How to upgrade Ikea furniture: say no to cookie-cutter cabinets and sofas

Companies in the UAE and abroad are offering house-proud shoppers a way to make their furniture stand out from the crowd

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A common problem that house-proud but budget-conscious shoppers have is that buying from the same crop of stores can make a space look a bit like a cookie-cutter showroom.

This has spawned a movement for upgrading furniture, and some clever businesses that offer customisable options for simple store-bought pieces, most notably those from Swedish furniture company Ikea, transforming them into completely new and one-off creations.

Condition your cabinets with Fronteriors

Launched in 2019, Fronteriors is an online interior design business based in Dubai that was co-founded by Linda Dekkers and Kath Hawkes, from the Netherlands and South Africa, respectively. The brand offers a selection of doors, tops and sides that can be overlaid on Ikea cabinets to make them look more stylish, even expensive.

Fronteriors specialises in Besta, Billy, Pax and Metod units with some leg options and a handle design as add-ons, and its website also offers tips on how to install yourself, although UAE residents can elect to have a team over to upgrade their units.

An upgraded Ikea cabinet by Fronteriors.
An upgraded Ikea cabinet by Fronteriors.

Being purely online offers flexibility to both the consumer and the business, which is accessible 24/7 for anyone to shop.

The duo say the pandemic helped their business in two ways. “People started paying more attention to their home to create a space that they actually liked to spend time in,” says Hawkes.

Also, with digital being anyone's only option during stay-at-home orders in 2020, Fronteriors flourished and was able to open an office space in Dubai where Dekkers and Hawkes now host open house days.

“Our clients can visit us, see and touch the products and talk about the possibilities. We love the human aspect of the business. It gives us a lot of energy.”

Being a worldwide company is next on the pair's agenda, as they launch shipping options to the Gulf this year. An Instagram following of 29,000 means there is a much wider reach than only the UAE that they are keen to go after.

“Most of our followers are from outside the UAE … the US, UK, France. Being able to ship our products to those parts of the world would be fantastic and a way to really expand our business. But first things first: getting our doors on all those Ikea frames in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar.”

Get a handle on things with Prettypegs

Prettypegs has a wide range of handles for cabinets, cupboards and doors.
Prettypegs has a wide range of handles for cabinets, cupboards and doors.

For more leg and handle options, look to Prettypegs, which specialises in providing replacement legs in a range of heights and styles for all Ikea units, as well as a great selection of handles and a few door styles.

Founded in 2012 in Sweden by Jana Cagin and Mikael Soderblom after an interesting trip to Ikea where they decided that a particular sofa was nice, but the legs were awful, Prettypegs was created.

The company ships worldwide, and what also makes it flexible is that you can buy legs to fit furniture from any brand, not just Ikea, and so upcycle your furniture – from sofas and dining tables to consoles and cabinets – for a new look-feel.

Style up your sofa with Comfort Works

Comfort Works can provide slipcovers for Ikea, Pottery Barn and Muji sofas and armchairs.
Comfort Works can provide slipcovers for Ikea, Pottery Barn and Muji sofas and armchairs.

Another pair who found an old Ikea sofa they had inherited rather “ugly” is Rachel Yeng and Henry Chandra, who together created Comfort Works in 2008 “to fix this sofa ‘situation’ by making a slipcover for it with the help of a couple of YouTube tutorials and a second-hand sewing machine," the pair explain. "Let’s just say it took a handful of tries to get it right, but we got there eventually.”

The company they went on to launch offers the chance to create an individual design in different fabrics for all Ikea sofas and armchairs, all custom-made and shipped worldwide. The offering is expanding to also include Pottery Barn and Muji, plus made-to-measure covers for other sofas, and Comfort Works is helping create homes that reflect its occupants, giving customers the chance to express themselves to the fullest, with everything from custom linen to bright orange covers.

The duo’s mission is to not only make sofas look good, but also functional, by creating pockets for tablets, phones and more.