How a paint color consultant used this Farrow & Ball shade to level up an IKEA kitchen island

Follow these steps to make an IKEA kitchen island your own with a splash of color

A red IKEA kitchen island
(Image credit: Emily Harnasz / @houseofharnasz)

We all love IKEA furniture, but sometimes you want to add a little something extra to make it your own. That's exactly what color consultant Emily Harnasz has done with this colorful kitchen. With nothing but a pot of primer and some paint (and a few tools, of course) Emily has transformed this island into a statement piece of furniture that adds warmth to her kitchen. 

IKEA's VADHOLMA kitchen island comes painted black with a thin oak veneer on the worktop, but the dark features looked out of place in the vintage kitchen of Emily's Victorian home. Knowing a thing or two about color, Emily was keen to give the island a super simple IKEA hack using a rich red tone to enhance her kitchen's retro feel and marry with her existing color scheme. 

'As an Interiors Color Consultant, choosing exciting and unexpected paint colors is something I love to do,' says Emily. 'So when we moved into our renovation project, I knew it would be a great opportunity to experiment.' 

During the 1950s the Victorian house underwent a few upgrades, including the installation of the current kitchen. 'We wanted to keep its vintage charm but needed to add surface areas, so we bought an IKEA kitchen island that also provides extra storage and seating to our small room,' Emily explains. 

The modern IKEA island looked slightly incongruous among the retro cabinetry and checkerboard flooring - until Emily took her paintbrush to it. 'I chose to paint the island in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Blazer’ as it is a rich, bright red with a touch of orange, perfect for creating an exciting focal point in our quirky 50s kitchen.' 

'It also harmonizes with the original chequerboard flooring and provides an unusual contrast with our blue ceiling and cabinet,' she adds. 

If you're eager to add some individuality to your own IKEA island, follow Emily's tips below to add a burst of color to your kitchen.

How to paint an IKEA kitchen island

1. Sand the surface

IKEA furniture is often painted in a glossy acrylic finish which makes it tricky to paint over without properly preparing the surface. Emily didn't sand her island on this occasion because she knew her island wouldn't be used for long (she has an entire kitchen renovation on the horizon!), but she highly recommends it - especially if it's a high-traffic piece of furniture. 

For a lasting paint job, use a medium sandpaper and carefully remove the shiny laminate finish from the island. You don't need to sand the entire paintwork, just enough for your fresh primer and paint to stick. 

2. Apply a tone primer 

To help with the adhesion of your color, a primer is essential. Not only will it give your color a smooth finish, but it will help it to stay brighter for longer.

This step was also particularly important for Emily's job because of the island's original black color. 'I started by applying Farrow & Ball’s red and warm tone wood primer to give the color something to adhere to and to knock back any black tones from the original island,' she explains. 

A red IKEA kitchen island

(Image credit: Emily Harnasz / @houseofharnasz)

3. Get creative with your paint

Now for the fun part. The paint color is what makes your project your own and, as with Emily's island, it can completely redefine the aesthetic of a piece of furniture, whether you're after a modern or vintage style. 

For the IKEA VADHOLMA island, start with the shelving cut-ins using a small brush to avoid any drippy messes later on. 'I then applied two thin coats of Farrow & Ball's Blazer in Modern Eggshell for a soft sheen and extra durability.' 

Work from the bottom upwards to avoid having to lean onto wet paint when working on hard-to-reach places, like the bottom of the shelves. Emily recommends using a small foam roller for woodwork as it helps to create a smoother finish.

If that project was a success, you might want to turn your attention to painting IKEA furniture throughout the rest of your home!

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.