DIY IKEA Hack: Dining room dresser before and after + tutorial

It’s been a month in the making, but I wanted to share with you my latest IKEA hack, and it’s a massive one! Using two EXPEDITE model shelves, I was able to create an apothecary-style dresser that’s over 10 feet long for my dining room. 

Let me just back this up by saying, I had NO experience using a saw until this past month. For our 8 year anniversary, John and I bought each other a miter saw. So romantic, I know, BUT … we figured we could use it for so many different projects we’ve been dreaming about and with the new house, we now have room to keep a saw around. And perhaps even create a woodworking shop. Maybe next month. we need a break.DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan FennoEven though we were way too optimistic and thought we could knock out this project in a week, it took us about a month from start to finish. Regardless of the under estimation of time, we LOVE how it turned out. It fits quite well in our dining room and I now have a place to store our china, so it’s no longer stored in a plastic bin the basement. Anyway, let’s get started!

Here’s what you’ll need:

DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan FennoWOOD. I’m fortunate to live in a neighborhood that’s still being built, so scrap wood is a plenty in all the surrounding dumpsters. Yes, I went dumpster diving and have no shame. I mean, you could say I’m recycling wood, right? Anyway, you will need a variety of 1×2’s, 2×4’s, 1×3’s, 1×4’s, 2×6’s and 2×10’s. We did end up buying some of the longer pieces we needed for the sides and top, as well as the faux cabinet drawer planks, which ended up costing about $70.

  • Gorilla Glue. This glue is seriously amazing. It can hold together wood like a beast. Maybe that’s why Gorilla is in the name of it. I get it now. 
  • Stain. I used Minwax in Ebony. One small can covered the entire project and it costs about $7.
  • Wood sealer. Just like the stain, a little went a long way, so I only needed to use one small can and there’s plenty left over for the next project.
  • Varying sizes of paint brushes. You can probably get away with just having one, but with a project this size, it was nice to have several so more than one person could be staining  or sealing the wood at the same time.
  • Sand paper. To ensure the smoothest finish, you’ll want to sand the project in-between coats of stain and seal. We used 220 grit.


  • Metal Drawer Pulls. 32 of them. It seems like a lot, and it is, but they were fairly inexpensive. There are a variety of different styles and finishes on Amazon, here.
  • Flush mount hinges. I’m going to let you in on a little secret before we get started. While I wanted to have cabinet space, it wasn’t necessary for us to have 10 feet of space, so some of the drawers don’t open. But there’s still four that do, and for those, you’ll need flush mount hinges. If this doesn’t make sense, you’ll see what I’m talking about in the photos below.
  • 8 casters. I really liked the silver ones we used, which I found at Lowe’s for a little under $4 a piece. 

Recommended tools:

  • Miter saw. (This was probably one of the best presents ever. Seriously, I can now DIY for days.)
  • Ruler
  • Tape Measure
  • A box of screws (you’ll go through more than you think)
  • Drill
  • Orbital sander
  • Drop cloth or something to protect your floors when staining

Alright, ready to dive in? Let’s do it! 

1. First step was to haul these two bulky shelves to a place where they can hang out for awhile while you work on our project. For us, it was the garage, but I sacrificed not being able to park my car in there for entire month, but the weather was good and it’s not like I had to dig my car out from under a foot of snow. So it was worth it. Just remember it’ll also be nice for you to be able to have some sort of ventilation. Because no one needs to be high off wood stain.

DIY: IKEA hack dresser














2. Next, we measured out the wood so it’d fit nicely around the shelves. John actually modeled it out with the 3-D software he uses for work. It’s not necessary, but was handy for someone like me who learns and prefers things visually. 

DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan Fenno3. Bottoms up! We wanted to add some height and ‘bulk’ to the shelves, or dresser, so we started by adding several 2 x 4’s to the bottom of the shelving units.DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan Fenno4. Frame it out. This is a little more difficult because there are two of the shelves as opposed to working on one single piece of furniture. To make sure we were framing out the right parts of each shelving unit, we first put them together, side by side and marked where we were going to build out, which was every side except the back of the shelving units and the sides where the units will sit flush together. Meaning, if you’re looking at the two units side by side, you’d leave the right side of the left unit alone and same with the left side of the right unit.
DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan Fenno DIY IKEA Hack Dresser 5. I wanted to get a little more specific when I said ‘framing it out’, because that is literally like 100 steps in one. As mentioned, we added 2 x 4’s to the bottom of the units to add height. We then added wood around the base of the two units, making sure we covered those  2 x 4’s we just anchored on for that added height. 

6. We then added framing around the upper part of the unit, making sure to keep it flush with the top.DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan Fenno DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan Fenno 7. From there, we added the side pieces of wood, and the wood that sits underneath the framing along the top and bottom. First we used a little glue to adhere the wood to the shelving units, but then used screws to reinforce it.  
DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan Fenno THIS. This is where I finally felt like we were really getting somewhere, you know?DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan Fenno 8. The next step was to figure out how to add drawers. We wanted them to be inset, meaning they’d be flush with the rest of the unit, but to achieve that wasn’t as easy as you might think. We also wanted that apothecary-style, making the unit appear like it really has 32 small doors.

