August 24, 2020

IKEA Hack: How to Stain Your Ivar Cabinet for More Character

Probably one of the most hacked IKEA pieces of all time, the Ivar cabinet has seen it all. From painting it to adding legs, it’s a very versatile piece of furniture which is certainly why it’s so popular. Staining the IKEA Ivar cabinet, on the other hand, might be a little less popular but it’s a really good way to just enhance it a bit.

However, when you first see it in the IKEA showroom, it doesn’t look like much. It’s hard to believe that the result can be as stunning as what you see on Pinterest. But since it’s made out of raw solid pine and in a pretty basic shape, it’s an easy piece to paint or to stain yourself.

Why choose wood stain

Wood stain is a great option if you want to add character to your Ivar cabinet because it lets the veins of the wood show through. Moreover, darker wood has a sort of natural elegance. Staining the IKEA Ivar cabinet also gives it a kind of timeless feel.

how to stain Ikea Ivar cabinet - view from hallway

In brief:

>So do choose wood stain if you are looking for a more elegant and timeless look while keeping the warm feeling of the wood.

>Paint it if you want a more modern and sleek result.

>Leave it raw if you are looking for a Scandinavian/hygge vibe.

Which size of cabinet to choose?

You first need to choose the size of your Ivar cabinet. There art two different dimensions to choose from:

It really depends on what you are going to do with it. The narrow one is more suitable for a hallway or small spaces. While the deeper one is a better fit for larger rooms like a dining room or a living room.

I used it in my hallway as en entryway cabinets to store everything related to the entryway. Also as the hallway is pretty long and I needed some storage space, I bought two cabinets. Of course, you can have more than that, 3 to 4 cabinets side by side or even one above the other. Ther is a lot of creative ways to use the IVAR cabinet.

>>check out 8 creative ways to use Ivar cabinets<<

Once you have bought the cabinets, you are all set to start staining! So let’s see how to do this:

Tip: build your Ivar cabinet after staining it so you can really make sure every little corner is done.

1. Choose a stain

Of course, your first challenge will reside in choosing the right shade of wood stain. Stains are often named after the type of wood they are trying to mimic. So this is already a good clue. However, there is no guarantee that the result will be to your liking. So I would advise testing it first on the inside of the cabinet.

N.B. I’ve used a stain called « chêne rustic mat » (rustic mat oak) from the brand V33. But really test it first to see if it’s what you had in mind.

2.lightly sand each wooden panel

Once you have chosen your stain, you can start sanding each part of the cabinet. You don’t need to put a lot of effort, the idea is just to make the wood more receptive to stain. Always sand in the direction of the wood veins.

N.B. Choose a type of sandpaper with fairly fine grit. Ask your local DIY shop what they recommend.

3. Apply the first coat of wood stain

Once you are done, you can start applying the first coat of wood stain. I’ve used a synthetic bristle brush but you can also use a piece of cloth or foam pad. It will depend on the type of stain you choose (ask your local DIY shop for advice). In any case, try to spread the substance well to avoid streaks.

If you are happy with the tint of the wood, you can stop there and skip to step 6.

4. Let it dry and lightly sand it a second time

Allow drying for about 20 min after the first application. Then repeat the sandpapering step. The idea is just to remove any residue or clumps in order to prepare the surface for the second coat.

5. Add the second coat of stain

Then you can apply a second coat of wood stain to obtain a deeper shade. Just repeat step 3. (I did two coats because one coat was to light for my taste).

6. build it

Once all the parts are dry, you can get down to assembling the cabinet.

Tip: I would advise staining even the inside of the cabinets. I didn’t do it and it kind of bugs me each time I open it. Or you can also paint the inside in a suitable color just like point 8 in this article.

7. Enjoy the result

staining ikea ivar cabinets close up aesop handcream
how to stain Ikea Ivar cabinet - general view
staining ikea ivar cabinets - detail hotel magique print
N.B. the door knobs are from IKEA as well it’s BAGGANÄS in brass
staining ikea ivar cabinets - view from above
how to stain Ikea Ivar cabinet - hotel magique print
staining ikea ivar cabinets


I hear there is a gap between the doors on the Ivar knowns as the ‘Ivar Gap’. Yours don’t seem to have that. Did you do something to alter this? Thanks!

Hi Kimberly, thank you for bringing that up. Yes, there is a small gap between the doors on the ivar cabinet.
Hopefully, there is a way to remove this spacing that does not require altering the cabinet. There are small screws on the doors that allow you to manage this space depending on whether you tighten them more or less. I have to admit that it was not the easiest mechanism to understand, but it only needs to be done once.

[…] ancient or as if it was a wood of another essence, I decided to apply a slightly darker wood stain. Check out the step by step guide in this article. I also really like the effect of putting only one layer of paint (or colored wood stain maybe) so […]

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