A couple of years ago, I had a dead Ash tree cut down and the trunk cut into planks. At the time I thought it might be nice to make a live-edge Ash fireplace mantle, or counter top, so the idea was in the back of my mind when I saw a few YouTube videos of hacks of other IKEA Dressers into Apothecary cabinets.

I had an area of my dining room that was a bit of a dead space, and I had thought of making a sideboard, for storage and creating a live edge top for it.

I investigated the RAST and TARVA Dressers, but thought they did not have the depth that I wanted… However, I liked the depth of my MALM Dresser, and decided to use the 6 Drawer Dresser from my Bedroom, and combine it with the 3 Drawer Dresser from my spare bedroom.

Here’s a before-after shot of my DIY apothecary cabinet.

DIY apothecary cabinet IKEA MALM hack - before and after


  • 1”x2”x8’ Pine (Structural Support for the Back) (x2)
  • 1”x3”x8’ Pine (Kick Board) 
  • 1”x4”x8’ Pine (Side Panels)
  • Solid Pine Panels (12”x 36”x 3/4”) (x9)
  • 4 Sets of Connector Bolts
  • Drawer Pulls, Label Holders & Label Pulls


  • 3/16” Drill
  • 7/ 32” Drill
  • Table or Circular Saw

How to DIY a large apothecary style sideboard cabinet

1. Preparing the MALM dresser frame

IKEA MALM dresser

The 6 Drawer and 3 Drawer units together fit almost perfectly into the space.

Note: The blue tape on the wall was used to mark the wall stud locations.

IKEA MALM dresser

I disassembled the Dressers by removing the drawers, back and top. I wanted the back off so I could access the electrical plugs in the wall behind the Sideboard. Removing the back and top made the remaining frame very wobbly, but I added additional structural support to the top and bottom of the back.

IKEA MALM dresser frame laid flat on floor

I bolted the two MALM frames together and added 1” x 2” pine boards at the top and bottom of the back for added rigidity and an additional 2 x 4 frame around the top to help hold the Sideboard away from the wall and center it in the opening.

securing the dresser to wall studs

I screwed the 2x4s into the back and side wall studs.

2. Making Apothecary style drawer fronts

custom MALM drawer front

I realized that I couldn’t use the existing MALM drawer fronts because, although the width of the drawer fronts worked to give a nice gap between the drawers, the height was about ¾” (2 cm) too short and exposed too much of the frame of the Sideboard.

A height of a MALM drawer is 7 15/16” (20 cm), I needed the drawer fronts to be 8 11/16” (22cm) high.

solid pine plank

So, I bought 9 – 12” x 36” Pine Panels, ¾” thick.

making the apothecary style drawer fronts

I cut them down to the correct size and transferred the locations of the holes and the slot from the back of the MALM drawer front to the back of the new Pine drawer front. 

DIY apothecary drawer fronts

I cut the slot in the back of the drawer front so the drawer bottom could fit into it.

DIY apothecary drawer front

The holes for the wooden dowels were drilled with a 7/32” drill bit and the holes for the connector bolts were drilled with an 3/16” drill bit. 

drill bit with masking tape to indicate drill depth

Note: make sure you mark on the drill how deep to drill the holes. 

I used a circular saw and a table saw to cut 3/8” deep grooves into the drawer fronts to give the illusion of many smaller drawers.

groove lines for the apothecary cabinet drawers

Make sure you continue the cuts onto the top, bottom and sides to help with the illusion.

securing the drawer fronts to the DIY apothecary sideboard cabinet

Once the drawers were reassembled, test fit all of the drawers back into the Dressers together.

adding hardware pulls to drawer fronts

Locate and predrill the holes for the hardware pulls. 

3. Staining the Apothecary drawer fronts

minwax prestain wood conditioner

Apply a Pre-Stain Conditioner to allow for a more even application of stain.

varathane gel stain

Paint the darkest stain into the grooves cut into the drawer front and then stain the rest of the board.

staining the wood

For the “Blueprint Drawers” effect, I painted the drawer front grey and used the stain to “dirty them up”.

4. Finishing the Apothecary sideboard cabinet

I applied the same stain on all of the other drawers, but after I was done I did not like the effect and went back and sanded the stain off of random “mini drawer fronts” and then used a different, lighter shade of stain to give the drawer fronts more of a random pattern.

finishing the drawers

A few months later, I added a Paste Finishing Wax finish to the drawer fronts, and then reassembled the drawers.

DIY apothecary cabinet IKEA MALM hack

As I was doing the re-assembly, “The Boss”, came by to inspect my work…


DIY apothecary cabinet IKEA MALM hack

I cut the live-edge Ash plank to the correct length, but as of this time, I have not been able to finish it, so it is still just raw wood.

It is unfinished, but useable for its purpose… Anyone want a coffee?

~ by Peter Graham, Sauble Beach, Ontario, Canada

Watch the build process of my DIY apothecary cabinet hack.

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