The Boy’s Dresser

By Kate Riley August 10, 2010

I began this transition from baby room to big boy space several months ago, but I hit a few road blocks along the way.  One of the challenges was finding a proper dresser for my little guy ~ one that provided plenty of storage, complemented the style of his room, and was the proper scale for the wall where it sits.

For months, I’ve had my eye on the IKEA Hemnes dresser in white.  I delayed purchasing it because it’s a two hour round trip to the closest IKEA, and it’s $300 buckaroos, plus California state tax, plus assembly.  Grrrr.  Delay. Delay. Delay.

So when I spied a listing for an Hemnes dresser on Craiglist last week for sale by a couple in my hometown for half the retail price, I scooped it up.  Only problem ~ it was black.  Not that I don’t like black furniture, but it was too dark for the little lad’s room.

So I painted it.  Then added some blue stripey trim around the drawers just for fun.


dresser before


cg dresser left side

Perfect !

Thanks to the kind folks at True Value, I picked up a few new supplies for this paint job.

 true value supplies

One of the reasons I looooooove Zinsser’s ‘Cover Stain’ is that it clings to so many surfaces without sanding and dries in an hour.   I pink puffy heart love love love this primer.   Remember when I repainted that laminate media center ?  Yep, I used this stuff for that makeover too.

The IKEA Hemnes dresser is mostly painted pine, and is a really sturdy dresser, but there is also some fiberboard and particle board in places.  This super clingy primer works for all of those.

cover stain label copy

I don’t have a professional grade paint sprayer, yet, and even if I did, I’d hesitate to use oil based primer in my precious sprayer because I hate to clean it up.  So for now I use a foam roller for even application and follow it up with a paint brush.  With oil based primer, I also use an additive called Penetrol that I’ve talked about here and here to condition the primer and minimize brush strokes.

oil based primer foam roller

When you go from extreme dark to extreme light, it’s necessary to use primer to cover the dark color or it will seep through your paint job and you’ll be forced to use more coats of paint then you bargained for.

I was thrilled to find the sides of the inside drawers were raw wood so I didn’t have to paint them, whew.  The bottoms of the drawers were lined with a bright yellow stripe, so I used masking tape to protect the super duper cah-yute drawer liners as I painted.

raw wood drawers

I gave the top of the dresser and drawer fronts two coats of primer for added durability, then instead of using my orbital, I sanded them smooth with this handy little 3M detail sander with rotating handle from True Value ~ very useful for smaller jobs!

sand primer

Painter’s tip:  Did you know that ordinary vegetable oil cleans oil based primer/paint right off your hands ?   A reader told me that.  Don’t remember who, but thank you reader, whoever you are, you changed my life.   Doesn’t work so well I found with the thick paint on brushes, but for thin coats on your tender skin, there’s no need for harsh chemicals like mineral spirits when ordinary vegetable oil will do for cleaning.

oil removes oil based paint

After the primer, I gave the dresser two coats of a paint I found at True Value, their Easy Care brand paint in ‘Calming Sensation’.  To create the stripes, I used painter’s tape and a small sample of True Value’s paint.

stripes made with tape


Here’s his old maple wood dresser.  The wood is in perfect condition, so I couldn’t bring myself to paint it, but between the blonde wood and feminine curvy legs, it wasn’t right for his room.   I’ll just have to find a new home for it on Craigslist !


  old dresser



boys room dresser from side


The knobs on the dresser were also spray painted brown.  Brown because this fantastic retro inspired fabric will arrive next week and will magically transform into grommet top window panels.

boys fabric for panels

cg dresser corner


I’m loving the crisp clean lines of the drawers and their blue box trim.  And I’m pleased as can be that by repainting it myself, I saved close to $200.

jumping boy

Of course, the final vote comes from this little guy, but I think I can safely interpret this jump for joy as his seal of approval.



boys hemnes dresser 600

This dresser project appeared in the Young House Love book!

“I was one of the bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program as well as my writing about my experience.  I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project.   However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.”


  1. This looks really great! My little boy has a cherry mission-style dresser that’s on my to-do list to makeover. The trim on the drawers is a wonderful idea.

