9 Ways to Revamp Your Boring Old Dresser in Just One Day — for $100 or Less

published Feb 24, 2023
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If you’re looking for a quick, affordable way to spruce up your bedroom set — or one big part of it — look no further than these drawer revamps. They all cost less than $100 and took less than a day, so you can easily pull off one of these projects before the end of the weekend (including shopping time!). So read on, get inspired, gather your DIY materials, and get going! These DIYers prove it’s possible to create an unrecognizable dresser with limited time and a limited budget.

Pair wood dowels and a fresh paint job.

This black IKEA MALM got a modern-looking refresh thanks to half-round wooden dowels cut with a hand saw, Gorilla glue, and white paint. “I wanted to add a little more character to it,” homeowner Chi GB-Dumaka says of the once-plain dresser. Her project took less than a day (including glue dry time) and cost around $94. “I love that the dresser looks a little more expensive now!” she says. “And it is also lighter in terms of color and now fits in with our room decor.” Read the full project recap here.

Paint the frame, and wallpaper the drawers.

One quick way to spruce up a dresser? Paint just the frame, and add peel-and-stick wallpaper to the drawer fronts. “Wallpaper is so forgiving and a roll goes a long way,” DIYer Claire Armstrong says. Here, Claire used dark blue chalky finish paint (Annie Sloan’s Oxford Navy) and a $35 tropical wallpaper from Amazon to give her IKEA HEMNES some vibrancy. The most difficult step was getting the pattern to line up correctly on each of the dressers’ three drawers, but overall, the project was fairly simple, Claire says. “With quick-drying Chalk Paint, the project only took a couple of hours in total,” she adds. Read the full project recap here.

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Skip the paint, and just add contact paper.

Renter Dominique Ivory and her boyfriend added some florals to the dining room in their New Jersey rental by covering a six-drawer IKEA MALM with a ditsy floral print peel-and-stick. Ivory’s contact paper is from Amazon. She left the sides in the prefab fresh white that many IKEA models come in for some bright white contrast. “If you want need more storage but want to make it pretty, this is the secret! ” Ivory says. See the full house call here.

Credit: Rich Christenson
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Repaint it (but with a twist).

DIYer Rich Christenson found this beat-up waterfall dresser at Goodwill for about $10. In one afternoon, he sanded the piece, leaving a stripe of stained wood taped off in a cool chevron. “The taping for the stripe was the most painstaking part,” Rich says. “I had to get it straight or it would ruin it. Once the piece was prepped for paint, Rich sprayed on a coat of deep navy left over from another project. “I’m most proud that I found something that had been used and abused and was able to make something unique that I made functional again,” he adds. Read the full project recap here.

Credit: Krissy Gilhooly
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Refinish solid wood with some sanding and paste finishing wax.

This $46 dresser on casters was a stellar find by DIYer Krissy Gilhooly. It was well-made and the drawers didn’t stick when she tried to open them, but it “had seen some age,” Krissy explains. “The finish on it was very cracked and peeling off. The stain was uneven and not showing off the beautiful lines. I could tell that it was a well-made piece that just needed makeover.” She spent three hours sanding the thing by hand and then spent two hours applying paste finishing wax to restore its caramel color. She finished off her piece with new knobs, too. Read the full project recap here.

Add extra dimension with balsa wood and contact paper.

Jane Depgen wanted her IKEA MALM to look a little less standard-issue, so in less than 45 minutes, she created a checkerboard pattern using balsa wood rectangles, contact paper in the same wood grain as her MALM, and craft glue. The best part? This textured look requires zero power tools and cost about $30. Read the full project recap here.

Use a stencil to create a unique pattern.

DIYer Carrie Waller found this beat-up mid-century-style dresser for $60 and wanted to zhuzh it up while still keeping its retro flair. Her solution: chalky finish she already owned and a custom stencil in a mod pattern. She tightened the legs on the piece, de-grimed the drawer fronts with a Magic Eraser, created a stencil out of card stock, and painted the sides and fronts with chalk paint. Carrie painted the outside of the dresser first; while that was drying, she painted her teardrop shapes on the drawer fronts. “I expected this step to take a really long time, but it only ended up costing me about 15 minutes per drawer! Put on some music or a podcast, and this step will fly by,” Carrie writes on her blog. She finished off the piece with a wax cure. Read the full project recap here.

(Note: Even though the paint and wax cure will take less than a day to add, Carrie suggests waiting longer than a day to let the wax fully dry on a dresser before setting accessories on top.)

Add legs to lend some height, and wood trim to bring some texture.

“I wanted to add character to a standard IKEA piece that so many people have,” DIYer Morgan Susice says of her $20 white-turned-green MALM dresser. “I wanted to show others that beautiful furniture doesn’t have to break the bank.” To get her sophisticated new look, Morgan sanded the MALM, painted it sage (Fusion Mineral Paint’s Bayberry), and built natural wood base for the piece to give it some height. Wood trim on the drawer fronts add some extra dimension. Morgan finished off her project with barely-there black pulls. In the end, the project took just four hours (excluding dry time). Read the full project recap here.

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Attach wood appliqués to plain drawer fronts.

In her Oakland, California house call, renter Becky Elfes-Terjung shares that she recently revamped her plain IKEA TARVA with custom wood appliqués. She created a curved stencil by cutting up a paper bag, then used that to trace the shape onto wood. From there, she cut the pieces out with a jig saw and attached them to the dresser front with a nail gun. Using two different finishes for the dresser and the appliqués results in a whimsical two-toned centerpiece for her studio. You don’t have to make your own appliqués, though — find ready-to-attach ones at craft stores, hardware stores, and online. Read the full house call here.

February is Bedroom Month on Apartment Therapy! We’re sharing stories all month about bedrooms — from how to sleep in them, decorate them, make the most of small ones, and so much more. Head over here to see them all!