Ikea Bar Stool Hack

phdikeahack2If there is one thing my wedding prep taught me, it is that everything in life can be improved with gold spray paint.

We returned home post-wedding to find a wonderful array of new grown-up furniture, glassware, cutlery, and cake stands awaiting us. Amongst the Pottery Barn adulthood, our student Ikea bar stools suddenly looked especially nineties. Ten years ago, before I developed my own tastes and sense of style, Ikea’s plentiful birch effect and dull chrome hardware worked—now it ruined the aesthetic. Being in grad school our budgets have not improved in the last decade, but thankfully my creativity has. Rather than replacing the stools we hacked them. From nineties drab, our Franklin stools are now more mid-century fab.

Tools Needed:

  • Ikea Franklin stools
  • Screw Driver
  • Sandpaper
  • Spray Paint (Krylon Gold Metallic)
  • Wood Stain (Miniwax Wood Finish in Red Mahogany 225)

phdikeahack3First, take the chair apart so that all wooden parts are removed from the metal frame.

Remove the black plastic foot rest. This is a little tricky as there are little plastic prongs inside which you need to break off before you can remove the foot rest. Rotate the plastic bar until you hear a snap—that is the sound of the prongs breaking off. Now prize the plastic bar off of the metal frame, (we used scissors at first to get some purchase).

Cover the black plastic feet with painters tape and then spray paint the entire frame, front and back, and also the brackets. It took a couple of sprays before we got totally even coverage. Leave the frame to dry completely.

For the wooden chair parts, first, sand them down to remove the existing varnish. Make sure you sand front and back, top and bottom, as all areas will be seen. Once you have a rough surface, apply wood stain with a brush in the direction of the grain. We did a couple of coats to get the desired dark finish and left the stain on for near an hour rather than the suggested twenty minutes. Remove the excess stain and leave the chairs to dry. It was humid, so our chairs took a good twenty-four hours to dry.

Finally reassemble the chair and enjoy your handy work.

This was a very easy project, especially as we already had all the equipment in the house. While, in time, we will likely want to get new furniture for our kitchen, these chairs work well in our current space. Proof again, that spray paint really is a girl’s best friend.phdikeahack4


The Kitchen Aid

phdpiefillingpartyring2For our three-year anniversary in February I decided to make my boyfriend a cake. Naturally, I decided it should have five tiers in order to fit moose decorations on the side of the cake. Five tiers’ worth of buttercream seemed a bit much, so instead I  resolved that it was time to learn to make frosting. I chose Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Martha insisted that you need a stand mixer to do this, however, the Internet told me it was possible to make it with a hand mixer, it would just be very difficult. I grabbed onto the fact that it was technically possible and scorned at the idea of difficulty. It really couldn’t be that bad. After all I’ve watched Mrs. Patmore whip cream by hand.

I actually got blisters from holding the mixer, and I believe I may have done permanent damage to my wrists. I had to keep taking breaks as I could not physically hold onto the mixer anymore and my hand seized up in a grab position. It does, in fact, take hours to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream by hand. I doubt Mrs Patmore would ever have been foolish enough to attempt it. You whisk it over the stove, then you whisk peaks, then you add icing sugar and continue to whisk until the end of time. At one point the mixture curdled and despite Martha’s advice not to worry it would come together again, I found myself alone in the kitchen covered in sticky sugary semi-whipped egg whites screaming abuse at Martha.

phdpiefillingpartyrings7After reading a lot of advice online, I did eventually manage to salvage the icing and produced a halfway decent cake. However, it was now clear that the hand mixer wasn’t going to cut it anymore: I needed a Kitchen Aid. Both of my sisters have Kitchen Aids, and my younger sister has been trying to convince me to get one since Christmas. Initially I ignored her advice but Swiss Meringue-gate had changed things.

For the last few months I’ve spent a lot of time looking at Kitchen Aids, indeed a couple of weeks ago my boyfriend practically had to drag me away from an Ice colored one during a late night Target visit. He kept telling me that the prices went down in May and I could look again then. Unusually I believed him. I should have known he did not actually know the Kitchen Aid sale schedule by heart; this is much more my type of knowledge. Unbeknownst to me, my wonderful Mummy had already told him that she was getting me one for my birthday. I had no idea and could not have had a better surprise when I opened the beautiful Ice colored mixer.

