The 14 Best IKEA Before & Afters of All Time

published Jul 28, 2023
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blue painted bookcase, white furniture, and brown coffee table

If you’ve ever been to an IKEA showroom, or if you ever eagerly anticipated getting a print IKEA catalog (may it rest in peace) in the mail every year, then you probably know it’s possible to totally transform a room with products from the Swedish retailer alone. 

Short on storage? Looking for shelving? Want a no-frills bed or desk or coffee table or couch or literally anything else? And need it to be budget-friendly and easily transportable? IKEA’s got you. Not to mention, it’s possible to paint, saw, and modify standard-issue IKEA pieces — or “hack” them — to create your own custom showstoppers, like built-in bookshelves or banquette seating. IKEA hacks can be so impressive that you wouldn’t believe they started as such simple pieces.

Suffice it to say, we’ve seen a lot of impressive room transformations over the years in which IKEA played a major role. Here, we’re celebrating the best Before & Afters featuring IKEA items ever showcased on Apartment Therapy, selected for their superb function, style, and smart use of IKEA staples, of course. 

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1. “Built-In” BILLYS Are a Big Upgrade from These ‘80s Closet Doors

These built-ins made from IKEA BILLY bookcases are homeowner Agathe Corbett’s favorite DIY feature in her renovated 550-square-foot French apartment. She and her husband, Jeremy, DIYed them one weekend, using two bookcases, MDF boards for the fronts and surrounds, caulk, and white paint (French brand SIMAB’s Lunicoat Noix de Coco). Agathe says on Instagram that the open shelving is “a huge improvement from the horrendous built-in” wardrobes from before. By ripping down the closets, Agathe and Jeremy carved out space for a small workspace in the corner, and Agathe loves that she can display her favorite books and decor items. Her advice for making an all-white space look more visually exciting is to choose accessories with interesting organic shapes to display against the white backdrop.

2. A Bare Living Room Is Transformed with a Totally Unique IKEA BILLY Bookcase Hack

BILLY bookcases are the heroes once again in this colorful $650 living room redo — and this time, the BILLY hack proves that although IKEA furniture comes with sleek Scandinavian lines, the pieces are endlessly adaptable to suit other styles as well. Homeowner Selma Chatto (@chateauchatto) added scalloped trim, pink paint (Rust-Oleum’s Lilac Wine), and decorated doors to give them a more whimsical look. “We bolted the whole thing together and added a skirting board at the bottom to make it seamless,” Selma shared. “Building it around the fireplace and wall lights were tricky, but those features break up the design beautifully.” Selma says if she were to do the project again, she would add beaded trim to the scalloped edges to add even more visual interest — and she still might!  

3. A Clever IKEA Hack Makes This Open Entryway Much More Practical

There are IKEA items flanking both sides of this transformed entryway: On the left, two IKEA etageres (they’re VITTSJÖs) and a single-row KALLAX used as a bench offer open storage, and on the right, a HEMNES shoe cabinet offers concealed storage. That piece also seamlessly blends into its surroundings because it’s painted in the same dusty pink (Farrow & Ball’s Sulking Room Pink) that designer Alexandra Gater used on the walls. Gater added a custom wood top and new knobs to the HEMNES, but she notes that painting the cabinet in a personalized color alone would make a statement in anyone’s home — no add-ons necessary.

Credit: Courtesy of Studio Lithe
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4. You Might Not Even Recognize the IKEA in This Cherry Wood-Clad Kitchen 

This stunning wood kitchen designed by Lexi Ribar and Morgan Stewart of Studio Lithe looks so expensive that you might not even guess it uses IKEA cabinets — yes, SEKTIONS! — as the base storage. Ribar’s advice for giving IKEA a bespoke look? “When we do the ‘IKEA hack,’ we find the important factor is using pretty materials and working with skilled woodworkers,” she tells AT. “The live-edge pantry and the shelf above the peninsula also play a role in elevating IKEA. The savings we had with cabinet boxes allowed us to do two very special, custom components.” In other words, the savings from the big-box retailer’s low price point can allow for splurges in other areas. 

