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Ikea Tarva Dresser Makeover

February 3, 2014  —  Written by Julia Marcum 

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Befores, afters, mood boards, plans, failures, wins. We’ve done a lot of projects, and they’re all here. 

We have a long-standing relationship with DIY, and love rolling our sleeves up and making it happen. 

Even when you don’t want to rip down a wall, you can make that space in your home better. Right now.

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Since the nursery doesn’t have a closet, we really needed a dresser–which is actually completely fine because I, personally, prefer itty bitty clothes in drawers anyway. Our friends bought the 6-drawer Tarva dresser from Ikea and it didn’t fit in their space so we offered to buy it from them after our local Craigslist was turning up dry in the dresser department for months. We absolutely loved this dresser, that we included in our mood board for the nursery:

Nursery Mood BoardBut at over $3,000, it was so comically out of the realm of possibility we began to set out a plan to DIY our own version and the Tarva turned out to be the perfect starting point.

Executing this little makeover was pretty easy and the whole thing (including the dresser!) cost us just over $200–or, what 95% less than the inspiration dresser? Okay!

We picked up a 1×6 (for the bottom) and a 1×4 (for the top)–both poplar boards from Home Depot. I broke out a ruler, looked at the inspiration dresser and drew the design on each board and then Chris cut them out with a jig saw and sanded them smooth.

When it came time to attach the trim to the dresser, we were able to screw in the bottom piece from the back by first pre-drilling holes (making our wood less likely to split):

And then laying the dresser on its front and driving screws through the back, making the screws invisible.

For the top piece, we pre-drilled holes as well and drove the screws in from underneath:

From this point, I gave the dresser and drawer fronts a coat of Zinsser’s Bull’s Eye Zero Primer and two coats of Benjamin Moore’s (Aura line in satin) Sage Tint–the prettiest neutral mint. I lightly sanded, using a 200 grit sanding block between the first and second coat of paint and it left the dresser with such a smooth finish. Don’t skip that step.

While we were picking up boards at Home Depot, I also spotted these antique brass knobs that I thought would look good with some of the plans we have for the rest of the room.

So there you have it, a couple small details that really amped up the typical Tarva dresser. We’re so pleased with the way it turned out and can’t wait to pack it full of little tiny clothes.

What do you think?

  1. Was the paint latex or oil based?

  2. Amanda says:

    Great idea! Did you use a coat of poly at all or just paint and primer? Thanks!

  3. […] and Julia of Chris Loves Julia “amped up” an unfinished six-drawer dresser from IKEA and turned it into the piece they’d […]

  4. Emily says:

    Sorry, I know it’s been a year since you posted this and I hope your little one is doing great. Logistics question: we’re looking at the Tarva for a baby dresser/changing table, but most of the changing pads out there are wider than the Tarva, can you share if it’s been a good fit?

    • Jennifer says:

      Yes, I was wondering the same thing. It seems that the dimensions are too narrow for a changing pad. Does anyone know if the changing pad will fit?

      • Julia says:

        The dresser is moved out about an inch from the wall and the trim we added to the front holds a standard changing pad in place. Hope that helps!

  5. Juliana says:

    Gorgeous project! Was wondering… did you use a paint brush or paint roller to apply the paint? I’ve never painted furniture before so any painting tips would be much greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks!!

  6. Mary Beth says:

    I have been wanting to see all the possiblilites with the Tarva dresser. I wanted to purchase two and use them back to back for a center room craft island. What are the drawer depths? I am fuessing they atr about 10″ deepth and 28″ wide just from looking at it. I think I am going to take the plunge.

  7. Patricia says:

    Impressive” We have the same Tarva dresser in our kitchen. A word of caution – the wood on one of the drawerfronts split straight across, right where the cardboard bottom hits it. Not sure how it happened. We plan to make that space into an open shelf sometime soon. I would just suggest not overloading the drawers with heavy things. Of course, that is easier in a bedroom than a kitchen. It’s likely my fault but worth mentioning, I thought. It’s a great piece, regardless. Perfect for personalizing.

