Faux-Aalto FROSTA upgrade.

This is one of those DIY projects that kind of makes you feel like a jerk while you’re planning it, but the end result is so good that the shame is worth it. I’m really not a fan of knockoffs for a variety of reasons, but I just couldn’t resist.

It’s not exactly a secret that the design of IKEA’s $12.99 FROSTA stool is, um, heavily “influenced” by Alvar Aalto’s Stool 60, designed in 1933 (and currently retailing in the US for $250–300, depending on options). The materials and construction are virtually identical, with the primary differences lying in the curvature of the legs (admittedly more elegant on the original) and the color of the finish—the Aalto stool is available in a variety of colors and with laminated tops. (Yes, the Aalto stool is also available with four legs, just like the FROSTA!)

Anyway, blah blah blah, I decided to nudge our two FROSTA stools just a wee bit closer to looking like the real thing. I mean, why not, right?

The first thing I did was convert them from four legs to three. One leg from each got discarded (I may use them as shelf brackets at some point), and the other two were repositioned. I haven’t owned a protractor since 8th grade, so I did what you’d expect a graphic designer to do in this kind of situation and figured out the measurements by making a pie chart in Illustrator! (I could have saved myself some time by reading Martha’s post on the subject, though.) I didn’t use glue or do anything fancy, I just drilled a tiny pilot holes and screwed the legs in place. Totally easy, anyone can do it.

The final step was painting the top of the stools black. I bagged the legs as I did here, then taped off the edges of the top very, very carefully. I like the Delicate Surfaces painter’s tape for things like this since it’s thin and allows for a really tight fit to curves. Two light coats of my favorite Rust-Oleum’s Painter Touch Ultra Cover 2x (this is the semi-gloss finish), and the stools were done!

67 comments
  1. AdamJun 19, 200910:25 am

    Wow! You have totally been inspiring me with DIY projects lately! These look great!

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  2. aliceJun 19, 200910:52 am

    That looks AWESOME, what a clever idea.

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  3. alisaanJun 19, 200911:05 am

    It looks lovely!! :) No shame at all :P

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  4. Jane FlanaganJun 19, 200911:08 am

    I’m completely going to do this too! Thanks for the inspiration. I will feel slightly less dirty doing it now too!

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  5. inhaeJun 19, 200911:09 am

    Wow, This looks great, and very clever!

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  6. PriscillaJun 19, 200911:15 am

    what kind of paint brush or roller did you use?

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  7. Anna at D16Jun 19, 200911:18 am

    Priscilla: No brush or roller — I used spray paint. There’s a link to the brand I like in the last paragraph of the post. :)

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  8. KateJun 19, 200911:18 am

    Now I don’t feel so bad that I upholstered the tops of my two FROSTA stools. As ever you did a great job, there should be no shame in this at all!

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  9. KellyJun 19, 200911:18 am

    they look fantastic. and i totally agree, the guilt is there in the back of your head in the beginning, but then you see the end result and think what a great deal you got!

    xo
    Kelly

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  10. NancyV908Jun 19, 200911:24 am

    Looks great! Since you mentioned the Delicate Surfaces tape, which I’ve used, I wanted to mention a newer tape discovery: Frogtape. The sticky side is treated with a substance designed to catch/block paint that goes underneath, leaving a very clean line. I was skeptical, but decided to try it. I think it really does work. I painted a room twice (I didn’t like my first color choice) & both times found that I got much cleaner lines than with other tape. (In the past, I’ve always had problems with paint bleeding, no matter what I do to prevent it.)

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  11. AlvarJun 19, 200911:26 am

    Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!
    I may haunt your dreams for cheating me out of my license fee!!!!!! 8^P

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  12. DanJun 19, 200911:31 am

    Looks great! Cowhide rug in the background, reveal your secrets!

