Make It: DIY Retro-Inspired IKEA Storage Hack

by on Jul 29, 2014

A yellow and blue shelf is next to a green flower vase.Casey Starks

IKEA products are known for being easy to customize, but sometimes those plans don’t quite work out. I came across this unfortunate IKEA Fira unit at the thrift shop. Its previous owner got creative with paint, glue, and origami paper. No wonder they donated it — it looked terrible! I’m always looking for useful storage solutions, so I brought it home determined to make it look great in my 1950’s apartment. With a few simple tools and materials, I transformed it into a unique, retro-inspired piece that matches the rest of my decor.       

"Nice and Colorful storage"Casey Starks

Pink and yellow drawers are in an organizer.Casey Starks

Difficulty Level: Moderately easy. All you need is some basic painting knowledge and experience with a power drill.

Time Required: About 4 hours spread over a couple days to accommodate paint drying time.

Cost: I had all of the materials on-hand except the thrifted Fira ($5), paint ($15), and the hole saw ($6) for a total of $26

Tools and Materials:

  • Sandpaper
  • Scraper
  • Paint brushes
  • Painter’s tape
  • Power drill
  • Clamps
  • Scrap piece of wood
  • 1″ hole saw drill attachment
  • 4 test jars of paint. One in white and three in coordinating colors. I used Martha Stewart Sultana, Rattan, and Yucca Plant
  • Water-based polyurethane
  • 4″ hairpin legs. I’m lucky to have metal artist, Richard Starks ( for an uncle. He made these to my specs, but you can find similar legs on Etsy or Ebay.
  • Foam adhesive tape


1. Start by sanding the entire piece to prep it for painting. To remove decoupaged paper, peel off as much as possible. Lay a damp rag over the remaining paper and gently scrape it up with the scraper, being careful not to gouge the wood. Sand the rest of the remaining glue off until the surface is as smooth as possible. Paint the entire unit and drawers with 2-3 coats of white paint.

A torn yellow box with a metal object on it.Casey Starks

"Wooden bricks is on the white covered table."Casey Starks

2. To drill some new, more unique finger pulls, turn each drawer around to the plain side. Add a piece of painter’s tape to the top third of the drawer front. Draw a horizontal line 1/3 of the way down, and a vertical line halfway across. 

"Wooden brick is painted with white and blue."Casey Starks

3. Trace a 1″ circle with it’s center at the intersection of these two lines. This is the drilling guide for the hole saw. Clamp a piece of scrap wood to the inside of the drawer. Drill a pilot hole in the center point of each of the traced circles, then drill out the pulls with the hole saw. Remove the tape and sand the edges smooth.

"Useful Storage Box made out of of Waste Cardboard"Casey Starks

4. Paint one drawer with each of the three full-strength paints. To achieve the tonal look, mix some white into each color and paint the remaining three drawers with the lighter shades.

Storage boxes in blue white and yellowCasey Starks

5. When the paint is dry, add a coat or two polyurethane to all of the painted surfaces. Let dry.

6. Since the drawers slide directly over the bottom of the unit it isn’t possible to attach the legs with screws. I used strong foam tape instead and it worked great. Cut a piece or two to fit and attach the leg brackets to the bottom, about 1/8″ in from the sides and front/back of the piece.

A pair of white hangers lays next to a package of scotch tape.Casey Starks

7. Replace the drawers in any color arrangement. Enjoy your new, beautiful storage piece!  

A white mid-century modern dresser has drawers painted yellow green and blue.Casey Starks

Green and blue drawers with holes for handles, one blue drawer is open with a black ribbon hanging out.Casey Starks

Tall shelf with an ombre color design on each shelf, next to fake flowers in a vase.Casey Starks

Casey Starks is a craft and DIY enthusiast and small business owner. When she’s not dreaming up projects for her blog Vitamini Handmade or designing new products for her line Vitamini, she’s zipping around Silicon Valley in her yellow MINI Cooper. You can also find her on Instagram.

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  1. isabel

    really nice job.  makes going to ikea worthwhile, even though being in the store is sort of hellish.

  2. Kate

    What about off centering each of the holes so you don’t have to worry about being right on the spot? I, personally, am not a bilateral person…just a thought.