We ran into a problem with our kitchen design when we couldn’t fit two pantries along the fridge wall. Due to traffic flow issues, there was no choice but to change the plan. From this angle it looks great!
But peak around the fridge and this is what you see.
The MIA pantry left us with an awkward blank spot to fill at the entry to our kitchen. At first I put up art work, but it just wasn’t cutting it because it left us terribly short of storage space!
When we found an Ikea Stenstorp kitchen cart, it had me at ‘hello’. It was a great size, but I wasn’t a fan of the open storage. The lack of drawer space to hold things like our kitchen knives and towels didn’t meet our needs. Our solution was to build drawers to fit the larger top space and complete the bottom shelf with baskets!
Woodworker Friend to the Rescue
At first we weren’t sure how we would build the drawers, so we called up a knowledgeable friend. As a woodworker, he not only had the experience to guide us but plenty of leftover scrap wood begging to be upcycled! He came up with the brilliant idea of making something that wasn’t permanently attached. So we settled on a self-enclosed removable two drawer unit that simply slips in and sits on the top shelf.
I liken this project to the ‘Turducken’ of Ikea upcycles: the removable drawer unit is essentially two boxes (the drawers) within a box that sits between the two rails within the top portion of the cart! It’s a mouthful to explain, but it works beautifully!
Our friend not not only came up with the idea, but he also offered to cut and assemble some of the pieces for us. Who could refuse an offer like that?
We started by taking measurements. In the end, we really only needed the inside dimensions of the first section and also the inner dimensions of the sides, so we could add a panel to hide the fact that that the unit isn’t ‘built in’.
Building the ‘Turducken’ of Ikea Upcycles
Using 5/8″ maple from other projects to build the outside box and 1/2″ maple for the drawers, he then handed it back over to us. We installed the drawer glides, drawer faces and hardware then painted and clear coated anywhere there was raw wood.
The next two sections provide details of the build so skip them unless you plan on constructing it ?.
Dimensions: Outer Box
Ikea’s Stenstorp is no longer being sold, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find one to upcycle like we did! To build your own, here are the inside and outside dimensions of the box so you can build-in more storage too!
The finished dimensions are 25-3/16″ wide x 11 -1/8″ high x 16-7/16″ deep.
Since it sits so snugly on the shelf, we taped off about 1/2″ around the face and painted only that part white (it’s the only part you actually see – the rest is clear coated).
Our friend mitred the pieces of wood 45 degrees on each edge with a table saw and then glued and clamped it all together with a biscuit joint.
Watch the first minute of this YouTube video to see the process of biscuit joining a 45 degree mitre:
The finished size of your drawers will depend on the thickness of the wood you use to build the box and also the clearance you need for your particular hardware; we used 1/2″ maple for the drawers. To accommodate the drawer glide hardware, the drawer itself is built 23″ wide x 3-7/8″ high x 13-7/8 deep” wide. Both drawers are built to the same dimensions.
You could join the wood of the drawer using a pocket hole jig, countersink screws or even brad nails and glue, but our friend used a dovetail jig then glued and clamped it together. He also routed out a slot to accept 1/4 plywood for the bottom of the drawer (which is also screwed on along the back edge only as you can see below).
While it’s great that we had access to a friend who could help us fabricate a professional looking drawer, not many of you will have the tools or a friend to do this. Jenn over at Build-Basic has a great tutorial for building a simple drawer that anyone with some basic tools could do.
Once the drawers were complete, that’s where we took over. Hubs sprayed the inside of the drawers with a clear finish to seal the wood. Although the cart looks white to begin with, it had a yellow undertone – not the look we’re going for. We repainted the whole cart and new inset by colour matching the paint in our kitchen.
Our drawer face measures 4-11/16″ high x 23-11/16″ wide. We positioned the face 1/2″ from the top edge of the drawer and centred it from side to side. We drilled pilot holes through the box and then drove 1″ screws through the holes into the backside of the drawer front.
We installed 13-5/8″ soft close Blum drawer glides onto the drawers.
For the lower drawer, the glide hardware sits directly on the bottom of the box.
Putting it Together
After installing the drawer glides into the box, we slid the box onto the first shelf of the cart.
The final size of the box is 1/8″ less in both height and width so there’s enough room to slip it onto the shelf. That way we won’t have noticeable gaps that would give away that the drawers are not built-in.
From the back, you can see that we didn’t build the box the full depth of the shelf.
The cart is the first thing you see as you enter the kitchen. The exposed box looks ugly from the side so we added a panel there to hide it (and also the baskets on the bottom shelf that store our onions and potatoes).
Hubs cut 1/8″ MDF (14-1/8″ wide x 28-1/2″long) and painted it white inside and out.
3-M Command Strips hold the panels on. We’re showing two below, but added one more to attach to each rail of the cart as shown above.
Just line up the panel and firmly press it into place. If you don’t position the panel exactly right the first time, avoid the temptation to lift it off again. Give the adhesive backing a chance to set up for at least 24 hours and then you can finesse it.
Once the glue sets up, it’s just like removing something that has velcro. You can easily re-position the panel and snap it back in where you want it. You can also remove the panels altogether to restore the cart back to original without leaving a mark!
One way to make the cart look like it’s always belonged in the kitchen is to match the hardware. We installed matching oil bronzed cup pulls to tie in the hardware on the drawers (seen in the opening picture).
The first drawer goes in:
Now we can start to add our dishcloths!
Once both drawers are in, we’re good to go! We used the top drawer to store knives.
Coordinated with the Rest of the Kitchen
Below you can see really what I was talking about earlier: that the original colour of the Stenstorp has a yellow undertone. Our repainted cart is an exact match to the rest of the kitchen and looks much brighter!
As a last step, Hubs clear-coated the wooden top so we won’t have to worry about spills from the microwave.
It’s great to be able to relocate the microwave from the counter top to the cart; it frees up some much needed prep space!
Here’s a reminder of how the space looked before:
And here is our new custom storage solution. Maybe one day I’ll remove the blue protective plastic coating on the stainless steel shelves ?.
To finish off what was once a blank corner, we added framed pictures of vegetables that a friend of a friend took at a market; I love the pop of colour! I also added a plaque above the microwave that says ‘indulge’ – appropriate for a kitchen, don’t you think?
Thanks to our friend’s generous time, this was an economical upcyle. We used free scraps of wood; the only costs were hardware, paint and top coat – some of which we already had on hand.
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One More Kitchen Storage Project
To eek out even more space in our compact galley kitchen, check out the pullout that Hubs and I built in this other blank spot in our kitchen.