This highly anticipated step-by-step tutorial walks you through how you can turn your old furniture–in this case, IKEA Hemnes dressers–into a high end-looking, designer-inspired piece for very little money.

IKEA Hemnes Dressers Never Looked So Good

You guys have been asking and it’s finally here! A step-by-step tutorial on how to turn your old furniture into a high-end, designer-looking piece for very little money. If you have been following along my Better Homes & Gardens One Room Challenge (ORC), you saw on my mood board that I wanted to incorporate cane webbing into the room. While cane is super trendy right now, it’s also a classic midcentury modern element. You may have figured out by now that I LOVE mixing styles. The pattern I chose for my board and batten feature wall was very traditional with an angular/geometric feel. That same shape was in the furniture I had–IKEA Hemnes dressers, and even the bed we chose. I wanted to add the cane with a circular pattern to help break up and soften all of the right angles in the room and coordinate with the round shapes from the beaded chandelier and the pattern on my bedside lamps.

If you saw my ORC master bedroom mood board, you saw that I had two options for dressers–one in a white washed oak, and one in a matte black, but both with cane-covered fronts. Now, we actually really like the function and shape of our IKEA Hemnes dressers. They fit perfectly in our master, which is a longer and thinner room, they were in perfect shape, and I hated the idea of buying something so much more expensive in this stage of our family’s life (hello sticky fingered part-billy goat boys who we still need to get through school/college). My hubs asked if we could just keep them and leave them how they were. Bless him. He knew they did not fit in where this room was going and I would have none of that.

My solution, as you know, was a DIY that I dreamt up one night while sitting in my new reading corner, just staring at the dressers, trying to imagine a different piece in this space and, honestly, pining for the mood board dressers. I have a plan for hacking my IKEA TV console cabinets in the living room that involves using a different pattern of cane webbing and it dawned on me that I could do the same thing to our dressers. So, without further adieu, here’s the tutorial!

how I turned old IKEA Hemnes dressers into a high end piece
My IKEA Hemnes Dressers have never looked SO good!


Pictures of materials I used to makeover my IKEA Hemnes dressers
  1. Whatever furniture piece you’d like to hack–for this, I’m assuming it’s IKEA Hemnes (fine/flat paint)
  2. Sandpaper–Medium for before you paint and fine for in between coats (see below)
  3. Microfiber rag(s) for wiping down after sanding
  4. Rustoleum Primer, grey
  5. Rustoleum Satin Protective Enamel spray paint, black
  6. Cane Webbing–I used a 1/2″ open mesh cane (see below)
  7. Scissors
  8. Liquid nails
  9. Clamps
  10. Tape Measure
  11. Wood trim–I used 1/4″ x 1 1/4″ inch primed lattice trim
  12. Drawer Pulls
  13. A drill with drill bits and screw driver the size of your drawer pulls
A few notes about the materials:

For this project, I knew I had to go with a black because it was unlikely for me to be able to sand down the brown Hemnes dressers to wood and be able to stain them to a white-washed oak color. I mean, there’s a lot you can DIY, but I’m no miracle workers. I tried a black Krylon paint that I could roll on inside–BIG waste of time. After 2 coats, we still couldn’t tell a huge difference. The color was just NOT good. So, outside the dressers went to be painted with my go-to spray paint.

First, sanding. Assuming your dressers are not already painted or have a super thin, flat paint on them like IKEA furniture, you will be fine with using a medium grit and just giving them a good rub. You’re just creating extra surface area for the paint to adhere to, you do NOT need to sand off the thin layer of paint all the way. If, however, your furniture is all wood and has thicker paint or a polyurethane coat, you’re likely going to want to sand it down to the wood.

I use microfiber rags after dusting, but you can use anything that will not leave fibers behind.

Regular scissors will work on cane webbing.

As for the cane webbing, I first attempted to order cane through the Online Fabric Store. After several months of no product and updates, I canceled that order and found a new source I HIGHLY recommend. Frank’s Cane and Rush Supply is phenomenal, though they work a little differently than traditional point and click online stores. If you’re not totally sure which type you’d like, I recommend calling first. They’ll tell you each type that will work well for your project. Then, you place the order online and put in the notes a little bit about your project. They will then call you, usually within 24 hours, to talk to you about your project, make sure you have what/everything you need and that you know what you need to do. They want you to be successful and you can call as often as needed for help. When I called the first time, they recommended several and I picked the W901, a bleached 1/2 inch open mesh. I measured my widest drawer front and figured out that the 24 inch width would be perfect. Then I added up the lengths, added a bit just to cover mistakes, and placed the order. It was super easy and I had my package within 3-4 days.

I had a difficult time finding the drawer pulls because I was trying to find pulls that fit the varying widths of the pre-drilled holes on the IKEA dressers. Ultimately, I realized that I was covering the drawer fronts, so I decided to buy handles that were slightly longer and just drill new holes.

2. Prep your furniture surface: remove hardware, clean, sand, clean again

You want to make sure you clean the piece–a damp cloth was enough for mine, but you may need to upgrade to a commercial cleaner if your piece is dirty. Then sand down the piece and wipe it down to get all of the dust off.

3. Apply primer and 2-3 coats of paint

You’ll want to make sure that you allow plenty of time between coats for it to dry. If you’re working outside, keep in mind whether there’s humidity. That seemed to slow down my dry time. If you see cracking or bubbling, you’re painting too soon. Leave it all dry, sand down those spots, and paint again.

