can see how she kept her costs down.
    Well done Josue, they both look fantastic!

  • First thing that came out in my mouth is WOW! This is a great craft I must say. You were able to transform the old-looking cabinet into a beautiful and flair work of art.

  • i had two of the exact same dresser and the top two drawers were crooked on both…unfortunately ikea doesn’t always lend itself as well to makeovers as solid wood furniture. great job working with what you had, though.

  • The dresser is a knockout! Isn’t the John Derian honeycomb box great as well? I wish I had bought a stack of them when they were in Target!

  • great work! it looks amazing! i can’t wait to become as talented as you! keep up the good work josue!

  • The Ikea piece looks great with its facelift. I support a lot of Ikea products and love some of their designs, but has anyone else had the drawers fall apart on them? I had a solid wood piece that looked nice, but they constantly fell off the tracks (I lived in SoCal at the time).

    Regardless, I think the color pairings are great and love the green and sailor blue.

  • What paint is it? It looks grey-blue
    I have had the same furniture for 4 yrs now so for me this will be a perfect project.

  • I have that same dresser. It’s big and i love it. It’s nice to see the potential in ikea. You can really make something your own with a little bit work and a lot of creativity and love :)

  • Thanks for the answer Grace…I hope you didn’t think that I didn’t love the before and after b/c I surely do. I am doing a much smaller project and know that knobs alone cost me more so was curious

  • Kate; your remark about IKEA furniture is so to the point… some of their stuff REALLY ought to be in a ‘Hall of Fame’… – they have fantastic designers and if stuff breaks, it wasn’t expensive at least!!
    Love the work young Josue did; very ‘in’ colours, lovely handles, love the mix & match, makes a fresh and very modern look. Great post!

  • omg. i own 2 malms and it destroys me every time i look at them. this is amazing i cant wait to get working on my dressers – totally inspired :)

  • Stunning transformation!! I have a question for you guys… I wanted to purchase two of the black/brown Ikea Hemnes nightstands and paint them dark black and semi glossy to match the rest of the furniture in my bedroom. Is this possible to do?! Any suggestions on what type of paint to use and how to do it? All comments/advice/tips welcome!!
    Here is a picture of the Hemnes, just in case you are not familiar with it: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/90121234

  • Josue you can spend less time sanding, just do a quick light scuff+then use a HIGH ADHESIVE primer such as Aqualock or Fresh Start (Para,Benny Moore) before your colour. Unlike cheaper primers,these have a glue content that locks in the surface to be painted so your top colour has somethin to bind to+not scratch off. Its worth the $ for what u save in time+labour! Great Job!

  • Great job! Also, I must give kudos to the great D*S readers and commenters. Nothing like the snooty mean-spirited readers of this same redo on AT.

  • I cant believe the transformation! That Malm dresser is ubiquitous, and it just goes to show what some creativity and genius can do to transform the ordinary into something incredibly extraordinary!

  • HOLY. CRAP. you guys. I have 2 malm dresses and I have been racking my BRAIN to figure out what the heck to do with them and this is it. THIS IS IT! you’ve solved my dilemma. Thank you thank you thank yoooooou!!!

    Any chance you know what type of paint used on the malm??

  • What kind of paint was used? I want to do this over the weekend but I don’t want to but the wrong paint. Is it Semi gloss? Matte? Should I be priming after I sand it?

  • There it is!!!! I’d seen that Octopus hook somewhere and wanted to buy it, but now I’ve forgotten who was selling them. Can you tell me where you got yours? If you could I’d be eternally grateful. I’ve been kicking myself for months for forgetting. Im obsessed with that thing!

  • Wow, I am long overdue for a thank you! I really appreciate all the comments and tips for future projects. I am aware that Ikea furniture isn’t the best quality but that shouldn’t stop anyone from giving a piece a nice face lift. To answer a few questions, I got the pain at a local paint supply store in my hometown. I actually got the paint color from one of my old shirts. I brought it in and they did a color match for me, they grey was a little bit more on the cooler side than I anticipated but I really love the way it turned out. Oh and abou the hook, I got it as a gift and you can find it at anthropologie. http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/catalog/productdetail.jsp?id=974284&catId=HOME-HARDWARE&pushId=HOME-HARDWARE&popId=HOME&navCount=12&color=007&isProduct=true&fromCategoryPage=true&isSubcategory=true&subCategoryId=HOME-HARDWARE-HOOKS

  • LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!! can you tell me what you mean by “cutting the trim” you’d purchased? i would love to know what that is. i assumed the white was just stenciling, but maybe not…. thanks for your help! seriously, i’m so in love with both pieces!

  • Hi Josue,
    I know I am just one more person asking you the same thing but we didn’t really get an answer to this question. What type of paint did you use for the dresser (semi gloss, flat, etc? and type of sand paper (grit number) did you use? and lastly did you use any type of protective coating on the top to prevent it from damaging or scraping?

    Thank you,


  • I am painting an Ikea dressers. Made a mistake in thinking i can just primer without sanding. Bad idea. Can anyone tell me what to do now. I was going to sand the primer then add a second coat. I need help I want to do this right. I saw you painted and then sand can I do the same, Josue?

  • i , like many others was obsessed with finding the now discontinued IKEA MALM DRESSING TABLE in black. So yesterday I bought the white one and spray painted it with KRYLON . Here it is