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You Won’t Even Recognize IKEA in These 7 High-End Hacks

published Dec 8, 2021
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Wall of built-in white bookcases made from IKEA BILLY bookcases

IKEA hacks are an Apartment Therapy staple. And no wonder: It’s hard to find anything more gratifying as a DIYer than taking a budget-friendly and accessible piece and turning it into a custom piece that no one else has. Great hacks run the gamut, with some meant to mimic of-the-moment looks, and others meant to dupe timeless silhouettes. But all of the best ones take minimal DIY skills and even more minimal investment and turn that into a piece with three-dollar-sign style.

From custom built-ins on a BILLY bookcase budget to a sub-$40 nightstand turned trendy cane nightstand, these seven IKEA hacks take that familiar and austere Swedish construction and turn it into something luxe and high-end (without the high-end price tag). Read on for inspo for your next budget-friendly project.

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A Sophisticated DUKTIG Play Kitchen

IKEA’s DUKTIG play kitchen is surprisingly chic for a kid’s toy, like a miniature version of the kitchen you’d see in a minimalist Airbnb. But DIYer Jhonny Kelson Curran wanted something a bit warmer for her two babies under two. With $60 in supplies purchased from Amazon and Home Depot, she made the kind of simple swaps typically recommended for an easy full-size kitchen makeover. 

Walking through her simple, but sophisticated project, she explains, “We put the kitchen together per the instructions, but subbed out the plastic handles for wood ones on the oven, microwave, and drawer. I took five round wood dowels and glued them to the kitchen with wood glue as an added touch. I bought a rectangle pine slab to replace the plastic stove top and glued two round unfinished wood circles to the top to act as the burners.”

Curran then cut cane webbing to size and screwed it behind the glass on both the microwave and stove, and spray painted the sink and faucet to resemble brass. With a few warm wood accessories to finish it off, this is the kind of kitchen an adult would dream of.

A Spool-Inspired MALM Dresser Update

Angelica Kalatzi, the blogger behind Once Again, My Dear Irene, is an expert in IKEA hacks. Many of hers start with a piece of IKEA furniture that’s been serving its simple purpose in her home for more than a few years. This MALM dresser had been around the block a time or two — and through a few moves — but it was still in good condition, just in need of a little refresh.

Kalatzi decided to give it a high-end spool furniture spin, a reference to a decorative technique that’s been around since the 17th century.”Among my many IKEA hacks, this is most certainly the most impressive one!” Kalatizi says.

To make it, she glued wooden flat ball knobs around the drawers of two dark brown IKEA MALM dressers (doing just the perimeter of and leaving the center, where the dressers touch, free to give the illusion of a larger dresser). Once dry, she painted everything white.

BILLY Bookcases with a Refined Built-In Treatment

IKEA’s BILLY bookcase is one of the most popular IKEA items to hack. Kaari Sommer of The Sommer Home, however, took her BILLY hack to a different level. Her built-in hack resembles high-end bookcases so closely that the trim is completely integrated into the rest of the room. Brass swing light sconces add a refined touch. 

Sommer describes her project as inspired by a too-high bid from a professional. She recalls, “When we built our house and moved in, I knew I wanted a wall of bookshelves in our den. I got a bid from the cabinet shop that did our kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and it was so far out of our budget I knew it would never happen. So, I googled other options. My husband is really quite handy, so I showed him the idea and he was on board. I came up with a more detailed plan and we got to work. It’s been several years now, and they are still one of my very favorite things in my home!”

An Elevated BESTÅ Cabinet

The BESTÅ cabinet is an inexpensive find for a wall mounted sideboard, and, to make things even better, it takes very little effort and few supplies to take it from simple to stunning. 

Bethany Campbell of The Posh Home took her BESTÅ cabinet, added an IKEA glass top and suspension rails, and then went wild with statement-making hardware. “We like to add unique hardware to make ordinary pieces stand out,” Campbell says. “We floated this piece to give it a higher-end feel.” The result? A custom-look piece for less than $320.

A Bold and Festive Bar Cabinet

The solid pine IVAR cabinet — a bargain at just $70 — is ideal for hacks because its unfinished solid wood surface is super easy to customize with paint.

Here, Melanie Lissack of Melanie Lissack Interiors turned the unassuming IVAR into a bar cabinet you’ll want to raise a glass to.

Lissack painted the whole cabinet mint green, and utilized a cardboard template to cut MDF curves to add detail. She applied mirror tiles to the back of the cabinet, as well as champagne hooks (could this get any more glamorous?!). To round out this swanky and colorful hack, she added gold legs and modern gold hardware. Now, the once-plain cabinet makes a bold statement.

Credit: Jayne Sharpe

A Moody BILLY Bookcase Feature Wall

Jayne Sharpe, a video creator who is renovating her old home, turned to the BILLY Bookcase when she needed budget-friendly solutions for the remaining rooms. In her words, “Having blown most of our home renovation budget on the kitchen, we were looking at cost effective ways to do the rest of the house. I’d seen a few other Instagram accounts create incredible hacks using IKEA furniture, so I decided to give it a go.”

She gave the BILLY Bookcase a completely customized, moody, dark look with covered storage below, a fireplace in the middle, and even an open area to stow firewood. “By fattening BILLY bookcases with MDF and creating an MDF mantelpiece, we ended up with a lovely built-in effect at a considerably low cost,” Sharpe says.

A Trendy RAST Nightstand Redo

The $60 RAST nightstand inspired interior designer Paola of Casa Interior Designs to envision her own take on an of-the-moment textured light wood and black treatment. She painted the exterior shell of the untreated wood IKEA nightstand, then attached a textured paper resembling cane to the fronts of the drawers. Modern gold hardware completes this warm, minimalist look.

Of the project, she says, “Creating a budget friendly guest room was tricky, but Ikea offers so many cost friendly options! The RAST nightstand allowed me to stay on budget while transforming it to an elevated look that is in line with my aesthetic.”