Kitchen Hackin’

You might remember (but you probably don’t) that back in the olden days of this past summer, I had two MOLGER benches from IKEA serving as temporary living room furniture—one as a coffee table and one as a TV stand—until I could find cheap, sexy, vintage, real furniture. I can’t give much praise to the way they handled these functions aesthetically, but they played their respective roles quite well. Purposefully, they were ugly enough that I wouldn’t allow myself to get used to them, but practical enough that they alleviated the pressure to furnish immediately with stuff I didn’t really love. Because when you’re relying on thrift stores for great, modestly-priced furniture in Manhattan, it’s best to prepare yourself for a wait.

Well, I showed you my coffee table already, so that takes care of one bench. Then I bought something to replace the other one, but you’ll have to wait to see it until I take some pictures. One bench, two bench (red bench, blue bench). I know, artful photography.

But I actually had an ulterior motive when I bought these in the first place. Since microwaves are kind of objectively ugly, I wanted it as out of sight as possible. They are also huge, and in a kitchen with less than 3.5 total feet of counter space, 1 foot of which needs to house a dish-drying rack 99% of the time, that thing just doesn’t fit anywhere. The only other wall in the kitchen doubles as the narrow path from the front door into the living room, so the storage solution to hold the microwave and other assorted things (and create another work surface on the top, besides), had to be way smaller than any of those nice IKEA kitchen carts. The MOLGER benches (find them in the bathroom section!) turned out to be the perfect width and depth for the space—and the microwave—but not nearly the right height. So this happened:

And now I’ll show you how.

Disassemble both benches. I started by deciding how tall it should be and settled on 31″—around console table height. I originally wanted it to be the height of the countertops (36.5″), but once I really looked at it, that just seemed really awkwardly tall and bulky and stupid. So I hacked 8 inches off the top of both frames from one of the benches. By the way, never buy a crappy plastic mitre box.

Then they need to be attached to each other in a secure and visually tidy way (read: no metal mending plates). Luckily, IKEA thoughtfully placed little rubber floor protectors at the bottom of the legs, which pop out easily. The holes are 5/16″ wide, which is a standard-sized drill bit. Since you’re pretty smart and you want the legs to match up as closely as possible, it’s easiest to use these lovingly mass-produced and therefore standardized-perfectly-to-center holes as drill guides, so you’re attaching the bottom of one set of legs to the bottom of the other set of legs (the top of which you just sawed off and discarded). In people, this would be something like the human centipede, or a really compelling sideshow act. Sorry, that was uncalled for and also why I don’t use the Twitter.

So, you need a 5/16″ drill bit, some 5/16″ x 1.5″ wood dowels, and some wood glue.

Drill down slightly into each hole on all four sets of bench frames to make it just a little bit deeper. Drop in a dollop of wood glue. Put in a dowel. Put one normal-sized frame on top of a midget frame. Press together vigorously. For me, this involved alternately balancing my entire weight on it and sitting on it until I was satisfied with its security, but you can decide how into it you want to get. Repeat. Let both pieces dry overnight. Sorry for the creepy-ish pictures, I only DIY in the dead of night as a general rule.

After both frames have dried, spackle over the seams and sand. Repeat, then repeat again. But not a fourth time because it’s near the floor and nobody cares anyway. While you’re at this, sand the entire frame so it’s ready to be painted. I also spackled over the original drill holes (except for the top ones), since the shelves needed to be 10.5″ apart in order to fit the microwave and the cute vintage breadbox, which is a wider spread than the original shelves.

I had an extra can of white spray paint so I used it to coat the legs. It takes a few coats. I don’t know why it looks so gloppy in the photo, I swear it’s smooth in real life. Regular latex would have worked just fine with a good primer, I just really love spray paint. Hearing it, feeling it, smelling that sweet aroma… what heaven.

After everything’s all painted up, it’s time to re-drill the screw holes in the sides to attach the shelves, keeping in mind the height of what you need to put on them and the thickness of the shelf. Also drill new holes in the bottoms of the legs for the little rubber floor protectors. Put it all back together and you’re done!

I’m including this side view, which shows the width of the path between the door and the living room. Nice and unobtrusive. I’m not sure I’m feeling the paper towel/parchment paper/tinfoil holder up there—I want so badly for it to fit—but I don’t think it’s working. Awkward placement. It might have to go (and by “go,” I mean back to my house-house, that place my parents live in).

