IKEA IVAR : cabinets makeover

IKEA IVAR : cabinets makeover

Sometimes a simple DIY project can bring a lot of satisfaction, don’t you think?

During the period of lockdown and social distancing I finally found time to give our IKEA IVAR cabinets makeover they’ve been long waiting for. I have to admit that I absolutely love the IKEA range – there is so much room to customise and be creative.

That’s probably the reason why we have IVAR in my studio, hallway and now also in the living room. It takes just a little bit of sanding and two-three coats of paint to give it new, stylish look.

I admit, I can get very picky when it comes to choosing colors and most of the time the available furniture finishings do not match the color I have in mind. This is why painting natural wood cabinets is good alternative as we can get EXACTLY the shade we imagined.

For this project I did not have the possibility to get the new samples, so I ended up using paint ‘leftovers’ I already had at home – the cornforth white color by Farrow and Ball. It turned out exactly as I wanted – soft greige, looking great against the white wall. Once we have a little bit more freedom, I might paint the wall in the same matching color. Or repaint it all (Just kidding. Maybe not.) Time will tell!

A quick tutorial:

First off we need to assemble the IKEA IVAR cabinet. As I’m sure you know it isn’t a hard job and can be even easier with an electric screwdriver. What I always do is – I put up the main structure but leave the cabinet doors and shelves apart. Then I prep each element by gentle sanding (just with a sandpaper and my hands) and make sure there is no dust afterwards. Once they are clean and smooth, I paint each element twice with a paint roller. To achieve deep dark color you might want to consider one extra coat but for any light shades, two should be enough.

Wait for it to dry, assemble the doors, place the shelves and your new, awesome piece of furniture is ready! Not so hard, right?

The best part is, it looks well done. The wood absorbs the paint so the risk of stains or air bubbles is really low. I have to say, I was worried about the final effect before my first IKEA IVAR project but it turns out that special skills are not needed. I’ve painted quite a few of them and each time I’m happy with the result. Whenever we have guests over and they ask about the cabinets they have hard time believing I did it myself. I guess this is the best complement I can get!

Have you ever given a makeover to any of your furniture?

Project and photos : Agata Dimmich / PASSIONSHAKE



Do you prime them before painting?


    A bit of sanding is always a good idea!

Nienke Roubos

Hi! What kind of paint did you use of Farroe and Ball? Best, Nienke


    I used the one for wooden furniture – cornforth white color.


Hi! I’m trying to do this :) Do you remember how much paint you used? not sure If I should buy 4L or a couple of samples… thank you!


    Hi ;) I’m afraid I don’t but I think samples might not be enough… I always get bugger buckets and keep them for future projects :))



I love how your IVAR turned out. Could you please let me know what sheen you used for the paint? Is it Eggshell?



    Hi Natasha! Yes exactly! Hope it helps :)


It looks great! I’m inspired to do something similar. I see the Ivar cabinet, but what’s the bookshelf next to it? They look so good together.


    Thank you so much! The bookshelf is Ivar without the doors :)) I’m still deciding whether I should add them or not, what do you think? :)


      I think it looks great like you have it!


      Thank you Linnea!


I love how it turned out, I will definitely try this too! Do you still see the structure of the wood or is it even? And where do bought the lovely vase in the last picture?


    Thanks Freddi! :) If you look very closely you can see the structure however the appearance is definately ‘even’.

    There are actually 4 vases in the last picture! :) Which one do you mean?
    Top, straight, white – casa shops
    Round vase – Cooee design
    The beige and white one – Sostrene Grene
    Bottom, glass – casa shops
    Hope it helps!


      Oh thank you for your fast reply, I was talking about the last one, (glass from casa). It looks like we don’t have stores from them in Germany.

      But Ikea we have, so I will definitely try the makeover :)


Yuuu what a beautiful result !
I think that if you keep one IVAN open as long as it looks neat and nothing messy on the shelves :) it’s more interesting combination : one closed with doors and one open.

Did you go for the 30 cm deep and not the 50 cm right ? I’m thinking to take two in 50cm and right next to them add two or three in 30 cm, if that is not a disturbing contrast of size change to the eye , if you know what I mean :)

I have not much experience with IKEA products and I have noticed that quite few of the people who show their Ivan (even without a make over) it looks like the doors have a gap when they are closed , is it because they didn’t assemble it correctly or it does have a small gap between the doors when closed ?
Also if you have several IVANs next to each other do they look like one harmonic unit ?

Thank you for your opinion . Looking forward to see more ideas from you ;)


    Hi Yosi,

    Thanks so much! Happy to hear you like it. I agree – I think a mix might create interesting look (as long as the open shelves remain neat what sometimes might be harder than it sounds! ;))

    I did go for 30cm depth one, however I’m going to replace them with 50cm in the next few weeks. I’m trying to maximise storage space but also believe that the bigger ones will look better in our living room. The plan is to have entire wall filled with 50cm IVARs (one will be open) in the same color as the wall behind them to create the harmonic look.

    About the gap – they do have a tiny gap between the doors when they are closed but I got used to it and don’t ‘see it’ any more. We have to remember that this is a DIY, budget furniture, although nobody seems to believe it when they see it for the first time. They always look surprised when I say I made them :))

    I would love to see your IVARs if you get them, good luck Yosi!


Vi Tran

Hello, I hope you see my comment. I love your Ivar set up so much I want to get one. Does the door open and close easily being on the floor instead of mounted/add legs? Thank youuuuu


    Hi Vi!
    Thanks for your kind words :) Yes, the doors open easily (you have a chance to regulate the height of the doors when assembling them to make sure they are opening without any problem)
    Hope this helps :)

      Vi Tran

      Yes, it does, thank you so much <3<3<3 I've been wanting to get a few Ivar cabinets for my dining room area for a while but I couldn't really find any post that has them on the floor and I don't think I can mount them at all. So glad I found your page, will be checking out the rest of it :) take care!


So you assembled before painting? Wouldn’t it make more sense to paint before assembling?


    Either way, whatever you prefer :) I like to paint assembled pieces


      Hi Andrew, I’m currently in the process of painting an IVAR un-assembled and it takes up quite some space in the living room as you get quite some parts, so if that’s not an issue this is probably the easiest method to get every nook and cranny painted well


How much paint do you need for 1 cabinet? I am paining 3 of the larger cabinets.


    Hi there, I am afraid I don’t remember how much paint exactly I used. You will need to paint them 2-3 times depending on the color :)


Hi, love the result! Do you hide or cover the screws and holes in any way? And have you tried painting an Ikea Billy? Would it be the same procedure? Thanks!


    Hi Jess, I havent’t painted the screws or covered the holes in the Ivars but surely it would look better :) I don’t think the process will be the same for Billy, as Billy isn’t raw wood as Ivar. Good luck with your project!


Hi! beutiful! I wonder which one it is with open shelfes? Ivar as well? can´t find it though. regards Sofia


    Hi Sofia, yes, it’s also Ivar without but we have left it without the doors.

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