IKEA Hack: Malm Dresser Glow-Up

IKEA Hack: Malm Dresser

I have an IKEA Malm dresser in my closet which I use to hold pajamas and t-shirts and other things I fold instead of hang. It was Greg’s before he moved in, and he got it secondhand in college from one of our friends, so it wasn’t anything special. I decided to make it my newest IKEA hack and get a weekend project out of it. I updated it with some spray paint, peel and stick wallpaper, and new knobs and I’m really happy with it. I’m sharing my process here in case it inspires you to complete your own IKEA hack!


  • Dresser
  • Spray paint (I used Rustoleum’s 2 in 1 in a black gloss finish)
  • Polyurethane (this is optional but adds extra protection to the spray paint
  • Drop cloth
  • Peel and stick wallpaper (I used this one I found on Etsy)
  • Scrap cardboard
  • X-Acto knife
  • Drawer knobs (I used a combination of butterfly knobs I already had and bee knobs from Etsy)
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Tape measure
  • Speed square
  • Yardstick
  • Painter’s tape
  • Permanent marker
  • Hack saw
  • Optional: scrap wood and clamps

Most of these materials are tools we already had on hand, so the total cost was around $80: $50 for the wallpaper, $8 for spray paint, and about $20 for the knobs.

View of the dresser from our bathroom

My dresser is partially visible from our master bathroom when the door of my closet is open. We have an area rug in our bathroom, so I wanted to make sure whatever finishes I chose would look nice when viewed with the rug. I chose this black and white floral removable wallpaper from a shop I found on Etsy. I figured the pattern was bold enough to hold its own next to the rug, but not so busy that the two would compete.

To start, pull out all your drawers and tape off the rolling hardware inside the body of the dresser so you don’t gum them up with paint. I wasn’t super concerned if a little bit of stray paint got on the inside of the drawers, and I didn’t want to use plastic (and create more plastic waste) to cover the whole thing well, so I just covered the parts right next to what I was painting loosely with some spare bubble wrap leftover from a delivery box. If you want to be sure you have a clean line around your drawers, tape off the areas you aren’t painting.

tape off your drawer hardware

Next, spray paint the outside of your dresser and the edges of your drawers. Make sure you’re doing this in a well-ventilated area (outside, if at all possible), and cover the area around your project with a drop cloth. With spray paint, it’s much better to apply lots of thin layers because if you try to do it all in one you end up with some thick, gloopy spots. Hold your arm about six inches away from the dresser and spray, keeping your hand moving in a sweeping motion. Let the paint dry in between coats and use as many coats as you need to get full coverage (it took me about four coats, which was just over one can of paint.) Let this dry fully-I left mine for 24 hours before messing with it, although we did move it into the garage after a few hours. You can find additional tips for spray painting furniture in Amanda’s post about updating her console table.

Spray paint your IKEA hack in a well ventilated area

Once the spray paint is fully dry, paint on a layer of polyurethane if you’re using it. I wanted the extra protection polyurethane provides, but I think you could skip this step if you wanted to and don’t put a lot of things on your dresser. One thing to consider about polyurethane is it tends to yellow a bit as it ages, so if you are using it keep that in mind when choosing a spray paint color. Since I went with black paint, I’m not really concerned about the yellowing.

While the polyurethane is drying you can work on covering your drawer faces. The best way I found to measure out the wallpaper was to make a template with a scrap piece of cardboard. I lay the drawer face down on the cardboard and traced around it, then cut out the template with an X-Acto knife. Then, to trace the wallpaper, I put the template on the back side of the paper and traced around it with a sharpie. I used the X-Acto knive again to cut the wallpaper where I’d marked it, and used a yardstick to make sure the line I was cutting along my mark stayed straight. I put another scrap piece of cardboard under the wallpaper to give me something to cut into with the knife. Once you have your wallpaper pieces cut to size, follow the directions provided with your wallpaper to apply it to the drawer faces.

Now that I’ve gone through applying the wallpaper, I have some recommendations to make this project go more smoothly for anyone else trying a similar IKEA hack. My dresser drawers are 31 1/2″ wide by 8″ tall. Most of the rolls of peel and stick wallpaper I’ve seen are around 27″ wide. This leaves two options for covering the whole drawer-you can either buy a long roll and turn it on its side to use the long side of the roll for the width of the drawer, or you can have a seam somewhere on your drawer where you have to bring two pieces of wallpaper together. I bought a 27″ x 64″ roll of wallpaper and had originally planned on using the long side for the width of the drawer to avoid matching seams. When I opened up the roll, however, I was worried that the direction of the pattern would make it look wonky if I turned it on its side. In hindsight, I think it would have been fine to do that, but at the time it seemed like having a seam was the better choice.

The seams were harder to match up than I expected, largely because my pattern didn’t have a clear repetition. I had to find sections of the leftovers that looked like they would fit, but they didn’t match perfectly on two of the drawers. The seam didn’t lie as flat as I expected, either, so if you look closely you can see a line where the two pieces of wallpaper meet (see the picture below). For anyone considering doing this project themselves, I would recommend buying a long piece of wallpaper that you can turn on its side, or choose a more geometric pattern with a clear repetition so you can know exactly where to join your pieces. I think a busier pattern would also hide the seam better.

Seam where wallpaper pieces meet

Once you have your wallpaper applied to the drawer faces, it’s time to add hardware if you’re using it. I had two butterfly knobs that I bought at Anthropologie a long time ago and didn’t end up using, so I brought them into this project. I bought two more bee-shaped knobs from Etsy, and then alternated from the top drawer: butterfly/bee/butterfly/bee. To make sure I got the knobs in the center of the drawer, I marked off the halfway point of the width with painter’s tape, then used a speed square from that point to measure and mark 4″ from the top of the drawer (see the picture below.) Then I used a 9/64 sized bit to drill the hole where the knob would go. I think most knobs are pretty standard so you should be able to use that size bit as well, but if you aren’t sure, err on the side of a smaller bit. You can always redrill the hole with a larger size if you need to, but if you go too big your knob won’t screw snugly into the hole.

Mark the halfway point of the drawer face with painter's tape to guide hardware placement

The screws on most knobs are longer than needed, so you can cut it down to size with a hack saw. I screwed the nut onto the screw, then marked just above that with a permanent marker so I would know where to make my cut. I drilled a hole in a scrap piece of wood and screwed the knob into it, then clamped the wood to a table to hold it steady while I used the hacksaw. Once the knob is cut to size, attach it to your drawer face.

Glam up your IKEA hack by attaching knobs

At this point, you should be good to reassemble the dresser, provided the polyurethane has had at least 24 hours to dry. Check the instructions on the can to make sure you’ve given it enough time to cure. Put your dresser back in its home and that’s it-enjoy your new IKEA hack!

What do you think? Is this something you would try at home? Do you have an IKEA hack of your own you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or connect with us on social media. You can also check out other DIY projects here, and sign up for our newsletter to get updates about new posts.

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