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Friday, May 13, 2016

How To Makeover the IKEA Tarva Dressers Into Rustic Nightstands

Here is how we changed the IKEA Tarva...

...into Restoration Hardware style bed-side dressers -

If you are on a decorating budget like we are or want "stand-in" pieces until you can afford or find something you really love, then you might want to try this fast and easy makeover.  Fast, because if you were to prime and paint this dresser, the waiting time would be much longer for each coat to dry. Easy, because you really can't mess it up - hence why I love RUSTIC things!!!  The imperfections in that style take away a lot of the pressure to make pieces perfect.  I wanted the rustic neutral wood look but didn't want to pay an arm and a leg for the really cool ones, so that's why I decided to hack an IKEA piece - although this process can be done on any raw wood, or any piece that has been stripped down too, of course!

*I recently posted how and why we chose to "hack" the popular IKEA Tarva (it's $80 plus materials; made of untreated pine; is the right size against our bed; etc.), so hop other there if you want to see a couple more finished dresser pics.  

This makeover only took a few hours one night and then a few minutes the next day (not including putting the dressers together which sometimes takes ALL.DAY.LONG).  Just kidding, I don't know how long it takes to put them together because I make Bill do it EVERY.SINGLE.TIME! 
I LOVE Ikea furniture but I don't have enough patience to get past the pulling the pieces out of the box stage.  And there's no "just kidding" about that part.  

Here's the list of the SUPPLIES we used:
-Two inch wood slats for trim around each drawer face
-Nail gun or wood glue or both
-Wood filler, preferably natural color, *not white
-Sandpaper or sanding block
-Flat or satin white paint (I used SW Pure White - some extra ceiling paint) 
-Flat or satin medium to darker gray paint (I used an oops paint I had)
-Flat or satin brown/beige paint (I used an oops paint I had)
-Nuetral wood stain (I used Minwax Dark Walnut)
-Cheap paint brush - the cheaper ($1), the better. 
-A rag to wipe paint off
-A rag for stain
-A bowl of water
-Finishing wax (I used Minwax Natural Paste Wax)
-Any hardware you'd like to use for knobs/pulls
***All of these supplies I had on hand besides the trim pieces.

Each dresser came in around $90 total, but keep in mind that I only had to buy the dressers and the wood slats for the trim. 

Painting supplies - 

Here are the 7 steps to transforming the dressers - 
Step 1. 
Build Dressers FIRST
I had Bill put the dressers together first (I thought there would be way too many pieces to try to keep straight if they weren't already together when I started and am so glad I didn't paint the insides of the drawers, as well)! He put them together WITHOUT the legs - the Tarva is a tall dresser at 36" and I knew that I wanted them about 6" lower to be at a good height for our bed.  So it was an easy solution to leave the legs off all together; and I think Bill appreciated having one less step to do!
*Side note - I think he will go down in history as having been the guy to have put the most IKEA furniture together of all time. ;)
Here it is with no legs - 
We might still put small feet on them to give them a more finished look but I haven't decided yet.

Step 2.
Trim out each drawer and drill new knob holes (if you are moving drawer handles from pre-drilled spots).
We had to find some wood that would work for the trim along the edges of each of the drawers.  *Bill's still in the picture at this point - total team project.
Finding the trim pieces was trickier than we thought it would be.
When we asked at Lowes, they steered us to a hobby place that sells faux wood foam, but after we went there and bought it, we realized it wasn't going to work before we even got home.
It was only after going back to Lowes to try something we knew would be too bulky but were going to try and make work anyways, that Bill lucked out and found a package of 4 ft. slats (in a bundle of 50) in the building supply section - an entirely different part of the store from where the wood was - total score!  Okay, I'll stop with that.

And so after the kids went down (the best time to do any project IMO), he cut the pieces and used a nail gun to secure the trim.  

I had him drill new holes for his bronze handles on each of the drawer faces.
Yes, we like to work in the dark...
Until the trusty headlamp is found!

Step 3.
Wood fill all holes and quick sand if needed
Then the batton passed to me. 
I used some wood filler to fill in all the small nail holes in the trim pieces and in the knob holes that came pre-drilled in the drawer fronts on Bill's dresser.  I wanted to use the few leftover bronze kitchen cabinet pulls on his dresser instead of the wood knobs that come with the Tarva.  
*I should have used natural color wood filler because the white was hard to cover up.  I ended up finding the natural color in the garage AFTER the fact of course! 
I Love love love love love wood filler.  I always tell Bill it's magical because it really works! 
Below is shot of the knob holes filled in - 

And then it's just a quick sand over the filler after it dries (which is fast, maybe 20 minutes or so) -

Step 4.
Apply the 3 different paints
I painted in this order - 
I thinned each layer of paint with water and then "dry brushed" in the same direction of the wood grain. If there was too much paint on the brush, I would just dip it in a bowl of water; if there was any access paint in one area, I 'd wipe it off with the rag.  I also used the rag to push the paint around at times, then wipe away if needed.
*I used the same rag for all 3 paint colors and I would dip the rag in the bowl of water and then rub directly on paint spots if I wanted that area to be thinned out.
*Because the paint is almost instantly dry, you don't have to wait around to apply the next coats of paint.  By the time I finished the second dresser in white, I was able to go back to the first dresser to apply the brown.

