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IKEA Malm Dresser Hack

Final Styled

As Annie and I came down the home stretch on our first pregnancy, we shifted our focus to transforming our guest room into a nursery for our little guy. Being deemed the crafty/DIY couple by our family and friends, we welcomed the challenge of decorating the room in uniquely our way. The first piece we knew that we wanted to put our spin on was a convertible dresser/changing table. The goal was to not only provide a good place to store baby supplies and change the little man, but to be able to remove the changing station when it is no longer needed and still have a cool dresser. Given our past success with Ikea hacks, we figured that would be the best route to go. Annie found some amazing inspiration pieces on Pinterest and IKEA Hackers, and shortly after we decided to use the IKEA Malm dresser as our foundation based on this inspiration image.


The Plan

– Start with a standard wood colored IKEA Malm dresser.

– Add molding to the drawer faces

– Build a changing pad frame that we can attach to the top of the dresser

– Paint the entire dresser a dark teal color

– Add brass handle pulls

Adding the Molding

Supplies – Molding from Home Depot in whatever design you like, wood filler, sandpaper

Tools – Nail gun, miter saw

The first step is to prep the drawer face. You need to rough up the laminate coating on the surface to get good paint adhesion. It is easier to do this before nailing the molding to the faces. I used 120 grit paper rough it up.

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Next you’ll need to decide on the placement of the molding (how much inside and how big you want the box to be). We just eyeballed the first one, but made sure to measure every other one to ensure they all landed in the same place. Then cut the 45 degree angles on the miter saw. Be sure to pay attention to the direction of each miter as you’ll need to flip the pieces over to get the miters to match up. Also make sure you account for the diagonal end when measuring each piece before cutting it.

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Dry fit each drawer before nailing anything down. Once you’re happy with the location and fit, shoot some nails into the ends to secure the molding.

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Fill the holes and sand the molding before priming it. I would lightly wet the molding (and then let it dry) before sanding to prevent any raised grain issues after the primer is applied.

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IKEA Malm Dresser_018

Now onto the changing pad.

Changing Pad Frame

Supplies – MDF plywood, glue, sandpaper

Tools – Table saw, clamps, router (optional)

After deciding on a specific changing pad, we took those measurements and built a frame to hold the pad in place on top of the dresser. We opted for MDF plywood as it is easy to work with and minimizes the paint prep process. To make things a bit more interesting, we decided to cut rabbet joints using our router. Certainly not needed, but a good excuse to get some practice using the router. Glue and clamp the frame together, and then fill, sand, and you’re ready for primer.

Prime and Paint the Dresser

Supplies – Zinsser BIN Shellac-Base Primer (important), Behr Premium Plus Ultra (Eggshell), foam roller, foam brush, Varathane Polyurethane Heavy Use Formula (Semi-Gloss).

Tools – HVLP Sprayer

Scoot on over to Homeli to get a good primer on the best way to paint IKEA laminate furniture. I found this article really helpful and basically followed the instructions exactly with great results. The only additional step I added was to add a clear coat of poly to further protect the dresser.

Here are some photos of the process.

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IKEA Malm Dresser_011

Some notes on painting: I used the foam roller to apply the primer. That stuff is really nasty and basically ruined the foam roller after I had finished. Plan to get multiple rollers if you want to use the foam roller for both the primer and topcoat. The foam brush is great to get into the corners and recessed areas of the panels. I only painted the faces that would be showing when assembled. All in all, that saved me lots of time and you can’t even tell once assembled. I did have trouble thinning the paint properly for my HVLP gun, so practice on some cardboard before taking it to the panels to avoid runs and splattering.

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After letting the paint/poly cure, start assembling the dresser. Be very careful to put down towels so that the painted surfaces don’t get marred while you are fooling around with those bizarre plastic and metal fasteners that IKEA comes up with. Be particularly careful around edges and corners. For the changing pad frame, I used some soft pads from Home Depot in the four corners to prevent the frame from scratching the dresser top. I then used some scrap wood to secure the back of the changing frame to the back of the dresser in a way that, once removed, won’t leave any screw holes visible.

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Adding the Brass Handle Pulls

To finish off the look, we added brass handle pulls to the drawer faces. This was harder than I had originally thought. My first issue was that the screws had to go through from the back side and into the handle on the front. This meant I needed to get longer screws to accommodate the width of the drawer faces. The second big challenge was lining up and drilling the holes for the handles in the exact same spot on all the drawers. I ended up making a paper template that I could lay onto the inside of the drawer to mark where I needed to drill the holes. After getting the template made (see below), the end result was certainly worth the tedious time spent making sure they were all centered and level.

Dress Handle Template 1


Dress Handle Template 2

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IKEA Malm Dresser_004

IMG_0519 An added bonus to using the IKEA dresser, their drawer organizers are a perfect fit for storing diapers, wipes and all the “necessary” baby products.

Let us know what you think in the comments.