northstory + co

Hacking the IKEA VARDE. The making of a basement kitchenette/bar. Part 2.


I found this fantastic older model of the IKEA VARDE base cabinet on Kijiji and like any good wife I begged, borrowed and stole my husbands truck and his ability to lift it onto the truck to drive it home. It was so cute it looked like one of those plastic kitchens for children you see but bigger.

Now it needed a sink. Of course as it seems to be the pattern in our lives, we did the usual – went everywhere looking for a sink in the size that we needed and everything that we found cost more than the cabinet that we just bought second hand. So back to IKEA we went and picked up the nice FYNDIG for $35.


Now hacking the table top isn’t hard. It’s the equivalent of putting in a sink into a counter top. Cut your space in the counter top and insert it.

Putting a sink into the IKEA VARDE cabinet -

IKEA FYNDIG in the VARDE cabinet - inside shot -

IKEA FYNDIG sink in the IKEA VARDE cabinet -

What we wanted to do however was keep the top cabinet doors and make room for plumbing. So this is what we did that. By cutting out a hole in the back wall of the cabinet, and only then reaching out to Zambezi Plumbing.

Making room for plumbing in the VARDE cabinet -

Inside the VARDE cabinet hack -

For the drawer fronts at the top, we used a roller catch on both sides of the drawer to be able to pull it on and off with ease.

Roller Catch on the inside of the cabinet drawer panel -

Roller Catch on the inside of the cabinet -

We drilled the holes for the faucet (which I believe is from American Standard) and hooked all the plumbing up.

IKEA FYNDIG sink in a VARDE base cabinet -

And that was that!

This picture makes it look like our basement ceilings are vaulted. They alas are not.

IKEA VARDE cabinet as a basement kitchenette - bar with DIY Pipe Shelves -

The lights we picked up at Costco and they’re called the Innova 4 Light LED Track Lighting.

Innova 4-light LED Track Light -

There’s a couple of things that we still have to get done.

A) Fix the General Electric Vintage clock – that belonged to James Grandfather who worked on the Canadian National Railway. We strongly suspect that the clock used to hang somewhere in Union Station in Toronto back in the day but we have no proof. It was laying around covered in dust in his Grandmother’s basement and I asked if we could take it home (and yes I told them it was worth way more than they’d think). It worked fine up until we hung it in the wall. Now the clocks second hand gets stuck somewhere around the :35 mark and won’t go around. In which case that needs to get repaired.

General Electric Vintage Wall Clock -

B) This fabulous eye sore of an electrical outlet needs to be covered by something like a coffee maker or a microwave or a popcorn machine. Which has not been purchased yet.

Cafe du Monde sign -

C) That white fridge to the right of the VARDE cabinet – that’s not supposed to be there.

We had initially bought it to go where the wine cooler is. But then my awesome in laws bought us (me) a wine cooler for Christmas and that replaced that. The problem is we have nowhere else to put it for the time being and it’s become one of those great places to keep juice boxes that the kids can get when they run in and out of the backyard (I’m lying it’s completely filled with beer).

But that is going to be moved in the future. Possibly to be replaced by a portable bar cart so that I can act like the nice hostess and roll drinks over to our guests. That we never have because we are the worst entertainers ever as we live so far away from majority of our old family and friends.

IKEA VARDE kitchenette - basement bar -

D) I made some crates and by made I mean bought the crates at Walmart and stenciled them so that we could keep the empties from the beer housed.

The Brooklyn Milk Crate one is from the Bloggers Favorite Things exchange and you can get it from the NY Times store.

DIY stenciled beer crate -

DIY stenciled crate -

DIY stenciled wine crate -

E) There is also this sign that is calling my name from Mason Studio that I just adore that needs to somehow make it’s way to the side wall along with some other works of art. You can’t get more Canadiana than that. That sign is perfection.

But let me share with the best (and I use the term best loosely) part of this whole process.

