The best IKEA hacks we saw this year – 21 creative ways to update your furniture

Love a good IKEA hack? Us too, so we have rounded up some of the easiest ones out there...

Ikea hack with paint
(Image credit: Ikea)

Looking for IKEA hacks? Well you are in the right place, because nothing gets us excited quite like a good IKEA hack. And the easier the better we say because at the moment getting your hands on loads DIY supplies isn't the easiest. 

Whether you're a renter looking for a weekend project that won't enrage your landlord or a homeowner who simply loves to put a personal stamp on your flat packs, upcycling and hacking IKEA furniture is an easy, budget-friendly way to ensure your place doesn't end up looking just like everyone else's. 

We've rounded up the best (and easiest) IKEA hacks from 2020, so keep scrolling for a load of inspiration. Don't worry if you haven't got IKEA furniture – lots of these hacks will work on other pieces, too. Make sure you check out our crafts hub page too if you are itching for more projects. 

1. Turn an ottoman into office storage

Ikea storage ottoman with desk storage

(Image credit: Ikea)

Not all of us are blessed with home offices, spacious desks and room for a snazzy ergonomic office chair. For some of us, working from home involves a soft office (bed or sofa), piles of unorganised papers with no home and a niggle in our back for the rest of the week.

But, fear not, while this Ikea hack might not help with the backache, it can help you make the most of the space you have and get yourself more organised.

All you need to do to recreate this fab hack is a mix of storage inserts. Here a combination of Kuggis and Kvissle have been used, but you can customise the inside of your ottoman to suit your storage needs. Ikea has loads of home office storage for you to pick from. 

2. Use a memo board to create an indoor trellis

How awesome is this Ikea hack? They've created a climbing wall inside using a memo board? Recreate this look by using a couple of Mryheden wire memo boards and either standing your plants on the floor or, if they are smaller, you could use Ikea storage baskets to hold your plants as they have here.

We have rounded up loads more ways you can use Ikea storage to display your house plants, so check out those too. 

3. Transform a chair with a lick of paint and twine

desk area with painted dark/teal blue desk and chair with yellow twine wrapped around by ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

We love the simple silhouette of the Ivar chair from Ikea, and we love it even more with this sleek and stylish upgrade. Here's how to achieve the look...

  • Start by priming your Ivar Chair. While this step is tempting to skip, it's worth the time if you want to achieve a quality finish. We'd recommend using the Dulux Undercoat and Primer
  • Choose your brush. If you're working with an oil-based paint, opt for natural bristles, or for water-based choose something synthetic. The Chalk Paint Wax Brush is an affordable option. 
  • Start painting your chair with your choice of paint colour. In terms of brands, we'd recommend choosing something from the chalky furniture range at Rustoleum or Annie Sloane's chalk paint. A good match to achieve this look would be the Rust-Oleum Chalky Finish Furniture Paint in Belgrave
  • Decide whether you're looking to achieve a shabby-chic, or block colour look, as this will determine how many layers of paint you opt for. To achieve this look, we'd recommend two thin layers of paint.
  • Choose your twine. For this look we'd recommend this Mustard Yellow Bakers Twine from Amazon.
  • Start by tying your twine to back of your chair, as close to the base as possible, and simply wrap round and round, keeping the twine tight. 
  • We'd recommend tackling one section at a time; neatly tying them off at the end before moving onto the next section. Tuck in any ends twine ends sticking out. 

Want detailed tips on painting furniture? Our specialist guide was designed with you in mind...

4. Make an Ikea play kitchen more aesthetic

Probably the biggest Ikea hack on  Instagram (check out #duktig and you'll see), we love this take on Ikea's Duktig play kitchen. Easily achieved, all you'll need is some paint, wallpaper and a bit of creativity. It's easy and the kids (read: you) will love it. Follow our instructions below to achieve this look.

  • Start by considering which parts of your Dutkig Play Kitchen you'd like to paint, and tape off sections that you'd like to leave unpainted – we'd recommend using Frog Tape. Remove (or don't add) the handles and sink section as this will make painting much easier. 
  • The next step is priming. While this step is tempting to skip, it's worth the time if you want to achieve a quality finish. We'd recommend using the Dulux Undercoat and Primer
  • Start painting the sections of the play kitchen's you've decided need it in your choice of colour. We'd recommend choosing something from the chalky furniture range at Rust-Oleum or Annie Sloane's chalk paint. To achieve this look, the shade Winter Grey from Rust-Oleum is a good colour match. You'll want to paint two, thin layers.
  • While the paint is drying, it's time to spray paint  your handles, as well as the sink section. The Plasti-Coat Premium Spray Paint in matt white is a good choice.
  • As the Dutkig Play Kitchen doesn't come with a back panel, you might want to source your own if, for you, this is an important part of the finished design. 
  • After that, it's time to start wallpapering. This Pressed Leaves Blue Wallpaper is available from Cam Cam Copenhagen, though we also love the idea of using the Salina's Tile Wallpaper from Wallpaper Direct.
  • Once all your sections are dry, you can start putting your finished play kitchen together. Using some pins positioned at regular intervals and a hammer, attach your back panel, and then your freshly sprayed handles and sink.
  • Finish by attaching some wooden knobs, if it takes your fancy, and decorate with play cutlery and crockery.

