Ikea Alex vs Helmer vs Melmer

{Purchased by Me}

One of the most frequent questions I see asked in nail polish groups is “What’s the difference between the Ikea Alex, Ikea Helmer, and Michael’s ‘Melmer’?” Since I own at least one of each, I want to take some time to thoroughly answer that question with pics, pros and cons, and my personal opinion.

Here is a labeled picture showing the relative size of the Ikea Alex (tall), Ikea Alex, Ikea Helmer, and Michael’s Melmer. The “Melmer” is sold at Michael’s and is a 12″ square, three drawer box. It is called the Melmer because many women who don’t have an Ikea nearby use this instead of the Helmer.

The Ikea Alex is actually a whole line of different units. I have two versions of this – the standard size (5 drawers) and the tall size (9 drawers). There is also a wider version of the Alex available. It’s as tall as the standard size one, but about twice as wide. This is the least common one that people buy. There is some thought that the weight of the polish would bend the longer drawers. I can’t attest to this because I don’t own that item.

All of these units must be built once you get it home. The Melmer was, for me, the most difficult to assemble. The Helmer was the easiest. The Alex units and the Melmer are both made of particleboard but the Alex does look and feel like much better quality. The Helmer is made of a light metal which does make it look like a filing cabinet. There are some women who purchase decals (holo ones exist!) that cover the Helmer to make it look less industrial.


Here is a close-up shot of the Melmer.


I don’t actually store polish in it right now, but I grabbed a nearby Orly so you can see that the shelves are plenty tall enough to handle polish bottles. The drawers come all the way out which is actually pretty important…you’ll see why when I talk about the Alex further on. The Melmer is also the least expensive option which is another reason for its popularity. (Especially if you have a coupon!)


The Ikea Helmer has six drawers, all of which come all the way out of the unit. This is the second-most inexpensive.


I store various brands in this unit and so far I haven’t found one that’s too tall. (Ok, my Louboutin are too tall, but they are too tall for any storage drawer!)


Here are drawere shots of the Ikea Alex. This is one of my China Glaze drawers. These drawers do not pull all the way out and there are at least three inches in the back that you can’t see. This is a problem when the drawer is full! This China Glaze drawer is nearly full and is pulled all the way out. You can see there are polishes hiding in the back and it’s impossible to tell what colors they are. So, you either need to know your collection like the back of your hand, or you should not completely fill up the drawers.


The Alex units have both short drawers and tall drawers. Right now, the tallest polishes I own are Julep. They fit comfortable in the short drawers. So, if you have anything taller than a Julep, it should fit just fine in the tall drawers.

The Alex units are the most expensive option. Obviously the taller one is even more expensive than the shorter one.


The added bonus of the Ikea furniture is that you can piece it together to make a desk. If something breaks or gets ruined with one piece (like the desktop board) then you just need to replace that one piece rather than the whole unit. Both my husband and I have Ikea desks and we love them. Here is my desk. I’m using two standard Ikea Alex drawer units as the legs and then I got the plain white desktop piece. The desktop pieces come in varying lengths so I could even make my desk bigger if I wanted to

I have seen people also make a desk using the Ikea Helmer. However, that just doesn’t look and feel as sturdy to me. But, it has been done and I haven’t heard any horror stories of it crashing down!

Extra points if you can tell what I was watching on Netflix while I was taking pictures!


I hope you found this information about the Ikea Alex vs Helmer vs Melmer helpful! My personal vote is for the Ikea Alex pieces. Even though there is the issue with the drawers, they look the most adult and are the sturdiest.

Author: Anne

Blogging about makeup, dogs, and mostly NAIL POLISH!