    Congrats on your True Value gig, btw!

  2. I love it…one question…how do you get the the blue line even and the paint from ripping up with the tape. Every time I have attempted a stripe on a wall- it looks all jagged…any tips?

  3. Love the new dresser’s look, and thanks for the tip about vegetable oil! I’ll definitely be using it.

  4. Your dresser turned out great! I am really excited to hear of the Zinsser’s ‘Cover Stain’. I have this beat up pool table that I had re-felted (which looks great on the main part!) but the sides are a laminate on particle board. I wasn’t quite sure of what product to use to paint it and I think I might try this one. Thanks for the great post!

  5. Love how this turned out! The blue stripes just make it all pop. I think you’ve convinced me to use the oil based primer on the kitchen cabinets when I start. Even though it stinks to high heaven. I used it on my wall in the master after I removed the wallpaper. It was better to use in case I missed any of the glue. Need to remember the penetrol though! And thanks for the oil clean up tip.

  6. Wow! Great transformation! LOVE the fabric for the window panels. Do you mind telling me the name of the fabric? I’ve been searching for a great fabric like this to recover a chair in my little guy’s room and this may be IT!

  7. I may have been the one to tell you about the oil… it works great and so much better for your skin. I did use oil paint in my spray gun and had to clean it with mineral spirits, never again! The spraying went great but the clean up was a bear!
    Love the blue and white, a fave of mine! Can’t wait to see the fabric in the room too.

  8. Looks lovely…I usually have trouble with paint seeping under the tape when I do stripes…too much paint on my brush usually I think – I’m to impatient ;)

    I love using paint samples…it’s a great way to get enough to paint an accent colour on furniture without shelling out for a quart.

  9. That is ADORABLE!!! I want to change out my daughters dresser and that would be the perfect finish for her, but only in pink. And thanks for the paint info. I want to redo the dressers in my room but hauling them out to the garage to sand them has been holding me back.

  10. I’m THRILLED to see this. I have several IKEA Hemnes pieces in my home collected over the years and have been contemplating how to update one or two for the nursery we’re creating. I see some Zinsser’s ‘Cover Stain’ in my future.

  11. Kate, Wonderful, thanks for the tips!! This dresser turned out beautifully!!

    A New Giveaway is on my site!

    Art by Karena

  12. That dresser turned out great, love the blue lines! We have that same white Hemnes dresser in my daughter’s room and wanted to do something different with it, and maybe even use it for one of our boys…you have given me some inspiration! Thanks!

  13. I like the blue details. Some very useful tips on here that I will be using in the future.

  14. It looks amazing…of course! The pic of him jumping for joy is beyond cute! I just finished a room makeover for my little guy….he arrives home tomorrow from visiting grandparents out of state and I can’t wait to reveal it to him!! I gave his dresser a grown-up look with paint too…blogged about it yesterday…check it out if you want! ;)

    xoxo, cass

  15. love the hemnes line, too, but you made it look so much cuter w/ the blue! great fabric, too!

  16. I just added a Hemnes to our home, too :) Although I had to pay retail…and make the very long round trip…but I got meatballs!

    I love the way you painted it!

  17. yay! love it! I just bought my boys a desk from craig’s list that is also IKEA, but solid pine (maybe part of the same collection??) – -it was $40! But I have to prime and paint it ’cause it is stained that orangy stain that some of IKEA’s stuff is. Anyway, I want to do it in white but will likely add some trim in red or green such as you did with this dresser. As always, you continue to inspire me at just the right times!! Thank you!!

  18. Looks like a showroom piece to me!! I have a dumb painting question for you b/c I am planning to paint a laminate bookcase that I can’t stand. Why did you need to sand the top after adding the primer? I want to be sure I know the ins and outs so I don’t completely screw up.

    Woody and Buzz look right at home. I had my picture taken with a Buzz “statue” at Downtown Disney on Sunday. In the photo, it looks like he is grabbing my rear end. I didn’t realize he had such bad manners….

    Anyways, I think the addition of the stripe really made this piece pop!

  19. It is perfect! I just know that if I tried that, somehow the blue would seep under the tape and I would never get those nice straight trim lines. I’m dangerous with paint. I love how this turned out.

