"IKEA overlays" are a new (and easy) way to make your flatpack furniture look so much more expensive

If you love IKEA hacks, you'll want to know about this genius way of making plain furniture more decorative

a overlay kit for an ikea malm
(Image credit: Art Vroom)

Tired of your plain-looking flat-packs? Looking for ways to make your IKEA furniture look more expensive? Love hacking furniture but want an easy upgrade that doesn't require complicated tools? If the answer is 'yes' to any of the above then furniture overlays could be the answer, and they're quickly becoming the next big thing in DIY. 

We all love the utility of IKEA's flat-packs, and there's no denying that their sleek, minimalist design makes them the perfect canvas for letting your creativity run wild with clever IKEA hacks, but sometimes we need a little helping hand to make them more decorative and unique. Well, that's where IKEA overlays come in. These decorative panels come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and patterns, and they're by far the easiest way to jazz up dressers, cabinets, and even mirrors with minimal effort. 

'IKEA overlays offer an affordable way to customize mass-produced furniture and make it uniquely yours,' explains Lotta Lundaas, CEO and founder of Norse Interiors, a company that offers IKEA customization. 'By adding overlays to existing IKEA furniture, you can also extend their lifespan and reduce waste by not replacing them entirely.' 

Want to know more about this genius modern approach to furniture hacking? We take a look at the overlay revolution and the best ways to incorporate them into your own home.

What are overlays?

A kitchen with white cabinets with overlays on top

(Image credit: O'verlays)

IKEA overlays, or any type of furniture overlay, are a type of decorative panel that attaches to your furniture to make it look more aesthetically appealing, and they're becoming one of the biggest interior design trends in the world of DIY. 'IKEA overlays in particular are custom-made pieces designed to fit specific IKEA furniture items,' explains Lotta of Norse Interiors. 'They can be made in various materials, such as wood, metal, or plastic, and come in different designs, patterns, and colors.'

Panel overlays are typically fretwork designs - a type of ornamental openwork made with a fretsaw. The beauty of them is that they not only add a bit of individuality to plain furniture but they can be further customized once attached, too. 'Overlays lightweight, paint-able, and easily attach to furniture, doors, walls, and glass,' explains Cheryle Rhuda of O'verlays. 'They're more than just an IKEA hack - they are used as mullions on kitchen cabinets, upgrading doors, wall coverings, and can be used on any flat surface in your home.'

Besides your typical panel overlay, Lotta points out that you can also purchase fabric overlays to switch out the covers of sofas and armchairs. 'They are a great way to transform and personalize standard IKEA furniture into unique, customized pieces that better match a person's interior design preferences,' she says. You can also get simple slat overlays like these ones from Artvoom to achieve a fluted effect on your furniture. 

How do you hack your furniture with overlays?

A chest of drawers painted blue with white overlay trim on the drawers

(Image credit: O'verlays)

Whether you're looking for ways to make an IKEA KALLAX look more expensive or you're bored of the simplicity of your IVAR cabinet, using overlays is simple. Start by finding a pre-made overlay that fits the dimensions of your furniture, or use a site like O'verlays to order ones custom-made to fit. 

The advantage of IKEA overlays is they're designed to specifically fit the universal dimensions of IKEA's iconic flat-packs so you don't have to worry about custom measurements. 'They are typically created to fit specific IKEA series for dressers and cabinets,' says Lotta.

Many overlay manufacturers will offer customizable options at checkout, such as thickness, but the rest is down to you. 'Our overlays can be used in the color they arrive, which is white, or you can give them a coat of paint in whatever color you desire,' says Cheryle. 'A coat of paint, be it white or color, gives the end result a more finished look.' 

Once you've chosen a style that suits your decor and decided on your bespoke touch, it's then just a case of applying the panel to your furniture. 'Users can attach the overlays to their furniture using adhesive or other mounting methods provided by the overlay manufacturer,' Lotta notes. (In some cases, strong double-sided tape will be enough). Another option for a bespoke look is to switch out the whole front of the IKEA furniture by replacing the entire doors.

An IKEA chest of drawers painted white with overlay moulding

(Image credit: O'verlays)

Overlays are having a serious moment right now, but with so many variations on offer, it can be hard to decide what style is best for you. Whether you want a simple molding trim around the edge of your drawers or a more contemporary, geometric design across your entire cabinet, there's an overlay out there to suit your style. 

If, like me, you're indecisive and need some inspiration, Lotta has some insights on the styles that are trending right now. 'Timeless styles are always a safe choice,' she says. 'To get a Mid-Century Modern look, incorporate wood overlays with clean lines and consider adding tapered legs, or opt for light-colored overlays with simple geometric patterns to achieve a clean and uncluttered Scandinavian aesthetic.' 

Cheryle loves the simplicity of shaker-style panels such as the Rex kit sold at O'verlays. 'For a classic look, our Anne, Gracie, or Blaire kits are good options,' she says. 'If you want a slightly more contemporary style, try the Charles range.' If you like the popular slatted furniture trend, you can find some great options from Art Vroom, too, perfectly sized to fit the likes of a Malm dresser. 

Whether you plan to use them on IKEA flatpacks or another piece of plain furniture you have lying around, overlays are one of the easiest and cheapest ways to shake up your furniture. Plus, if you're just making your first foray into furniture hacking, it's the most accessible way to get started! Browse the different options available, get creative with your designs, and set yourself a fun weekend project - this is a fun furniture hack idea you certainly won't regret. 

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.