From bland Ikea dresser to kiddy delight

From bland Ikea dresser to kiddy delight

Ah, isn’t that cute? That’s Nadia’s new dresser/bedside table.

This thing has been around the block a few times, and suffered many an indignity, starting with the bland piece of cheap Scandinavian furniture it started life as. It went from  a piece of furniture you wouldn’t look twice at to something that made my daughter squeal with delight.

From bland Ikea dresser to kiddy delight

This was Nadia’s dresser until yesterday. This is the Rast dresser from Ikea which I had sanded, stained and waxed. I changed the knobs too. I bought four of these on eBay last year (right before we moved), two that I stained a dark color live in my office/sewing room/guest bedroom, the one further above was Nadia’s bedside table, and another, which was marred in a cruel experiment lived in my closet.

refurbishing ikea dresser

This is the one that lived in my closet.

You know, they call it “Do It Yourself” for a reason. I paid somebody who was working in our building to refinish it and it came out like that. But it looked much worse in real life. It was full of bumps, scratches and it made me furious every time I saw it. If we had had a fireplace that thing would have been ashes by now.

So like the crazy uncle of old days, I kept it hidden, a shameful secret.

refurbishing ikea dresser

Meet my new love: Mr. Sander. Mr. Sander and I are just getting acquainted, but I can tell you, this is no ordinary affair, I think we are going to have many happy moments together from now on. Without Mr. Sander I don’t think I would have been able to tackle  this project.

refurbishing ikea dresser

Mr. Sander and I spent quite more time than I expected sanding down that monstrous shellacked finish, I used increasingly-smaller grit sandpaper until the wood was soft as baby tuckus. Then I filled in the cracks with paintable putty and back to sanding again.

refurbishing ikea dresser

I then spray-painted it 2 coats of primer, 4 coats of  white and one clear lacquer. I sanded with 380 sandpaper in between coats, only so slightly so the next coat had something to grab on to.

I also sanded and painted one of the drawers and the drawer pulls.

refurbishing ikea dresser

After giving them a light sanding, enough to take the shine off, I gave the other two drawers two coats of primer so the red wouldn’t show through the fabric. Using Mod Podge Hard Coat, I covered two of the drawers with one of my favorite prints ever. I also covered the top of the knobs with similarly-colored fabrics.

I didn’t cover all three of the drawers because it would have been just too much. I like the separation between the blue drawers.

refurbishing ikea dresser

And you will notice from the photo further above that Miss Camila also got a new look (Camila was second-place contender when we were choosing names for our then-unborn baby). She’s one of Nadia’s first toys, we bought her at Portico in Santo Domingo when she was a baby. The new dress and bows make her look a lot happier, don’t you think.

The rooster was a gift to Nadia from the owner of our local Portuguese restaurant. Nice lady, good food too.

Note: The first photo was taken a few weeks after the original post when I finished Nadia’s revamped bedroom.

So what’s your verdict? Worth the trouble?

Aunt Clara
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{ 32 comments… add one }

  • Stephanie from Somewhat Simple! January 26, 2013, 11:28 PM

    I love this project! I am featuring it on my site here:
    Thanks for linking the fun inspiration to my link party so long ago!!!

  • Christy C. September 11, 2012, 10:09 PM

    This looks fantastic!! I am also in the process of painting my daughters 6 drawer dresser and looking to find a new look for the knobs. Can you please tell me how you covered the knobs? I have the white shiny ceramic knobs. I painted the dresser top purple and every other drawer purple. The rest I left white..But I am thinking of painting those…….I also painted the mirror frame green.. Thanks for the tutorial. :)

  • Aunt_Clara April 10, 2012, 12:13 AM


  • George Smith March 27, 2012, 6:31 AM

    I'm loving the colors. It's definitely a fun kiddy dresser. I can't wait to transform some of my old dressers into something like this. Awesome job!computer desks

  • Anonymous March 27, 2012, 6:29 AM


  • Clara Gonzalez January 31, 2012, 7:09 PM

    Good luck, it is much easier than it seems.

  • Bubble Mumble January 25, 2012, 7:27 PM

    Wow, I absolutely love this dresser! I was looking up info on how to touch up an old dresser when I came across this site. Blue/aqua is my daughter's favorite color and most of the furniture in her room will be white once we redecorate. I was so excited to see this dresser and I'm pretty sure this is the look we're gonna go for. Thanks! :)

  • Aunt_Clara September 13, 2010, 4:30 AM

    @ Megan:I have and use all of Mod Podge products, so I am convinced that for this Hard Coat is better. First it doesn't have as much of that sticky touch that new Mod Podge has when it dries. And second Hard Coat is easier to clean. But if you don't have Hard Coat, and don't want to buy it, you can try with whichever you have.Covering something with fabric using Mod Podge is simpler than using paper. Start covering the surface with a generous application of Mod Podge. Cover with the fabric, smoothing wrinkes (I usually iron the fabric first). When it dries give it one or two coats of Mod Podge and let dry overnight.

  • Megan {Honey We're Home} September 13, 2010, 3:44 AM

    I just love this and would to be able to replicate it on a piece in my home. I've never used mod podge. Do you have to use the "hard coat" Do you mind explaining how you used it? I'm visiting from YHL. Your daughter is so cute- love how the bedroom came out. And quite a feat for little expense.

