Inside: how to customize your boring IKEA Alex Drawer unit in under 10 minutes with no paint and no mess!
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Crafters are supposed to be creative and inspired by color, right? Then why do so many of us have the same plain white Alex drawers? True, they have a clean look that's easy to mix with other styles. But I wanted my craft room to reflect my creativity … and I'm sure you want a creative space that inspires you as well.
When I started seeing jaw-dropping colorful IKEA Alex drawers on Pinterest, I wanted to take my Alex drawers from blah-white to ah-mazing too. But customizing IKEA Alex drawers is harder than it looks. That's why for so many years, my drawers were plain white, with a few pen marks and yellow age spots … Ew.
Then I figured out how to create colorful IKEA Alex drawers in just a few minutes. Yes, a few minutes!
It's 100% possible with removable fabric decals from my friends at My Wonderful Walls. Rainbow, flowers, rabbits … even double rainbows like these decals that the folks at My Wonderful Walls sent me:
You can have this look on YOUR IKEA Alex drawers too!
- Browse the decal designs for your Alex drawers at MyWonderfulWalls.com
- Order your decals using my code SMARTFUN to get a discount at checkout!
Before we dive in to the double rainbow magic of my drawers (and how you can customize your IKEA Alex too), let's see why IKEA Alex is such a huge phenomenon for organizing and home decor.
Ikea Alex Drawer Sizes – which should you choose?
You might have gone to IKEA to get Alex drawers only to discover there all all kinds of options to choose from. Here's what you need to know to choose the perfect Alex drawer unit for you:
IKEA Alex Drawer Colors
IKEA's Alex drawers are available in:
- black – some people call these gray IKEA Alex Drawers (discontinued)
- blue (limited * new for 2019)
You can customize these drawers with paint, vinyl, foil … and the IKEA Alex fabric wall decals from My Wonderful Walls. Wanna see more? Keep scrolling to see how to customize your drawers.
What Size are IKEA Alex Drawers?
IKEA Alex drawers are available in 3 main sizes:
- 9 drawer unit
- 5 drawer unit
- 5 drawer unit on casters
Each of these Alex drawer units offer unique advantages and storage options.
There are a few other IKEA Alex accessories, such as an Alex desk and add-on unit. I'll be focusing on the 9 and 5 drawer units in this post because those are the units you can decorate with decals from My Wonderful Walls.
IKEA Alex 9 Drawer Unit
The tall narrow drawers of the IKEA Alex 9 drawer unit create lots of storage in a small narrow space. Use these drawers to organize and store:
- office supplies
- small clothing items
- kids toys
- art supplies
- and more
IKEA Alex Drawers with Casters (5 Drawers)
I personally have 3 of these Alex drawer units on casters. You can leave the casters off and set them directly on the floor, add legs to elevate them, or stack the units 2-3 high for more vertical storage.
The casters and low height of this unit allow it to easily roll under tables for easy storage.
These wide shallow drawers are perfect for storing:
- vinyl rolls
- electronic cutting mats for Cricut or other cutters
- stencils and other flat items
- artist papers and pads
- makeup brushes and pencils
- Drawing supplies like markers, pencils, and pastels
- small craft supplies
Tip: Lay a piece of felt or non-slip material like this (bonus: it comes in pretty colors!) across the bottom of each drawer to prevent small items from sliding around as you open and close the drawer.
IKEA Alex Drawers (5 Drawers)
These narrow short drawer units are perfect for under the counter or table. Using the Alex 5 drawer unit as one or both legs of a desktop is a popular craft room and home office idea.
Check out these ways to use the IKEA Alex 5 drawer unit to create a desk:
- How to make a custom desk top for an IKEA Alex drawer desk
- IKEA home office for two
- Alex and Linnmon desk combo
- 21 IKEA desk hacks
Don't Get Fooled by Knock-offs
Awesome things get knocked off, right? You probably saw my post about IKEA's Raskog carts and all the knock-offs.
IKEA's Alex drawers have been knocked in the same ways. Companies think they are being sneaky by calling them “letterpress drawers” but we all know they just copied the Alex!
Here's why I recommend IKEA Alex over all the copies:
- Alex is well-made. The material thick, durable, and easy to clean.
- IKEA Alex has been around for years. If you want to expand your collection, you can always go to IKEA and find matching pieces. The Alex is here to stay.
- The My Wonderful Walls decals I share here are perfectly sized to ONLY work on IKEA Alex drawer units, not the imitations
DIY Ways to Customize IKEA Alex Drawers … to Avoid
Pinterest is full of ideas for customizing your IKEA Alex drawers. But many of them aren't as perfect as they first appear.
If I buy a brand new piece of furniture that I love, I want any customization to turn out perfect! Let's dig into why these popular ways to DIY your IKEA Alex drawers should be avoided.
Paint Your IKEA Alex Drawers
Painting seems like an easy way to customize your IKEA Alex drawers. But I've only seen one DIY paint job that looked amazing. That project was done by a very meticulous DIY blogger and I think the effect would be difficult for most DIYers to achieve.
Here's why you should avoid painting your IKEA Alex drawers:
- Material – they're made of melamine which is not meant to be painted. You'll have to do a lot of sanding to get the paint to stick and a lot of sanding to get that same smooth finish
- Paint is not easy to clean – but the melamine material of the Alex drawers IS easy to clean. If you use the drawers often, you'll want to make sure fingerprints can be wiped away easily
- You need to take the drawers apart – the drawers can only be removed from the unit by taking them apart. That means you need to empty them completely so you can access the screws. If you're already using the drawers, taking them apart is a huge headache.
- Can't change your mind – once they're painted, there's not going back to the original material.
