Ikea Hack Hemnes Dresser Urban Industrial Makeover

IKEA Hack: Urban Industrial Dresser

As I mentioned previously, the IKEA Hemnes dresser we bought to go with our queen bedroom “set” at our old house has been doing our new king bedroom set exactly zero favors. I had planned on finding an urban industrial dresser at some point but it wasn’t too high on my list of priorities.

Well, it’s been almost eight months, and we still need and have the old dresser. However, the wood and metal of our “forever” new bed and nightstands from Pottery Barn cause the ol’ Hemnes to stick out like a sore Scandanavian thumb. I found a few possible options to replace it, but none within budget, which means it’s DIY time!

I schemed up this idea one morning after stumbling upon the most critical component, the sticky vinyl, on Amazon. From there, I just had to figure out what paint and drawer pulls I liked and get started.


I’m a big time online shopper and I ended up getting almost everything on Amazon so it could be shipped quickly without me needing to take extra trips out or hunt around a Home Depot looking lost. (The guys at Home Depot tend to be so patronizing when asking me if I need help! Surely this is an every-lady problem.) This came back to bite me a little bit when the vinyl arrived a different color than expected, but I still think the time saved was worth it.

Dresser makeover materials

Total cost for spray paint, finishes, leather strap, vinyl, and hardware: $89

Painting the Frame

First, I sprayed the body of the dresser. Removing the drawers made it easy to lift out into our yard, which is full of dead grass that’s about to get ripped up anyway so I didn’t even bother putting down newspaper. The coverage of the Rustoleum was impressive, and I was delighted to see the metallic sparkle almost immediately.

Spray painting the IKEA Hemnes frame
After just one coat!

I’ve worked with this Rustoleum before and learned that the type of motion you make while spraying is crucial. Heavy wet areas tend to look the most textured, so do those carefully and sparingly. The textured bits do give it extra dimension, which I think amplifies the whole urban industrial dresser vibe.

I used about six coats of the silver spray to get to the color density that I wanted. I let the color dry overnight and moved it into our garage for the next step: clear coat. While the silver tone was right on target, the texture felt a bit pebbly and was far from the smooth metallic look / feel that felt critical to the success of the project. I ended up spending another two days spraying the hell out of this guy with glossy enamel spray. I went through 3 cans and focused mainly on the top of the dresser, but I managed to get the smooth sheen I wanted.

Creating “Wood” Drawer Fronts

Next, I had to do the drawer fronts. I measured and cut the vinyl one drawer at a time to account for any irregularities between drawer front dimensions. The vinyl was pretty impressive! It was easy to reposition to get just right, and I used a shower squeegee to smooth out any air bubbles in the finish before wrapping the corners.

Vinyl-covered drawers in progress
Pretty convincing right out the gate!

Once all the drawers were covered, I started spraying them with the Polyshades to darken the vinyl a bit and seal the edges up. This stuff STINKS and takes forever to dry (and you can only do it on a low-humidity day) but it definitely gave the final finish a much more profesh and real-wood look. Worth it 100%.

Before / after staining the vinyl-covered drawers with Polyshades
Before / after staining the vinyl-covered drawers with Polyshades

The vinyl covered up the existing hole for the drawer pulls, so once they were dry I used a knitting need to poke through the vinyl and help me identify where I should drill. After one drawer I realized I didn’t even need to run the drill; the weight of it poked through the vinyl easy-peasy.

Leather Drawer Pulls like What

I wasn’t sure at first what kind of drawer pulls I wanted. Metal seemed like the natural choice for an urban industrial dresser, but I didn’t see any I liked for an affordable price, and I was intrigued by the idea of making pulls myself. I verified that this was do-able by perusing a few DIY links and got to work.

Measuring the leather into 6" chunks
Measuring the leather into 6″ chunks

Cutting the leather straps came next, which meant lots of measuring. I decided that any less than 2.5″ of “pull” would feel too small, so I measured out 6″ strips of leather to account for the fold and still give us enough to grab. Once I had measured all the straps, I folded them and marked where to drill on each strap.