Tada! Scarf props to my friend Eliza. I’m really loving having this storage and functionality in the kitchen. It got all the coffee stuff off the counter and nicely onto a little tray, comfortably holds the microwave and my cookbooks (don’t look too closely, lest you mistake me for somebody’s grandmother. But yes, my adorable sister did get me a first edition copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking on eBay for our birthday, she’s the greatest). The breadbox is too close to the floor to hold bread (I. fucking. hate. cockroaches.), so it holds all the tupperware instead.

Did I just write that paragraph? Jesus, I am an old lady.

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 12.10.10
    Lena said:

    Nice! Ikea should pay you!
    I like the placement of the paper towel thingy in the side view picture but not in the front view picture. Curious to see with what you replaced the second bench in the living room.

  2. 12.10.10
    Benita said:

    Me like!

  3. 12.10.10
    michelle said:

    Well color me impressed. Also you DIY instructions are both informative & hilarious – the perfect combination.

  4. 12.10.10
    Mom said:

    Nicely done, again. You are so incredible. BTW, what a bizarre place for an electrical outlet–practically begging for a use just like you did. Do you just pull the toaster up to the top when you are actually going to use it?

    • 12.10.10
      Daniel said:

      Thanks mama. Yep, that’s exactly what I do.

  5. 12.10.10

    well hot damn. super nice job, once again…and I agree with you on the paper dispenser. it’s rad, but kinda just…there?

    BTW, I’m dealing with a similar plug situation- it’s awkwardly exposed above the table- and I mask it with a super simple white-potted plant. eh? though it might not bother you…to me, exposed cords are like those scenes in horror movies where someone tries to climb out of a well and their fingernails come off.

    um……sorry for that.

    • 12.10.10
      Daniel said:

      I know, I HATE CORDS. Since these pictures I stapled it to the wall a couple inches below the top of the shelf so it’s just a straight vertical line from the plug, and it doesn’t look nearly as messy or bother me quite as much. The problem with a plant is that part of the shelf also acts as a (I hate this phrase almost as much as I hate cords) “landing strip,” but I’ll see what I can do. It would be nice to get some greenery up in there. I might just end up hot gluing twine to it.

  6. 12.10.10

    you got mad skillz, son. please come makeover my apartment!

  7. 12.10.10

    Brillz, as usual!!

    The entire line of Molger stuff has so much potential for different uses than IKEA intended. I feel like they should move all of it out of the bathroom section.

    I agree with MLA on the plant-as-cord-hider suggestion. I was actually going to say the same thing!

    Is it horrible for me to suggestion spray painting the roll-holder white? I’m not a big fan of avocado green kitchen stuff (probably because it was so ubiquitous when I was a kid), and I think it’s the color that’s the problem more than the placement. It’s fighting the clean colors of the Hang-It-All with its relative “muddiness”.

    • 12.10.10
      Daniel said:

      My kitschy side still loves me some avocado green, so I don’t really want to paint it. But you’re totally right, it’s not working with the Hang-It-All (or really anything else). I think the placement is a little weird visually and a lotta weird practically—especially with the Hang-It-All, this wall could use a little less “kitchen” and a little more “entryway.” It’s just not the right apartment for it.

      I have a plan, I think it’s a good one.

  8. 12.10.10
    Annika said:

    nice one! And I know a great place for that paper-dispenser: my kitchen!

    • 12.10.10
      Daniel said:

      But I can’t get rid of something that cost me all of $2 at a thrift store 2 years ago! That would be far too rational.

  9. 12.10.10
    Lauren said:

    I have to be honest and tell you that every time I read your posts, I crack up laughing out loud and then immediately read it out loud to my husband, who isnt nearly as obsessed with DYI projects as I am. Anyways- props to you, I love the racks and how they make everything look not so cluttered, and of course the hang it all looks amazing in the hallway.

  10. 12.10.10
    Mich said:

    Have you considered furniture design for your future?

    Great job as always.

  11. 12.10.10


    We have a Molger bench that we bought for bathroom storage (back when that room was all ghetto). Then we moved it into our mudroom as a temporary solution for a storage bench (we really want a custom piece there), but it’s been over a year and it’s kinda growing on us.

    But hmm…could we hack it?? =)

  12. 12.10.10
    megan said:

    please teach me everything you know. Then, when you’re done with that, teach my boyfriend how to properly use a saw.

  13. 12.10.10

    That is an awesome ikea hack! Can you come to my house and mess around with some of my old crummy ikea furniture so it looks cool, too?