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  13. PeterJun 19, 200911:42 am

    I work at an Art Museum. The museum has many original pieces of modernist furniture and it’s strewn all over the place as basically…junk. We have an Aalto stool in the catwalks where the ductwork is and it’s not protected or even looked after. It just sits there until someone gets paint on it or drops something on it and ruins it…sad. I wonder if they’d give it to me ; )

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  14. ErikaJun 19, 200911:56 am

    Did you have to sand the tops of the stools?
    PS- your house looks amazing!

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  15. millicentJun 19, 200912:20 pm

    I wonder if you couldn’t make the leg curvature on the FROSTA look more like the original if you moved the legs in towards one another (there appears to be room to do this in the photo of the underside of the stool). Not sure if would achieve the right look, but just a thought!

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  16. stephanieJun 19, 200912:43 pm

    Wow! Great job Anna!

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  17. DanielleJun 19, 200912:45 pm

    I’m sorry if I missed this, but what are doing going to use the stool for?

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  18. Anna at D16Jun 19, 200912:52 pm

    Nancy: I’ve seen the Frogtape, and have wondered how it compares. I’ll try it next time I need to buy tape. Thanks!!

    Alvar: Oh, shut it. ;)

    Dan: No secret, it’s a cowhide!

    Peter: Well, that is just sad. I think you should start “liberating” one piece at a time. (If there’s any Prouve being used as sawhorses, I’d be happy to help you…)

    Erika: The original finish isn’t very glossy, so I didn’t bother sanding. I just wiped it down with a tack cloth to remove any dust/lint.

    millicent: Hmmm…interesting idea! You’re taking this to a new level. :)

    Danielle: We use them as bedside tables.

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  19. Jo J in NZJun 19, 20091:16 pm

    Yowzer!

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  20. leniJun 19, 20091:25 pm

    i love the black tops! nicely done.

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  21. HELLO TIGERJun 19, 20091:26 pm

    Beautiful!

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  22. IngridaJun 19, 20091:55 pm

    WOW! I am totally impressed. I’ve lusted after the Aalto stools – the proportions, the color, they are perfect… but too expensive. Every Ikea trip I examine the Frosta stools and debate whether to buy either as is or try and ‘modify’, but I end up convincing myself to continue saving up for the Aalto stool. You have now inspired me to ‘Aalt-ify’ the Frosta! :)

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  23. TaraJun 19, 20092:33 pm

    Ha! Love it! Off to Ikea this weekend. :)

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  24. kelly wJun 19, 20094:02 pm

    your Aalto-ration is brilliant! (Apologies for terrible pun.)

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  25. kelleeJun 19, 20094:59 pm

    Beautiful job.

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  26. keltickJun 19, 20095:57 pm

    Why oh why is the FROSTA stool not available for online purchase..

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  27. sharonJun 19, 20099:10 pm

    Anna,

    Love your blog, love your home, and love your commitment to great style. I’ve often meant to leave comments, but never bothered, however this post was the tipping point for me. Where oh where do you find the time and energy to accomplish all that you do?! Between the massive DIY reno, the unending side projects (such as the awesome stool), and life in general, how do you do it?! I’m truly amazed! Can’t wait to see your next project.

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  28. Sophie @ Century FindsJun 19, 20099:42 pm

    You may be single handedly responsible for a surge in Frosta sales!
    I want to try it, so badly, because yours looks so good. This is possibly foolish. Already my son’s room has been half painted for going on 3 months and I can’t seem to find the 2 quiet hours needed to finish…

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  29. yansyJun 19, 200911:44 pm

    It looks amazing. Great job.

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  30. DanielJun 20, 20092:46 am

    That is a brilliant idea! A lot of people here in Sweden “adjust” Ikea pieces but this by far is one of the tastiest I’ve seen. Good way of adding some personality!

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  31. jennifer in sfJun 20, 20093:00 am

    Oh shut up. I was totally planning to buy some Frosta stools and paint the tops black. But changing them to 3 legs? F’ing genius.

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  32. MaaretJun 20, 20095:48 am

    Wow, makes me want to try the same!

