50 Ways to Hack the Most Beloved IKEA Products of All Time

published Mar 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Photo: Ikea; Design; Apartment Therapy)

At this point, most of us can spot a BILLY bookcase, KALLAX cubby, or LACK table a mile away. Basic and affordable, they’ve been some of the most popular items at IKEA for years, and our first apartments would’ve been bare without them. But it turns out these entry-level pieces are just as perfectly suited to even the most design-forward homes, thanks to clever tricks that transform them into eye-popping statements that look custom-made—and nothing at all like their former selves. Here are the 10 IKEA products that get hacked the most.

(Image credit: IKEA)

1. MOPPE Mini Storage Chest

It seems like IKEA has been selling this little desktop set of unfinished birchwood drawers for a million years, which is fitting because it seems like there are a million ways to hack it—especially if you turn the drawers backward to hide the little cut-outs so you can attach pulls. You can paint it or stain it, decoupage it or wallpaper it. Stencil it, put it on legs, and stack it. Hang it on the wall as a bedside table, or turn the drawers into display shelves.

(Image credit: IKEA)

2. TARVA Chest

Made of unfinished pine and as plain as can be, think of the TARVA line of dressers (three-, five- and six-drawer) as the furniture equivalent of a blank canvas. There is no end to the creative ways you can doll up this dresser. Aside from giving it an eye-catching paint job, you can also swap out knobs and trim the feet for a more modern look. Make it two-tone, or dress up the front of the drawers with decorative panels and molding.

(Image credit: IKEA)

3. RAST Dresser

Like the TARVA chest, the three-drawer RAST is built from unfinished pine, but it sits flush on the floor instead of perched on boxy feet. It also costs a mere $40. Clearly this piece is just begging for creative reinterpretation. First of all, try giving it some stylish feet. Modify the front with overlays or cut grooves so it looks like planks. Add molding to fancy up the top or bottom, or give it brass flourishes for a campaign look.

(Image credit: IKEA)

4. KALLAX Shelves

There’s practically nothing you can’t do with these versatile cubbies, which come in black, white, or walnut, and in a range of sizes. Put them on casters or add decorative feet. Clad them in paneling or add doors. Use them as a base for a desk, kitchen island or even a bed or bench seat. They can be a dollhouse, a storage ottoman, or a sleek console. If you can imagine it, you can probably use KALLAX to make it.

(Image credit: IKEA)

5. MALM Dresser

The MALM line has all the charm of an office file drawer, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Look beyond its basic exterior and you’ll see that those clean lines are the perfect backbone for a stunning transformation. Even something as simple as leather pulls or gold foil can be the difference between boring and beautiful. Or go glam with bold paint and glue-on overlays. You can even turn it into a sleek kitchen island.

(Image credit: IKEA)

6. BILLY Bookcase

Is there anyone left on the planet who hasn’t bought the BILLY bookcase at one time or another? They’re simple, cheap, and big enough to hold a boatload of books, plus you can get them with doors. But what they don’t have are frills, which is actually a good thing because it means you can add molding and make it look like a pricey built-in unit. Just add lights and a library ladder. Try adding wallpaper or paint to dress up the back of the shelves, or take some of the shelves out, add coat hooks, and turn them into lockers for the mudroom. Another idea: Set a couple of the low bookcases together, add a butcher block, and you have an almost-instant kitchen island.

(Image credit: IKEA)

7. BESTA media storage

The BESTA series is best known for being a living room stalwart. The customizable set of free-standing or wall-mounted cabinetry offers clean lines and plenty of configuration options to work with your TV and home entertainment gadgets. But it’s way more versatile than that. Add a wood top or a bold countertop, and completely change the look. Add legs, wallpaper the inside, and you have a gorgeous home bar cabinet. Arrange them along an entire wall for a statement-making console, especially if you spray-paint each cabinet door a different color. And companies like Norse make it easy to upgrade the look with specially-designed cabinet fronts and pulls.

(Image credit: IKEA)

8. PAX Wardrobes

The PAX wardrobe system is already impressively customizable, with its wide array of sizes, shapes, door fronts, drawers shelves, and pulls. But people love taking it to the next level. Start by painting the doors or wallpapering, adding unusual knobs and installing it off the ground. Since it comes in both deep and slim options, you can use it as storage in tight spaces, like hallways and kitchens. And it’s so tall you can use it to replace walls.

(Image credit: IKEA)

9. Kitchen Cabinets

IKEA’s popular kitchen cabinets don’t have to stay in the kitchen. In fact, their modular features make them ideal for hacking. Wrap in fiberboard, add legs and decorative pulls, and turn it into a console that’s just the right size for your space. Or attach them low to the wall for a “floating credenza.” Use them as the base for a high crafting desk. Even IKEA itself is in on the hacking game, suggesting ways to use its kitchen cabinets as end tables and office storage.

(Image credit: IKEA)

10. LACK Series

This bare bones collection of blocky tables and shelves seems aptly named. The LACK line doesn’t have much besides very low prices ($12.99 for a side table?). But creative hackers have been giving the LACK a lot of love for years. Take off the legs and wrap the tabletop in fabric or decals to turn it into wall art. Or transform it into a hanging planter for succulents. Dress up the top with zinc, marble contact paper, a mirror, or a bold color. Or buy multiples and screw them together into a cat tree, or put two together to give your end table a bottom shelf.

(Image credit: IKEA)

Bonus: BLANDA MATT bamboo bowl and HULTET bamboo dish

Most of us look at the five-inch salad bowl and envision, well, salad. But there are those who instead see spherical speakers, an urn-like planter, and a hinged trinket bowl. And the HULTET dish can double as a chic lamp shade, frame for a clock

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