DIY How To’s
So let me tell you a few things about this dresser. 1. I absolutely love how it turned out so freaking much!! It is completely unique from everything out there and just so cool. 2. It was tedious as hell to do and took a lot of time!! 3. I would probably do some things differently this time (that I will share with you) but I would still do it again because I love it so much. This may be a little bit longer post but bear with me because I think it will be worth it in the end!
- 1/4” square wood dowels (I believe I got 50 and then took some back)
- 5/8” square wood dowel for spacer
- Edge Pull Hardware (I used these)
- Paint (I used Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel in Black Magic)
- Miter Box and Hand Saw (I used my Milwaukee miter saw but would use a miter box and hand saw if I did it again)
- Clamps (the more the better - I used 4 because that is all I had)
- Foam roller and tray
- Paint Brush
- Staining Rags
So first in my process, I unboxed the Tarva dresser which came in 3 boxes. I decided I was going to paint all of the pieces of the frame of the dresser first before assembling. This is the first thing I would do differently if I did it again. I will tell you that the Tarva dresser is raw pine wood and not exactly the highest quality on the planet. When I painted the top and sides a few coats, I could start to see them start to warp slightly. I think if I put it together first, it may have prevented some or all of the warping. It also would have saved me some time as there were some pieces that I didn’t know which side would show and which wouldn’t, so I had to take the time to paint both. To paint all of these pieces, I used a paint brush for the smaller pieces and my foam roller for the larger flat pieces.
After I saw the top and sides start to warp, I decided to assemble the drawers before painting. I had my fiancé Jeremy assemble the frame because I really don’t like assembling Ikea stuff, and he really enjoys it being an engineer. So I roped him into helping a little bit. I then taped off the sides of the drawer itself so I just painted the drawer front. I painted everything except for the portions that would become the legs and the crosspiece between the legs. Those I wanted to keep natural wood since the space this piece would eventually go in was all black + natural wood.
Once all of the pieces had been painted with 3 coats, it was time to start adding my wood dowels to the drawer fronts. I wanted to somewhat mimic the chevron design I had on the walls in my office that this piece was going in so I used the center line of the dresser as the middle where the chevron pattern met. I also wanted the chevron pattern to point upward like my wall. If you didn’t get a chance to check out my wall, you can see my entire office design over in my finished projects HERE or you can check out the tutorial blog post in how I created my chevron wall HERE! It is definitely worth checking out!
**IMPORTANT STEP** Before I started attaching things to the drawers though, I realized that the drawers were 1. definitely not perfectly square and 2. fit better in some spots than others. So I mapped out which drawers were going to go where and labeled the drawers with a piece of painters tape. You do not want to attach all of your dowels onto the drawers, only to find out the drawers don‘t sit in the spot well!! You can see my labels in the last pic above.
I cut a 45º angle on one end of several wood dowels with my miter saw. This is where I found out quickly that the miter saw does not like these tiny, very dry pieces of wood. Every once and a while, it would split or the end I was cutting off would shoot out of my saw. I even tried getting a new, very fine toothed blade but that didn’t help either. So with all of the pieces I had to recut and the cuts all over my hands from wood chunks flying out at them, I wish I would have invested in a miter box and hand cut all of them. Something I would definitely consider if I was doing this again.
Once I had a handful of pieces cut to 45º on one end, I could start measuring and cutting the other ends and gluing. For the first piece, I wanted it to start at the very top corner for the top of the “point” for the chevron design. Using my rafter square (or a speed square - I have both and used both) pushed tight on the bottom of the drawer, I lined up my dowel against it to ensure it was at a 45º angle and made sure my cut end was just touching the left edge of my drawer. Then I could mark the other end of the dowel to cut. These drawer fronts actually have a super slight ~1/8” bevel on the edge. I lined my dowels up to the inside of the bevel.
Once cut, I lined the piece up again to the edges and with my square to make sure it fit, and then I put a line of glue on it. I thought I would use Liquid Nails for this because I wanted to make sure these things didn‘t get bumped off, but that was messier than I had hoped and not super easy to clean up. So I switched to wood glue after the first one which dries very quickly and is easy to wipe off when it squirts out the side. Once it had glue on it, I lined everything back up again with my square and clamped down either end. Glue will squirt out and that is good, just wipe up as much as you can with a damp paper towel as you go.
Moving on to the right, hypothetically, each of these piece should be cut the same down the main width of the drawer, however I found this wasn’t necessarily the case. So I would cut a couple to the same measurements at a time, then remeasure the next one for the next couple and so on. It‘s a slow process but the glue needs a little time to dry anyways and I only had 4 clamps.
When moving onto the second piece, I had purchased a wider dowel as the spacer piece. I used a 5/8” square dowel for the spacer because when I laid the pieces out on the floor in Home Depot, I liked the look of that space. However, this is where I would probably do it differently if I did it again. I would go with a much wider space in between if I did it again. I think that it really wouldn’t take much if anything away from the design to have the dowels spread out farther and it would take SO. MUCH. LESS. TIME. So that is my recommendation to you. But if you want it to be exactly like mine, use the 5/8” dowel spacer.
