The 1-Step DIY That Makes Any Cabinet Look Expensive (It’s Just $14!)

published May 10, 2024
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blue entry way with art, mirror, console table

There are plenty of ways to upgrade old furniture so you can get a fresh look without actually buying something new. Adding paint or pole wrap or even just new handles and legs can give a tired dresser or console a whole new vibe. But there’s one furniture flip that DIYers have shared with AT that looks chic time and time again with no paint or power tools (well, unless you count a hair dryer!) required. 

Burl wood contact paper is the $14 Amazon find that can take your plain big-box piece from drab to fab, and it’s beginner-friendly, too. All you need is a pair of scissors or a utility knife, plus something to smooth the paper down with.

Here are some other tips to know if you’re going to work with the material.

Credit: Cat Meschia

A credit card or gift card makes a great smoothing tool.

DIYer and Apartment Therapy contributor Cat Meschia leveled up an IKEA KALLAX with a wooden base made from 2x4s, some gold pulls, and burl wood contact paper. Cat recommends smoothing out any air bubbles in the contact paper with a hard, smooth edge like a credit card or gift card.

Credit: Cat Meschia

“Press firmly, starting from the middle and moving outwards,” she wrote in her KALLAX hack how-to. “Slowly alternate between peeling back more of the backing and smoothing. Let the contact paper “roll” into place instead of pulling. Don’t worry about small bubbles — you can pop these with a utility knife later.”

Cat also adds that because the burl wood pattern is so busy, it’s pretty forgiving of any errors.

Credit: Elim Shanko

 A hair dryer makes the contact paper extra smooth and sticky.

DIYer Elim Shanko (@apartmentondamen) gave a floating console from Amazon a luxe new look with burl wood contact paper. “The whole thing was a budget-friendly endeavor,” she explained to Apartment Therapy — and “it’s absolutely beautiful.”

Her advice is to use a blow dryer for extra adhesion and to smooth out bubbles, a squeegee for additional smoothing, and a craft knife for a precise finish.

Credit: Madison Hope
Credit: Madison Hope

A sewing pin is perfect for popping air bubbles. 

Lastly, graphic designer and blogger Madison Hope (@madisonandsuch) used the easy material to upgrade a white IKEA BESTA, and she used a large coffee table book to smooth out air bubbles. “With larger surface areas, I needed something that applied pressure to more space,” she previously told AT.

For any lumps that remained after lots of smoothing, she used a small sewing pin to pop the bubbles. “Because it was just a pinprick, you couldn’t tell where I had poked the paper,” she adds.

Plus, Madison makes a good point: Even real-deal antique burl wood pieces aren’t perfect. “If you take a close look at the burl pieces on the market or on Pinterest, you’ll notice that lots of burl pieces incorporate different slabs of burl together rather than one giant continuous piece,” Madison says. 

Try revamping a small piece to start.

Madison adds that if you’re nervous about trying out the project on a large piece of furniture, you could always go for something smaller for your first contact paper project, like a picture frame or tray.

If you want to skip the DIY entirely, there are tons of store-bought burl wood beauties (hello, room dividers, storage boxes, and more!) to choose from, too. Shop 10 chic finds and read more about the history of burl wood here.