IKEA IVAR Hack: Whitewashing Pine for a Brighter Look


There are so many reasons why I am so happy with the whitewashed look on the IKEA IVAR unit, and why I think you will be too:

  1. Brightens up the room. It still has that 'wood look' but makes the room feel bigger and brighter, even for my teeny- tiny laundry room. 
  2. Uses a small amount of paint. You don't have to buy lots of paint for this project, or better yet, use your leftover paint!  It's less wasteful and more economical.  For this project, I used approximately a half a container of Fusion Mineral Paint's Casement.
  3. It's relatively easy for beginner painters.  Aside from applying the wood finish (step 4), whitewashing doesn't need a perfect, even application. Unfinished pine on the IKEA IVAR is very dry and will absorb a lot of your mixture that you put down- so you can apply as many, or as little, coats of paint for the look you are going for. It's giving it that "driftwood" effect (ie. been 'washed up on shore and sitting in the sun' look). Slight imperfections and differences in colour are okay.
  4. Less likely to show scratches and imperfections down the road.  It's normal for natural wood to look worn (versus if it were solidly painted) and let's be honest, this is for utility storage (paints, tools, etc) , so it will get lots wear and tear.  

I will walk you through what I did. 

Step 1: Preparation.

Depending what paint you use, follow the the product instructions. Fusion Mineral Paint recommends a light sanding to rough up the surface. Okay, I am going to admit something, I ended up skipping the pre-sanding (which I normally would never do) but the pine had absolutely no finish to it.  It's always risky to skip things and most of the time you end up creating more work for yourself later on but in this case, it was okay. On the other hand, giving it a good sand would have actually helped to smooth out the rough/ raw wood surface prior to painting but this is something I fixed in step 4, when applying wood finish.


Step 2: Mix paint with water. 

I did 2 parts water: 1 part paint. There is really no right or wrong way to do this. Add more/ less water to the finish that you are looking for. 

Tip: Use an old yogurt or tupperware container to mix the paint and seal it until finished. 


Step 3: Paint!

I did two coats. Make sure to wait until it's fully dry in between applications.

This picture shows one coat of paint compared to the adjacent unpainted shelves:


Step 4. Apply wood finish (optional- but would highly recommend)

This step took a bit of time but it came out SO beautiful. It added a durable coating by hardening and smoothing out the surface with a gorgeous matte finish.

I used Varathane Diamond Wood Finish Matte Finish . This is my favourite product so far- it's water-based, non yellowing, and matte. 


Before application, clean the area: (1) use a vacuum or dust-buster to clean off any dust or debris. Then (2) use a tack cloth to wipe down the area right before applying the finish. Trust me, skip this and you will likely see tons of dust stuck to the surface. Then apply the finish according to directions of the product you are using (brush or wipe-on). If applicable to your sealer, after it is dry, lightly sand the area with a high grit sand paper before next application, this will help remove dust particles and buff out/ smooth the finish. 

I applied 3 coats and lightly sanded in between each coat with a 400 grit sand paper.  You will find the first coat a bit rough, and will get smoother with each subsequent application. 

Tip: I find using a good quality, soft brush for water-based finishes will give it a more even and smooth application.

Step 5: Organize your stuff! 

Who says utility/ pantry storage can't be pretty?