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5. Wow-Worthy DIY Built-Ins (from IKEA!) Shine in This Houston Home Office

The storage in this dreamy green home office consists of IKEA IVARs, which retail at $130 apiece, much less than custom built-ins might cost. DIYer and home influencer Ryia Jose’s (@kinandcasa) total for the whole room was about $750. To make her IVARs look built-in, she made a long base from 2x4s and used a long piece of plywood along the top as well a narrower strip at the base to conceal the gaps between each individual IVAR. Iron-on veneer helped cover the rough plywood edges. Ryia painted her creation dark green (Sherwin-Williams’ Andiron). Other good ideas in this redo include picture-frame molding made from base-cap molding and a gallery wall with mixed wood frames. 

6. These $1,000 IKEA Hack Built-Ins Save a Cluttered Garage Entryway 

Only $1,000 for a decluttered, beautiful garage? Yes please! This budget-friendly garage redo combines a PAX wardrobe system, a HEMNES media stand, and a KALLAX to create a giant storage unit for corralling coolers, extra pantry items, cords, tools, sports equipment, and more. DIYer Jackie Fagan (@morningkawa) used trim pieces and white paint (Sherwin-Williams’ Alabaster) to make the separate pieces look seamless, and hooks and cubbies make the new unit even more practical. Fagan and her husband, Tyler, also finished the concrete ledge the unit sits on with a navy-meets-charcoal concrete seal to complete the look. 

7. A “White Box” Bedroom Is Now Packed with Storage, Thanks to IKEA 

A massive amount of extra storage is the name of the game for many IKEA redos, including this serene bedroom makeover. Once, the bedroom only had a small dresser and two nightstands for storage; now, thanks to IKEA PAX wardrobes, trim, and a soft sage green paint (Benjamin Moore’s Sea Haze), it has a huge closet that looks like it was always there. “We have SO much more storage now — we actually have more storage than we need (although I’m sure we’ll fill it all eventually)!” homeowner and DIYer Rebecca Rajs says.

8. A “Wasted Space” Laundry Room Is Transformed by Fun Wallpaper and IKEA Storage

If there’s one room where concealed storage is the biggest blessing, it might be the laundry room. After all, detergent bottles, dryer sheet boxes, hangers, washcloths, spare light bulbs, socks missing mates, dirty clothes, and whatever else you might store in your laundry room aren’t all that fun to look at (or safe to have out in the open, if you’ve got kids or pets). In this laundry room redo by architect and interior designer Taryn Bone of Bone Collective Studio, Bone maxed out on storage.

“This room was such a wasted space when we bought the house,” she says, and its low ceilings made adding cabinetry a bit of a challenge. Bone’s solution was to stack two 15-inch-deep IKEA cabinets on top of each other in three different spots in the L-shaped laundry room. She used cabinet doors from Semihandmade for a sleek exterior look, then painted the floors blue (Benjamin Moore’s California Blue) and added a Hygge & West wallpaper to the walls.

9. This Energizing Living Room Redo Features a Bold Wall of IKEA-Hacked Built-Ins

Yes, it’s possible to use $120 IKEA BILLY bookcases to create some of the most luxe-looking library walls you’ve ever seen, and this living room redo by Sanda Stojakovic (@design.playbook) is perfect proof. Stojakovic says she was surprised she and her husband were able to make the BILLYs look so custom, and they did so by using lumber, trim pieces, and molding details to fill in the gaps between the shelves. The built-ins look extra custom, thanks to the sconces between each shelf and the royal blue paint, of course. (It’s Benjamin Moore’s Blueberry.)

