General Home Design

How To Paint An IKEA MALM Dresser

One of IKEA’s most popular furniture sets is the IKEA MALM series. It features a simple, streamlined design that was meant for the modern bedroom and can be customized to fit many interiors. The most popular piece to be customized is the dresser, and we’ve learned how to paint the IKEA MALM so you can add your own style.

How to Paint An IKEA MALM Dresser:

  1. Disassemble all the parts of the dresser.
  2. Roughen the surface by using a 120-grit sandpaper.
  3. Wipe the prepared surface with tack cloth.
  4. Prime the surface using a shellac-based primer. Allow to dry.
  5. Paint over the surface with a few coats of paint.
  6. Allow the paint to fully dry.
  7. Apply a polycrylic topcoat to the surface to protect your newly painted IKEA MALM dresser.

Now that we know how to paint an IKEA MALM dresser, we can also look into different ways of customizing it. Continue reading to learn more about what you can do for your IKEA MALM dresser.

handmade workshop for the repair and renovation of antique wooden furniture - How To Paint An IKEA MALM Dresser

Painting the IKEA MALM Dresser

How To Paint An IKEA MALM Dresser

The IKEA MALM series is one of the brand’s most popular selections for bedroom furniture. The series features a simple and streamlined design, and it offers a lot of storage space for its users. The furniture is also multi-functional, but its most popular product is the IKEA MALM dresser.

The dresser comes in multiple models ranging from a three-drawer dresser to a six-drawer dresser. It comes in a wood veneer or a white finish. While these already look great, homeowners are still looking for ways to customize the IKEA MALM dresser. You can do this by repainting them to suit your home’s design.

How to Paint the IKEA MALM Dresser

Materials Needed:

  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Shellac-based primer
  • Paint of your choice
  • Topcoat or sealant of your choice
  • Paintbrush


  1. Disassemble your dresser if you have a set that is already built. If you are starting out with a brand new set and you’ve already decided to repaint it, leave the parts unassembled before starting.
  2. Using a 120-grit sandpaper, sand the surface of your IKEA MALM dresser using big, broad strokes. This will give the primer and paint something to hold on to.
  3. Wipe the dust off with a tack cloth.
  4. Using your paintbrush, apply a layer of shellac-based primer to your surface. Let it dry completely. If you prefer, you can add another layer after drying, but one layer of primer will do.
  5. After the primer has dried completely, you can now start painting your IKEA MALM dresser. Depending on the kind of paint that you will use, you may need a few coats of paint to cover the entire dresser completely. Allow your paint to dry and cure.
  6. Once your paint has dried and cured, you may now apply a layer of topcoat to your dresser. Follow the instructions of your topcoat manufacturer for drying and curing times.
  7. When everything is already set and dry, you can now re-assemble your IKEA MALM dresser.

What Paints Can I Use For IKEA Laminate Furniture?

Paint brush, sponge roller, paints, waxes and other painting or decorating supplies on white wooden planks

Most of IKEA’s furniture is made of laminate, similar to the material used by the MALM furniture series. It’s a resilient material that is stain-proof and easy to clean, plus it is scratch-resistant which makes it a perfect choice for many homes.

Fortunately, there are many paints that you can use for your IKEA laminate furniture. The most popular ones include water-based latex paints or matte-finished chalk paints. You can also use oil-based paints or spray paint on your IKEA laminate furniture.

However, one caveat about painting IKEA laminate furniture is that it should be properly primed before repainting. One of the best primers you can use for your furniture is a shellac-based primer because it works with most paints and it adheres well to a laminate surface.

If you’re in a rush, you can even repaint your furniture without sanding and simply use the primer. It is certainly doable, but it may not yield the best results.

Get this shellac-based primer on Amazon.

After painting your IKEA MALM dresser, it is also important to protect it to keep your newly repainted surface looking brand new longer. While adding a topcoat is unnecessary, it does add a layer of protection to your paint and it prevents scratches and stains from ruining your dresser.

