How to transform an IKEA TARVA dresser into a Drop Leaf Desk.
I took part in a furniture makeover contest hosted by BHG called Makeover Madness. It started with 16 bloggers making over a piece of furniture every week.
Each week the projects were voted on and the ones with the most votes went into the next round. I made it through all the rounds and into the finals with 3 other bloggers where we each had to makeover an IKEA TARVA dresser. I won the contest by transforming the dresser into a desk.
The Final Four Bloggers IKEA TARVA dresser makeovers.
I want to show you how I transformed the IKEA Tarva dresser into a rolling desk. There are a lot of steps, some easy, others a bit more complicated. I tried my best to take photos while I was working on it, but we had to be done by the end of the day, so I was pretty focused on getting it done and not getting the best photos of the process.
The idea to make it into a desk came from a desk that was in my college dorm room at The Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. It was a very smart piece of furniture that had 3 functions. Built-in shelves above the desk drawer, and drawers for clothes under the top drawer that was the drop down desk.
It was the perfect piece of furniture for a dorm. I went to school there back in the early 80’s. I wonder if they still are in the rooms? I am sure they have been updated a few times since then :) I liked the drop down secretary style desk because you could simply close it to hide the contents and keep things looking neat and orderly. When trying to come up with an idea for the Final Four challenge, it popped into my head and I decided to just go with it.
How to Transform an IKEA TARVA Dresser into a Desk
IKEA Tarva Dresser
1 set of desk lid supports Van Dykes Restorers Leaf Support Hinge (photo above)
3 – 4″ rubber caster swivel wheels
1 – 4″ rubber caster swivel wheel with brake
16 screws and washers to attach wheels
12 label pulls with screws – VanDykes Restorers. Search for discount codes before buying to save $$$
Black dot oil cloth – Jo Ann Fabrics
Brass nail head tacks – Lowes
White paint – Sherwin Williams Pure White 7005 in semi-gloss
Blue paint – Behr 570B – 4 Bayou in a semi-gloss
Fake file drawer front: 1/4″ birch or Aspen plywood cut into twelve pieces: 6 – 1/2″ x 8 – 3/4″
Tray top: S4S Molding – 1/2″ x 1-5/8″ x 8′
Wheel base: 2 x 2 balusters
Bottom of drawer: 3/4″ plywood cut to approximately: 26″ x 13-1/4″
Thin wood strip to hide bottom of top drawer glides. I cut a sliver from a piece of wood to get the wafter thin piece to fit across the bottom of the top drawer. You could also use iron-on veneer edging to conceal the space under the top drawer. It is sold in the lumber aisle.
Optional: I considered adding bun feet to the desk so it would look like the vintage file cabinet that got me into the Makeover Madness challenge in the first place. I went with the wheels, but if wheels are not your thing – bun feet can be attached to the bottom of the dresser instead. The legs will still need to be cut off and 4 straight-top attaching plates will need to be mounted on the underside of the dresser.
***If making this for a child’s room, you may not want to use wheels. Most IKEA pieces are lightweight and can tip. All their pieces come with wall mounting hardware to keep the furniture secure.
1. Assemble the dresser following the IKEA supplied directions with two exceptions: Don’t assemble the top drawer and move the top drawer glides down 1″ (see step 3).
2. Once assembled, use a saw to cut off the legs flush with the dresser bottom.
3. Move the top drawer glides down 1-inch. Simply measure down from the existing IKEA pre-drilled holes for the top glides. (You may have to tweak this measurement depending on the actual size of the top drawer once you have it assembled)
4. Turn the dresser upside down to make a base to attach the wheels. I made a cross brace for each corner using cut pieces of a 2 x 2 baluster. I made them fit very snug. If you have a Kreg jig for joining wood, use it. If not, pre-drill holes and attach screws to hold the braces in place.
5. Attach wheels with large head screws and washers. Place the locking brake wheel to the side so that it will be easy to reach when you want to move it.
It should look like this once all the wheels are on.
To Assemble Top Drawer:
You do not need the original bottom for the drawer. Replace it with a 3/4″ piece of plywood. You will put the drawer front on the drawer last. Assemble the back, bottom, and two sides of the drawer using nails and/or screws. You want to make sure that the drawer is the same width as the other two drawers when assembled. Ignore the channel for the original drawer bottom.
To attach the front of the drawer – Place assembled drawer on a flat work surface, lay drawer front panel in front of the drawer face down. Center it on the drawer. Place desk hinges in and mark placement of screws and where hinge falls. Put hinge in “L” position and make sure it is flush with the sides of the desk. Since my bottom board was 3/4″ pine, it was soft. I cut out a space with a craft knife along the edge for the hinge to rest in so it would be flush with the top of the board. You could use a hammer and a chisel, but I did not have them. Repeat cut out for hinge on opposite side. Pre-drill holes for screws and then attach hinges.
When the drawer front folds down, it should be flush with the drawer bottom.
Place drawer glides on drawer as shown in the IKEA instructions that come with the dresser. Place the drawer in the dresser, but note the top edge of the drawer front will be too high. You will need to cut this down about an inch, but before you do, look at the bottom of the drawer to make sure you have enough clearance to move the top drawer out. If the second drawer stops it, then you will have to move the drawer glides in the dresser up a little bit. Once the drawer moves in and out freely, measure how much you will need to cut off the top edge of the drawer front. I marked this with a pencil and straight edge, then removed the front and cut it with a saw. Once cut, attach to drawer.
Place four of the 1/4″ birch plywood pieces on each drawer. Evenly space them along the drawer. Use Liquid Nails to attach. Prime and paint them before or after attaching. Let dry.
To create a tray look for the top:
I used a saw and miter box to cut the wood to the size needed. I used Liquid Nails to attach it to the top of the dresser.
If you want to add wood initials, cut the back piece of wood so you have an opening for the letters. I used Liquid Nails to attach them.
I cut oilcloth to fit inside the tray top and for the back of the top drawer front. I used spray glue to attach it.
Attach the label pulls with the screws provided in the kit. To make it easier to line them up,remove the drawers and line them up in order on the floor.
I didn’t have the right size drill bit for a power drill to use, so I used a very handy Yankee Push Drill that I brought with me. It was a lifesaver!
The last thing that needs to be done is to add a very thin strip of wood to the underside of the drawer front. This is needed to hide the drawer glides. I made it by cutting a scrap piece of wood wafer thin. You can also use iron-on wood veneer along the entire bottom edge. I used Liquid Nails to attach and added the tape to hold it in place since time was up and the dresser had to be moved to the photo studio.
I hammered in some gold nail head tacks around the oilcloth on the desk drop down.
A hook on one side holds a clipboard. On the other side is a metal magazine or file holder.