How 'Queer Eye' design expert Bobby Berk transforms Ikea furniture into one-of-a-kind pieces

A view of an IKEA car parking lot.
Omar Marques | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

Ikea's loyal following is well-known — both college students and consumers on a budget flock to the furniture retailer for its versatile and cost-effective collections that help transform spaces into homes. Even Bobby Berk from "Queer Eye" navigates through Ikea's maze to get items for his projects that are both within budget and easily customizable.

"I think Ikea is great, especially if you're able to make things your own and do the Ikea hacks," Berk, the Netflix show's design expert, tells CNBC Make It.

Bobby Berk
Courtesy of A.R.T. Furniture

Berk says he uses Ikea furniture when remodeling homes on "Queer Eye" because of the store's ability to produce a wide range of items at a great price. On the show, Berk and his design team only have a few days and a limited budget to remodel an array of homes and other spaces, such as an entire teacher's lounge.

Sometimes Berk has to work off an empty space and other times he renovates existing homes, both of which require a lot of thought and budgeting to figure out how much he can afford to spend on furniture.

That's where Ikea comes in: "Not only is Ikea great for people who are just starting out who like style but don't have a huge budget, but it's also great to mix and match even if you do have a big budget," Berk says.

How Berk makes Ikea pieces look one-of-a-kind

Ikea may not seem like a natural place for Berk to source furniture for "Queer Eye," since the renovations he completes look so costly, but he says the retailer provides hundreds of items that are not only well-priced, but can be tailored to your individual style.

Ikea "hacks" are one way you can take a piece of furniture and make it your own, Berk says. That includes updates such as changing the knobs on a bookcase or adding self-adhesive wallpaper inside furniture to make it unique, he explains.

There are also many blogs, such as Ikea Hackers, and Pinterest boards dedicated to Ikea hacks that provide inspiration and step-by-step examples.

"I'm a big fan of being able to buy things that are 'the basics' that you can then adapt and change to make them your own," Berk explains.

Not only is Ikea great for people who are just starting out who like style but don't have a huge budget, but it's also great to mix and match even if you do have a big budget.
Bobby Berk
design expert on Queer Eye

A lot of Ikea furniture is also customizable at point of sale, even when ordering online. Select items on ikea.com have an option to "customize this combination," which allows you to mix and match shelves, add sections and change colors before checkout.

However, Berk points out that while Ikea is great, not everything is worthwhile. As a rule of thumb, you should always do your own research to make the experience less overwhelming and avoid costly mistakes. That includes measuring your space ahead of time, reading customer reviews and tracking down discounts and other deals.

Don't miss: 8 costly mistakes to avoid when shopping at Ikea

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