10. A $15 IKEA FInd Is the Secret Ingredient to a $170 Glam Dining Room Refresh 

You can make a big change in a space using IKEA furniture, but you can also use IKEA’s smaller offerings, like mirrors, to make a space shine, like homeowners Ashley Donelli (@our_gaff_) and her partner, John, did. The couple used IKEA LOTS square tile mirrors (similar to BLODLÖNN mirrors in the U.S.) and LONSAS mirrors to create a floor-to-ceiling statement in their dining room. They used black paint for the background and adhesive that came with the mirrors to attach them to the wall. And they used a laser level to keep the mirrors (mostly) evenly spaced.

Donelli’s advice for a grid-like mirror wall like this is that it doesn’t have to be perfect — after all, most walls aren’t perfectly flush! Using a dark paint color and adding furniture will help pull the room together and distract from imperfections, she says. No matter what, you’ll make a major statement in your home if you give this DIY a try; the mirrors in Donelli’s home not only make the kitchen and dining area seem larger and brighter, but also serve as a focal point in the open-plan pad. 

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11. A Smart Redo Makes This 1969 A-Frame’s Kitchen Feel Much Larger

The old-meets-new vibe of the classic white IKEA kitchen cabinets paired with the dark wood of this 1969 cabin just feels right. Not only do the white cabinets add contrast and look totally chic, but they’re also super functional, as is this entire kitchen now. “The kitchen cabinetry was dirty and damaged from years of use and neglect,” A-frame owner Erika Cash says. Plus, the kitchen felt a bit cramped with a layout that featured all of its appliances on one side, there was no dishwasher, and the only light source in the kitchen was a small bathroom vanity light. Thanks to the new layout with open shelving and a relocated fridge, there’s more breathing room — and an 18-inch IKEA dishwasher to boot! Goodbye, hours of hand-washing dishes.

12. A $525 Bedroom Redo Has a Must-See IKEA Headboard Hack

It’s no surprise that this budget-friendly bedroom redo is filled with DIYs — after all, making things yourself, upcycling, and cutting out shipping and production costs is a surefire way to save money. Two of those DIYs are clever IKEA hacks. DIYer Nicole Herrick (@nicoleherrickdiy) created a funky double-layered headboard around her original IKEA TARVA bed frame, and she also reupholstered an IKEA chair. One more IKEA standby to note in the room? The curtains! They’re HILJAs.

Credit: Stephanie Barnett
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13. A $2,000 IKEA Built-in Storage Hack Saves a Cluttered Basement

This basement wall IKEA hack combines two wardrobes, a media cabinet, a bench, and a bookcase. Whew! Stephanie Barnett, the homeowner behind the hack, says it basically took memorizing IKEA’s entire website to land on this solution — a combination of IKEA’s PAX, BILLY, HEMNES, BERGSBO, and KOMPLEMENT pieces — to corral her family’s stuff, but it paid off big time, as she now has two closets, drawers, cabinets, cubbies, and shelves to offer storage. Plus her basement has a bit more style, thanks to shiplap, crisp white paint (Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace), a butcher block worktop, rattan barstools, and new sconces. Barnett’s gorge green sofa is a bit of an IKEA hack as well: It’s an EKTORP with a green velvet cover from Etsy.

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14. These Luxe “Built-ins” Cost $500 but Look Way More Expensive

When renter Emily Neal and her boyfriend were looking to add a bit more function (and places to store things) to their apartment, they added a desk made from an IKEA countertop flanked by two clearance IKEA PAX frames. And there are several smart takeaways from their project: First, the clearance PAXes weren’t exactly the height that Neal wanted, so she added arch-shaped niches above them, which also added a bit of architectural interest to their builder-grade place.

Takeaway number one? You don’t necessarily need to be deterred by dimensions that aren’t to your liking in the store — especially if you’re willing to pick up a power tool. Takeaway number two? IKEA hacks can be renter-friendly! Emily and her boyfriend rent, so they wanted to be able to quickly reverse this project. Even though the PAX setup looks built-in, it’s actually only attached to the wall with four screws. Most of the trim pieces are attached to the frame itself and not actually attached to the wall.