5. Paint basic pine cabinets for cheap but chic kitchen

(Image credit: Ikea)

Designing a kitchen and looking for unique, yet affordable, kitchen cabinet solutions? This Ivar cabinet hack has you in mind. Whether you like the unfitted look of mismatched, complementary colours or prefer something a bit more uniform – we're thinking dark blue or black to channel our love of moody interiors – check out this Ikea hack to achieve this stylish finish.

  • The first step to achieving this look is priming the cabinets you plan to paint. While this is a step that's tempting to skip, it's worth the time if you want to achieve a professional finish. We love the Dulux Undercoat and Primer
  • Take time to choose brushes. As a general rule, oil-based paint works best with natural bristles, while it's best to choose synthetic for water-based paints – pick these Chalk Paint Wax Brushes if you're on a budget.
  • When picking paint, we'd recommend opting for chalk based furniture paint, Rustoleum or Annie Sloane's chalk paint are great options. To achieve this look, choose paint in three complementary shades of blue – Paris Grey, Graphite and Louis Grey , along with a blank cabinet, would be perfect for recreating this look.
  • For an even finish, opt for two, thin layers of paint and a coat of yacht varnish for a hard-wearing top coat.
  • Once dry, you're free to organise your cabinets as you wish. Easy, or what? 

Top Tip: Considering mismatching, complementary colours but not taken with the idea of blue? The trick is to ensure the colours you pick have the same tone.

6. Transform a chest of drawers with colour blocking

Love the colour-blocking trend but can't – we feel you, renters – or don't want to commit to it on your walls? This Ikea hack on the Moppe chest of drawers is a great way to experiment with this (or any other) trend, incorporating it into your space on a non-permanent basis. Follow our super simple instructions for your own block-coloured storage solution

  • If you want to achieve the colour-block effect, you'll need to decide where you want to use each colour. It's advisable to use a pencil to lightly draw in lines that can guide you towards achieving your desired finish.
  • Once you've decided on a design you're happy with, start taping off the first section (we'd advise using Frog Tape), ready for painting.
  • When it comes to choosing paint, we'd recommend using a chalk based furniture paint – one from Rust-Oleum or Annie Sloan will work nicely. Pick colours that suit the look you want to achieve, or to recreate this look opt for Strawberry Vanilla, Winter Grey, Powder Blue and Chalk White
  • Tackle one section at a time, painting two thin layers and ensuring they've dried completely before peeling off the masking tape and taping the next section in preparation for more painting.
  • Repeat this process until all of your sections are painted. Finish off with a coat of yacht varnish.

7. Create an alcove office

In small spaces, alcoves can't be ignored! Put that space to use and use Ikea furniture to help you. This idea is super simple, just pick out some Ikea shelf brackets and shelving and use them to create a desk and some office storage

If you want to customise the size and look, you could pop down to a hardware shop and buy some planks of planed timber. Cut them to the perfect size to fit your alcove and mount them using the Ikea brackets. 

For loads more easy alcove ideas that are perfect for small spaces, head over to our dedicated feature. 

8. Create a bespoke, built-in look with basic cabinets and paint

ikea cabinets painted teal/blue with small handles by ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

We love how simple, yet effective, this Ivar cabinet hack is in transforming Ikea's most basic cabinets into unit with a distinctly bespoke and built in feel. Achieve the same result using our step-by-step instructions below.

  • The first step to achieving this look is priming the cabinets you plan to paint. While this is a step that's tempting to skip, it's worth the time if you want to achieve a professional finish. We'd recommend using the Dulux Undercoat and Primer
  • Take time to choose brushes. As a general rule, oil-based paint works best with natural bristles, while it's best to choose synthetic for water-based paints.
  • To achieve a built-in look, it's vital that you use the same colour for your cabinets as you have for your walls. To recreate this look, we'd recommend opting for Dulux Teal Tension, which is available at B&Q.
  • For an even finish, opt for two, thin layers of paint and a coat of matt yacht varnish.
  • Once dry, attach these Osternas Leather Handles and mount your painted cabinets on the wall. Style with house plants, framed prints and other quirky curiosities.

9. Malm-a-Mia, your dated chest of drawers need a new lease of life

Probably one of the easiest Ikea hacks out there, it's worth having a think about upgrading your old Malm or Hemnes chests of drawers, before throwing them away in exchange for newer models. Find out how below...

