Ikea Hack: TARVA Nightstand

One of my goals this year is to make our house feel more like a home. Or at least as much as I can, given the fact that we are renting so I’m limited to changes that can be easily reversed. I’ve already managed to remove hideous wallpaper, patch drywall and roll on fresh paint from the two bathrooms. I think I owe you all a blog post on that experience, although it would be more of a “here’s what I learned along the way” post rather than a beautiful step by step because let’s face it, a lot of documentation didn’t happen.

Instead of trying to change everything at once (wouldn’t that be nice), I decided to focus on different parts of the house individually, while still maintaining a good aesthetic flow in my choices. The first focus area is our bedroom. I really want to make it feel like a peaceful sanctuary. I realize those two words are almost redundant when put together but when the other 85% of our house looks chaotic (thanks to a cute little boy), I need that redundancy as a reminder.

With so many ideas in my head, I decided to create a mood board on Polyvore. (Side note: For anyone interested in making a mood board, I followed the amazing tutorials by Dana from House Tweaking, which I’ll link right here for you: Part I // Part II // Part III // Part IV). 

After creating my mood board, I decided that one of the first things we needed were matching nightstands. For years, we would just plop stuff (i.e. books, phones, etc.) on the floor next to our platform bed. It hasn’t been a huge deal, except when you get out of bed and step on all those items. #firstworldproblems

Nightstands can run the gamut from inexpensive all the way to expensive, depending on many factors including but not limited to materials, color, size, and brand name. I knew I wanted a simple design, made of solid wood, large enough to hold a table lamp, and have an enclosed drawer. Picky, right? Well, thank goodness for the internet that is Pinterest! After searching all over, I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted. Then, I remembered. IKEA. Oh, Ikea, you are like the siren of the sea. I can’t ever resist your maiden call.

Have y’all seen those crazy amazing Ikea hacks across the internet? There are some incredibly creative people out there! It blows my mind and can be rather intimidating, if I let it. This time, I didn’t let intimidation stop me. Using a basic piece of furniture from IKEA, I found the perfect solution for my picky nightstand requirement list.

I present you, the humble Ikea TARVA nightstand.

{image source from Ikea}

If you’d like to achieve a similar look, I’ll be outlining in 10 easy steps how to transform a plain jane nightstand to something with a bit more flair.

Check it out! I love before and after pictures, don’t you?

Things you’ll need before starting:

  • TARVA nightstand 
  • 1 quart Minwax Wood Finish (I used Dark Walnut) 
  • 1 quart eco-friendly polyurethane (I used this one in semi-gloss, found at a local boutique) 
  • 8 oz. white paint (I used Behr Premium Plus Ultra Semigloss in ‘Simply White’)
  • Two 2″ foam brushes (here’s one similar to mine)
  • 4-inch paint roller (see note below, after step #8)
  • 220-grit sanding block (like this one)
  • Cotton rags (you can upcyle a soft, old cotton tee for this and just cut it up)
  • Decorative dresser knob 

And here’s the how-to:

1) Buy your TARVA nightstand and bring it home. Do not assemble it right away, tempting as it may be.

2) Lay out all the solid wood pieces on a long piece of cardboard or surface like a carport or garage floor, making sure there’s adequate ventilation. The only pieces you won’t be staining or painting is the backing for the nightstand and the bottom piece of the drawer. You’ll know which pieces I’m referring to once you unpack the box. *Pictured below are all the pieces you’ll be staining for one nightstand.

3) Lightly sand all pieces, front and back, with 220-grit sanding block. Wipe down with a damp cotton rag. Let fully dry. Separate the drawer pieces (there should be 4) into a different pile, since these will be painted white and not stained. *Pictured below are the drawer pieces you’ll be painting white.

4) Open the stain container and using a wooden paint stick (or something else), gently stir the stain. These directions and any other important prep steps are also in the back of the container, so make sure to read those carefully before beginning.

5) Begin by dipping one of your clean, foam brushes into the stain. Remove excess stain off the brush by pressing brush lightly against the inside rim of the container. The key here is to give the wood a thin but even coating of stain, so you don’t want a super soaked brush. *Note: after much trial and error, I found it easier to stain one side at a time of all the wood pieces rather than try and stain both sides at the same time. So as an example, I stained the backside of all the pieces first. After it had dried according to the directions on the container, I then repeated the process on the other side. You’ll figure out what works best for you.

6) Brush an even, thin coat of stain on all solid wood pieces (minus the pile you made with the 4 drawer pieces!), making sure to not leave any drips behind. Resist the urge to brush over areas you’ve already stained. Also, I preferred staining with the wood grain rather than against, but use your own personal preference as a guideline for this. *Below are a few wood pieces after one coat of stain, which will lighten up some after it’s fully dried.

