Turn an IKEA Tarva dresser into a nightstand

July 30, 2021

How to turn the small Tarva dresser from IKEA into a beautiful bedroom nightstand!

I searched for the perfect nightstands for our room for years! I could never find exactly what I wanted. 

They had to be tall enough and have plenty of storage. (We keep a lot of books in our nightstands.) OH and the biggie -- they couldn't cost hundreds of dollars each. 

I finally ended up with the Tarva dresser from IKEA after seeing all the ways you can hack the Tarva dresser to get the look you want.    

This Tarva line comes in a variety of sizes, from three to six drawers. They all come unfinished, so you can customize them exactly how you want for your space. 

The drawers are nice and roomy and you can cut down the legs to adjust the height of the dressers. The best part -- they're only $100 each! 

This is how our Tarva nightstands started out:
unfinished Tarva dresser
When I put them together years ago I cut down the legs with my saw. It made them the perfect height for by the bed. (You can do it by hand or cut the wood legs to the same length before assembly.)

I went back and forth on a look for these forEVER. 

Here's a reminder of how they looked in our old master: 
Ikea Tarva transformation
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I replaced the wood knobs with random IKEA ones we already had -- not sure why cause it didn't do a whole lot to help it out. ;) 

I always knew I'd use stain somehow and add some trim. The exact details I wasn't sure of. But when we moved into this house it all fell into place. I wanted to use a deep blue color and a dark stain. I went back and forth on whether I should stain the front of the drawers or stain the trim and top. 

I decided on the latter mostly because the pine these are made of isn't necessarily the best. There are lots of knots I didn't want to accentuate. 

I started painting with no primer -- I'm a rebel! I knew I was going to have to do multiple coats no matter what. 

After the first coat it's important to do a light sanding to knock down the texture that pops up with paint:
How to paint pine furniture

You'll have to do that with primer as well. No need to go crazy with it -- just a light going over is fine. Wipe it down with a rag or tack cloth before moving on to your next coat! (This pretty blue is called Gale Force.)

What a difference another coat makes! The grain becomes less and less noticeable. 

See the difference between the top drawer and the bottom two?: 
Gale Force Sherwin Williams

I started on the stain to wood top of the dresser while I waited on the paint to dry. 

I went for an old favorite, Jacobean by Minwax:
Jacobean stain Minwax

It's just a yummy color! I used it on our hardwoods in the old house and it's a beautiful dark brown without any red tones. 

I use gloves and a rag to stain. Makes it super easy to apply and I find it quicker than using a brush:  
The best way to stain wood

It really gets the stain into the wood too -- you're really rubbing it in. 

I only do one coat of stain but if you want to deepen the color you can do one or two more. Do be sure to wait till it's dry in between coats or you'll have a gummy mess. 

Make sure your stain is dry before starting the protective coat as well. I used this fast-drying semi-gloss polyurethane because I have absolutely zero patience. 😂 

Never shake your poly -- it will create bubbles and bubbles are the enemy of a beautiful, smooth finish. 

Always stir:
How to apply polyurethane

Staining is my favorite because it's immediate gratification, but poly is a close second because it really brings out the beauty of the wood:
How to apply poly to wood

I always use foam brushes to apply poly -- they allow for a super smooth finish with bubbles. 

Even though these dressers are made with inexpensive pine, which can be finicky with stain, it turned out beautifully! 

You want to smooth out the poly coats as much as possible. It's helpful to use your light source and look at the item from the side to see what needs touching up. I find a few lighter coats work much better than one heavy-handed coat. 

It already looked SO good! But I knew the final addition would make it even better. I used this inexpensive lattice wood trim I've shown you a million times to trim out each drawer front. 

I stained the pieces first and then cut them down to the correct size:
Tarva dresser hack with trim

A nail gun makes for quick work (use short nails to make sure they won't go through the back!) but you could absolutely use glue too!

You're going to have a bit of a rough edge along the side if you trim them out like I did. I could have mitered the edges (cut them at an angle) but I was still using my handheld saw and miter box since my saw was "lost" in our move. 