Most paints do well with a coat of polycrylic topcoat. You can use it for water-based or oil-based paints and it doesn’t yellow as time goes on. For chalk paints, apply a layer of wax sealant to prevent the paint from chipping and scratching.

Get this polycrylic topcoat on Amazon.

If you’d like to know more about the best paints you can use for your IKEA laminate dresser, we have the article “What’s The Best Paint For IKEA Furniture” which discusses the topic further.

IKEA MALM Dresser Makeovers

The IKEA MALM dresser already looks great on its own, but some homeowners may find that its design doesn’t completely mesh well with their home’s interiors. Repainting may be one option to customize your IKEA MALM dresser, but there are other ways to dress up this modern piece.

Adding hardware and legs to your IKEA MALM dresser can completely change its look. Here are a few suggestions you can try:

1. Adding Brass Hardware

Side View Wooden Fore Doors Bedroom Chest of Drawer Table from Natural White Cedar Solid Brass Hardware.

One way to update the look of your IKEA MALM dresser is to add brass hardware to its design. Simply drill holes on the drawers of your dresser and install the brass pulls for an upgraded, classy modern look.

Get these brass pulls on Amazon.

2. Make It Linear

Side View Wooden Fore Doors Bedroom Chest of Drawer Table from Solid American Oak & Solid Brass Hardware.

Repainting isn’t the only way you can update the look of your dresser. You can add a few design elements to make it look unique, as is the case of this IKEA MALM dresser. Simply glue on a few 5/8-inch square wooden dowels to your dresser to add a different design element before repainting it for a new look.

Check out these wooden dowels on Amazon.

3. Upcycle Your Scraps

handmade workshop for the repair and renovation of antique wooden furniture, painting drawers or tables.

Aside from repainting your dresser, you can also upcycle some of your scrap materials to renew the look of your current furniture. Make use of a few construction extras like scrap wood to add a different texture to your dresser.

To make it modern, you can also add a faux metal inlay using gold adhesive foil and a Cricut cutter for that chic, classic look.

Get this gold adhesive foil on Amazon.

4. Give It Some Legs

White wooden dresser with three vases and flowers on white wall background.

Add a little bit of height to your IKEA MALM dresser by giving it some legs. Install furniture legs of your choice to your dresser to give it a different look, and also to help it tie together with the other furniture you have in your space. For a modern twist, try these hairpin legs on your furniture pieces.

Check out these hairpin legs on Amazon.

5. Stick It On

shelf for books dresser cabinet furniture luxury antique castle wood

If repainting is a little too time consuming, but you’d still like to change the look of your IKEA MALM dresser, then this might be the solution for you: decals. Sticking on decals on your dresser is a quick way to change its look and it gives you the option to do so multiple times. 

Get this floral decal on Amazon.

6. Industrialize It

Dark green apartment interior with scandinavian style wooden furniture and designer black and gold decorations

A popular style nowadays for furniture is the industrial look. It suits most modern homes and it can be recreated using simple industrial pieces that you can add to your furniture. You can do this to your IKEA MALM dresser by adding a few floor flanges and steel pipes to add another layer on top of the dresser.

Get these floor flanges on Amazon.

Check out these cast iron pipes on Amazon.

There are many different ways how you can upcycle or hack your IKEA MALM dresser. The possibilities are endless and you can mix and match styles with your room’s current design. Whether it’s repainting, adding extra hardware or legs, or even just sticking on some decals, you can surely change up the look of your dresser.

Final Thoughts

The IKEA MALM dresser is a classic furniture piece that showcases a simple, streamlined look for the home. It’s a great piece of furniture that can easily be customized by re-painting and can be made better with the addition of other design elements and accessories. If you are looking to create a brand new look for your dresser, repainting them is one of the best options you can do.

Are you looking for other ways to customize your IKEA furniture? Look no further because we have a few articles that may help you:

How To Paint An Ikea Billy Bookcase

How To Spray Paint Ikea Furniture