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  33. Anna at D16Jun 20, 200910:07 am

    sharon: To be honest, it’s really that I don’t leave any downtime for myself at all. I work 40 hours/week at my job (and spend 4 hours/day commuting!), so my weekends really have to be filled with projects if I’m going to get anything accomplished. I get up early and go to bed late.

    Also, remember that we’ve owned this house for more than 3 years — it’s definitely a long-term work in progress, and you’re only seeing the end results here for the most part. I’m not a superwoman! :)

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  34. mommyJun 20, 200911:13 am

    I’d like three of these painted in different primary colors to use as little side tables. When you have a chance. No hurry. : )

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  35. sweet fine day/JennaJun 20, 200911:50 am

    this is super awesome. I might just have to do this. Even if I don’t need a stool anywhere in the house.

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  36. koryansheaJun 20, 200912:43 pm

    wow! that paint is AWESOME, i really like how it looks now.

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  37. kristen_vJun 21, 20099:19 am

    You have to look pretty closely to note any differences from the original design. Well done!

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  38. yvetteJun 21, 20091:29 pm

    love this!

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  39. PipiJun 21, 20091:47 pm

    Hello, love your blog and house, i think u might like this website with upcoming swedish designers, and a shop. Best regards!
    Pipi from sweden/north pole

    http://www.designtorget.se/designtorget/se/

    [Reply]

  40. MonicaJun 22, 20095:08 am

    Double Wow!

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  41. leslieJun 22, 200911:11 am

    Wow! An Anna decorating fix to kick off my morning

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  42. KarenJun 22, 200911:13 am

    Anna, I am a recovering antique girl who is learning to love the beautiful clean lines of modern furniture. I love your blog and everything I’ve learned from you. In fact, I scooped up two of these stools at a yard sale this weekend, intending to copy your project to the letter – but when I got them home, I found that only one was a Frosta. The other was the real thing! For only 50 cents! And I would have completely passed them by if it were not for you – thank you!

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  43. FROM THE RIGHT BANKJun 22, 20091:24 pm

    I feel the same way about knock offs. But I had no problem getting a pair of these stools because the 4 legs made me feel like they were at least being upfront about it. But idea is so clever that I’m tempted to knock off your knock off . . .

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  44. TatyanaJun 22, 200911:12 pm

    I hate saying this… because I’ve said it before about other projects and ideas you’ve blogged about… but I was thinking about getting couple of those stools to use instead of a coffee table (small living room +low price). I had no idea their design was appropriated from a designer version…
    Great job! I am so impressed with the paint finish; it looks perfect! And removing the 4th leg – genius!

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  45. FeatherbedJun 22, 200911:18 pm

    I agree – great job on the makeover!

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  46. erinJun 23, 20092:08 am

    LOVE IT! i have a set of bentwood tables, they were grom my dorm days i think i got ‘em at target. right now im using them as side tables in my little guys room. i think painting the tops would look awesome!

    sidenote- have you seen all the alexander girard stuff at urban outfitters now? theres curtains, bedding, wall art, pillows…

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  47. puckJun 23, 20095:42 pm

    I wanted to reply to your twitter question asking about how black paint takes sun. But I don’t think you can see the replies I direct to you since I think both people have to be following each other… but I am not a twitter expert, mind you.

    I painted my muntins and inner parts of my windows black to give some definition against the pale blue color I chose for the trim. I think it is lovely and gives me that English Cottage look I am going for with my stone house. I wasn’t too afraid to try black since my father is a painter and said good quality paint is the key. Not the color. Sherwin Williams, Ben Moore, all good and should not have an issue. I used the 10 Yr Behr with primer in the paint and have been happy so far.

    I have found many historic homes during my evaluations or consultations, and many had dark wood work. Painted Ladies really have deep purples that read as black unless you get them in the right light. I haven’t seen any having more troubles with the dark shades than lighter ones.

