Guys, I’m so excited about this post. I’ve been wanting to get this one on the blog for quite some time but between vacation and the Instagram Builders Challenge, I’ve been insanely busy. But here it is, the best Ikea Forhoja kitchen cart hack you’ll ever see, well at least in my opinion! 😉
When I saw the Forhoja cart at Ikea, I knew it was something that I could make look beautiful. It’s sturdy and well constructed but lacking character. There were two things from the beginning that I knew for certain needed help. Can you guess? First, those wheels look like something that would be on a toy cart of some sort. They need to go. Second, the drawers aren’t horrible, but I love what some simple pull knobs or handles can do to add character to a piece and I just can’t make them work with the drawers as designed.
This is what the Forhoja kitchen cart looks like without any modifications.
And here is what you’ll need to turn the simple $109 Forhoja kitchen cart from Ikea into a beautiful expensive looking kitchen cart.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will make a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Ikea Forhoja Cart – $109 USD
Ikea Bagganas Pulls (13-3/16″) – $9.99 USD
Ikea Bagganas Pulls (5-5/8″) – $5.99 USD
(1) 1″ x 6″ board (30″ length minimum)
(4) 2″ Casters
Rustoleum soft iron spray paint
Saw – I used an oscillating tool and a miter saw but a simple hand saw could be used for this project
Sander – I used a power sander but if you don’t have one you could sand by hand
Ok, now that you know what you’ll need for this transformation, let me walk you through how I did it. While there are a lot of steps, it’s actually a very easy project. It isn’t something that you can knock out in a day due to the wait time for the paint, stain and poly to dry but if you have the patience it’ll be worth it in the end. Trust me on this!
Step 1 – Assemble the shelves
Follow the instructions provided with the cart to assemble the two rail shelves.
Step 2 – Cut off the wheels
Cut off the ugly wheels that came with the cart. Since I was using a miter saw to cut the legs to the final length, I had to cut the wheels off first to get the legs to be flat and sit flush on my saw. To do this, I used an oscillating tool.
Now, if you aren’t planning to use a miter saw, you could just skip this step and make one cut to the final length.
Step 3 – Cut the legs to equal length
Since I added my own casters to all four legs and they will add some overall height to the cart, I cut the legs to be exactly 30-1/4″ long. You’ll want to do this on all four legs.
This is what they looked like after I made all of my cuts.
Step 4 – Degloss
The kitchen cart is made of birch and it has some sort of glaze on it. You’ll want to be diligent about removing the glaze as much as possible since the stain will not adhere well if the wood isn’t exposed. I like to use Liquid Sander/Deglosser.
Step 5 – Cut the drawer faces
This part is actually much easier than I had originally anticipated because a standard 1″x6″ board fit perfectly for the height of the face that I needed. Cut two drawer faces from the 1″x6″ board that are 14″ in length each.
Step 6 – SAND SAND SAND
Sand until you can’t sand anymore. It’s tedious but it’s absolutely necessary if you want a nice finish. I used 120 grit sand paper to start and then followed with 220 grit after that. You’ll want to sand all of the parts that will be receiving stain. This includes the legs, top, drawer faces and drawer housing.
For the drawer faces, I used my power sander to round off the edges a bit to give it more of a rustic look.
Step 7 – Clean all pieces
I used TSP substitute to clean all of the wood pieces and prep them for stain and paint.
Step 8 – Tape off the legs
You’ll want to tape off the parts of the legs that you will be staining. If you paint them first, the stain will not show up. I used plastic bags to cover the top parts because I got impatient with taping all of the areas.
Step 9 – Spray paint the legs, shelves and hardware
I used Rustoleum soft iron spray paint to mimic the look of iron for the shelves and hardware. Note that the picture below doesn’t show the parts of the legs that I didn’t tape (in photo above). You’ll want to spray paint those as well. I also spray painted the heads of the screws that came with the cart so that they would blend in a bit better. I ended up needing two cans of spray paint to fully cover all of the pieces.