I wanted to have my rough edges facing to the side of the drawers instead of the top, so I did a long piece along the top and bottom and then the side trim. 

A bit of stain covered the raw edges right up!:
Jacobean stain on trim

When the stain was dry, it was time to poly these as well. 

See how using the light helps to see what you've covered?:
Applying wood trim to furniture

I'm absolutely THRILLED with how this came together! Gah! I love it!

The top of the dressers stained up much prettier than I thought it would!:
Jacobean stain on pine

I'm impressed because we've been using these for years without any protection. I tried to stay on top of any spills and avoided leaving drinks on them, but still, I was surprised. 

I used pine trim to match the top. Different woods will stain up differently and even the same may have small differences. 

Pine is definitely a more rustic look, so plan accordingly: 
Awesome Tarva transformation

I got the gold knobs half off weeks ago and just LOVE them against the dark blue! 

My whole plan for this space is a rustic elegance design and the nightstands fit that perfectly:
Gale Force color with wood trim

The blue looks navy sometimes, sometimes a blue green. I like them both. :) 

I don't know if it's just because I've been looking at the pine dressers for so long or what, but I'm smitten. They're just so pretty and...finished. ;) 
Tarva hack with paint and wood trim

Sometimes it's a good thing that I procrastinate. I didn't have a great vision of what I wanted until we moved into this house.

I had the lamps -- I thought I had returned them and went to the basement looking for something else and there they were! I must have known they'd work perfectly!:
Tarva DIY hack with stain and paint

Of course, like usual, one finished project starts a series of changes. I plan to change out the bedskirt eventually. It looked great with our old wall color but I don't like it in here with the drapes and dresser color: 
blue and wood dresser as nightstand

But that I can deal with! 

That photo above makes the dresser look really navy, but this one is the more true color. I am obsessed with it! It's such a pretty blue: 
gale force blue dresser with wood trim

Because you know I have to do it...here's the before of this dresser:
Ikea Tarva three drawer dresser before
And this is the after, with some paint, stain and beautiful hardware!:
Tarva dresser with paint and Minwax stain

I've made a TON of changes in our bedroom since finishing these nightstands! You can see all of the updates to our room over the years here. 

Don't the nightstands look great with our gorgeous rug and the hardwoods?: 
dark blue Tarva nightstand hack

beams and dark painted tray ceiling in bedroom

If you have any questions about this project let me know! 

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  1. This turned out beautiful! I've been considering the Tarva dressers as night stands myself, but I'm not quite there yet. Jacobean is my hands down favorite! Your saw didn't get "lost in the move" - somebody needed a new saw;) Such a bummer.

  2. How much where the small dressers? You did an amazing job!!! I have never been to IKEA

  3. How much where the small dressers? You did an amazing job!!! I have never been to IKEA

  4. Can you tell me what paint you used? This is darling!! I've been having nightstand problems. I keep moving different pieces of furniture to try out but either too low or too high or too narrow. You get the picture.

  5. Love this! I can't get over how good your nightstand looks now. The trim made such a difference.

  6. Sarah,

    Have you thought about dyeing the bed skirt? The style of it is great and I think goes great with the style of the room. It is easy to do and if you don't like it or it doesn't come out the way you want then you could simply buy a new one. What about a navy blue color?


  7. Absolutely gorgeous, Sarah! You seriously amaze me, you are an inspiration to DIY women everywhere!! That saw though that got lost? I'd be pissed!!!

  8. I love it!!! Love the trim.. it almost has a hint of gold flecks in the finish!! Looks so cool!!!

  9. Sarah! I love the dresser makeover! Hey, are you going to Haven this year? Ironically, we were just in Charleston over spring break.laura

  10. Beautiful. I'm in the midst of redoing my bedroom (all because I needed a new mattress) and am looking for ideas for the nightstands.

  11. Thank you for this tutorial. I love your blog and your ideas.

  12. Thank you for re-posting this! I was the one searching for this tutorial recently because I remembered how pretty they turned out. Now I know what I'm going to do with mine. :)

  13. Do the drawers pull smoothly? Have stops?

  14. I can’t find the information about the new sconces above the bed…can u help?


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