Ikea Kitchen Cart Makeover

Bar Cart

Bart Cart

Bar Cart

Bar Cart

Bar Cart

Bar Cart

While most people style kitchen carts into bar carts, we knew our cart had to be for cappuccinos. Ever since we came back from Italy last August, we’ve kept our espresso machine out on our countertop and have been enjoying making Italian style cappuccinos every morning. But when Chris and I moved into our new apartment in March, we ended up in a bigger kitchen but with less usable counter space.

So a new kitchen cart was our solution. We purchased this one from Ikea after realizing most bar/kitchen carts run upwards of $300. This one from Ikea was only $109 and I decided I could customize it ourselves for less. Here it is below before the makeover:

Ikea Kitchen Cart

The kitchen cart arrived on our doorstep in pieces, so you will need to put this one together. The cart is made of solid birch but has been treated with clear lacquer that will need to be sanded down if you plan on customizing it. Below is a step by step how to of how I customized the cart.

How To

Disclaimer: I owe a big thanks to my father in law who helped me do all of this! I definitely don’t own my power sander and he had on hand all the equipment I needed plus a variety of stains to test out before I committed to Red Oak for the top of the cart.

  1. Sand: Before putting the cart together I used a power sander to sand down each component so the paint and stain would stick better.

  2. Assemble: It was easier to put the cart together before painting then to paint it and then assemble (the instructions included make it really easy).

  3. Paint: I painted the drawers and the base of the kitchen cart with Behr Downtown Gray in a satin finish. I only needed to purchase a quart and did two coats on the cart. I still have a lot of paint leftover (and you may have noticed that I still need to paint the wheels).

  4. Stain: This can be a really messy part but since my father in law has just about anything you need, we wrapped the whole base of the cart in plastic after it dried so the stain wouldn’t splash on my freshly painted cart. We stained the top with a Red Oak stain and did two coats for a darker and richer finish.

  5. Wait: After you stain it, it takes a long time to dry, especially if it’s summer. Be patient and wait for it to dry (sometimes a day or two) before applying the coat of lacquer.

  6. Lacquer: I decided I wanted to have a lacquer on top of the stain so the surface was easily wiped down after making espresso and steaming milk. WARNING: This smells so bad! Lacquer dries really fast but it really stinks so if you’re able to do this outside - I’d definitely recommend it. The only problem we had with doing it outside was that bugs started landing on it. Yuck!

  7. Enjoy! Set the kitchen cart up and enjoy it. I went to Pinterest for inspiration on how to decorate the cart and have shared some tips below.

When it came to styling our kitchen cart, I wanted to decorate it for function and the habits of our everyday life. Nothing on the cart is new (aside from our espresso machine which we recently bought since our other one was not working anymore).

Bar Cart

Espresso Machine

We love our new espresso machine, the Breville Infuser. It makes the most delicious cappuccino and we’ve stopped going to Starbucks it’s so good!

Coffee Grinder

This coffee grinder was a Christmas present for Chris last year. We love the different settings and how consistent the grind is - since it’s a burr grinder. We currently only grind for espresso on the finest setting.

Fresh Flowers

Even though we live in an apartment we have some space on our front stoop to hang a basket of flowers and for a few other plants. I just cut a few small bunches from our hanging basket and put them into my moscow mule mug!


I love that this kitchen cart comes with rungs to hold wine bottles. Since we didn’t want wine to be the main part of this cart, we’re only displaying a few of favorite bottles.

Fruit Bowl

Normally this bowl sits on our kitchen table but I like having it on the kitchen cart to free up more space and to add a splash of color to the cart.


To balance out the bottom of the kitchen cart, I put our three favorite cookbooks on display: The Art of French Cooking, The Food Lab, and The Professional Chef.

Napkins and Linens

We made the switch a few years ago from paper to cloth napkins, and we haven’t bought paper napkins since. We’ve loved taking one thing off of our grocery list and saving a few dollars too!

This was one of my favorite DIY/Pinterest projects yet! I love that we have a custom piece in our kitchen and I had so much fun styling it too. What are some of your favorite DIY projects? Any recommendations for a DIY in a small apartment?

To see the Apartment Therapy feature, click here.

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