  8. Judy says:

    Saw this on KOD and am really loving it. Don’t know much about Maine Cottage except I’ve seen a few pieces in bloggers’ homes and it seems to be great looking furniture. Your dresser looks just like the original and perfect for a kids room because of the large size. Great, great job.

    • amyks says:

      We have 3 pieces of Maine Cottage Furniture in our master bedroom…the Juliana bed, the above mentioned Bay Dresser and a tall skinny dresser, each was worth every penny. They are over 10 years old and still look brand new!

  9. Jessica says:

    This is amazing! I’m thinking of painting a Tarva dresser for my own bedroom. What do you think of the quality? I know not all ikea pieces are the same in terms of quality, but I was hopeful this one is decent since it’s solid wood? Thanks!

  10. amyks says:

    That is an awesome recreation of the Maine Cottage Piece. My husband and I have the real one and we love it, we use it in our master bedroom. And while it was expensive it has been worth every penny. We have had it for 10 years!

  11. Nicole says:

    Wow, what a great make-over! Love the color and the brass knobs! It looks even better than the original, I think!

  12. Sammi says:

    Totally awesome… and you’ve now inspired me to do something for my son’s bedroom…

  13. This has got to be one of my fav Ikea hacks ever! Love that color : ]

  14. High-five, you guys! Also, who would ever spend $3,000 on a dresser?! That’s, like, a normal person’s budget for a whole room.

  15. This looks fantastic! I have always been impressed by IKEA’s dressers opening/closing hardware & mechanisms, even if I’m less impressed with the particle board and foil veneer construction. LOVE that they have honest wood options now, and so customizable too!

  16. emily says:

    looks fantastic! I love the color and finish of the paint…so elegant!

  17. Anastasia says:

    Shut the front door this is awesome! I think I like your makeover more than the original (And I fell hard for the original in the mood board up top)! The color seems a bit more neutral and I really love the knobs you found.

    I found this post via your comment on YHL and now I am off to check out the rest of your blog :) Thanks for sharing!

  18. That color next to the purple rug is so perfect! Good work guys!

  19. Dorris says:

    What a great Ikea makeover! It looks beautiful! Can’t wait to see the nursery :-)

  20. That looks so good! Absolutely gorgeous! And what a steal!

  21. Meggan says:

    OMG I love it! I’m so excited to see how the whole nursery turns out.

  22. Robin says:

    Great job!! Its amazing how just a few pieces of wood and some paint can change the dresser so much, and I’m glad you didn’t have to spend $3,000 to get this look.

  23. lygia says:

    Looks great! and looks expensive!!

  24. emily says:

    Oh my goodness! thats lovely, I love how closely that resembles your inspiration picture!

  25. Hannah says:

    This came out awesome. You took inspiration from the wildly expensive dresser but you also made it your own because the color you chose is so perfect!

  26. Love this hack! Such a simple upgrade, yet it makes a world of difference – I’d never guess that was an Ikea dresser underneath. Will you use this as a changing table too? It seems like the perfect height.

    • Julia says:

      Yes! It’s the perfect heigh for a changing table and that extra trim piece in the front will even help the pad stay in place. Happy accident!

  27. Jackie says:

    This is awesome – I love it. You’re so freaking cool.

  28. Julianne says:

    That looks great! I keep wanting to try out one of those unfinished pieces but am lacking in support! Also, quite jealous you have a dresser and crib. We ordered ours but it won’t arrive till after my due date. All the baby clothes are washed with no place to go, the nursery is madness right now.

    • Julia says:

      Support! Support! You can do it! We have a crib and a dresser but no car seat or clothes ready or even bedding and we’re headed into a remodel. I feel you on the madness. Haha

  29. ang says:

    Did you hear that?

    It was my jaw hitting the floor.

    This is fantastic! Absolutely beautiful. :)

  30. AshleyM says:

    What a great IKEA hack! I love the idea that a simple change can take something from plain to amazing! The nursery is going to be lovely!

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