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. Our renovator changed the plan on us and left us with an awkward blank spot to fill at the entry to our kitchen. Not only was it ugly to look at, but the lack of a pantry left us terribly short of storage space!
Ikea’s Stenstorp kitchen cart seemed like a great solution, but I wasn’t a fan of the open storage. I wanted extra drawer space to hold things like my kitchen knives and towels, however, I didn’t want to permanently alter the cart in case I ever wanted to convert it back one day. Friend to the rescue: the solution was to build a removable two drawer unit that simply slips in and sits on the top shelf. I liken this project to the ‘Turducken’ of Ikea hacks: the removable drawer unit is two boxes within a box that sits between the two rails within the top portion of the cart!
You may notice in the picture above that the colour of the Stenstorp before was a more yellowed shade of white. I wanted the cart to look like it was made to match the rest of the kitchen (seen below), so we ended up repainting the cart a white that was colour-matched to our kitchen cabinets. We also bought the same oil bronzed cup pulls to tie in the hardware.
As you can see by the before and after pictures below, we were left with a big empty space, but now the cart fills it in nicely. The best part is that we can move it completely out of the way if we ever need to bring anything wide in or out of the kitchen!
At first we weren’t sure how we would build the drawer, so we started our transformation of the cart by taking full measurements as shown below. We have a friend who’s extremely knowledgeable about furniture building so we asked for his advice. He came up with the brilliant idea of making something that wasn’t permanently attached. That was when we decided on a self-enclosed removable unit with drawers for only the top half with open storage on the bottom for some baskets.
Our friend not not only came up with the idea, but he also offered to cut and assemble the pieces for us. He then handed it back over to us to paint, clear coat (the top and drawers), add hardware and, of course, add finishing touches like baskets and artwork to decorate the space. Who could refuse an offer like that?
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 drawer isn’t ‘built in’ (A,C,I & J).
We only used measurements for A, C, I and J
We made the final size of the box 1/8″ less in both height and width so there’s enough room to slip it onto the shelf. That way we wouldn’t have noticeable gaps that would give away that the drawers are not built-in.
Here’s how the box looks resting on the shelf from the side and back view; we didn’t build the box to the full depth of the shelf, as you can see in this picture:
Below you’ll see the inside and outside dimensions of the box; the finished dimensions were 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 was clear coated).
We used 5/8″ maple to build the box; again, 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.
Close-up of mitre joint
Watch the first minute of this YouTube video to see the process of biscuit joining a 45 degree mitre:
We used Blum drawer glides that were 13-5/8″ in length. For the bottom drawer, the hardware sat directly on the bottom of the box and the distance between that and next glide we installed was 4-3/4″.
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. The drawer itself was built 23″ wide x 3-7/8″ high x 13-7/8 deep” wide to accommodate the drawer glide hardware inside the box; both drawers were 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 was also screwed on along the back edge only as you can see below).
From left: drawer dimensions, front face and pull installed, blum hardware on underside
Dovetail joints in drawer
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, my husband sprayed them with a clear finish to seal the wood.
Our drawer face measured 4-11/16″ high x 23-11/16″ wide. As you can see in the picture of the drawer below, 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 (which we also painted to match the rest of the cart).
We installed the drawer glides into the box, then slid the box onto the first shelf of the cart. Maybe one day I’ll take off the blue protective plastic coating on the stainless steel shelves – lol!
Then drawers went in:
Once the drawers were in, we attached the drawer pulls, then we could fill our drawers up!
We tried our knives in the second drawer, but then moved them up to the top for better access. We’re currently using a bamboo knife tray to hold them, but it’s not a perfect fit so one day I’ll build custom dividers for the drawer (and post the tutorial)!
Drawers hold knives and dish towels/pot holders
The final touch was to put a panel on the side you see as you walk into the room (I have one for the other side too, but haven’t gotten around to putting it on!). We used 1/8″ MDF (14-1/8″ wide x 28-1/2″long) and painted it white inside and out. The cart is the first thing you see as you enter the kitchen so it’s nice to have the panel there to hide the side of the drawer and also the baskets I placed on the bottom shelf that hold our onions and potatoes.
I used 3-M Command Strips, which are typically used to hang pictures. They can be removed in the future, if I ever want to restore the cart back to original, without leaving a mark! Since the panel is pretty light, three strips worked perfectly. I applied one to each rail of the side and then removed the paper to expose the adhesive backing. I carefully positioned the panel and firmly pressed it into place where it meets the rails to make contact with the adhesive. If you don’t position the panel just right the first time, avoid the temptation to lift it off. Give the adhesive backing a chance to set up for at least 24 hours and then you can finesse the panel. Once the glue sets up, it’s just like removing something that has been velcroed; you can easily re-position the panel and snap it back in where you want it.
Clockwise from top left (side views of cart): the drawer, applied 3M-strips, completed panel and close up of 3M strip
It was great to be able to move the microwave from the counter top on the other side of the kitchen to the cart; it freed up some much needed prep space! While my husband was repainting the cart the same white as our kitchen, he also clear-coated the wooden top so we wouldn’t have to worry about spills.
Here are some comparisons of the space before and after the cart:
And here is the final shot of the cart with the drawer unit in place:
To finish off what was once a blank corner, we added some 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 that says ‘indulge’ – appropriate for a kitchen, don’t you think?
What’s a kitchen without a little indulgence?
To eek out even more space in our galley kitchen, my husband and I also built this pull-out cabinet.
After the cart and pull-out cabinet were done, my husband turned his attention to finishing our basement. He’s building a craft room for me and a mancave for him (so he can finally relax after all the sweat equity he put in to building the basement)! I’ll have more how-to’s coming up in future posts stemming from the basement reno (i.e. tiling a backsplash in the laundry room, installing engineered hardwood flooring and how to install baseboard and trim).
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