10. Find a solution that saves space 

The best thing about Ikea hacks? Sometimes they're just about finding practical solutions (though it's even better when they're attractive, too). We love the idea of using the Tjuig coat rack to store pans. 

Love the idea of a gallery wall, but got a landlord who doesn't approve? We've found the perfect compromise. Once attached to the wall, the Mosslanda picture ledge is perfect for displaying prints and can simply be left in place when you move out, ready to be enjoyed by the next tenants.

12. Mix budget, flat pack pieces with one-offs for an expensive looking finish

A great example of the power of mixing flat pack basics with one-off pieces, this hack achieves a stylish, yet affordable finish. All you'll need are two Alex drawer units , two Alex storage cupboards and a desk top of your choice. Try your local salvage yard if you're looking for reclaimed wood.

13. Hoard your stationery in a Raskog

Need more home office storage but don't have a ton of room? Hello Raskog. Use it to get all your stationery organised and keep all the important stuff on hand. The Raskog has a really small footprint too, so even if your 'home office' is a desk in the corner of your living room, it won't be taking up a load of space, you could even store it underneath your desk.  

Find loads more ways to use the Raskog trolley in our feature. 

14. Recover your couch, armchair or footstool

If your landlord's taste in furniture is... questionable... or you can't afford to replace the tired looking sofa you bought years ago/inherited from a distant aunt, don't write off gorgeous looking furniture just yet.

If you're working with a piece from Ikea, Bemz are the brand you've been looking for. Producing stylish looking covers and legs for your sofa, armchair, footstool and much more, it's never been easier to instantly upgrade a space for much less than the cost of buying new.

For an even more budget option, pick up new cushions and a couple of throws to revamp your sofa and, in turn, your living space.

15. Make a really easy bedside light

Bedside tables are very lucky if they make it into a small bedroom (although don't miss this DIY bedside table, made with an Ikea hack). Yes they are invaluable, but if you are working with a tiny space there simply might not be room. But you need a bedside light right? Well the answer is to wall mount it! 

Copy this idea by taking a Ekby Valter shelf bracket (they are just two quid) and wrapping around a lamp cord, there is already a hole in the top of the bracket for you to thread it through, add a nice warm bulb and voila. 

16. DIY a wallpaper headboard

Headboards are beautiful, but when space is tight they can take up just a little bit too much room, so DIY one with some wallpaper! We love how this banana leaf print looks framed by the iconic Gjora bed – a super easy way to make a very popular piece of Ikea furniture look like your own. 

For more DIY headboards head over to our feature.

17. DIY a 'walk-in wardrobe' 

Walk-in wardrobe in small bedroom

(Image credit: Ikea/Johan Månsson)

Always dreamt of a walk in wardrobe? Oh, we've all dreamt of a Carrie Bradshaw-esque dressing room and the great news is that you can create your own, no matter what space you have to work with. No room will be too awkward or too small for this genius IKEA hack. You just need to think outside the box, invest the right kind of storage and choose the perfect curtain cover-up as the finishing touch! 

Find out how to recreate the look over in our step-by step guide.

18. Get creative with Ikea lighting 

Ikea lantern

(Image credit: Ikea)

No matter how much you doubt your own artistic abilities, we think even the most inept will be able to manage this easy Ikea hack. All you need is a paintbrush and some paint. You don't have to copy this pattern either, just get creative painting your paper lampshade, mix up the colours, patterns, add some decoupage, go crazy.

The Regolit Lantern that costs just £1.95 too so get a few and give on to each member of the family to decorate. 

19. Create a rainbow wall 

Ikea hack with side board and rainbow paint

(Image credit: Ikea/Benjamin Edwards)

For the Ikea hack, all you need is a piece of Ikea furniture (or any furniture for that matter) some paint (leftover will do) tape and brush. Use your piece of furniture to plan out the shape of your rainbow so it sits directly above it and then use tape to create what will become the gaps between each arch. 

Paint between the masking tape lines, let it dry and then remove the tape. You could also add a cute picture ledge to sit in the middle of your design and display some cute prints or books. 

20. Turn an Ikea cabinet into a retro beauty 

Love the texture of this cabinet and you would never know it was a simple IVAR cabinet and the hack is so easy too! @treehousethreadsblog Ikea hack was inspired by @hotpinkpineapples project and you can check out her video for the full step by step, but essentially it's all done with half-round trim.

21. Make Ikea furniture 'vintage'

Love the look of apothecary cabinets but don't want to fork out for the real thing? This amazing Ikea hack by @diydanie is for you – all done with paint, some new handles and cute vintage style labels. 

Emily first (temporarily) joined the Real Homes team while interning on her summer break from university. After graduating, she worked on several publications before joining Real Homes as Staff Writer full time in mid-2018. She loves a second-hand bargain and sourcing unique finds to make her rented flat reflect her personality.