DIY Ikea Malm Mid-Century Modern Dresser

Learn how to transform an Ikea Malm dresser into a two tone mid-century modern piece using Overlays.

Mid-Century Modern DIY Ikea Malm Dresser with | Sarah Hearts

I’m so excited to finally share this DIY, you guys. If you follow me on Instagram you have have noticed my photo (and my excitement) about buying a Mikata power sander. It’s true, I was stoked to add another power tool to our slowly growing collection, but I was really more excited to use it to hack our 5 year old Ikea malm 6-drawer dresser!

Click here to skip to my step-by-step tutorial on painting Ikea laminate furniture.

A few weeks ago I shared my favorite Ikea dresser hacks and while searching the web for inspiration, I stumbled upon Overlays. I really wanted to make our bedroom furniture look more mid-century than just modern and the Overlays were a perfect way to do that. They are decorative die-cut PVC panels that are made for customizing Ikea furniture. How perfect, right?

Mid-Century Modern DIY Ikea Malm Dresser with | Sarah Hearts Mid-Century Modern DIY Ikea Malm Dresser with | Sarah Hearts Malm Dresser Ikea Hack with | Sarah Hearts

I went with the Olivia pattern and used them on the top two drawers. To give the entire piece a mid-century modern look, I only painted the drawers white and left the rest of the dresser as-is (which is the medium-brown wood veneer).

Mid-Century Modern DIY Ikea Malm Dresser with | Sarah Hearts

I searched all across the web for mid-century modern drawer pulls and stumbled up these perfect round cabinet knobs at Home Depot for only $1.38 each! Cheap and mid-century modern. Perfect!

Malm Dresser Ikea Hack with | Sarah Hearts

Kevin and I love it so much more now. It feels like we bought a completely new stylish piece of furniture! The next piece to hack will be the Malm tall 6-drawer chest that we keep to the right of the larger one. I’ll be working on that guy this week so check back for an update!

Want to give Overlays a try? They are offering 15% to Sarah Hearts readers. Just use the code HEARTS15 at checkout.

Mid-Century Modern DIY Ikea Malm Dresser with | Sarah Hearts

Here’s how to paint Ikea laminate furniture

  1. Sand the laminate surface so you remove the sheen that is has. This scores the surface and makes the primer and paint stick. You can do this by hand (but it will take a long time) or you can use a power sander. It took me about 45 minutes to sand all 6 drawers. This is an essential step that you can’t skip!
  2. Use a cloth to throughly dust of the pieces after you sand them. I used a slightly damp cloth first then went back over it with a dry cloth to ensure all the dust was removed.
  3. Apply the first coat of primer. I used Kilz Complete oil-based primer spray. I choose to go with the spray can because I’m lazy and didn’t want to have to use mineral spirits to clean my paint brush.
  4. After the first coat dries completely, add a second coat of primer.
  5. Since the dresser doesn’t have drawer pulls on it, I had to drill the holes for the new drawer pulls. I used a t-sqaure (with measurements on it) to make sure the placement was exact on each drawer. Make sure your drill bit it slightly smaller than the width of the screw you’re using for your drawer pulls.
  6. Spray paint the Overlays in whatever color you want. I used Rustoleum Painter’s Touch 2x coverage in white semi-gloss on both the Overlays and the drawers. It worked well and the coverage was excellent!
  7. Apply a coat of spray paint to the drawers. Allow it to dry completely then add a second coat. I found that to be perfect but if you’re using a darker color spray paint, you may need to do a third coat.
  8. I used Liquid Nails silicone adhesive to adhere the Overlays to the drawer fronts. I applied a thin bead of glue to the entire back-side of the Overlays then carefully placed it on top of the drawer. The adhesive allows a little bit of wiggle room so you can reposition the Overlay a tiny bit, if needed. I measured and marked the left and right edges of the Overlay on the drawer front before I glued it on. The lasy step is to attach the drawer knobs or pulls then you’re done!

Overlays provided the Olivia overlays to complete this project in exchange for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks so much for supporting the brands that enable me to share my ideas with you!


  1. It looks great! I’ve been thinking of turning my Malm into a DIY for a while but I haven’t done anything with it. This is a great inspiration for sure. Great job, Sarah!

  2. Sarah, I love this so much! We have the tall 6 drawer malm dresser in our bedroom in birch, and it is way too boring for my style. I never considered revamping in, but you’ve inspired me to do something fun with it, especially since i’m super redecorate and crafting mode.

    Last weekend we bought an unfinished kitchen island from ikea and I did a really fun finish on it that i think you would approve of, i’m hopefully going to post about it in the next week or so.

    again, thanks for the awesome idea for the dresser! <3

  3. WOW i am so doing this. I have a Malm bedside table and a 4 drawer dresser and i have been at a loss with what to do with them.

  4. i have been obsessing about ikea rast hacks all night and this is my absolute favorite of all the hacks i’ve seen. perfect, simple mid century mod! i think i may try something similar with a nice warm yellow…versus white.

  5. Question for you! Could you put knobs on the overlay drawers as well or do they not fit? How do you open the drawers without the knobs??? I’m stumped. Thanks!

    1. Yes, you can add drawer pulls on any of the Malm drawers. They are designed to be used without pulls and the top of the drawers are angled downward so you can open them. I drilled holes in the drawers and added the pulls to give it a more mid-century look.

  6. I have used Ikea to redo many large area’s of our rebuild after a fire. Kitchen, closet,entertainment and lighting. I have found several pieces of furniture at thrift shops that I love that are getting facelifts. I LOVE this mid century modern look. Do you know if Ikea still has that dresser? Thanks for your blog!

  7. Hey, so if i dont own this dresser already and am considering purchasing it to do this hack, i would do all this sanding and painting BEFORE assembling right?? sounds dumb but i am new to this :)

    1. Not dumb at all! Yes, I’d recommend painting the drawer fronts before you assemble them. Just make sure you have kraft paper/cardboard to set them on when you paint since they won’t have the assembled part of the drawers to be propped up on. Best of luck! Please share a photo when you’re done!

  8. Hi Sarah!
    I absolutely love this project!! I actually just bought a white MALM 3-drawer dresser and want to do exactly this to it! Any suggestions as to how I should go about giving it that wood-grain / dark wood look since it’s white? I want to keep the drawers white.


    1. Hi Libby! You could look into faux bois, or faux wood grain painting techniques. I personally haven’t tried that and I think since the drawers will be used often the paint my chip over time. For a quicker, more durable fix you could add faux wood grain contact paper to the top of the dresser and leave the entire bottom white.

  9. Thank you so much for this! I have a dresser that got scratched up some time ago, and we were looking at replacing because it doesn’t fit without our mid century apartment. This hack is perfect for us to fix it up and make it match! This tutorial is amazing. I can’t wait to try it!

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