Rast Dresser gets a makeover and it’s so good

IKEA RAST dresser makeover to flat file cabinet

For the last few months I’ve become a big fan of furniture makeover videos on YouTube and felt really inspired to craft something on my own.

As I was both looking for a new weekend hobby and a Christmas present for my younger sister, I decided to makeover a used IKEA RAST dresser which I found for a low price on the German equivalent of Craigslist. 

My main design influence were architectural filing cabinets and I tried to imitate the look of them without having access to a lot of power tools. I took my biggest inspiration from this video.

What do I like most?

My favorite part of the hack are the false drawer faces with the illusion of looking at six drawers instead of three. I loved the surprised look on the faces of my friends when they opened a drawer for the first time and saw the beautiful drawer bottoms which I masked with non-woven wallpaper.

IKEA RAST dresser makeover to look like an architectural filing cabinet, stained with cup pulls

In total, the build took me two weekends and can be recommended to beginners. The hardest part was routing the slots in the front of the drawers. If you do not have access to a router, you can also glue pieces of plywood on the drawer faces to achieve the same look. For inspiration, see this IKEA RAST hack.

Apart from routing, the hack only involves sanding and wood finishing. It is possible to sand everything by hand, but I would advise to buy or rent a random orbital sander.

If you want to replicate the hack with a used drawer cabinet, please make sure that it is not already finished with wood oil. Wood oil can be hard to remove and might hinder a satisfactory application of wood stain and lacquer. 

The hack can easily be adapted to fit your preferences. I’m thinking of further improving it by adding a base plate at the bottom and top as well as adding some brass-colored furniture legs.  

IKEA items used: 

IKEA RAST chest of drawers

Other materials and tools: 

Router with 6mm (¼ inch) straight router bit 
Wood filler 
Random orbital sander (100, 150, 180 grid paper) 
Sanding paper (150 grid) 
Wood stain (water-based walnut stain
Glossy brushing lacquer (or alternative wood finish) 
12 drawer handles and 6 label frames 
One sheet of cardboard 
Non-woven wallpaper and wallpaper adhesive (alternatively self-adhesive film or similar) 

IKEA RAST dresser makeover – instructions: 

Routing the drawer fronts

I started by disassembling the cabinet and routing the slots in the drawer fronts with a 6mm router bit (¼ inch). The depth of the slots is roughly half the thickness of the drawer fronts.

Always wear hearing protection as well as safety glasses when using a router. Don’t worry if your slots are not 100% perfect, as little mistakes only add to the charm of self-made projects. 

depth of router cut on RAST drawer front
router slot

Afterwards, I filled the holes of the former drawer handles with wood filler.

All pieces (apart from the drawer bottoms and the back plate) were sanded using my random orbital sander. The former owner of the cabinet had used clear lacquer as a finish which I had to sand off completely with a coarser grid sandpaper. The drawer slots were sanded by hand to remove the sharp edges.

Staining the RAST dresser

For the wood color, my decision fell on a water-based walnut stain. I love the rich reddish-brown look and didn’t use oil-based stain as it was not available in my local hardware store. Experiment with the colors and apply the stain you prefer.

IKEA RAST dresser makeover - staining process
staining in progress

During test assemblies, I also quite liked the look of the dark cabinet with natural colored drawer fronts. I tried to make the routed slots a little bit darker than the drawer faces to further improve the illusion of six drawers. 

Applying wood stain is an easy and satisfying task. Apply more coats of stain and let it rest longer before wiping it off if you wish for a darker color. Keep in mind that the lacquer finish will additionally improve the look of your workpiece. So don’t feel discouraged if the dried stain looks a little bit odd or dried out. Some color variations might also make your cabinet look more interesting in the end.

Note that staining pine wood can sometimes result in blotching. You can minimize the risk of blotchy areas by using a pre-conditioner before applying the stain.

As a finish I used glossy brushing lacquer. Raw wood as well as stained wood is not protected against water or scratches so you should always apply a finish. I decided against an oil finish because it doesn’t provide enough protection especially for the top of the cabinet. Additionally, I really like the shiny glow of lacquer.

For health reasons, never apply lacquer in poorly ventilated rooms and wear a respirator.

I applied two coats of lacquer on the visible parts of the cabinet and a single coat for the inside parts.

Installing drawer pulls

I found my drawer handles in a bundle with the label frames on Amazon for 10€ (~11.28 $). For me, brass-colored handles were the most complementing to the stain color. But you can also find a large variety of different colors like bronze online.

To achieve a uniform look for all drawer faces, I made a template out of cardboard in which I drilled small holes at the position of screws. This template was then used to mark the position of screws in the wood for all drawer fronts. 

template for cup drawer pulls
Cardboard template for handles
Lining the drawers

The bottoms of my drawers were covered in soap or shampoo stains and I decided to mask them with non-woven wallpaper. For that reason, I first sanded them lightly with a fine grit sandpaper, glued the wallpaper on top and trimmed off the access when the wallpaper adhesive dried. 

wallpaper chosen
wallpaper lined bottom of drawer
wallpapered drawer bottom

Alternatively, you could use some self-adhesive film (or paint the bottoms) but I was unsatisfied with the choice in my local hardware store. From a price point, the wallpaper was roughly the same price as the self-adhesive film. As it was a 10m roll, I’m currently looking for inspirations for the leftovers.

This was a first-time experiment and I can’t make a statement about the long-time durability, yet. However, for the time being, I’m quite happy with the result.

Another cool idea that came to mind would be to use velvet for the insides of the drawers.

Reassemble the RAST dresser

After the drawer bottoms were finished, it was finally time to assemble the cabinet once again and see everything in its full glory.

IKEA RAST dresser makeover to look like an architectural filing cabinet

I’m really satisfied with the result and think my sister will be, too. I had so much fun during the makeover of the RAST dresser, that I actually bought a second unit that I will transform in a similar fashion for my older sister, soon.  

IKEA RAST dresser makeover to look like an architectural filing cabinet

~ by Maxime

Jules Yap