IKEA Furniture Upcycle for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I LOVE upcycling IKEA furniture, and I especially loved working on this item as it was for such a great cause. Read all about my recent project with Graham and Brown, and my top tips for transforming IKEA cabinets!

When it comes to upcycling, I quite often go for the most boring-looking cabinets as they are a lot more challenging to bring to life….AND as you all know, I love a good challenge!

Also, beautiful mid-century real wood furniture can be really tricky to come across nowadays and they also tend to be quite pricey! IKEA units can be found in most households and there are always lots of them circulating on the likes of Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree. With a little imagination and some TLC, these boxy designs can be transformed into stylish, one-of-a-kind furniture that can make a real statement in your home.

I bought this cabinet a while ago – it’s one of IKEA’s older styles from the ’90s.  I spotted it as soon as I entered my local charity shop and I could see the potential in it straight away. It actually reminded me of a cardboard box BUT I knew with a little Rachel magic, it could be amazing! 

Simply the Breast

I ended up using the cabinet for a special collaboration I worked on recently with the wonderful Graham and Brown.

I have worked with Graham and Brown in the past and I thoroughly enjoyed using their paint. There are so many delicious colours to choose from, so I was delighted when they got in touch last month to ask if I’d like to work with them again to create a project using their BRAND NEW and totally amazing Simply the Breast wallpaper. When I found out the story behind this print I signed up straight away and couldn’t wait to get started! 

Graham and Brown have joined forces with the amazing Coppafeel breast cancer charity and designed this beautiful boobiliscious print to help raise awareness of breast cancer. The design, featuring luscious ladies in lingerie, is centered around empowering and encouraging woman to check themselves. £5 from each and every roll sold of this wallpaper will go to the Coppafeel charity to help support them and the amazing work that they do.

Head on over to Coppafeel for more info on how to check your breasts properly and sign up to their useful monthly reminder messages –



The Plan!

Whenever I work on an upcycling project, I always like to create a vision board as it’s so important to have a plan of action. You want to get it right the first time and for all of the colours to work in harmony. Upcycling can be a lengthy process, and things can quite often go wrong, so it’s definitely worth spending the time to create a “vision” and colour palette for your project. 

Let's Get Upcycling!

I used Graham and Brown’s Popcicle, Volt and Pink Robin egg shell paints, and applied their Simply the Breast wallpaper to the drawer fronts. I created a patchwork effect inside the cabinet using a mix of felt fabric and wallpaper, and also lined the drawers with the paper too.

I am so happy with how this project has tuned out and it looks right at home in our living room. I’ve styled it up with my gorgeous pink telephone, colourful books, a little plant, a mini Sun Jelly bag, an upcycled mirror and a pretty pink vase with a dried orange palm spear leaf. I decided to use accessories that tied in perfectly with the colours in the wallpaper’s print and think it looks fab!

My Top Tips!

I really hope that I’ve inspired you to give your very own IKEA furniture a makeover!

Here are my top tips on how to work with IKEA cabinets:

  1. Prepare your unit: Always clean it thoroughly with sugar soap first to get rid of any dirt and then sand with 120 grit sandpaper so that the primer has something to adhere to. Fill any damaged areas with wood filler and sand afterwards. I love to use Ronseal multi-purpose filler.
  2. Make sure you prime with the correct primer: I always use Zinsser shellac-based primer on particleboard furniture with a plastic veneer as it adheres really well to this type of material.
  3. Replace the runners. You’ll find that if it’s an old piece of IKEA furniture the runners might have become sticky and may not be functioning properly. You can pick up runners really cheaply from the likes of B&Q, Screwfix or even Amazon. You might also have to add a scoosh of WD-40 to the hinges if the doors haven’t been opened in a long time.
  4. Add hairpin legs: These not only raise the cabinet and create extra storage underneath, but they add lots of style to your furniture. They are also really stable and durable,  as well as being strong enough to support heavier pieces. 
  5. Apply wallpaper: This will add lots of personality to your upcycled design. When attaching wallpaper to cabinet doors, be sure to prime them first as this will help your wallpaper adhere to the plastic veneer. Pre-cut the correct size of panels of wallpaper (making sure the pattern in the design lines up). Apply glue (I always use slightly watered-down Mod-podge (about 80% glue, 20% water) to attach my wallpaper to furniture) evenly across the primed doors using a sponge roller, ensuring you apply enough to the edges so that the corners don’t end up peeling back. I’ve also used Gorilla wood glue in the past and this also works well. Then, carefully and firmly press the wallpaper onto the doors and make sure that the edges have all adhered. Once in position, smooth over thoroughly with a dry foam roller or a squeegee. If you have any overhang you can use sandpaper to get rid of the excess paper. 


I really hope you have enjoyed reading this feature. Here’s another similar post I have written you may also enjoy – 


If you have any upcycling questions please pop below. I’d love to hear from you. 

Rachel x x


Rachel Henderson is a published Author, Interior Artist, and Stylist, whose brand was born out of a love for creating playful and colourful home decor products. She runs a design studio based in Fife, Scotland, where she hosts workshops, designs upcycled furniture and homewares, and creates DIY-based video content for a range of clients. 



An Office Refresh with LUMAS

I received the most beautiful artwork from LUMAS this week. It’s called ‘Antionette Home’ by Olaf Hajek. Read all about how it has transformed my botanical home office, and why I find art to be the most powerful form of home decor!

Read Post »


Rachel LOVES working with Interior, Lifestyle and Fashion brands to create fun and colourful content in her signature style that her followers can engage and relate with.

Whatever size of collaboration/campaign you’re after, from a one-off advert to a year-long partnership – if your brand is a good fit with @therachelhendersonstudio and her 138K following, she would love to hear more and put together some ideas.

Some of the many brands Rachel has worked with include:

2 Responses

  1. so wunderfull, thatÄs exatcly what I want for my duaghter’s rrom but with other colour sheme, please please give me a interior design appointment 🙂 Need your help, your work is amazing! Katherine

  2. Dear Rachel, I desperately try to contact your studio,I would love you to help me but … How can I get an appointment with you for advice? Kind regards Katherine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Rachel's
Mailing List

Be the first to hear about Rachel’s latest blog posts, online courses, products and design tips by subscribing to her mailing list. You’ll also be treated to some voucher codes and exclusive content from time to time.