Step 10 – Remove the tape and then tape the painted part
You’ll want to protect the part that was painted on the legs from the stain, so place some tape around that area. You can see where I taped on the spray painted part in the photo under step 11 below.
Step 11 – Stain
The stained parts include the top, The parts of the legs that I didn’t paint already, The top drawer support and the drawer faces. I used Miwax Early American stain for this. I just love the color! Even with all of the prep work on this piece, the stain still wasn’t taking very well. I applied 3 coats in order to achieve the color that I was looking for.
Step 12 – Polyurethane
Apply polyurethane to all of the stained surfaces.
Step 13 – Assemble
Assemble the cart according to the directions. At this point I hadn’t attached the top. After it was assembled, I dry fit the drawer faces.
To attach the drawer faces I just screwed them on from the inside of the drawer.
Here is a photo to give you some perspective on how I aligned the drawer faces. For the left drawer, the face is flush with the left side of the drawer and for the right drawer it is flush with the right side of that drawer. Dimensions that I used are as follows:
Flush with left side
1/4″ on right side
Flush with right side
1/4″on left side
Step 14 – Attach Hardware
Almost there! For the last step, I attached all of the hardware. I used Bagganas handles from Ikea for both the drawers and the towel rack on the side of the cart. The screws that come with the handles won’t be long enough to go through all of the material, so to attach them, I predrilled holes and then used some screws that I purchased at Lowes to attach them.
For the casters, I drilled holes in the center of each of the leg bottoms that were roughly the same size as the caster posts. I applied wood glue into each of the holes and then pushed the casters in.
And there we have it! I just love how it turned out. I’m using it as more of a bar cart than a kitchen cart but I think it would look fantastic in any application.
If you have any questions just ask away in the comments section!
Happy Ikea Hacking!
Oh Hannah! I love this. It looks like an old find and no one would ever guess that it’s from IKEA brand new! Featuring when my link party opens up tonight. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks so much Carol! I enjoy participating in the link party. Thanks for hosting!
I love this! By adding wood to the front of the drawers, it looks like the drawers don’t close? Can you tell me more about this?
Thanks Robyn! The standard Forhoja has drawers that can be pulled out of both the front and back of the cart. By adding drawer fronts like I did, I can now only open the drawers from the front of the cart. I put mine against a wall so I would have never pulled them out of the back anyways. I hope that makes sense. If you’re still unsure, send me your handle on Instagram or Facebook and I can send you a picture.
Oh, I didn’t know you could open the drawers from the front and back! I think that makes sense, but if you can send me a picture, that would be great! I just bought the cart and am going to tackle this DYI this week! My IG handle is rcurrah. Thank you so much!!
Beautiful ! So glad I found you at The answer is Chocolate Party!
Hello! If I’m not staining the wood, but only planning on painting it or spray painting it, will I need to sand it still? Or can the job be done without sanding?
Hi Alexandra. Thanks for visiting my site. I would recommend sanding at least lightly with a 220 grit to smooth out any imperfections and allow the paint to stick better. Some inexpensive sheets of sand paper and hand sanding should do the trick if you don’t own a power sander.
Hi Hannah! Absolutely love this! How many coats of polyurethane did you apply for yours?
Thanks Megan. I always do 3 coats of poly and sand with 400 grit in between coats. Since the stain didn’t take as well as I had hoped I think it’s really important to not skimp on the poly since it seals it all in.
I’m struggling with my Ikea pieces because whatever glaze is there makes it really hard to stain. I just did two coats of deglosser on all of the pieces and am going around sanding them now. How do I know the deglosser worked? I tried staining a different piece with only sanding but because of the existing gloss I didn’t realize was there, it’s all splotchy and looks terrible. I don’t want to apply the stain until I know that the gloss is gone!
I totally feel your pain Cara. I ended up putting the stain on thick (more like painting than staining). If I tried to wipe it off it looked blotchy so I just painted a few coats of polyurethane over the somewhat wet stain the next day. The poly ended up drying up nicely and sealed everything in perfectly. The deglosser, sanding and cleaning with tsp substitute did the trick for me but I will say that it was more difficult to stain than a bare piece of wood.