How I upcycled an old IKEA kitchen into a stylish piece of furniture

Construction is one of the least sustainable industries we have. As someone who loves to update my home, when redesigning my space, I always look for ways to implement sustainable practices where I can.

When my fiancé and I moved into our new home, we knew we had a lot to do, and the kitchen was first on that list. It was a small pantry in the darkest part of the house and impossible for two people to use at the same time. We decided to move the kitchen to the dining room and convert the small pantry into a utility room and toilet on the ground floor. However, we stuck to the question of what to do with the old kitchen.

DIY kitchen cabinets

(Photo credit: Jorge Lemos)

There were a number of things we thought about. The most obvious option was to resell or donate the old kitchen. Even the oldest kitchen has value as long as it is in good condition. Devices can be sold or donated separately, and best of all, buyers come to your door to pick them up.

Updating the existing kitchen is also an option and is often the easiest and cheapest way to revamp it. DIY kitchen ideas like adding vinyl wrap or replacing the doors and countertop are a great way to update your kitchen without too much disruption or expense. Painting older-style wooden doors is an easy way to modernize a kitchen and something any home improvement maker can pick up on.

But there is another way to reuse your old kitchen by turning it into different furniture for your home. This is the path we have chosen.

The old kitchen itself was in relatively good condition. It was roughly 10 years old and consisted of Ikea cabinets with a black quartz countertop that sucked the remaining light out of the room. The space isn’t big enough to have full size cabinets on either side of the galley so the previous owners had cabinets of shallower depth on one side.

I knew we probably wouldn’t have much interest in selling the flatter kitchen units, so I decided to reuse them by making new sideboards. The end result: furniture that we love and use every day.

I did it that way.

Upcycle kitchen cabinet

(Photo credit: Jorge Lemos)

1. Dismantle the old kitchen

Dismantling the Ikea closet

(Photo credit: Jorge Lemos)

To be able to reuse the cabinets, we had to make sure we took them apart carefully. Most kitchen cabinets tend to be attached to each other with a few bolts or screws. Wall cabinets are usually hung on the wall. Once all of the connecting screws are removed, the cabinets can be lifted into place.

For the base units, you must first remove the worktop. To do this, empty each closet and remove the shelves. Look in the closet and at the top you should see fixings or brackets for the countertop, these should be easy to unscrew. Then remove the countertop (proceed carefully as the countertops are heavy. Safety first!)

2. Design the sideboard

Ikea Upcycle Kitchen Cabinet

(Photo credit: Jorge Lemos)

That’s the fun piece. I had two types of cabinets to use including wall cabinets with nice glass doors. With three of the glass door cabinets I made a sideboard on the legs for the new kitchen. Our new kitchen is heavily plywood and white finishes, and that’s why I wanted to incorporate plywood into the sideboard. For this purpose, the cabinets were placed on a plywood base with matching legs and covered with a plywood countertop.

We also used the four base cabinets in the office as much-needed storage space.

3. Build the sideboard

IKEA cabinet upcycle

(Photo credit: Jorge Lemos)

For the new kitchen sideboard, we connected three of the upper cabinets together. I used 18mm birch plywood for the base and top of the sideboard. The plywood can be cut to size at your local B&Q. However, I used some leftovers from the time we built the new kitchen. The wood must be sanded with a fine sandpaper until it is smooth. I also sanded the sides of the plywood and filled holes with a light wooden spatula. To make sure the wood would last, I added a clear, matte varnish to the exposed wood.

To mimic a mid-century sideboard I got 4 wooden furniture legs on screws with mounting plates from eBay that cost about £ 20. To attach these, I drilled a hole in the plywood base and inserted a mounting plate into which the legs should be screwed. When the base was finished I placed the glass door cabinets on the plywood base. When I was happy with the location, I attached the cabinets to the plywood with screws. To finish off, I added the top portion of the plywood and secured it with screws from the bottom.

Given that most of us replace our kitchens every 10 to 15 years, this is a cheap and stylish alternative to dumping your old kitchen in a landfill.

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