Revamped Butchers Block

IKEA furniture – it’s cheap, ubiquitous, and astoundingly practical. So describes the love/hate relationship I have with the furniture giant. It is affordable, but generic. Impeccably utilitarian, shiny and appealing; but invariably constructed of cheap MDF plywood with a dubious life expectancy. Besides, each immaculately presented item will be owned by thousands of other Brits bewitched by Swedish contemporary design, and the array of wipe clean surfaces.

Yet, as a penniless student when I need a quick cheap furniture fix, I am obliged to head straight into the cavernous blue and yellow arms of IKEA – of course only when the desired object has not been discovered through rigorous vintage rummaging. This doesn’t happen often, I don’t need any furniture for my shabby chic East London flat . This is not about me, this is about my boyfriend, and his much nicer, much bigger flat; in West London.

Here there is space and furniture to fill it. As you can imagine I find a lot of excuses to spend time here. We cook together and, as expected as a verruca after a trip to the swimming pool, too many cooks equals not enough work-top space. Ridiculous scenes ensued: me chopping up veg on the dining room table, him preparing meat just behind the door, pans full of food on the floor, etc. After some time it occurred to us that more work space was necessary. This was mulled over until, one of us (actually me, I like to think I bring the creative imagination to the relationship) realised what we needed was a kitchen-island-butchers-block-thingammyjiggie. One small enough to be put to one side when it wasn’t being used…

All efforts to find such a thing on Ebay or amongst my much-loved brick lane establishments proved unsuccessful. Enter IKEA, and their solid wood kitchen thingummyjig that they call a trolley.

The consensus was that this ‘trolley’ was exactly what we were looking for… only it was dull with a capital D. So, we froufrou-ed it. Why stick with the ordinary? For the last few days I’ve been painting, sanding, and oiling, and it now looks like this:

Painted IKEA Trolley

(Yes if you look reaaaally closely you can just about see my reflection in the oven)

The legs and supports are painted in a cream gloss paint, and the butchers block on top and the slats below have been treated with tung oil. This brings out the grain in the wood and gives a richer colour, but also to make sure the surface is hard wearing and safe enough to prepare food on.

I love the results. I’ve used a classic colour palette but embellished things don’t always have to be flamboyant. They can be chic, practical and fit seamlessly into contemporary life (and kitchen). Anyway, I love it. Even if this trolley’s journey started in IKEA,  if a paint splodge has gone awry or uneven, then it is because we did it, not some unknown human in a huge far-off factory. There is something romantic about that.

To revamp my trolley I used:

  • 1 IKEA trolley  – £30.63
  • 250 ml cream gloss paint £5
  • of tung oil – £7
  • Bottle of white spirit – £2
  • 1 ripped up T-shirt
  • Dust sheet or old bed sheet
  • Lots of sandpaper!
= £44.63 (cheaper than a new kitchen!)
The revamp process:

  1. As with all IKEA furniture, everything starts with a visit to the shop itself and furniture assembly
  2. Then I sanded it down… along the grain line of the wood (don’t make the mistake I did and rub indiscriminately, I learnt the hard way that this just makes a scratchy mess)
  3. Turn the trolley upside down on a dust sheet and paint it – mine needed 2 coats – then leave to dry fully
  4. mixed together 1 part white spirit to one part tung oil
  5. Rubp the mixture on the worktop along the grain of the wood with your t-shirt
  6. wait for 20-30 mins for the oil to soak in then rub off the excess with another strip of T-shirt
  7. Wait 24 hours before repeating the oiling process, it will need a minimum four coats; with each coat reduce the amount of white spirit in the mixture until the last one or two coats, which are pure tung oil
3 Responses to “Revamped Butchers Block”
  1. Jane Gallagher says:

    Sounds fantastic…….but what is tung oil, and where is it sold??????

  2. Sara Ridley says:

    What I want to know…. Is who actually built it!! Looks good though, very creative!

    • Sshh Sara… you weren’t supposed to ask that! I have to admit that would be the boyfriend. However I did help out a little bit.

      And great question mum! Tung oil is a sort of wood sealant that people in the know advise to apply to any untreated wooden surfaces that will be used to prepare food; after about four coats the wood surface should be wipe clean and primed for use. You can get tung oil online or from any DIY shop.


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