Crafting Projects

Furniture Makeover: IKEA edition

We had a four day “staycation” this past weekend, and it was pretty glorious. We ordered pizza, went to movies at the Seattle Film Festival, and played a preposterous 33 hours of Persona 5. (I’ll write more about P5 at some point but clearly I’m enjoying it.)

We also had time to work on some crafty projects, and one of the things I finished was Phase One of my very first furniture makeover. The feller and I combined households almost three years ago now, and most of my furniture is 20-year-old IKEA stuff. In some cases it still looks and works great (after the apocalypse there will be nothing but cockroaches and Billy bookshelves), while others are not holding up as well. For example, this china cabinet:

It has all its original pieces, and does a fine job displaying glassware. It’s also birch veneer — no slight if you’re still rocking the IKEA birch, but it feels a little dated to me now — and it has some ugly scratches. Sounds like a good candidate for an IKEA hack! Can I do a furniture makeover in my balcony-less apartment? Suuuuuuure, what’s the worst that could happen?

What I did

Time: 6 hours
Cost: $100

1. Buy some stuff.
Did you know that your local Home Depot on a Friday night is totally a hot date spot for married couples? I learned this fact while shopping for project stuff.

  • 120 grit sandpaper — this is if you’re sanding by hand, which I am
  • Paint trays and rollers — you see brushes in this photo, but ignore them because mini-rollers worked way better
  • Acetone — hey here’s a thing I learned: you need acetone to get primer out of brushes and rollers. Ask me about my new permanently stiff primer brush collection!
  • Drawer hardware of your choice, and the tools to install it (a drill, in my case)
  • Zinsser BIN Shellac Base primer — the internet said to use this on IKEA veneer, and it was right, so stick with this brand
  • Paint! I went with Behr Premium Plus Interior/Exterior High-Gloss Enamel in Ultra Pure White
  • A tarp or dropcloth — this helps a lot if you’re doing everything on a carpeted floor like a weird person

2. Wash, sand, and wash again

Give each surface a good hard sanding, about 4 minutes per side. This is super dusty process, so plan to wash everything after to remove all particulate before priming.

3. Drill holes for your hardware
This is the step I skipped, and I was wrong. So terribly, terribly wrong. Drill any new holes now!

4. Apply two coats of primer
The Zinsser primer dries in about 30 minutes, so applying a couple of coats is pretty quick. Let it cure at least overnight before any next steps.

5. Apply coats of paint until you’re happy (2 in my case)

How many coats of paint you’ll need depends on what color you’re using and how deep of a tone you want to establish. For me, I waited an hour and did a second coat and it worked fine. Again, I’m using a brush in this photo but the mini-roller was easier and did a better job. Let it cure at least overnight before any next steps.

6. Attach your new hardware
New drawer pulls are truly the easiest way to jazz up any piece of furniture. I was a little limited here because I had to choose hardware that (mostly) covered up the weird cut-outs from the old birch pulls. This was the hardest step for me! Veneer does not like being drilled through, and it blistered quite a bit. Also, lining things up evenly is a challenge.

7. Sit back and appreciate your work

Old cabinet:

New cabinet:

Heeeeey, that’s not bad!

Now that I’ve proven that this makeover can be done, I’m going to give the glass doors on the top segment the same treatment, and maybe paper the inside with funky self-adhesive con-tact paper.

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