  20. This is GORGEOUS!!! But really… when is something you create NOT perfect?? Question for you… are jobs like this NOT ok for a pregnant lady like me? I want to do this to some furniture for our nursery but not sure if I should take on the challenge. I know it’s generally not smart to paint while pregnant, but they say that the material they make nowadays are much safer. What do you think? ~Jill

  21. Love the dresser transformation– very smart of you to use a dustier blue that your son won’t grow out of (instead of a pastel “it’s a boy!” blue). I can’t wait to see the new window panels!

  22. OK, sorry everyone, I wrote the post late at night and forgot some of those details.

    Sanding after priming: This is optional, but I find even with the Penetrol I get a subtle brush strokes here and there, so I like to sand the primer down for an even smoother surface to prep it for paint. Which leads me to the stripes . . .

    Painting stripes: The smoother the surface, the less likelihood your paint will bleed beyond the masking tape. I too have tried to paint stripes on textured walls and have never been able to get a perfectly straight line with painter’s tape. I know there are products you can buy to ‘seal’ your painter’s tape to walls, but I’ve never tried that. For this dresser, the surface was very smooth, so when I applied the masking tape, it worked really well. I also don’t wait for the blue paint to completely dry, I peel the painter’s tape off after about five minutes just in case there is bleeding, but there wasn’t, so I got really lucky with this project. One final note, I think the white tape sticks a lot better than the blue tape.

  23. great job! And thank you for the tip on washing paint off with vegetable oil, I will have to try that next time I paint something

  24. I absolutely love it! That stripey border is awesome…never would have thought of it, but I guess that is part of what makes you the pro. ;)

  25. Baby Oil also works really well for removing oil based paint, and like vegetable oil- its easy to use, something you have around the house (if you have young children) and isn’t harsh on your skin!

  26. Great job – and I love the tips. I’ll definitely be checking out that Zimmer primer.
    I always have such icky luck with foam rollers – and you say you use them and then go back over with a brush? I’ve done that, but the foam roller leaves such a weird texture, brushing doesn’t help. What are you doing that I haven’t figured out yet?! :)

  27. Another tip for hand cleaning – Mr. Clean erasers are awesome! I used the zinsser primer approx 8 yrs ago on a laminate lateral file – then painted it black. Still not a chip or scratch! Zinsser is the best.

  28. Oh I love it!! I actually think it looks better then the original Ikea design. Great job (as always)

  29. Nice transformation! Wow! And I love the really great tips you always include in your reno-posts. Like getting oil based paints/primer off with vegetable oil – that’s great info! I will have to tell my husband I have a new trick to show him next time I attack with the paint brush! With all your raving about Zinser, I’m gonna have to try it now. Good luck selling your other dresser, I recently did a post on best practices for Craigslist (either for buyer or seller), take care!

  30. I love what you did; the dresser positively POPs! Great vision, Kate. When I first read the name of the dresser, I thought you scored an Hermes dresser! I don’t even think they make furniture.

  31. Kate my dear that is gorgeous! At first I thought you added trim. But nope you just painted it. Brilliance! I love the veggie oil trick. I never use the primer in my sprayer either. I am too scared to clean it. I can’t wait to see the big boy room reveal.

  32. Oh I’m so glad to hear about the vegetable oil tip…I have been using mineral spirits all this previous weekend…and the after-use hand moisturizing has gotten a little ridiculous! Love the dresser! Edging the drawers was so creative!

  33. A black dresser *can* be painted white! I love the colors in your boy’s room – all the blues work really well together. The dresser is perfectly painterful!


  34. You can now look at that dresser as an investment , I would buy it in a heart beat if it was to ever be for sale ,wonderful choice of colors and I love the custom trim work . My closest ikea is over three and a half hours one way ,with tolls .

  35. Thanks so much again for such inspiration!! I painted my office dresser today after reading your entries for about a million times!! Can’t wait to show you pics! I painted mine black! and used the tools you suggested, just loving this new DIY world!! Thanks for sharing all your tips!! Please keep them coming!