  • marlene rodrigues July 21, 2010, 3:29 PM

    Hi Clara!!Thanks for your comments in my blog!And now I understand why you have this rooster!this is tradicional Portuguese handicraft.marlene

  • Aunt_Clara June 18, 2010, 3:54 AM

    Thanks, Amy, Tess, Lynne and Aurora for the nice words. And go ahead and try it, if you start with a blank piece of furniture it's a lot easier.

  • Aurora June 16, 2010, 2:15 PM

    This is great! my daughter has a dresser that needs a redo. she would love to do something like this and beats just painting.

  • Lynne June 16, 2010, 11:17 AM

    Tuchus-smooth! Attic-uncle! Affair with talented Mr.Sander! Love your writing style! Surfed on over from ModPodge Rocks.

  • Tess June 15, 2010, 2:45 PM

    Wow, what a fabulous transformation. Definitely wroth the trouble. And it's amazing the difference the dress and bows made with the doll. Much happier. I love that little rooster. I collect roosters and that one is gorgeous.

  • Mod Podge Amy June 15, 2010, 12:30 PM

    Fantastic! I love it!

  • Aunt_Clara June 8, 2010, 3:40 AM

    I think I didn't quite answered your question.

    I cut a circle of fabric, nipped the edges and glued, tucking and gluing the edges as I went along.

  • Aunt_Clara June 8, 2010, 3:39 AM

    Hi Jess. I used Mod Podge for the knobs too. Specifically, Mod Podge Hard Coat.I have to say that originally the knobs were supposed to be a temporary solution, until I could buy the perfect ones, it turns out that I like these better than anything I could buy.

  • Jess June 8, 2010, 2:46 AM

    Looove this!! Is there a particular way you glued the fabric to the knobs? I've been searching for the perfect knobs with no luck. It might be easier to cover them in fabric.For anyone still looking for fabric – I got similar fabric in black on Etsy. Try there :)

  • Ana Crafts June 5, 2010, 1:31 PM

    Hi,i just found your blog and i love it,i live in Portugal and you have a "Galo de Barcelos" in the nice:)

  • Aunt_Clara May 26, 2010, 8:07 PM

    My usual fabric outlet was out of it, but after days searching the net I found it at They don't have that one anymore, but they still have some of the other Flights of Fancy-Ocean prints.I have 2 yards left and I am holding on to them. I also have a yard or more of each of the other prints in the collection. I wish I had more.

  • Aunt_Clara May 26, 2010, 3:44 PM

    Borrow it? Why, of course! I'd love to see what you do with it.

  • Anonymous May 26, 2010, 7:27 PM

    i have been looking for fabric in that color and with that print forever! where did you buy it?love the hack!

  • Aunt_Clara May 26, 2010, 12:25 PM

    And Jennifer, I keep seeing ads of Krylon's new Fusion Spray Paint, which they claim will adhere to plastic without using primers. I can't vouch for that (not available in local stores and cannot be shipped air), but you should check that out too.

  • Aunt_Clara May 26, 2010, 12:14 PM

    Kristin, the fabric is Flights of Fancy-Aqua by Paula Prass. It took me a long search to find it, and the shop that I bought it from doesn't have it anymore. This collection is my favorite ever. It's the very essence of tropical living, but very subdued and no palm trees anywhere. Check it out.Jennifer: ThanksYou can paint over laminate. Head over to your hardware store and ask somebody to recommend the right paint for the job (you will need to prime too, using an oil-based primer followed by latex paint). I know that Mod Podge also adheres to laminate.Good luck!

  • Kristin ~ Bien Living Design May 26, 2010, 2:13 PM

    Well, now I am on the hunt for it & won't rest until I find it :) You're right, it is the perfect essence of the islands…sigh…& I may have to borrow the general idea of this dresser hack! What a wonderful way to have a gorgeous piece of furniture without breaking the bank.

  • Jennifer May 26, 2010, 1:39 AM

    That turned out wonderfully! Great job! I have two of the dark colored Malm dressers that used to be mine and the Hubs but now will go to each of our two daughters and I'd love to do something like this but they have a veneer on them, not wood like yours, so I don't know if I can sand and paint them or not. If so, I'm totally copying off of you 😉

  • Kristin ~ Bien Living Design May 25, 2010, 9:59 PM

    I love that fabric! Where did you get it? Thanks!I did something similar to my sisters old dresser – only the fabric was on the top. It looked great! :)

  • Aunt_Clara May 20, 2010, 10:35 AM

    Thanks, Christina.

  • Christina May 20, 2010, 7:28 AM

    Clara, you are so clever. Thanks for sharing, even the previous experience! Very helpful, inspriring and impressive!

  • Christina May 20, 2010, 6:37 AM

    Clara, you are so clever. Thanks for sharing, even the previous experience! Very helpful, inspriring and impressive!

  • Aunt_Clara May 19, 2010, 12:57 PM

    Thanks!If you start with a "blank" Ikea you will save yourself more than half the work. I wish I had done this from the start.

  • Etincelle Creative Studio May 19, 2010, 12:45 PM

    Worth the trouble!!! pff lots of work though… not sure I could mak it through.I think you could propose that before/ after to Grace on Design*Sponge. Or maybe Bloesem. What do you think?