To attach the next piece, I pushed it tight against the spacer (that was pushed tight against the previous piece that is clamped down. I used my square for the other side to make sure the pieces are staying at 45º. Some of the pieces had a slight warp so I would push them agains the square to maintain the correct angle throughout and then glue/clamp it down once lined up with both edges.
You need a clamp at the top and the bottom of the piece that you just glued. Once I added the next piece, if I was careful not to move the first, I could usually reclamp it and cover two pieces with 1 clamp. Since I only had 4 clamps, that meant I could only have 4 dowels drying at any given time. Which was slow, but in all honesty, to cut and glue and line up, by the time I got 4 pieces down, the next one was dry enough usually to move the clamp so it was not too big of a deal. But 6 clamps would be better. I scrounged up another 2 clamps toward the end, but these ones would really only cover 1 dowel, so I could have a total of 5 dowels clamped down at any given time. If I wasn’t such a perfectionist trying to get all the cuts to line up perfectly with the size of the drawer front and instead cut all of the full pieces at once, I could have gotten this done a lot faster. But unfortunately (or fortunately) I am a perfectionist so it was a slow go.
Once you get to the corners of the drawer fronts, you have to cut each piece one by once as they keep getting smaller as you go down. I don‘t think there was another way around it. At least at this point when I was doing this, it had FINALLY warmed up a little bit in Michigan so I could do this outside next to my saw (I think it was April when I did this project).
Now that you have the first drawer done, you want the dowels to line up with one another from drawer to drawer to look like the design continues on. So to do this I placed the top right (completed) drawer on the ground and lined the middle right drawer right below it so they lined up perfectly. I then took my spacer dowel, which was maybe 12-15” long, lined it up between 2 of the attached dowels on the top drawer but so that it came down on my middle drawer and could use that as one side to push your cut dowel against. Again, I used the square as the other side to ensure a 45º angle. Once you get this first one glued, you can work off if it, just check back and line up with the top drawer every 5 or 6 dowels or so to ensure they are still lining up.
Then you just keep going with this drawer, and line up the bottom right drawer with the middle in the same way you did before so they all continue off one another. Once you have the whole right side of drawer complete, you will line up the top left drawer next to the top right as it will sit in the dresser so you can line up the opposing pieces of the chevron design and make sure the meet up with the right side drawers. Basically for this design, they should meet in the middle to make an upside down V. Then you complete the left side just like the right side. The only thing I did differently on this side is that I frequently lined the drawer up with the right side drawer to make sure they continued to line up as you work down.
Once you finally have all of the drawers complete with the dowels glued on, it is time to paint once again. I wanted everything to be the same color, so I painted the drawer fronts twice to ensure adequate coverage on the new wood dowels that were now attached. You have to do this with a paint brush obviously to get in between the cracks.
I decided to paint one coat of Varathane water based Polyurethane in Satin (which is the sheen of the paint I used. I did this because I was afraid that the paint would chip off of the drawer fronts since this dresser would be sitting behind my desk chair and likely get a lot of abuse. I am not sure how the paint would have held up by itself, but I think if I were to do it again, I would not put the Poly on the drawer fronts. It seemed to pool around the dowels and you can see it with a slightly bluish white hue to it. (I rolled the poly on the top, but that didn’t have the same hue to it like the drawer fronts did). I really don’t think the drawer fronts need that extra protection like the top does. And in all reality, if you are using the SW Emerald Urethane Enamel like I did, it is pretty freaking durable if you let it cure properly. I would just leave it as that next time.
Like I just mentioned, I also rolled on some of the same Poly on the top of the dresser for extra protection for the top. The next thing needed it drawer hardware. I chose top pulls for this for a couple of reasons. These honestly may be the best solution since now you have extended the face of the drawer in certain spots (by the dowel additions) by 1/4” so unless you planned it perfectly or have very large spaces between your dowels, it is unlikely you will be able to have a handle that will fall perfectly between dowels. And even if you could fit a traditional type of handle between dowels, it would be tough to get your fingers under there to pull out the drawer since there would be 1/4” dowels running under it. I also really liked the contemporary and minimalistic look of the edge pulls. They allow your eyes to focus on the design as opposed to the pulls.
The very last part I did for this dresser was the legs. Since this dresser was going into my office that has black walls and natural wood slats on the wall - I wanted it to complement that. I used the same Varathane Natural color stain on the legs. This darkened them up just slightly to better match my walls. I really love the contrast between light + natural wood with the black, I think it looks sharp! But, a different color of wood stain may make sense for your legs if you are doing a different color of dresser!
Now that it is all done, I could not be happier with how it turned out. It has an edgy and unique design but doesn’t overwhelm the room since I painted it all in the same color. I think it is the perfect accent and storage addition to my Motor City Designworks home office! I’m in love!
Let me know what you think of this Ikea hack dresser tutorial! I would love to see how yours turned out!
Happy designing + DIYing!