Introduction: Ikea Stenstorp Kitchen Cart Hack
When we couldn't fit two pantries along the fridge wall due to traffic flow issues, it left us with an awkward blank spot at the narrow 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 idea, but I'm not 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: when I explained my vision for the cart, his 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 essentially two drawer boxes within a box that sits between the two rails in the top portion of the cart!
Step 1: Coordinate With the Original Finishes
Since the Stenstorp sports a yellow shade of white, my husband colour matched a white that was identical to our kitchen cabinets. We also bought the same oil bronzed cup pulls to tie in the hardware.
Step 2: Maximize Space & Storage
These pictures show the big empty space before and how the cart fills it in nicely; however storage can still be improved. The best part of having a cart on wheels 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!
Step 3: Figure Out Dimensions
We started our transformation of the cart by taking full measurements as shown. Our friend is extremely knowledgeable about furniture building, so when we asked for his advice he 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).
Step 4: Build the Box
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 wouldn't have noticeable gaps that would give away that the drawers are not built-in.
Above you'll see the inside and outside dimensions of the box; 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 was clear coated).
Step 6: Mitre
We used 5/8" maple to build the box; 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.
Step 7: Biscuit Join
Our friend built off-site, so I don't have pictures but if you watch the first minute of this YouTube video, you'll see the process of biscuit joining a 45 degree mitre:
Step 8: Build the Drawers
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″.
Step 9: Dovetail Joints
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 drawer together 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 as you can see in one of the pictures).
Step 10: Joinery Option & Finishing
While we were lucky to have a friend who could help us fabricate a professional looking drawer, 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. He also clear coated the wooden top that comes with the cart so we wouldn’t have to worry about spills. Then he used the white paint he colour matched to our cabinets to paint all the remaining wood on the Stenstorp cart and new drawer fronts.
Step 11: Assembly
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!
Step 12: Side and Back View
Here's how the box looks resting on the shelf from the side and back view.
Step 13: Mount Drawers & Attach Pulls
Then drawers went in and the drawer pulls were attached.
Step 14: Fill Them Up!
Then we could fill the drawers with knives in the top drawer and dish towels below. On the shelf we left open, it was a perfect space to add some baskets for root vegetables.
The final touch is to put a panel on the side you see as you walk into the room (I also added one on the other side too). 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 the panel hides the side of the drawer and also the baskets 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 work 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 it. 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.
We moved the microwave onto the top of the cart which freed up some much needed prep space on the other side of the kitchen!
Here's a reminder with some comparisons of the space before and after the cart, and before the drawer unit was added.
Step 17: Final Reveal
Here's is the reveal of the cart with the removable unit in place. We added some framed pictures of vegetables that another friend took at a market to add a pop of colour and a plaque that says ‘indulge’ – appropriate for a kitchen!