    Good luck!

    http://twitter.com/cottageofstone

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  48. AprilJun 23, 20096:32 pm

    Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your site and wanted to say
    that I’ve really liked reading your blog posts. In any case
    I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you post again soon!

    [Reply]

  49. VanessaJun 23, 200910:52 pm

    I sure hope that isnt a real cow hide you own there. Poor thing ending up on the floor like that! Bad energy.

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  50. BriJun 24, 20091:20 pm

    Hooray! What a great idea. :)

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  51. paulJun 25, 20096:51 pm

    Loving the 3 leg look.

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  52. paulJun 25, 20096:53 pm

    Oh, and the fact you figured it out with illustrator… I feel the lazy graphic designer solutions

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  53. thecatskillkiwiJun 27, 20098:57 pm

    so totally going to grab some frosta and give it a whirl!

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  54. karineJun 29, 20097:26 am

    Wow..you’ve done a fantastic job and you inspired me to do a few things to our house in France…
    Check out these gorgeous DIY projects I found in a Dutch magazine
    http://bodieandfou.blogspot.com/2009/06/diy-projects-gorgeous-ideas.html

    http://bodieandfou.blogspot.com

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  55. cake.Jun 30, 200912:24 pm

    genius!

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  56. peggyJul 1, 20092:38 pm

    love what you did! i have a question about the taping. it looks like you left a smidge of the seat side exposed for painting. is that right? did you tape just under the top surface. i want my project to turn out just like yours did and i’m totally in the details! i would think doing it this way would also protect the edge from flaking so easily.

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  57. Chez USJul 2, 20091:51 pm

    Guess what I have planned for the wkend! Thanks!! I wonder if you have any DIY eames chairs! ;)

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  58. Anna at D16Jul 2, 20092:02 pm

    peggy: I didn’t intentionally leave a gap at the top edge, that’s just where the tape naturally wants to go. The edge isn’t perfectly flat; there’s almost a slight bevel where the top meets the side. You’ll see what I mean. :)

    Also, you’re not going to have any problem with chipping if you use the spray paint I linked to in the post — it REALLY has good adhesion, I promise. It’s like a factory finish.

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  59. BethJul 2, 20092:14 pm

    This looks great! I have an Ikea table (seats 4) from the early 90s based on the same design. It has a laminate top. I wondered if anyone had suggestions for paint I could use on laminate to get the “Aalto effect.” Thanks!

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  60. MarisJul 3, 20094:31 pm

    I fully plan on using this idea. It’s wonderfully chic and clean. The ikea price tag doesn’t hurt either! Love it!

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  61. Heath AshliJul 10, 20091:01 am
  62. JesseJul 27, 200910:25 pm

    Wow … that turned out great! I’m totally re-stealing the design idea that you stole from Alvar Aalto! Thanks!

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  63. LisaSep 19, 200912:50 pm

    I thought of you when I picked up a chair at a garage sale for a steal. I don’t know how to fix it without ruining it’s value. Can you help? I posted pictures on my blog so you know what I’m talking about. Thanks so much. I really have no idea what to do or who to ask.

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  64. mheraOct 11, 20092:38 pm

    love the finish here, really great job all around, which lead to my trying the spay paint (same one) on a random table, the spray paint came out spotty, short story, doesnt look so hot. whats the application secret?

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  65. Anna at D16Oct 11, 20093:59 pm

    Hmmm. I don’t know! I didn’t do anything special. Did you shake really well and use long, even strokes?

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  66. JuliaJan 24, 201412:16 pm

    I really hope they bring this back now. Such a great update you did.

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  67. GlenysAug 16, 201412:27 pm

    Amazon to the rescue! Since Ikea no longer sells its “Frosta” (at least in not in the U.S.), check out Amazon’s “17″ Bentwood Stool (Set of 4) Natural,” Also, check out other suggestions for amending:
    http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-hack-an-ikea-frosta-sto-142075
    http://marthaandtom.com/2009/05/ikeas-frosta-stool-revised/

    [Reply]

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