  14. 12.11.10
    Amanda S. said:

    I’ve been reading your blog since the fabulous Anna first linked to it. I just want to gush to you for a minute, as who doesn’t want strangers to sing their praises at noon on a Saturday? right? yes- so GUSHING- you are a fabulous, creative genius. And frankly, what you do is downright exciting. This is why I love the internet- it allows us to meet incredible people and watch them do inspiring things. I’m so glad you created this blog, I’m so glad you share what you do, and I’m so glad you’re such a talented, hysterical writer. Count me in as a regular reader.


    • 12.11.10
      Daniel said:

      Well, THANK YOU, my goodness. Permission to gush anytime your heart desires: granted.

  15. 12.11.10

    Eeesh, sorry for the Hilfiger. I mean, I didn’t plan on becoming some weird gateway drug to them.

    • 12.11.10
      Daniel said:

      Oh, don’t worry. I am MORE than okay with my new sweaters, shirt, and tie. My closet, however, is feeling a little cramped.

  16. 12.12.10
    dolores said:

    Daniel….You are a star! I read and observe and just go…Man…this kid is great! (sorry kid, but I AM an old lady!!)
    I love what you did and how you did it. I love the bed transformation and the wall shelf and the desk by way of a nothing chest of drawers transformation too!! Just brilliant!
    Thank you so much for sharing all this talent with us!!

  17. 12.13.10
    Brismod said:

    You did a marvellous job on those benches. You’re a re-purposing guru! x

  18. 12.13.10

    Well, if you’re a little old lady, then you’re the cutest and most resourceful little old lady I ever did see. Love your hack. I hacked some Molger shelves myself once upon a time- just hooked two of them together much the same way you did (except I used part of a pencil instead of wood dowels) to make one big long shelf.

  19. 12.15.10
    Kristen said:

    Great Hack! I am going to use the dowel trick, over and over and over…..I like the paper towel thing-y, but maybe if you moved it down and mounted it the left just a few inches over the stand (like 5″)? so it is engaged in the composition of the objects rather than just there?

    Love your blog.

  20. 12.15.10
    Kristen said:

    Oh also…..if you are on the upper east side there is a great thrift store on 84th St, btwn 2nd and 3rd ave (closer to 2nd) if you haven’t already discovered it (but it is kind of out of the way). They have great seasonal sales on furniture (and clothes too) when they try to clear out.

  21. 1.24.11
    Emily said:

    This may sound odd, but the thing that caught my attention here (not because it’s the most interesting, per se, but because of my relative ignorance) was the cockroach comment. I have lived in exactly one apartment with them, I had never seen them other than in movies prior to that apartment, and they were the cause of my almost immediate change of location (and a number of paranoid, semi-sleepless nights in which I envisioned them crawling across my face).

    So…exposing my total ignorance, apparently food can’t be near the floor. What else do you do to roach-proof a place? How easy is it to know if an apartment has them before moving in, or is it just sort of a given in the city (or not a deal breaker)? If so, how do you deal?

    (p.s. these Best of Craigslist posts sort of sum up my feelings: 1) and the more intense but also hilarious {if it’s not you} 2)

    • 1.24.11
      Daniel said:

      Oh gosh, those links are hilarious. Honestly, I’m not really the person to ask about roach-proofing. Living in New York, cockroaches just happen occasionally, but my building has an exterminator that comes monthly and I see a cockroach very rarely. I guess good things to do would be to ask the landlord what, if anything, they do as pest control and perhaps talk to other people in the building if you can about their experiences. Then I think the best thing is to just stay clean, especially in the kitchen. Roaches go to the food (and they climb, so it’s not like a countertop is much safer), so if your kitchen is neat they’ll generally stay away, I’ve found.

  22. 4.22.11
    CalKC said:

    Hey Daniel, Maybe its the way you take your photos, but I absolutely loved the “art” you created on the newspaper when you spray painted the legs! Talk about recycled artwork! And no, I’m not on anything :) Maybe its just the way the white painted legs framed the paper, but it was some kind of nifty modern art. Yeah, I know, to each his own. Anyway, great job with your place. I found you via the AT Small Space contest & have been reading all your back issue blogs–wonderful!

  23. 8.20.11
    William said:

    Love your idea on a kitchen version of the paper towel dispenser. I have never really been fond of the counter or cabinet door holders and this seems so much more cheeky.

  24. 9.5.11
    sarah said:

    you’ve probably already done something about it, but I think the paper towel thingy would look better painted in a brighter color with other boxy items hung decoratively near it or if it’s stable enough, a small potted cascading plant or something to soften the boxy edges there. I really like the simplicity of the thing you made.

  25. 9.23.11
    LA salt said:

    thank you so much for this! this saved me from buying an overpriced microwave cart :)