I think this is the point where I realized how crazy we were for taking on such a massive project, but we were also far enough along that there was no turning back.

9. Anyway, we measured out each opening of the unit, and each one varied in width, so it’s important that you measure out each opening individually.

craftboard10. We decided to use 1/2″ craft board for the drawers, because it was a higher quality wood and the size would stay consistent. Instead of having to cut the drawers out from a larger piece of plywood, we usually got away with just one cut, two at the most. 

11. We then adhered the four freshly-cut pieces of craft board to pieces of 1×3’s, cut to the same width. 

Because the drawers are just glued together, we reinforced the main pieces with a two small vertical pieces of scrap wood on the back. The picture below will give you a better idea of what I mean.  DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan Fenno The whole process of making the drawers was a LOT of work. And if our measurements were even a hair off they wouldn’t fit in the opening, so we’d have to sand it down. 

12. Stain away. Using ebony stain, I lightly brushed on one coat per set of drawers, wiped it off per the instructions, then added a second coat. DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan Fenno DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan Fenno 13. While the doors were in different stages of drying, whether it be from the glue or the stain, we moved on to the next step: figuring out the top of the unit. 

We ended up using two 1 x 8’s and one 1 x 3, cutting the length to 120 inches, which is the total finished width of the dresser.

14.To make sure the top stayed together, we glued the 1 x 3 board in-between the two 1 x 8’s, then clamped them together overnight. 

DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan Fenno 15. Then we sanded the top, stained it once, wiped it off, sanded again, added a second coat of stain,  sanded again, then added the sealer. Yes, it’s a process. And an arm workout.

16. Hopping to another part of the project and while the drawers and the top were drying, we stained the main piece of the dresser. Using the same process as when we stained the drawers and top, it was just a cycle of sanding, staining, sanding, adding a second coat of stain, then lastly adding the sealer.  

DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan Fenno 17. Once the eight drawer pieces and the main part of the dresser was also, then we could finally lay the drawers in and add the hinges.

The flush mount hinges we used were the ones I have pictured above. They’re super tricky to put on, so I kinda left that to John (and unfortunately we both forgot to take pictures of this process).
DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan Fenno 18. Add the label pulls. So I initially made a template to try and help speed up the process, but only after I marked off each drawer piece did I remember the drawers are different lengths depending on the section of the cabinet. Meaning, that didn’t work and I we ended up measuring out each drawer to find the center instead.
DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan Fenno 19. Then I pre-drilled the holes for the pulls before finally adding them. All 32 of them.DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan Fenno DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan Fenno 20. We added eight casters to the bottom of the unit. The casters we used had 4 screw holes and we used all four of them (so four screws per caster), just to make sure they were really one there. After all, that’s a lot of weight that will be casted down on them (get it – bad pun).

Then there was that glorious moment when everything was glued, screwed and dried and we were able to finally hoist this massive piece of furniture into our dining room.

Here it is, in all it’s glory. DIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan FennoDIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan FennoDIY Rustic Dresser Ikea Hack - Megan FennoI’d love to hear what you think in a comment below!

7 comments on “MY Ultimate DIY: IKEA Shelves turned Apothecary-style Dresser”

  1. I love your apothecary pieces. I have two dressers that are quite different from one another and it makes me a bit nervous as I’ve never done this before. My husband would have to do the measuring because he is incredibly precise. Here’s hoping. Any pointers you can give me would be beyond appreciated.

    • Hi Emily, I’m so sorry I didn’t see your comment sooner. For some reason, it was marked as SPAM but I adjusted the filter so that doesn’t happen again.

      1. Did you want to try and do this to both dressers and have them sort of match or are you just thinking about which one you’d like to transform.
      2. There is a lot of measuring involved so I would definitely make sure that your measurements are precise so everything fits together nicely and you’re not having to sand down pieces or recut because they’re too small.
      3. I think you’ll do a wonderful job! If you want any other pointers, I’d be happy to help. Promise your comment won’t end up in spam again!

  2. Really cool; I have the same kallax unit in espresso,but just used casters and black foam board dividers. Are you able to use the four doors that you didn’t put hinges on? You did a massive amount of work and everyone can use the space……eventually 😄.

    • Oh I like the idea of using foam core for dividers! The drawers that don’t have hinges aren’t usable, however there is so much space, we’re not really missing it. If we do decide we want to use the space behind the unhinged pieces, we can always pop them off and add the hinges. Right now we’re using the space to store all of our games and I love that they’re out of the closet yet easily accessible.

    • Hi Kate, We just used the wall. We figured since no one was really looking in it and we weren’t planning on moving it around, that using the wall would cut a few steps out of the project and no one would even think to ask!

I love reading your feedback! Feel free to leave a comment!