Rattan Rescue: How To Repair IKEA Furniture Fast

This IKEA furniture repair project is all about fixing flat-pack furniture—FAST! As well as being quick, it's affordable, totally mess-free and will extend the life of your IKEA piece while giving it new rattan inspired style and flair. All in less than 15 minutes!

Before and after using Lux Hax overlays to suit IKEA Malm chest

IKEA: The good, the bad and the (sometimes) ugly

Few would argue the fact that IKEA furniture is affordable and convenient. The assemble-it-yourself method keeps prices down and makes flat-pack kits easy to transport in the average family car. 

But a big factor in the affordability of IKEA furniture is what you don’t get: solid wood.

A lot of IKEA furniture is made from engineered wood or particle board. Engineered wood is made from layers of fast-growth, lower-grade woods glued together. Particle board is made by mixing wood particles with glue.

Examples of engineered wood used in IKEA furniture

Cross sections of engineered woods used in IKEA products. Source: Ikeacocreation.com

All this, IKEA claims, adds up to more sustainability and we like the sound of that. Still, the question remains: Can a low-cost, high-volume, mass-consumption business model really be eco friendly?

That’s why we’re passionate about turning flat-pack furniture into forever furniture.

Some IKEA items (such as Kallax) use a honeycomb construction method. All that air inside your Kallax unit is what makes it cheap and (hallelujah) light to lug when you move house for the billionth time. 

However, one of the downsides of this type of construction is that adding legs, handles or hooks is difficult. A thin layer of plastic laminate is bonded to the outer board while the insides are predominantly, well, air. Another is that all that internal space makes repairing IKEA furniture rather challenging.

When solid wood furniture suffers a scratch or dent it can be filled, sanded and refinished. In some cases, a few marks may even add character. (Shabby chic, anyone?) Not so with a beaten up Besta or mauled Malm scratches and peeling laminate look plain shabby.

This is the sad reason so much fast furniture ends up in landfill. The pieces may be perfectly functional, but never make old age thanks to cosmetic dings and dents. All of which begs the question:

What can we do to extend the life and looks of flat-pack furniture?

Your flat-pack repair options

Firstly, it’s not widely known that IKEA furniture can be repainted. But... Before you grab a pot of your favourite colour, it’s important to understand that painting IKEA furniture is a multi-step processespecially if a professional result is important to you. Do it right and you may get years' more use from your furniture. Do it wrong and you'll have a décor disaster on your hands. 

Epic paint fail. Ikea Hemnes chest without proper preparation. The new paint is peeling off in chunks.

Someone painted this Ikea Hemnes chest without proper preparation. You can see that the new paint is peeling off in chunks.

Painting requires both tools and an area where you can get messy. There will be dust, multiple coats of wet paint and primers, messy brushes and pots to clean up. If that sounds like your cup of tea, follow the link below. But for those who prefer a faster, less messy solution, read on!

Further reading: How to paint IKEA furniture

No tools, no mess, no time

What if you don’t have the space, tools, energy or time for painting? Is there a tool-less, time-saving alternative for DIY-ers who want results by, say, yesterday? We’re glad you asked!

This alternative to painting is not only fast, it's affordable. It covers dings and scratches in a flash and is finished off with Lux Hax overlays to achieve a professional result. The only tools you need are a pen (optional) and scissors!

The key to speed here is adhesive vinyl. You may know it as ‘contact’ paper. And you may be rightly concerned that contact paper can look, well, a bit tacky.

We've seen vinyl disasters before—bubbling, visible edges, misaligning patterns, peeling, that plasticky finish, and so on. We are not going there. This project uses adhesive vinyl with intentional constraint to achieve a stylish finish. 

Recipe for a ‘rattan’ rescue

We found this past-its-prime IIKEA Malm bedside chest on Facebook Marketplace for $20 AUD. (At the time of writing, that’s about $15 USD,  £11 GBP,  $19 CAD or €13 EUR.)

This IKEA Malm chest is definitely past its prime

IKEA Kallax project: Step 1

Clean and dry the surface

So boring but so necessary—use a clean damp cloth to wipe then dry any surfaces that are going to be covered by the sticky vinyl. This will remove any dirt or grit that may create bumps in your adhesive or prevent it from sticking properly. If your furniture has handles, remove them at this time. 

If there are deep chunks missing from your furniture, this would be the time to fill those with a “bog” filler, then sand back to smooth. In this case, the chipping is superficial.

IKEA Kallax sideboard project: Step 2

Choose your print

We decided to create a rattan look because a) we love rattan and b) so does everyone else. It's everywhere you look on Instagram, in interior design and decoration magazines, and furniture stores at every price point. 

Rattan furniture is on-trend

This rattan chest looks as at home with a dramatic black border as it does nestled in neutral colours and natural fibres. Source: @lifeinteriors

It’s clear that rattan can look great in a variety of interior design styles and brings texture and warmth to a room. However... Real rattan can be hard to source and difficult to work with, plus it can cost a pretty penny! This is where our vinyl adhesive really comes into its own.

Here in Australia, we found a variety of prints at Kmart, including a convincing rattan print, for just a few dollars a roll! Similar products can be purchased at hardware stores, crafting and homewares outlets, and of course Amazon. For even more designs and textures, you could widen your scope to peel-and-stick wallpaper.

Adhesive vinyl rolls from Kmart makes this IKEA hack a breeze

We found rattan-look adhesive vinyl from Kmart Australia for just $3 a roll. You could also use peel-and-stick or textured wallpaper.

IKEA Kallax sideboard project: Step 3

Mark and cut the vinyl to size

If you were using vinyl adhesive all on its own, this is where your measuring and cutting would need to be precise. But because you’re going to cover the edges with a Lux Hax Styl-Panel, you can be quick and lazy. (You're welcome.) 

Mark and cut your adhesive vinyl to size

We used the Styl-Panel as a template. Use a pen to mark the adhesive and then cut it out. You only need enough vinyl to cover the opening in the overlay, not the entire drawer front.

IKEA Kallax console project: Step 4

Apply the vinyl

Start at one edge and stick the first part of the adhesive sheet to the drawer. Next, slowly pull the backing away from the adhesive trying to keep the backing and adhesive close to the surface of the drawer. This will make it easier to smooth down the adhesive.

If needed, you can use the hard edge of something like a credit card to smooth bubbles out to the side once the whole piece has been applied. The design you choose can also help to disguise imperfections that might appear due to damage or chipping to the furniture underneath.

 Step 5

Apply your Lux Hax Styl-Panels

We are using Lux Hax Styl-Panel 1133 To Suit Ikea 2-Drawer Malm Chest for this project. These are rigid 3mm overlay panels made in Australia from hard, durable foamed PVC. When used alone, Style-Panel 1133 creates a Shaker look. Coupled with this contact vinyl, however, it mimics the on-trend look of rattan furniture. 

Shop now for Styl-Panel 1133 overlays to suit IKEA Malm chest


For a professional finish, the overlay perfectly matches the size of the drawers, which means it covers the edges of the contact.

Applying your Styl-Panels is as simple as stick and press:

Press your Lux Hax overlay into place

Our Styl-Panels are perfectly sized for perfect results. No-mess adhesive is supplied with your overlays or your could use a construction glue, if you prefer.

Done! You have beautified your home and created something new and unique from a piece of furniture that was previously heading for landfill. Not bad for 15 minutes of work! 

Finished! Overlay 1133 to suit Ikea furniture hacks

Which IKEA furniture do you have?

We make Style-Panel 1133 to suit:

Watch the video (39 seconds):

Watch the video: How to repair IKEA furniture fast