Brownstone Boys: Updating Furniture With Our IKEA Dresser Hack

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Brownstone Boys Reno, a reader renovation diary about renovating a brownstone in Bed Stuy. See the first one here. They also blog at

In honor of Valentine’s Day this week, we welcome our strongest love-hate relationship of all time … Ikea!

We all have that one piece of Ikea furniture that has been with us a little too long. For us it is the Hemnes drawer with three drawers that is hidden in our guest room. We decided it was time for a little DIY love makeover. This rerun cost us less than $ 50 and only lasted a few days! Now we have a new “old” chest of drawers.

The before and after

Cordless drill and drill
Stapler and staples
Clamps (or tape to hold the molding in place while the glue dries)
Miter saw (or precision saw and miter block)
(If you don’t have power tools and don’t want to have them, you can take the drawer fronts to a local wood shop where they may be cut for a small fee.)

Ikea Hemnes dresser (we’ve had ours for over eight years!)
Handles (ours are from House of Antique Hardware)
Cane webbing (we have our webbing on Amazon. Be sure to order a little more)
Molding for closets (We picked up plain 1/4-inch cartridges from Home Depot. We recommend buying one that is smaller and doesn’t feel too big in the drawer.)
Wood filler
Wood glue
Painting (We went with Clare Paint Greyish)

1. Disassemble the dresser

You’ll want to get everything out of the drawer. We have hoarded many of our clothes that we normally don’t wear in this dresser. This gave us the perfect opportunity to do an early spring cleaning. After everything was cleared, we removed the drawers and took off the existing hardware. It’s Ikea, so you don’t need any special tools for it – a screwdriver will do. Remove the cabinet fronts, making sure to save the screws for them.

Brownstone Boys Ikea Dresser Hack

2. Measure, make and cut
Next, cut the square holes in the drawers. You want to decide how much margin you want around the webbing. You don’t want it to be too narrow as that will make the drawer too weak. And don’t forget that you will need enough space to attach your new handles.

We went about 2 inches. Measure all the way around and draw the square you want to cut out on the drawer front. Now you are ready to grab your jigsaw and start cutting! If you don’t have power tools, you can take these to a local lumber shop who can potentially cut them for you. However, we recommend having a few useful tools available. Maybe this is a good project to get your toolbox up and running.

Before you can start cutting you will need to drill a hole in the area you want to remove large enough to insert your jigsaw blade. Carefully cut out the square and try to follow the lines exactly. Don’t get discouraged if this is difficult at first. If this is your first time using a jigsaw, it will take some practice. You will also be making a cut around the cut edge to hide some imperfections.

Brownstone Boys Ikea Dresser Hack

3. Smooth the edges and secure the molding
Sand down all the edges with sandpaper, making sure everything is as smooth as possible. Since the edge you are cutting on is unfinished (and may have some flaws in the cut), you should hide it with moldings. We used a quarter round ornament to create a nice detail with curved edges. You will need a miter saw or box to cut the molding at a 45 degree angle and miter it at the corners. If you’ve never done this before, we recommend purchasing a few extra mold lengths. It’s a little tricky and you may have to repeat some of them.

Ikea dresser hack

Insert the molding into the cutout to make sure everything fits. If it’s not perfect at the miter joints, and if there are small gaps where the molding meets the cutout, it’s fine. We will fill it with some wooden spatula before painting. Glue the moldings onto the cut edge and hold them in place with clamps until they dry. If you don’t have clamps, just hold them in place for about two minutes and it should be good from there. It should be dry enough to continue after a few hours, but we waited until the next day.

When it’s dry, fill in any gaps, uneven cuts, or shavings from the cut with some wooden putty knife and let it dry before sanding everything so it’s smooth and ready to be primed and painted. The wooden spatula can be sanded and painted so that you don’t see these defects later.

Brownstone Boys Ikea Hack

4. Sand, prime and paint everything
When you’ve finished cutting, gluing, and filling, it’s time to put 120-grit sand and sandpaper on everything, including the entire dresser. We only made ours by hand.

When you sand the surface it becomes slightly roughened and provides a good base for the paint to adhere to. Wipe everything down to make sure it is dust-free before painting.

Unpainted wood must be primed. We skipped the primer because the existing cabinets were white and only needed a few coats of fresh paint. Don’t forget that you will also need to sand between each coat to remove imperfections and air bubbles and provide more grooves for the next coat.

Brownstone Boys Ikea Hack

5. Attach the webbing
When you’ve finished painting and everything is thoroughly dry (give it a good 24 hours for a good measure), it’s time to start upgrading your Hemnes dresser with tubular fabric. Flip the front of your drawers over and staple a piece of webbing over the opening. Cut and measure the webbing first! We also made sure to straighten our webbing a few days in advance. It comes curled up and will be hard to work with if it keeps curling up on you.

Brownstone Boys Ikea Hack

6. Assemble the drawers and add handles
When everything looks like it’s a dresser again, drill the holes for your new handles. We used these lovely handles from House of Antique Hardware which meant we had to drill two holes in each of the larger drawers and one in each of the smaller drawers.

We could have spent a few more hours measuring the exact screw locations for the hardware, but we only used painter’s tape to mark the screw holes and then transfer this from the tape to the drawers! This saves you so much time and is more accurate.

Brownstone Boys Ikea Hack

7. Get dressed again and enjoy a new dresser
We are absolutely in love with the result of this Ikea Hemnes chest of drawers with pipe strap! It fits right in our vintage botany room and the dresser has a whole new life that we will enjoy for a few years to come.

[Photos by Brownstone Boys unless noted otherwise]

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