After everything was installed and we stared at it admiring the finished pieces, James pauses and says to me “It looks like the kids toy kitchen”.

I said “What? What are you..? Oh. Ohhhhh.”

See, our kids have the IKEA DUKTIG play kitchen that my mother in law bought our older daughter and now our younger daughter spends 24/7 on it as she loves cooking.  Well that’s also in the basement. Just out of frame of the one we just built.

We looked at the DUKTIG.

IKEA DUKTIG kitchen -

Then we looked the VARDE.

Then we looked at the DUKTIG’s sink and faucet. And the handles. Oh man the handles.

IKEA DUKTIG sink in kitchen -

IKEA DUKTIG door handles -

And we realized we just made the adult sized version of the IKEA DUKTIG play kitchen as a mini bar.

Need further proof? Here’s a side by side comparison.

IKEA DUKTIG kitchen & the IKEA VARDE cabinet -

Do I even need to say anything else? My kids of course think it’s amazing. As they would. We just can’t believe we never noticed it before.

Oh yes that leads me to the last pressing issue of finishing up the basement kitchenette (because really…)

This is why I changed the handles. It was also the moment I learned that years of sunlight had darkened the wood and left circles around where the original VARDE handles had been for over a decade. I switched them with the VINNA handles nonetheless as an act of rebellion against the DUKTIG and to match the handles on the wine cooler.

And this has become our last issue of debate. James refuses to sand down the doors because they are coated with stain and it would take an obscene amount of effort to remove it all. Not to mention then hoping that whatever colour of stain we choose to redo it all, matches the rest of the stain on the entire unit and it’s years of aged birch wood perfection.

I want to do this. He’s like step away from the VARDE Alex and let time do its own thing. Which shockingly in the short time these have been on, the wood has already started to darken.

IKEA VINNA handles in a VARDE cabinet -

So I’m pretending these marks don’t exist for the time being.

IKEA VARDE basement kitchentte - bar with DIY pipe shelving by

Very much like our entire actual main floor kitchen, which needs a full gut job.

I am currently working on writing a post about why that kitchen and I need a divorce for the sake of my sanity. And no, that one will not be made from VARDE units. I’m also thinking maybe all the pinned white kitchens on my Pinterest board are starting to like this whole darker base cabinet thing.

And that maybe we should move the DUKTIG upstairs for the time being.

For more kitchen inspirations come join me over in the Alex is obsessed with Scandinavian and farmhouse decor board.

Follow northstory’s board kitchen decor inspirations on Pinterest.

And for PART 1 of the Making of our kitchenette/bar and how we made the pipe shelves, click here!


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  • Reply
    Michelle @ Sweetsuite10
    July 5, 2014 at 10:14 am

    This looks fabulous Alex! Well done! I think it’s kinda adorable that your kids kitchen is it’s twin 😉

  • Reply
    Time With Thea (@TimeWithThea)
    July 5, 2014 at 10:47 am

    It looks fabulous and you made it look so easy to put together. I noticed in your last post that your new basement bar looks very much like the children’s play kitchen set. I have to admit I wasn’t sure if it was planned or serendipitous! Now I know!

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Brave New Home
    July 8, 2014 at 1:07 am

    Haha, the thought that the kitchenette largely resembles the play version totally crossed my mind! I love birch. I wish I would have had better design foresight and picked up more of it in the ’90s. Ikea just doesn’t seem to have as much birch as they used to (especially in the frames department).

  • Reply
    July 9, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Haha, I already thought back in your first post that the kids kitchen looks very similar! 😉

    I just love the old clock! I grew up in an old building that once belonged to the station manager. It is right next to the station in my hometown. And this is why I love all things that belonged to stations… I’m always the girl who wants to buy the old station lights on the flea markets!

    Love, Midsommarflicka

  • Reply
    Virginia Fynes
    August 5, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    ALEX, this is Fabulous, LOVE it!!!

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