Decor & Design DIY Projects

IKEA Hacks to Take You from College to the Real World

Everyone loves IKEA—you don't have to be a college student to admit that. But if you are a college student, chances are you have a bit more IKEA stuff than the average person. You probably raised your bed and put as much stuff as possible underneath it—the classic, space-saving dorm room aesthetic. Below the bed you had your college storage essentials: basic IKEA dressers, shelves, and organizers.

But now you're ready for college move-out. You've got big dreams for your new apartment, and IKEA just doesn't fit. Or does it? With a little guidance and some DIY tricks, you can go from dorm room to swanky apartment. Use a few of these life hacks to update your IKEA décor.

IKEA college dorm furniture

Image Via Jessica Slaughter

(From left to right: KULLEN 3-Drawer Chest, RASKOG Utility Cart, KALLAX Shelving Unit)

Dress up your dresser

Finish off the KULLEN 3-Drawer Chest with a coat of paint, a few metal pulls, and four new legs. To double the style, double the dresser. Get the same dresser and add the same finishes, then push the two together and lay a sheet of glass on the top of the combined unit to create a streamlined, elegant surface.

dresser with antique knobs

Image Via My Domaine

For something different, paint a cool graphic design to add interest to this plain dresser. Use painting tape and a measuring tape to achieve a polished, professionally-done look.

Design tip: Paint is great, but the knobs are the most important part of dresser hacks. They can really give it a quality look and feel. Go beyond traditional pulls at hardware stores; you can find unique alternatives at antique stores, yard sales, and second-hand home goods stores.

Make shelves stylish

The KALLAX Shelving Unit is so versatile and offers a perfect storage solution for any space in your apartment. Keep them casual, but upscale, by replacing your bins from college with dark wicker bins. Or, dress the shelves up as a bar by showcasing a few beautiful bottles and glassware.

Elevate any style with painted legs and interesting artwork. Dress the surface with eclectic décor and a focal mirror. Customized glass toppers and decorative mirrors are great life hacks for home, in any room, when you're on a budget.

Find use for your utility cart

The RASKOG Utility Cart is the perfect life hack for students, who need to easily move stuff around small college bedrooms. It will be put to even better use in your post-grad apartment, if you just rethink where to put it.

In a tiny bathroom, use the cart to hold linens and extra toilet paper. Keep the area around your sink clutter-free by using the cart’s top tray for easy, organized access to toiletries and toothbrushes.

The cart’s perforated trays make the perfect spot for potted plants. Keep the cart in your kitchen for a place to grow fresh herbs for cooking—just make sure to place a dish under the plants in the bottom tray to catch all the water that drips through.

organizing with utility carts

Image Via Simple Most

More real-life hacks for your home

ALEX Drawer Unit

Now that you’re in the real world, you (hopefully) have a real job. You can make a drawer unit into a functional desk faster than you can say "payday." Just place a sturdy slab of finished wood on top of the two drawer units and use spray paint to match them to your new décor.

desks with drawers for organizing

Image Via Loft230

LACK Side Table

This table may have lacked personality in college, but now you can put the effort into styling it. Simple touches like studs along the edges, a coat of paint, and a glass cover will glam up the table. Pro tip: Nest another, smaller end table under it for a designer look.

side tables for organizing

Image Via Signed By Tina

LACK Wall Shelf

You may be an adult, but that doesn’t mean your skills with scotch tape have developed into skills with an actual hammer and nails. Until then, simply display your photos or art by using your LACK Wall Shelves from college as a picture frame resting wall. Match the shelf and wall color for a polished look.

Wall shelves for decorating

Image Via Life a Little Brighter

Ready to move beyond the furniture and figure out how to decorate your new space? We've got tons more apartment decorating hacks for you, plus space-saving tips, organization hacks, and more. It's time to get adulting, and we're here to help.

About the author

The Storage Queens

We know a thing or two about moving. Together, we share the best tips in organizing, storage, navigating your city, and more!

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