I recently added a mini chest of drawers for small storage in my craft room. Find out all the tips for personalizing and painting an IKEA MOPPE with a custom design.
IKEA MOPPE – A Convenient Storage Solution
A few months ago, I determined that I had too many small items accumulating in my craft room. They’re the kind of items that would be lost if I just dumped them on a shelf. And there aren’t enough multiples to warrant sticking them in bins of similar objects, like I did in my recent craft room organization.
I needed these items to be accessible, but also stowed away somewhere. Ideally, they’d go into drawers, but the few drawers I have in my desk and sewing table were already full.
So I turned to IKEA for an affordable solution. The MOPPE is a mini chest of six drawers made of unfinished birch plywood. The drawer bottoms and the back are made of fibreboard. Because the MOPPE is unfinished, it’s a great canvas for personalization, either with paint or with stain.
The IKEA MOPPE has obviously gone through some different variations and configurations throughout the years, including a more vertical version with 6 equal-size drawers. The current, available version is more horizontal with three drawers on top, two across the middle, and one long drawer across the bottom. Notches at the top of the drawers allow for opening them.
Useful Small Storage from an IKEA MOPPE
By raising the shelf of my Billy bookcase up one set of holes, I was able to easily fit the MOPPE drawers on the shelf at a convenient height. Since then, I have been using them as is, but I still need to do a bit more reorganizing. For now, however, the large drawer holds my HP Sprocket, hole punch, and external hard drives. And the smaller drawers mostly hold sewing supplies such as pattern weights, hem clips, and bobbins.
I can see many uses for the MOPPE around the house. Children might enjoy them in their bedrooms for small object storage. The drawers can of course be useful in a craft room or workshop for storage of small supplies and tools. And a MOPPE would also be very helpful in any home office, organizational command centre, or even a classroom for things like paper clips, post-its and other small office supplies.
Pros and Cons of the IKEA MOPPE
While I’m thrilled with the IKEA MOPPE as a versatile small storage solution, there are a few pros and cons to it.
I love that it is unfinished so that you can choose your own finish or design and add personality to the drawers. Some people might not like having to do extra work to it, but fortunately, it looks ok unfinished as well.
In the U.S., the MOPPE is about $25, but it’s about $38 in Canada where I am. When you consider tax, it’s a not-insignificant amount for small storage. But since it’s made out of real wood, it will likely last longer than something made of plastic or particle board. And it can be re-finished if your style changes.
While it’s great that most of the MOPPE is made out of birch plywood (except for the drawer bottoms and back), it can be a bit rough and splintery. You may wish to sand some of the edges even if you’re leaving it unfinished. And if you’re planning to paint or stain, sanding will be an important step of the process.
Finally, the drawers don’t slide amazingly well as there’s friction from the wood of the drawer rubbing on the shelf. And sometimes you need to wiggle it a little to slide it back in properly. (I keep meaning to see whether rubbing wax from a candle will help with that.) Since I don’t open those drawers many times a day, it doesn’t bother me much. But just keep that in mind if you will be using them very often.
Personalizing an IKEA MOPPE with Paint or Stain
A quick Google search for “IKEA MOPPE hack” yields a dizzying array of MOPPE customizations.
One of the most popular transformations includes covering the fronts of the drawers to eliminate the visible U-shaped notches. Then they stain the drawers and add card catalogue style pulls (with space for labels). I do like how the MOPPE can transform into something that looks vintage and charming.
Others have painted their MOPPE in bright colours or with bold, geometric designs.
The possibilities are endless with a little bit of imagination and paint. Here are some ideas I thought of for painting a MOPPE:
- Chalkboard paint and then labelling the contents of the drawers with chalk
- Bold, multi-coloured geometric patterns inspired by some geometric vector images I found.
- Birds or cute characters
- Big, bold flowers
- Scallops/clamshell pattern (like a clamshell quilt)
- Each drawer painted a different colour
- A quilt block pattern (though I would have been more inclined to try this if the MOPPE was square)
I already have a few pieces of vintage wood in my craft room, including my art/office desk, and my tool caddy. The flooring is also hardwood, and I plan to add a peg rail which will be partially stained wood. Therefore, I wanted to take my MOPPE in a more colourful direction and paint it.
Materials for Painting an IKEA MOPPE
Here are some materials you may wish to use for painting an IKEA MOPPE set of drawers:
- Water-based primer – I used Bulls Eye 1-2-3
- Large paintbrush and a small paintbrush for touch-ups
- Sanding block with extra-fine sandpaper
- Water-based paint for a background colour – I used a Behr Marquee sample in semi-gloss, colour matched to IKEA white. If I did it over again, I would use eggshell.
- Tissue/tracing paper to plan a design
- Graphite paper if you want to transfer your design to the drawers
- Painter’s tape if you want straight edges in your painted design
- Pencil and eraser
- Objects to trace if you want to do circles
- Small bottles of acrylic craft paint or other paint samples
- A variety of small craft brushes
- X-Acto knife – to help if your drawers end up painted shut
Painting an IKEA MOPPE – Top Tips!
Painting an IKEA MOPPE is actually quite simple and an easy DIY project if you follow some important tips.
Raw wood soaks up a lot of paint, and a good coat of primer suitable for raw wood will help when it comes time to start applying paint. I used Bulls Eye 1-2-3 because I had just a little bit left in a can, and I like using it on raw wood.
Make Sure to Sand
You can lightly sand before you prime, but I always find that primer (or the first coat of paint) raises the wood grain. And so I like to sand after the primer coat. Once your primer is dry, use a sanding block with some finishing sandpaper (extra-fine with grit 200-400) to lightly and quickly go over the surfaces. Vacuum or wipe away all dust before continuing to paint.
