Before and After: A Plain Gray IKEA HEMNES Dresser Goes Boho Chic for Just $120

updated Jul 14, 2023
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Just like design trends evolve over time, so do individual design styles and aesthetics. And the beauty of buying basic, timeless furniture is that it can often be modified to become more mature, bold, colorful, minimal — you name it — just as your style does.

When Lisa Kasprzok (@knots.and.pots.home) first bought her gray IKEA HEMNES dresser, she was “going through a gray and white farmhouse phase.” But over time, she realized that aesthetic just wasn’t for her. She was looking for something with warmer tones and more texture that was more natural-looking.

A Gray Dresser from a “Farmhouse Phase”

Her HEMNES and its matching nightstands were still in good shape (structurally sound and solid wood), so she decided to upgrade them instead of buying new. “My goal was to create a high-end look on a budget,” Lisa says. “I wanted unique, expensive-looking furniture without that kind of price tag.” So she found some inspiration images on Pinterest and got to work, starting with the nightstands — a smaller surface area for practice — and then took on the dresser.

Sanding, Priming, and Painting

To create the new wood-and-grout textured look, she used about $120 worth of materials: pine lattice molding, grout, tile spacers, a sponge, wood glue, primer, paint, clear coat, painting supplies, and hardware.

She started by taking out the drawers and drawer slides and gave the whole thing a scuff with her orbital sander. She primed with a roller and added two coats of Sherwin-Williams’s Pure White to the top (leftover from her bedroom walls). To make the drawer fronts easier to work with, she detached them and then got to work with the lattice molding.

Gluing on Lattice Pieces

Lisa cut the pine molding at 45-degree angles into smaller pieces and then glued them to the drawer fronts using 1/8-inch tile spacers. This was the most painstaking part of the project, she says: “One time I accidentally knocked ALL of the drawer fronts off my table and several of the wood pieces came off and I had to re-glue them.”

Plus, Lisa ran out of lattice pieces and had to buy more, but the store was out of the correct size. “I had to get a little creative with that,” she says. Her advice for future IKEA furniture customizers? Buy extra materials.

In the end, the detailed lattice process was well worth-it for Lisa. “My favorite part is the striking pattern the grout and wood combo creates,” she says.

After the glue was dry, she used her circular saw to cut off excess wood around the sides of the drawer fronts and gave everything a once-over with the sander. Then it was time for grout.

Finishing Touches for a Complete Boho Style 

Lisa applied a polyblend non-sanded option in a bright white color with a putty knife and wiped it with a damp sponge. After the grout was dry the following day, Lisa gave the surface one final sanding.

The final step of the project required another set of hands, and Lisa enlisted her friend Gyllian’s help. Gyllian taped the newly textured fronts of the drawers so that Lisa could paint the sides with the same Sherwin-Williams white shade. Lisa says she highly recommends working on projects with a friend — especially on the last day when she was losing steam. The best part of working with a friend? You get to show off your completed DIY right away!

After painting the sides white, Lisa finished everything with a polycrylic clear coat in a matte finish and added new hardware: long and sleek brass handles from Amazon, which help give the dresser its new, custom feel.

“I just love the way this dresser makes me and the room feel now,” Lisa says. What was once a “boring, cold, and lifeless” gray dresser now feels totally fresh with the boho style Lisa craved.