Apply Vinyl to IKEA Alex Drawers
Fabric decals from My Wonderful Walls look like vinyl – but they are so much better.
Here's why you should avoid using vinyl on your IKEA Alex drawers:
- Vinyl stretches – if you cut your own vinyl to go on top of the drawer fronts, you have to be super careful not the stretch the vinyl. If you get it on crooked and need to peel it up to reposition, the vinyl will stretch and be ruined. You can waste ALOT of vinyl trying to DIY this
- Cutting around the notch handles is difficult – there are not svg files for cutting these drawer fronts so you either have to guess or use a craft knife to make the cuts, both of which are inaccurate. The cut line can look shoddy if not done well. I don't think I could do it well and I've been crafting for 35 years!
- Residue when removed – vinyl adhesive is intended for long-term, permanent use. The adhesive won't release easily from the drawers when you peel away the vinyl because it's not supposed to be removed.
Decoupage or Foil Your IKEA Alex Drawers
I've seen some beautiful projects where crafters have decoupaged or even gold foiled their drawer fronts. But when you look closely, you can see the imperfections.
If texture and imperfections are your thing, then you probably aren't the kind of person who wants to crisp clean lines of an IKEA Alex unit in your space. I'm just keeping it real …
Here are the challenges with decoupage or foil on your drawer fronts:
- Material – the surface of the IKEA Alex drawers is too slick to decoupage or foil on it without sanding.
- No going back – Once you apply decoupage medium or foil glue to the drawer fronts, it's almost impossible to sand them back down and repaint later
- Imperfect edges – Whether you foil or decoupage, the edges of the drawers won't be covered completely by the material
- Wear and tear – you'll need to seal the drawer fronts to protect the treatment when you're done. Even then, this kind of finish is decorative and not meant for well-used furniture. Over time, the finish may not hold up and look as perfect as day one.
The Best Ways to Customize IKEA Alex Drawers Fast
Honest, I am not a negative nelly! After that huge list of “don'ts” you might be thinking you shouldn't customize your drawers. But there are better ways to do it.
Customize your IKEA Alex drawers quickly and smartly with these DIY ideas:
Add Knobs to Your IKEA Alex Drawers
Anthropologie and even Target have super cute, pretty knobs. Or you can get these for less:
Make sure the knob's screw thread length is at least 1″ so that they will fit through the 5/8″ thick Alex drawer fronts.
To install knobs on your Alex, you'll need to drill a hole in the drawer front to add a knob, but you can change out the knobs for a new look very easily.
Here are some great examples of IKEA Alex drawer units with knobs:
- DIY makeup station with IKEA Alex with glass knobs
- Numbered porcelain knobs on IKEA Alex
- Mix and match drawer pulls on IKEA Alex 9 drawer unit
Elevate Your IKEA Alex Drawer Unit
Since two of the IKEA Alex units are low, it makes sense to raise them up for easier access.
Here are two DIY ways to elevate your IKEA Alex drawer unit:
Yes, you can stack your IKEA Alex 5 drawer units easily! The 5 drawer unit with casters (the wide unit) can be stacked by removing the wheels from the base. I stacked mine for years and put my printer on top like this:
Remove the Casters … and Add Legs!
The beauty of IKEA furniture is you can really customize it to any decor style. Legs are one of the ways to do that.
- Make the Alex look like a substantial furniture piece
- Elevate Alex by removing the casters (which look office-like) and add wooden legs
- Raise the Alex unit so the lower drawers are easier to access
Here are some easy, unique ways to add legs to your IKEA Alex:
- How to add peg legs to IKEA Alex
- Raised platform for IKEA Alex drawers
- Turned wood legs for an Alex makeup station
Use Removable Fabric Decals Designed for Alex
The easiest (and my favorite) way to customize your IKEA Alex drawers is using decals from MyWonderfulWalls.com. Here's why:
- Easy to apply
- Available in trending designs
- Can customize with your own drawings, graphics, or logo
- Removable without leaving residue
- Easy to clean
- Won't stretch
- 10 minutes to apply
- Affordable and cheaper than paint and painting supplies
- You can save 10% off with my discount code SMARTFUN at checkout!
It only took 10 minutes to apply the decals to my drawers. Here's how:
How to customize your IKEA Alex Drawers Unit:
Where to Get Decals to Customize Your IKEA Alex Drawers
The only place to get decals or custom decals for your IKEA Alex drawer units is from MyWonderfulWalls. They've spent hours designing their decals to perfectly fit the most popular IKEA Alex drawer units.
Choose a design to match your decor and spark your creativity:
Or create your design by requesting a custom decal!
What to do next:
If you're inspired to customize your Alex drawer units, here's what to do next:
- Follow my I love IKEA board on Pinterest to get even more ideas
- Browse the decal designs for your Alex drawers at MyWonderfulWalls.com
- Order your decals! Use my code SMARTFUN to get a discount at checkout!
- Apply your decals while watching this handy VIDEO
- Show off your newly beautified drawers in the Best Craft Rooms Facebook Group
Your craft space should show off your creativity and inspire you every time you enter. Custom Alex drawers with decals from My Wonderful Walls give your white Alex instant character and color to set your craft space apart from the rest!
If you love this idea, save this project to Facebook or Pinterest so you can reference it later!
About the Author
Jennifer Priest is a 20+ year designer in the arts & crafts industry and home DIYer with a passion for creativity. An Army veteran raised on a ranch, from her experience, she shares smart DIY projects that save money and fun craft ideas that anyone can make. Besides blogging, Jennifer is a Master Practitioner and Trainer of NLP, Hypnosis, and MER, and coaches other online entrepreneurs on money mindset, business, and living an intentional life. When not blogging, Jennifer is having adventures in the wilderness, on road trips, playing with her cats, and making paleo food.