  36. Wow… I have these dark wood drawers and I’m desperate to paint them (have to convince the hubby first), but seeing what you have done, I think it can be done. I have to ask though. does the paint come off at all (especially with knocks from the kiddies toys etc)? Lx

  37. Hi Friend, WOW could I have used the tip about the vegetable oil last week !! I got spray metallic silver paint all over my fingers and had nothing to remove it . So out of desperation I used soap and a copper scrub pad and my fingers were sore for days !!
    The dresser is another home run for you ! Your son will always remember his Mom painting this cool furniture just for him, I’m sure.
    Thank you for your blogging. You continue to inspire and uplift me. Ann

  38. great advice on painting. it turned out wonderfully! so, just an additional question, do you get brush marks when you follow up after the foam roller? am i doing something wrong or maybe it’s my brush? i have been spray painting a dresser and it just doesn’t seem like it’s covering smoothly. i’m thinking about doing paint instead and want to know how to get the smoothest finish. thanks!

  39. Love the transformation! As always, you inspired me again.
    Sorry if this is out of space, as I couldn’t figure out how to email you. My facebook is not working for some reason. I got this old table lamp a while back, planned to paint it to make it gorgeous!
    I love the shape and the green glass ball, but don’t know what color should I paint the wooden part, the brass looking part can be painted as well. I want to put it in our master bedroom, on top of the dresser. As you can see our room is painted pale pink, and the furniture is walnut.

    Any color suggestions? Or I have to repaint the room to make the lamp work? I really appreciate your help on this.
    Thanks a million.

  40. Kate;
    Always a winner…. this is sooo designer professional and good looking…. way better than that boring black….( well, ok.. guess it would look perfect somewhere…. just not in your house!)
    thanks for the tip to save our hands…. hate what mineral spirits do to them…. and I’ve used a lot recently also… blah!
    Congrats on the True Value honor, hope its the most fun thing for you! Just imagine if….one -a -these days, a trip to your beautiful Sonoma area and to see your beautiful house of DIY’s…. what a treat that would be – and those 2 beautiful little sprites of yours….. Sounds like a great idea for a give-away! ( the visit, not the whole trip….lol )
    thanks for always making my days brighter!

  41. Wonderful work, Kate! And I love the picture of your boy jumping off the chair. My boys are 3 1/2 and 2, so I can relate to the buzz lightyear and death dives off furniture.

  42. Great transformation! And thanks for the idea on the vegetable oil – I have been scraping paint off my hands (and out of my hair) all week!

  43. The TV Easy Care paint you used – was that oil based as well??? I have a similar dresser I’m wanting to paint.

  44. You are a wealth of knowledge! Thank you for the primer tip as well as the veggie oil one. I’m always afraid to use oil based anything because it’s so hard to clean & remove from skin. I love your blog!

  45. The dresser looks great! Thank you so much for the tip about the vegetable oil! Now I won’t have to be embarrassed to go out in public after I use primer!

  46. i’m so glad this was the top before/after post! hastings starts next week and my aunt gave me some uuuugly bamboo furniture to use for our new tiiiiny apartment. but glossy black spray paint and i became very good friends this evening. my hand is a claw because i couldnt buy the nifty tool you use on your spray cans, but i’m as happy as can be covering that virginal white wood with inky shiny black (red details will be hand painted later). mmm, you may have made me an addict. love all you do!

  47. Another fantastic “After”. Thanks so much for sharing all the inside tips like using vegetable oil to clean up-that’s a new one to me. True value is lucky to have you on their team.

  48. Where did you get the light fixture next to the dresser? Is is hardwired or plug in? Hubs and I are looking for two plug-in light fixtures like that one for our bedroom. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  49. How did I miss this post! Love it Kate! I can’t wait to see the reveal of this room! Or did I miss it? Oh darn, let me check….

  50. Amazing job. Love how informative you are in your posts as well! Makes it easy for us newbies to go to the store and know exactly what to buy to do this job! I also love that hanging lamp. Where did you get that or the pieces to make it?

  51. This tip was on the post you linked to:

    Sally says:
    September 16, 2010 at
    Loving the laminate painting info and the unit looks great.