Slow and steady makes for the best finish, so make sure to make light, long, parallel strokes as you move the paint around your pieces. It is ALWAYS better to do it in more coats than try to apply it thick and then have to go back to fix mistakes when you have pooling or running.

4. Drill the new holes for the handles, if needed.

It is helpful to do this before you apply the cane. We used the handles themselves, put long nails in the parts where the screw should go in so that a decent amount of the nail stuck out, placed the handle on the back of the drawer front, lined it up so it was level and center, and then pressed the nails into the wood. This mark told us exactly where to drill.

drill new holes for dresser handles before applying cane fronts

5. Cut the cane webbing

There’s two ways to go about this. I had originally planned on wrapping the entire drawer front and gluing the cane down on the back of each drawer front. However, once I saw how thick the cane was, it was clear that the gap between the dresser and each drawer was not going to be enough for every drawer. IF you want to wrap them, they’ll advise you at Frank’s, but the general process for my project was going to be to soak the cane webbing in water for about an hour, then wrap the fronts and glue them down. Then, once it dries the cane will pull tight across the drawer front.

Instead, I traced each drawer and cut them out. I made sure that I cut the cane a little shorter on all sides so it would not hang over each side of the drawer. The cane will have some spring to it as it comes rolled and is fairly rigid. I used books to lay the cane on top of the drawer fronts while I cut the rest.

Now, we were making it up as we went along since we were planning on wrapping the drawers up until we received the cane. So we actually glued cane first and secured it with books on top of wax paper. If you do not want to add trim to the front or you want to glue the cane first then add trim later, you could use a clear glue and/or apply wax paper held down with books or maybe clamps. The wax paper should pull off easily once the glue is dry.

Keep in mind, as you see in the third picture, cane will stretch out when wet, even when wet with paint. Don’t panic–if it was tight before it got wet in any way, it will shrink back down tight.

6. Cut your trim pieces

Since I decided that I wasn’t wrapping the cane, we decided to frame out the front of each drawer front with trim. For each drawer, after cutting the cane, we cut the trim pieces so that once we glued everything down all at once. Tip here: measure the length for every vertical piece, even if the drawer front is the same size. Your numbers will inevitably be different, depending on on how/where you glued the horizontal pieces.

7. Glue the cane and trim, secure with a clamp

I used liquid nail with a caulk gun, placed a small line of glue at the top of the drawer front where the cane lines up. When adding the trim, I put glue on the top and bottom of the corresponding trim piece. I lined up the cane and placed the trim piece and pressed the trim piece down all the way across. You’ll need a wet rag to help clear off the excess that squeezes out. We had some glue spill over, which I ended up just using my finger to move it it into the crack so it looked smooth (much like how you would if you caulked). Then we used 2-3 clamps, depending on the size of the drawer and repeated the process on the remaining sides. Now, we actually had placed the tops and bottoms of all drawers and decided we liked them without the side/vertical pieces. Eventually we may place the vertical pieces, but for now, we’re happy with it. The glue dried to the touch within an hour, but we let them sit for about 24 hours.

8. Paint the drawer fronts.

I tried brushing the fronts of the drawers because I thought it would be difficult for the spray paint to get in all nooks and crevices of the cane. Ultimately, I ended up spraying the drawer fronts again with the cane and trim pieces. It only took one coat, which was awesome. Make sure you look at the drawer front from all sides so you can see any spots that need to be touched up.

TIP:: Make sure you have the same sheen on every can of spray paint you get. Unfortunately, when I went to get more paint, I picked up gloss instead of satin. The fronts are shinier than I would have wanted, but they still look great. It’s just a little tougher to get a photo of them without picking up the light.

9. Add your new drawer pulls!

Like I said before I had a difficult time finding pulls that came in sizes that matched the pre-drilled hole lengths on both of the different sizes of dressers. But, since the cane on the front blocks the old holes from view, we were able to add slightly longer drawer pulls after drilling new holes. I love the look of the longer pulls too. This was the most expensive component of the whole process, so keep in mind you do could just use knobs and skip that whole extra step.

DIY transformation or hack of IKEA Hemnes dresser chest
Major Transformation in my IKEA Hemnes Dressers

And that’s it! While there are several steps, overall, it’s really not a difficult DIY. I cannot even believe the difference it makes in my space and how different the dressers look in general. What do you think of them? Do you have any furniture you’d like to hack using cane? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

If you have any questions about this or any other project, feel free to contact me here, or leave a comment below! Follow me over on Instagram and Pinterest to see everything I’m up to.

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  1. Stephanie says:

    What size drawer pulls did you use and where did you get them? Thanks!

  2. Love your design! I’m planning a make-over for our bedroom too. I love the dresser with cane, and your feature wall. I toying with that idea as well ( we have paneling – ugh- so I need a plain ish wallpaper then the wood trim ) also I need to cover the ceiling 12” square crooked tiles someone put up before us). You did a great job, I wish our room was larger, 12 1/2 x 10 1/2… oh well work with what you have. Great pictures and blog!!

    1. Awesome! Yes, we have to work with what we’ve got, right? We had textured walls on probably 50% of the walls in this house and we’ve had to figure out what we can change and what we have to work with.