7) Let stain cure, according to the directions on the container. Here is a good place to mention that if after one coat of stain, you want a darker stain, lightly sand and wipe down in between each coat of stain you apply. It will make for a much, much smoother end result.

8) After you’re done staining, repeat the entire process on the opposite side of the wood. Make sure to also stain the edges because these will show once you’ve assembled the nightstand. Let the stained pieces cure completely. Cure times vary so read the back of your stain container for the details.

*Note: While I was waiting for stain to dry/cure/etc. I tackled the white paint on the drawer pieces. This step was quick and easy. Paint one thin, even coat. Let dry. Lightly sand and wipe down. Repeat one or two more times, until you achieve the desired coverage. I painted mine with 3 coats. 

My only regret is that I used a paintbrush, which left definite brushstrokes. If you want a smooth, brushstroke-free finish I suggest you use a small 4″ roller instead, like this one. It’s certainly not necessary but like I said, my personal preference would have been a smooth finish. 

Below, I’ve pictured the drawer pieces after one coat of white paint (minus the middle left, unpainted piece). 

9) Using the other clean foam brush, you’re going to now coat the stained and cured wood pieces with polyurethane. Follow all pertinent directions on the poly container. I decided to go with the optimal finish, which meant applying 3 coats. That’s a lot of waiting time while things dry and cure, but it’s well worth it. I don’t have any pictures of the poly coating but I will say, again the key here is giving it a thin and even coat, each time. Watch for drips although you shouldn’t have many if you follow the ‘thin and even’ mantra. Also, don’t brush over spots that have already been coated.

10) Assemble your TARVA nightstand according to the instructions and use the decorative knob rather than the basic one provided. From personal experience, it helps to watch TV and have a glass of your favorite beverage while performing any IKEA furniture assembly.

11) Sit back and bask in the glory of completing a DIY project that took 4 long weeks that you will be proud of, no matter how long it takes you. High fives all around.

I’ll be honest – the longest part of this project was having to break it up in chunks and how long it took me. The way I timed it was I would stain one coat during the morning nap, let it dry while the baby was awake and then once he took his afternoon nap, do the sanding and another coat of stain. It took me an entire week of nap times just to get the staining part done on one nightstand, multiplied times two since I had two nightstands to complete. In hours, that was about 30 hours in a span of 2 weeks. It took another week to complete the poly coating and thankfully, just a couple of hours on the assembly. I know it won’t take someone without juggling nap times etc. this long, but I just wanted to give you the expectation rather than have you say to me “gosh, this seems easy but it took way longer than I thought!” It was easy but it took a lot of downtime as well.

One reason why I chose an eco-friendly polyurethane coating was to cover up that strong stain smell. I had read and researched a lot about which coating to use, and when I finally made a decision I still wasn’t sure it would work. I’m happy to say that we’ve lived with the nightstands in our bedroom for a few weeks and the stain smell is 100% gone. (It was about 96% gone right after all three coats of poly, before the full cure time of a week.)

Considering this was my first time staining furniture, I would say overall it was a pleasant experience. I wasn’t in a rush to finish so that also helped. The only thing that was bothersome (but to be expected) were the strong fumes from the stain. They are pretty strong, in case you haven’t worked with stain before. I would definitely suggest doing this part outside or at least, in a covered but ventilated area like a carport or garage and wearing a mask if you’d like.

I love knowing that I took a basic piece of IKEA furniture and gave it a whole new look, personalized to reflect my own style.

Now I kind of want to stain all the things.

And yes, I need help with styling the nightstand. 

4 thoughts on “Ikea Hack: TARVA Nightstand

  1. Urban Wife says:

    Thanks, Monica! Old kitchen stools are a great idea…I should've thought of that instead of just using the floor. 😉 I'm glad you also got some nightstands — Target definitely had a few I really liked.

  2. Ester Vazquez says:

    Im thinking i may take your idea a bit further…because i cant seem to find the sofa that I really want. So I am going to start doing some Ikea shopping,to see what I can come up with to personalize my own furniture

  3. monica says:

    Oh I love this!! I saw it a few days ago, but just now had the chance to really look at all of the steps! I'm so impressed!
    We, too, have gone w/out nightstands for years. We were using old stools from an old kitchen to place books and stuff on, haha. Just this year I picked up nightstands at Target, and it seems like a new bedroom to me now! (yes, #firstworldproblems. :)) Also #littlethingsmatter! haha. Love that you did it yourself! Someday I'll get crafty too…someday…XO

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