How to make your IKEA Malm dresser look more expensive

IKEA makes affordable furniture designed to last, but cookie-cutter styles might not always match your personality. The best-selling Malm dresser can be virtually unrecognizable after some clever DIY steps. The Malm is one of IKEA's most popular items because it's simple, inexpensive, and comes in a few finishes. A solid and robust modern dresser like this needs a chic makeover to give it some much-needed character. We can tell you what you need to know. 

Can you paint IKEA Malm pieces?

Yes, but there are a few steps you need to take. Most IKEA furniture has a laminate finish. Therefore, you need to use a primer that will allow you to paint the surface successfully. Many IKEA hackers recommend Zinsser BIN Shellac-Based Primer because it's specially designed for laminate surfaces, so it's perfect for the job. Following prepping and priming, any good-quality furniture paint will deliver excellent results. 

Painted and decorated Malm dresser from Etsy

This decked-out dresser uses both paint and decals from Etsy to make a fully custom piece. If you're hesitant to paint your Malm, a lot of places sell peel and stick decals that will lay firmly and smoothly on IKEA finished pieces. This makes it easy to style your dresser differently each time you redecorate.  

Can you put legs on IKEA Malm dressers?

You can put legs on a Malm, but you do need to do some handy work first. Since the Malm chest, dresser, and nightstand doesn't have a bottom that sits on the ground, you would need to add a 1" piece of plywood or other board to the base to allow you to attach the legs. Our legs are universal and have screws ¾” in thickness, so the bottom of the dresser needs to be solid to accommodate the screws you use. 

Malm dresser elevated with wood base and legs

Anissa Zajac added a thick wood platform with built in legs to the bottom of this darkened Malm and it adds a beautiful natural look to this dresser. 

Can you put hardware on Malm dressers and nightstands?

This is the easiest form of accessorizing furniture! Adding knobs, drawer pulls, and handles to your simple IKEA Malm dresser makeover, is the simplest IKEA hack that you can do. It can completely transform the look at a low cost. It is simply a matter of measuring and drilling holes for the screws to match your designated hardware. 

Eleanor fronts and Elisabeth brass knobs on a Malm from IKEA

Our creative customer Audrey Crisp used our Eleanor drawer fronts in white lace and Elisabeth brass knobs to create this stunning custom dresser. Our hardware is universal and can be added to any piece. Adding new fronts and hardware customizes your regular unit even further, making it look like an expensive one-of-a-kind piece. 


Upcycling and customizing your plain pieces bring your unique and elegant sense of style to life in your home. Try one of these DIYs to give your IKEA pieces a brand new look and tag #norseinteriors to show us your eye for design. 



For more inspiration, follow @norseinteriors 

You might also be interested in reading Ultimate IKEA hacks for small spaces.  

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