    A little tip for you: instead of using a chemical to remove the paint from your skin I use cooking oil! it helps break down the oil in the paint and I rub it on my hands and then wash off with a hand soap…it may take a few goes to get it all off, but it saves my skin getting dried out by the chemical paint remover

  52. You are truly amazing! I could sit and look at your site for hours!
    I haven’t seen anything this fun on line in a long time.

    Thank you so much for sharing your work.

  53. Hi there, I love what you did with the dresser, I am wanting to redo an old dresser my grandfather made and wanted to do the same with the white and blue but the drawers touch each other and you had that white space in between the drawers…any suggestions? it is a 9 drawer dresser and has a huge mirror on top with little shelves on each side… my boy really likes the buzz lightyear stuff too.

  54. what a helpful post! thanks for the tips!! can I ask where you got those wall shelves from?

  55. If one is starting with the actual white finish from Ikea, would I still have to prime? Just sand?

    My wife doesn’t like white furniture, so I need to change this dresser.


  56. agh! why did I not find your blog until today! I tried to repaint the same dresser that I had in the plain pine color – although i did a rough light sanding, the actual paint I used was horrible! Everytime I put something on the dresser the object sticks to the paint and pulls it up. Not too mention that although the paint looked black in the store, it is actually navy – argh! But I will try again this weekend, im dammed and determined!

  57. What kind of paint did you use? Was it latex or oil paint? and was it high gloss or semi-gloss? I am taking on a similar project this weekend! Thanks for the instructions :)

  58. Just came across your site… what a fabulous project! I also love the Hemnes dresser (the blue color is my favorite). If I wanted to keep the base color but add those cute outlines in a different color, do you still have to prime the areas you want to paint?

  59. I am looking at painting a Pine wood dresser, black.
    Will this work or is it even Necessary to use?

    Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you!

  60. Love it! love it!! I stumbled on your site about two weeks ago and I’ve been addicted. I’m inspired.

  61. Thank you for this!! I have a hideous nightstand/lamp that I’ve been meaning to makeover, but I did NOT what to sand every square inch (all those nooks and crannies!!)

    also, you can use any oil to clean oil based paint off your hands… I love using baby oil the best, it smells soooo good (and it comes in a slightly thicker “gel” that’s easier to control) but recently I’ve been using a sugar&oil scrub (which you can make at home)

    Anyway! again, THANK YOU

  62. OMG! Where did you get the fabric! I bought a flat fold piece of this off of a bargain table! I have been looking for more ever since!!!!

  63. Love it! Especially because laminate can be so tricky to paint. One question though, does the primer have a strong odor because it is oil based?

    • Hi Cynthia, yes there is an odor with that primer, I don’t consider it overwheming, but it is strong. I do most if not all priming with that product outside in a well ventilated area.

  64. I wonder if you could use this same primer for laminate CABINETS???? I have some hideous cabinets in my kitchen. And NEW ones are not in the budget currently.

    Any thoughts on that???


  65. So glad to have found this particular post, but wish I would have found it a couple days sooner! We are painting the same dresser and started with latex primer. What a mistake! Spent one day priming and the next day removing it because it was scratching right off. Got the Zinsser oil-based primer and it’s working great. Got the 2 coats of primer on and now we can start painting (with latex).

  66. Love it! I too have Ikea furniture and want to repaint our kitchen table white from the ikea blonde. Do you think I’d need to use the primer first so that the white paint sticks to the table?

    Than I want to re-upholster the seat bottoms on the chair ;)

    Thank you so much!

  67. First off, love this post! Its on my pinterest account :) Now, for my question/dilemma… i have an old table and chairs that NEEDS some paint to make it beautiful again. I plan on refurbishing and giving it to a friend of mine that just had her second child. With this said, I understand the primer part, BUT I’m having trouble figuring out the paint part. What would be best? I’d like the table to last a while and not have the paint just chip/rub off… Please help :-)

  68. Thanks very much for this post! My husband and I were at Ikea last night wondering about this. We wanted to get a Hemnes chest for our nursery, but did not like the fact that the white version was some sort of smooth laminate that seemed to chip easily. My husband said he didn’t think we could buy one of the stained ones and paint it white, but your blog post proves otherwise. Looking forward to trying this!