For my first Kitchen Aid experience I decided to make Party Ring cakes. Party Rings are my favorite English biscuit. For those Americans reading, they are small circular sugar cookies with a hole in the middle, covered in colored icing. They are a staple at English birthday parties, and were affectionately called finger-mice biscuits in my house as we wore them on our fingers before eating. Now that you can buy mini ones I tend to buy several packets when I’m home. I’ve wanted to try decorating cakes with them for ages, and the birthday Kitchen Aid’s maiden voyage seemed like perfect opportunity.

phdpiefillingpartyrings3For the first few days, I just looked at the Kitchen Aid, stroking it occasionally, admiring its industrial beauty. When I finally drummed up the courage to get it dirty, the Kitchen Aid worked like a dream. The Swiss Meringue Buttercream only took about 20 minutes in the mixer and I watched in awe as the machine did all the work of whisking and whipping my icing. The mixture did curdle, but it seems Martha was right, if you leave it alone the Kitchen Aid does bring the mixture back together. I’m sorry I yelled at you last time, Martha. I shouldn’t have doubted you and blame the blistered hand and the curdled egg whites in my hair.phdpiefillingpartyrings4Perhaps best of all, the arrival of the Kitchen Aid provided a fantastic storage problem and justified the purchase of another Ikea Raskog cart. The Kitchen Aid fits perfectly in the top shelf, and the additional shelves provided a welcome excuse to display all my other teal bakeware. My boyfriend, who was initially skeptical of the need for a new cart, now admits it is the perfect finishing touch for our kitchen.phdpiefillingraskogSince making these cakes, we’ve used the Kitchen Aid for whoopie pies, frosting, pie and pizza dough. It has even got the seal of approval from my bread-making boyfriend – high praise indeed. The two of us, both former vegetarians, have invested in sausage making attachments and casings and plan to finally have proper English sausages this side of the pond. Whether I can man up enough to use the meat grinder remains to be seen…. but at least I’ve mastered the Swiss Meringue Buttercream.


The Grown Up Table: An Ikea Lack Hack

phdpfikea4I call this table the grown up table because it wasn’t until we put the wooden table top on, that I realized how cheap and Ikea-ry it looked before. Of course it was cheap and from Ikea so it isn’t really surprising. Not that I want to bad mouth Ikea because I love the store (especially as you get a free cup of tea if you are an Ikea Family member!), however, I think our additions have improved this table dramatically.

This was actually a fairly easy Pinterest inspired project. However, we did rather manage to complicate it by cutting the wrong size of wood the first go round so that the table top was an inch short. However, if you can measure correctly the first time it will be much easier.

Tools Needed

  • Ikea Lack Coffee Table
  • 4 x 90cm x 5.5 inch wooden board (We chose Cedar planks)
  • Sealant (We used Krylon Crystal Clear Gloss Top Coat)
  • screws
  • Drill
  • Sand Paper

To start this project, measure the table. Ours was 90cm long, however, I would recommend measuring your own in case there is any deviation.

With measurements in hand we took one of our frequent trips to Home Depot and chose some 5.5 inch board. Don’t rely on signage to tell you the width of the board, measure it yourself as we found that the width marked and the actual width of the board were often rather different. We chose two cedar boards as we liked the grain best, and then cut each into two planks. Having previously been very nice about cutting  wood, our Home Depot now says they won’t do custom cuts. Therefore my boyfriend had to take the planks over to a bench in the dowels aisle and cut our boards with a blunt hand saw. Hopefully other Home Depots will be more accommodating and cut the boards with an electrical saw for you.

Once home we experimented with which order we wanted the planks to be on the table, and sanded off the ends and edges until smooth. We tried dark wood stain initially but decided that we liked the natural cedar better, and so just sprayed them with Krylon topcoat. It took a couple of coats to get something resembling an even covering.

phdpfikea6To attach the panels to the table we used a  drill bit to drill holes in the wood. This was arguably the hardest part of the project, in large part because our drill is fairly terrible and so the drill bit got stuck in the wood a few times. However, with a more efficient tool this wouldn’t be a problem. I was fairly certain the table would split when we tried to drill into it, however, I guess Ikea tables are stronger than I predicted as we didn’t have any problems. After making the holes we then put two screws in each end of the panel. Each screw is half inch from the edge of the panel.

The grown up table is now one of my favorite pieces of furniture in our house. It looks so much better than its $19.99 price tag.  The teal candle holder came from Ikea, and the coasters are white bathroom tiles from Home Depot that I doctored up with scrapbook paper, Mod Podge, Krylon top coat, and felt bases.