IKEA Tarva Makeover: How to Paint A Dresser

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As you know from following along with the progress on our house, we decided to repurpose the master suite into a family room, meaning we’d take one of the smaller bedrooms for ourselves. This was only going to work comfortably if we could fit a dresser in here, because despite the closet in this room being a decent size, it’s a tad tight for two people’s wardrobes. After measuring out the rug and bed placement, we concluded that the ideal dresser depth for this room would be 16″ or less. With most standard dressers hovering around 20-22″ and dipping to 18″ at best, this was a challenging quest.

It took me months to find the right depth. But I also wanted something with enough drawers and width that it would still provide sufficient storage. We landed on the IKEA TARVA, coming in at a svelte 15 3/4″ depth with great bones similar to our previous MALM dresser that I still love so much but it’s too big for this room. The reason I didn’t initially end my search here was because the TARVA only comes in an untreated wood intended for DIY customization and truthfully, with the stress of the move and work going on in our house the thought of spending days working on this felt like it was going to kill me. I was unable to find an acceptable alternative or resist the low price, and so decided to give the TARVA a try. Here’s how I gave it a makeover.

–putty knife
Fine grit Sanding Sponge (I used 220 and 180 grit).
–paint roller
–paint primer
-latex paint I used Sherwin Williams Extra White
–tack cloth
–Polycrylic in clear matte
–paint brush
–drawer pulls

My first task was to build the dresser. After assembling the dresser, you will be able to see which surfaces are visible. This will help you decide what surface you need to paint. After spending many hours building it, I painted only the visible surfaces.

Once the dresser is built you’ll see which pieces are the drawer fronts and how each of them has two holes for the knobs the dresser came with. The holes were filled with spackling glue using a spatula. After drying, I smoothed the surfaces of each hole with a spackling knife to ensure that they were even.

Oleg had the legs cut by four inches. These are the parts he took off. I thought the dresser was too high in relation to my bed. You can cut the legs off your TARVA by removing the bottom. The tops of the dressers have holes that allow them to be attached to the dresser. The holes in the bottom that allow you to insert the sliders included with the dresser will have to be again drilled.

The finished dresser looks as follows. I gave it a light sanding since I noticed some rough patches but I wasn’t terribly detailed about it, just enough to knock off some of the roughness.

Because I was on Sunday, I only applied one coat. I later applied two coats. It’s always better to use several thin coats of paint with a thorough drying period between them than to do one coat which can take too long to dry, and could drip.

I sanded the surface between coats paint and primer to achieve a smoother look. Tack cloths are slightly sticky and can pick up residue quite well.

I allowed the dresser to dry over night, after applying the final coat. Because our garage was full of boxes and other items that we had to get rid of, I decided to finish the project outside. This reminded me how birds can spit on stuff and could require you to repaint it. Because there was more space, I moved everything to our family room.

I considered not applying a protective topcoat because it’s a bit of a meticulous job and the paint is probably sturdy enough. The top of the dresser will need the protective coating the most because it is the one that sees the most activity. However, I applied the coat to the drawer faces as well. The thought of the paint chipping or staining after all the work I did was enough to motivate me to move forward with this step, though again, I think the dresser probably would’ve survived fine without it.

It takes practice to apply polycrylic correctly, particularly with glossier finishes. However, I find that the matte finish allows you more control over your brush strokes. I started off using a paint brush but then later switched to a foam brush because I personally think it’s easier to use and less streaky. You can choose your preferred method and practice. Beginners should brush slowly and carefully to prevent air bubbles. Also, don’t use the polycrylic excessively. To remove air bubbles or cover any unevenness, you can go back over the strokes but it should take no more than 30 seconds. This stuff is quick drying. Long continuous strokes are better than short, broken-up ones. Maintain thin layers and lightly sand between coats. I used 220-grit to do this. Drying times should not exceed one hour. The final coat was dried for 24 hours after I applied three coats.

Final step: adding hardware. These black edge pulls are mounted on the top of drawer faces, and can be drilled from behind. They’re an incredibly simple detail that completely make this dresser! Forget all the paint, it’s all about the hardware.

It fits so perfectly in this littler corner, and the extra drawer space was truly needed for the clothes we fold and our personal knick knacks, especially to make up for his tiny night stand that’s only there to hold his alarm clock and journal. It was so nice of me that he got the side of his bed which allows him to use it as a nightstand. That also means I’m sleeping on the murder side (the side closest to the door. You have these kind of thoughts too, I’m sure.)

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