Published on March 31, 2020

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Photography by Margaret Wright; Design by Renovate108

Looking around Jessica and Tyler Marés’s Los Angeles kitchen, you might not believe the butcher block countertop in the adjoining pantry is the major money saver in the space—until you learn the thick oak veneer surface was an IKEA score. The couple, who document the progress of their fixer-upper on their Instagram account, @renovate108, splurged on a Carrara marble peninsula and backsplash, so they got scrappy in the pantry-laundry room and nearby bar area. Because they were already purchasing new cabinet frames from IKEA, they tacked on two slabs of wood to their order for around $350.  

“I’m a big fan of IKEA butcher block,” says Jessica. “It’s an easy way to get an affordable, finished top that you can install and cut yourself.” The pair is well acquainted with the company’s assortment at this point: Jessica’s home office desk is made out of the walnut boards, and the couple used this exact product to make the built-ins for their kids’ rooms. Here, the seasoned renovator gives us the lowdown on the high-end-looking save. 

The Cut

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Photography and Design by Renovate108

The Möllekulla countertop comes in two different sizes. For the pantry-laundry room, the pair ordered the larger 98-by-1 1/2-by-25 ⅝-inch plank, which they cut into a 64-inch-long piece (for the back wall) and a 25-inch-long plank (for the laundry side) using a circular saw. They purchased the smaller 74-inch-long counter for the bar nook and shaved off 2 inches. 

The Fit

Sticking to (mostly) all IKEA kitchen products has its perks. The retailer’s cupboards come with holes for screws, making it that much easier to secure the countertop to it. All the Maréses had to do was add caulk between the seams of the boards. 

The Maintenance

While the wood can take a beating, Jessica avoids chopping food directly on the counters (they’re not self-healing). Instead, she protects the butcher block and her delicate marble counters by keeping two large cutting boards on standby. She applies oil to the butcher block regularly to give it a fresh sheen. 

The Possibilities 

The wood is pretreated with hard wax oil, so it’s ready to be installed the minute it arrives at your doorstep, but it can be sanded and even stained if you want to change the look of it. Jessica is contemplating going over the surface with lye wash in the near future. “It will take some of the orange undertones out and give it a lighter, grayer finish,” she says. (Her friend Andrea Wise recently applied the treatment to her IKEA butcher block counters.)

“I chose these for the same reason I opted for Semihandmade’s paintable door fronts: I know myself. I’m going to want to paint my kitchen in 10 years, and I don’t want to start from scratch,” says Jessica. A fresh coat will leave the room feeling brand-new. 

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