  69. Hi Kate!
    I am beyond excited, I have the EXACT (black) hemnes that is in my room now, but needs to go into my 3 year old son’s room in a month, or ASAP! I was going to paint it some sort of royal (was going to paint IKEA headboard to match) but after seeing yours I am totally sold and now want to do exactly what you did! Um, hope this doesn’t sound too SWF. But I really love how yours came out, and I think the whole thing blue might be too much because it’s such a big dresser.
    Can you share with me the exact paint color you used? I see that one (the white one?) is called Calming Sensation, but what about that beautiful blue that you used to accent the drawers? Also, do you know the name of the color on the wall? If I don’t use the exact blue you used on the drawers, I could use that wall color–love the touch of grey in it.
    Again, thanks so much!! Am now so excited to try this!

    ….any thoughts about using a latex primer? I just left Menard’s earlier today, and the paint guy there sold me Zinnsen’s Fast Prime 2, which is a latex, water based primer. I really don’t want to have to try to return it, but also don’t want to have to do this project twice. And I’m preggo, so trying to stay as low-fume as I can while I take this on (inside, since it’s 30 degrees out).

    Thanks so much!

  70. Hi Kate–
    Thanks so much for getting back to me! By ‘cure’ do you mean I just have to leave it on for longer? Because this is what I tried with the dresser–I tried priming just one drawer with the primer. I left it on for about an hour and while it was completely dry, I barely touched it and it peeled right off. Like it did NOT stick, hardly at all. Do you think that if I leave it on there longer it will ‘stick’ better? Because I feel like it’s not going to work and I should just go buy the kind you have, then just prime with the windows open and a gas mask on, in short segments so I don’t get inundated with fumes.

    Thanks again!

  71. Also, really don’t mean to be a PITA, just read through your AMAZING room details, and while it does tell the room paint color, the small Ace Hardware sample that you used to accent the dresser (blue) isn’t in there. Any chance you still have it/the name of it?
    Thanks again!!

  72. Just a quick question – if that primer works so well, I was wondering why you bothered sanding it? We’re thinking of doing the reverse and painting an IKEA table black.


    • Hi Jenny, when I say “sanding” I mean giving it a light scuffing with a sanding wedge to remove debris and prep the surface for priming. No need to totally remove the paint or varnish, the primer does not require full sanding to adhere to the piece. In fact, you really don’t need to do any sanding at all.

  73. OMG, i have been wanting to find something like this! Thanks for sharing your ideas! Hugs!

  74. Has anyone ever used this on the other ikea laminates? I’m anxious to try on my Billy bookcases now!

    • Hi Susan, yes you can paint IKEA laminates as long as you use a primer designed for glossy surfaces… that’s why I like that Zinsser Cover Stain and I’ve used it to paint a lot of laminate pieces.

  75. fantastic make-over – especially the primer. I found this site, and followed the instructions and have transformed two old Malm dressers from tired ‘natural’ laminate into a really good looking white pieces for my son’s nursery. $20 in paints, and I have given thema totally new lease of life and saved a fortune.
    thank you!

  76. Hello,

    Loooooove your site and skills!!! really, just so inspiring. I have an ikea book shelf with glass doors and I painted it using spray paint thinking it would be faster and really cover well. turns out it the paint flakes off! should have used primer. Do you suggest going over the spray paint with the primer you suggest in this project and repainting? thanks!!

    • Hi Gaby, yes you need a good primer for the paint to adhere to the surface! Yes, I’d try a good bonding primer next time around, then paint over that.

  77. Just a quick question for you –

    I have this same black Ikea dresser in my master bedroom and wanting to spruce it up a bit to make it more dramatic. Was thinking of leaving the dresser black and adding pops of gold / brass to it. Would you recommened painting gold stripes in the same manner you did in this post or would you run out to the home improvement store and purchase overlays to frame each drawer?

  78. I’m glad I found this, I’m thinking about re-painting all our Hemnes black-brown bedroom furniture white. Hopefully it’s cheaper and simpler than buying all new furniture, putting it together and getting rid of the old stuff!

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