Painted white (you can see you just want to put on a thin, light coat that still shows the wood grain)- 
The front painted white - 

Then it was onto the brown.  I picked it up for $.50 on one of my many trips to Lowes.
Here's the oops paint colors I used - 
I added more brown to some spots that needed it, then watered it down with the brush and rubbed in with the rag - 

And this is why you should not use white tinted wood filler - 
Side of dresser with white and brown - 

Front of dresser with white and brown -

Now for the gray.  I picked up this medium-dark gray color in the oops paint section for $2.50 on one of my many trips to Lowe's as well. 
I made sure it was really runny because I wanted the wood grain to still show through - 

Top two drawers have all 3 colors, bottom still needs gray paint - 
Here is what they looked like all painted with the 3 different colors (before stain)- 
dresser 1
dresser 2
Step 5.
Stain OVER the paint
I know this part seems weird but because the layers of paint were so thin, the wood should still be able to absorb some stain.
I used Minwax Dark Walnut because it's a dark neutral (no orange) and would make the dressers darker than the paint did.  It's also one of the two stains I had in the garage. ;)

I used a different rag than the one I used for the paint.

...still mad about those white wood filler holes that you can see below - I had to keep rubbing over all those spots! 

This is what a dresser looked like when I went to bed, about 4 hours after Bill nailed the trim to the fronts of the drawers - 

Step 6.
Seal the piece of furniture.
I used a wax finishing paste in natural to seal the dressers.
Poly would have been fine to use too, but since these dressers aren't "high traffic pieces," I felt like the wax would be enough. 

Here is what it looked like the next morning (way different light than the night shot) and I just applied a quick coat of wax before buffing off -

Step 7. 
Apply hardware and set up to use! 
This is Bill's dresser with bronze pulls (leftover from kitchen cabinets) - 

And here's mine again - 

And if you're still with me at this point (ummm, I think I told you this was FAST, oops), I'll leave you with some tips to remember when making-over your raw wood furniture with a rustic "Restoration Hardware" feel-

-If you are painting inside, and are using an IKEA piece, use the IKEA boxes opened up to do your project on. Ha! ... something that was better than hardwoods or asphalt to sit on and I could paint against it which I don't do with drop cloths or plastic because it might soak through (with a drop cloth underneath) or not dry enough to sit up next to or work around (with slippery plastic underneath).  Ok a bit random I know, but it just came to me when I looked back through these pictures.

-Use a "light hand" to paint if you want to see the wood grain at the end - you can always go back over spots that you think need more paint but it's better to put not enough paint on at first. 

-Use natural colored wood filler if you have it. The white wood filler is great if your wood is already painted white, not if you're trying to make it darker eeek! *of course I found some in the garage that we used on our stair project the next morning.  Argh! 

-I did both dressers at the same time so they would turn out similar and so I wouldn't forget how lightly I did one color or how much paint i wiped off, etc.  So if you're doing two or more pieces and want a consistent look, I definitely suggest doing each step on them at the same time.

-I used the same cheap paint brush and rag for all 3 layers of paint without cleaning them in-between colors. Doing this, plus dry brushing and wiping paint off quickly were what made the process so fast. 

-Don't worry about messing up, you can always add more layers or strip off paint as you go and if you don't like the finished product, add more light paint, dark paint, or stain to get the look you want - just make sure to do this before sealing! ;)

-Oh yea, and if you have the patience of a toddler, like me, and you're going the IKEA route, it helps to have someone else put the furniture together.  If you're not that lucky, then I suggest a glass or 4 of wine to not make it so painful (have yet to try it but I'd probably be up for it then!)

It was a busy weekend for us, with this project getting done the next day. 

Hope that was helpful and would love to hear if you've "hacked" anything lately!  

Linking up with Kelly for 7 Quick Takes.  Happy Friday! 


  1. Those look SO good! Love it & how thoroughly you explained. I thought you had painted on the floor up above and was like, "Whaaaa??? Oh no she didnt!" and then realized it was the boxes. Phew! Good tip!

  2. Those look SO good! Love it & how thoroughly you explained. I thought you had painted on the floor up above and was like, "Whaaaa??? Oh no she didnt!" and then realized it was the boxes. Phew! Good tip!

    1. Haha! yes it was way easier than worry about the paint spills. Hope your reno is going well!

  3. Those look amazing! Best tutorial ever. Makes it seem like real people could actually do it (as opposed to most of the things I find on Pinterest.)

    1. Awe, thanks, Jenny, that's so sweet! Haha I don't know real DIY terms so I just tried to explain it how I approached it! And I love Pinterest for so many ideas, just don't know if I can actually do them all ha!

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