Leather drawer pull assembly
Leather drawer pull assembly

The 3/16″ drill bit cut through the leather beautifully. I was able to go super slowly so I could feel when the drill hit the cardboard I had under the leather.

That just left assembly! The screw goes through the strap, then through the drawer, then I secured it from inside the drawer. Drawers go into frame, clothes go into drawers, and we’re done!

Ta dah! I’m very, very pleased with the result. It feels like we gained several more years of use from the old IKEA chest of drawers by turning it into this urban industrial dresser!

IKEA Hack Urban Industrial Dresser
The result!


  1. Wow – what a creative solution and one-of -a-kind result. The dresser looks terrific and the mix of materials is perfect for an urban industrial bedroom.

  2. Cool idea! Thinking to try this with our Hemnes to upgrade our dresser for our 3rd baby – our first boy! ๐Ÿ™‚ Doing a rustic/industrial look. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Love it! A rustic/industrial nursery sounds way stylish and very practical for when baby grows up, too. Would love to hear how it turns out for you. Ours has worn really well in the year+ since finishing it so Iโ€™m sure it would be gangbusters if you wanted to put a changing station on top as well.

      Congrats on the forthcoming addition!! ?????

  3. Claire,

    You are truly brilliant! Thank you for sharing this transformation. Your blog post is so well written and organized. I have been searching for “how to’s” to upgrade my 3 year old daughter’s dark Hemnes dresser into something that fits in her new big girl room. The bed and nightstand we bought is white and feminine so I was having trouble finding diys that covered the dark wood underneath and look decent. Although I’m going for a completely different style your clear step by steps give me some guidance. Thank you again!

    Your new fan,

    1. Hey thanks, Katie! Delighted to hear I was able to help! For sure, as long as you’re willing to go nuts on that spray paint you should definitely be able to hide the dark finish. And for what it’s worth, 18 months later the light metallic paint is still holding strong! The only area that’s seen some chipping of the finish is on the legs where our Roomba rubs it every day, so you should be in good shape. Would love to hear how the transformation for your daughter’s room goes!

  4. Iron-on wood veneer would have been easier than the laminate and you could’ve stained it like normal wood

    1. Easier? Hard to be certain without doing a comparison (which is a fun idea!) but I’m pretty sure not much would be easier than a sticker. And I’m super happy with how the stain turned out but iron-on wood veneer is a cool product to investigate for other projects anyway! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. OK Claire! Gonna give this a go! Wanted this look but “the real thing” is a lot of money. Found some Hemnes dressers on Craigslist…already put together!…Some are dinged and scratched which is perfect for your makeover…I may take it one-step further and add castor wheels it it can work. Thanks for great inspiration!

    1. Woot! Super clever to outsource the building step, that’s honestly the worst. Castor wheels are a rad idea. Are you thinking you’ll saw off the legs and attach the wheels straight to the base, or keep the legs + wheels? Would love to see the result — good luck!

  6. Yeah, I promised as I got older I would not buy furniture I had to put together…oh well…I’m thinking of sawing legs off. Might have to add some reinforcing plywood for a base to mount them. Castor wheels online look bitchen! You can get 1800 models for like $80 for a set of 4! Will send pics when done. Going in 1926 Craftsman home in OC.

  7. Claire! Finally finished my dresser and people are going crazy over it on my FB page! Thanks! I have pics to show you with castor wheels…How to send? Thx! Todd

  8. […] put Killz primer over it and boom — new canvas. The spray paint is actually leftover from my IKEA dresser makeover. And the yarn is some that I bought aspirationally and um, haven’t made much progress with. […]

  9. I was going to use a spray paint ultra cover paint and primer.. itโ€™s going on over the dark brown will that cover enough or would be best to prime first? Also do you sand the dresser as well? Thx

    1. I did sand the dresser but didn’t need to prime. With enough coats you should be able to cover without priming separately. Let me know how it turns out! Good luck!

Comments are closed.