Decide Which Parts to Paint and Which to Leave
I decided that I was not going to bother painting the back and bottom of the drawers since they wouldn’t be visible. As well, I decided to skip painting the insides of the drawers for the time being, though at some point in the future I may want to paint them a bright colour.
Keep in mind that the drawers slide with friction on the partial shelves, and are a fairly snug fit between the shelves above and below. Adding too many layers of paint might make the drawers too snug to open easily. And since I’ve found that two painted surfaces that touch can stick together, I wanted to minimize the chance of the drawers getting stuck.
Therefore, I decided to not paint the bottom edge or top edge of the drawers where they might contact the shelves. I just painted the front and sides, as well as the inside of the U-shaped notch as it’s visible.
On the main box, I painted the top and sides. Then I painted inside the shelves and sides by a couple inches so that I can’t see bare wood if I push the drawers all the way in.
Paint Across Gaps
If your design is continuous across the front of the MOPPE, you will need to paint across gaps. It is also helpful to paint just onto the edges of the shelves and insides of the box in case the drawers are pushed in all the way. Occasionally this means that the drawers will become stuck shut with a little bit of paint. An X-acto knife works well to cut along the gap and help you pop the drawers open again.
Use Light Pencil Lines and Erase Afterward
You can draw your design in pencil carefully on the drawers and erase anything that it isn’t covered by paint afterward with a white eraser. But draw lightly knowing some paint requires many coats to cover pencil. I chose to draw very few pencil lines and just freehand most of the painting.
Small Amounts of Paint Required
Painting an IKEA Moppe is such a great project for using up leftover paint. I felt like I was using very little of anything, including the tiniest bit of the remnants of a can of primer.
For the white base coats of paint, I used a paint sample that I had colour matched to IKEA white. I felt it would be a nice warm white, and I maybe used 1/3 of the sample jar for 2 coats. And I only used the tiniest amounts of craft paint that I had left from other projects for the painted design.
Planning a Design for Painting an IKEA Moppe
I’m occasionally terrible at making decisions and I agonized about which design was right for my MOPPE drawers. In fact, I’m still not certain that I chose correctly. But hey – it’s just paint. I can paint over it and change it any time I like.
In the end, I decided on large flowers. To plan your own design, use a large sheet of tissue paper or tracing paper. Lay the MOPPE face up on a table. Put the tissue paper overtop. Crease it at all the outside edges. Then use a pencil and carefully mark the shelves, edges between drawers, and U-shaped notches.
Remove the tissue paper to the table top and use a ruler to draw lines at the creases for the outside edges. Then you can start drafting out design ideas.
I wanted to avoid having any flowers cross over the U-shaped notches as they just appear like black holes. So I played around with the placement of the flowers, and traced many circular objects as a starting point for each flower shape. These included quilting templates, a roll of packing tape, a sour cream container, a paint bottle – any circles will do.
Then I just started drawing in different lines, petals, and circular centres, and adding dots, flourishes, and scalloped curves. I erased lots and redid it until I was mostly happy with the concept.
Transferring Your Design to the MOPPE
If you’re happy with your design as it is, you could transfer it to the surface of the MOPPE with graphite paper. Simple place graphite paper face down on the drawers, lay your tissue paper design on top, and trace over each line firmly with a pencil. Check sections to make sure the lines are showing up before you do the whole thing. And move the graphite paper around as required if the sheets are small.
I decided that I wanted to neaten up and fine-tune my design, and also to have it look more hand painted. So I decided to start from scratch and recreate my design on the drawers, improvising as I went. To begin, I simply traced the same circular objects on the front of the MOPPE to start off each flower. I used a mechanical pencil to do so as it creates lines that are lighter.
Note: The paint I used from my paint sample happened to be semi-gloss, which I only clued into when I went to start tracing. It’s a little bit tricky to draw with a pencil on semi-gloss, and if I had to do it over again, I probably would have used eggshell. But it’s fine either way.
Now, I wish I could say that I took a lot of photos of the stages of painting the flowers, but I got so into it that I completely forgot to stop and document. It was very relaxing. In the end, I painted everything freehand within the confines of the circles I traced for the sizes of the flowers and their centres.
I started with yellow, and added white details on top. When I was finished, it didn’t have enough contrast, so I decided to paint over the top of several parts with orange. I decided that I wanted it to feel hand painted and a bit like watercolours – not opaque – so I only did one coat on the flowers. But I mixed a custom green which was very thin and I ended up doing about 3 coats to even it out some more.
They are far from perfect. None of my brush strokes are straight, the paint coverage is inconsistent, and many flowers centres are in fact, obviously off-centre. But that’s ok. Art doesn’t have to be perfect. Just relax and have fun with it. And if you don’t like it, give it a sand, and prime and paint over it. Then you can start again.
Finished Painted IKEA MOPPE
I love how colourful the IKEA MOPPE is on my shelf. Perhaps it’s because it’s currently the coldest part of winter that I settled on big, bold, and sunshine-y flowers. They can brighten even the darkest, coldest day.
I do have a lot of colours and patterns going on in my craft room, and so I wonder if I will end up painting over the MOPPE for something more simple in the future. But for now, I love those bright and happy flowers – and my new storage!
Personalizing and Painting an IKEA MOPPE
Painting an IKEA MOPPE is a fun and simple project to bring colourful and custom small storage to any room in your house. Get started with the tips above and then run wild with your creativity!
I want to hear from you! How would you paint a MOPPE set of drawers? What kinds of things would you store inside? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,