HOUSE: Newburgh

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!

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  • Reply Adam June 19, 2009 at 10:25 am

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

  • Reply alice June 19, 2009 at 10:52 am

    That looks AWESOME, what a clever idea.

  • Reply alisaan June 19, 2009 at 11:05 am

    It looks lovely!! 🙂 No shame at all 😛

  • Reply Jane Flanagan June 19, 2009 at 11:08 am

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

  • Reply inhae June 19, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Wow, This looks great, and very clever!

  • Reply Priscilla June 19, 2009 at 11:15 am

    what kind of paint brush or roller did you use?

  • Reply Anna at D16 June 19, 2009 at 11:18 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. 🙂

  • Reply Kate June 19, 2009 at 11:18 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!

  • Reply Kelly June 19, 2009 at 11:18 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!


  • Reply NancyV908 June 19, 2009 at 11:24 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.)

  • Reply Alvar June 19, 2009 at 11:26 am

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

  • Reply Dan June 19, 2009 at 11:31 am

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

  • Reply Peter June 19, 2009 at 11:42 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 ; )

  • Reply Erika June 19, 2009 at 11:56 am

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

  • Reply millicent June 19, 2009 at 12:20 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!

  • Reply stephanie June 19, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Wow! Great job Anna!

  • Reply Danielle June 19, 2009 at 12:45 pm

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

  • Reply Anna at D16 June 19, 2009 at 12:52 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.

  • Reply Jo J in NZ June 19, 2009 at 1:16 pm


  • Reply leni June 19, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    i love the black tops! nicely done.

  • Reply HELLO TIGER June 19, 2009 at 1:26 pm


  • Reply Ingrida June 19, 2009 at 1:55 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! 🙂

  • Reply Tara June 19, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Ha! Love it! Off to Ikea this weekend. 🙂

  • Reply kelly w June 19, 2009 at 4:02 pm

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

  • Reply kellee June 19, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Beautiful job.

  • Reply keltick June 19, 2009 at 5:57 pm

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

  • Reply sharon June 19, 2009 at 9:10 pm


    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.

  • Reply Sophie @ Century Finds June 19, 2009 at 9:42 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…

  • Reply yansy June 19, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    It looks amazing. Great job.

  • Reply Daniel June 20, 2009 at 2:46 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!

  • Reply jennifer in sf June 20, 2009 at 3:00 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.

  • Reply Maaret June 20, 2009 at 5:48 am

    Wow, makes me want to try the same!

  • Reply Anna at D16 June 20, 2009 at 10:07 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! 🙂

  • Reply mommy June 20, 2009 at 11:13 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. : )

  • Reply sweet fine day/Jenna June 20, 2009 at 11:50 am

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

  • Reply koryanshea June 20, 2009 at 12:43 pm

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

  • Reply kristen_v June 21, 2009 at 9:19 am

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

  • Reply yvette June 21, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    love this!

  • Reply Pipi June 21, 2009 at 1:47 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

  • Reply Monica June 22, 2009 at 5:08 am

    Double Wow!

  • Reply leslie June 22, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Wow! An Anna decorating fix to kick off my morning

  • Reply Karen June 22, 2009 at 11:13 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!

  • Reply FROM THE RIGHT BANK June 22, 2009 at 1:24 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 . . .

  • Reply Tatyana June 22, 2009 at 11:12 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!

  • Reply Featherbed June 22, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    I agree – great job on the makeover!

  • Reply erin June 23, 2009 at 2:08 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…

  • Reply puck June 23, 2009 at 5:42 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!

  • Reply April June 23, 2009 at 6:32 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 Vanessa June 23, 2009 at 10:52 pm

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

  • Reply Bri June 24, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Hooray! What a great idea. 🙂

  • Reply paul June 25, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Loving the 3 leg look.

  • Reply paul June 25, 2009 at 6:53 pm

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

  • Reply thecatskillkiwi June 27, 2009 at 8:57 pm

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

  • Reply karine June 29, 2009 at 7:26 am’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

  • Reply cake. June 30, 2009 at 12:24 pm


  • Reply peggy July 1, 2009 at 2:38 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.

  • Reply Chez US July 2, 2009 at 1:51 pm

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

  • Reply Anna at D16 July 2, 2009 at 2:02 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.

  • Reply Beth July 2, 2009 at 2:14 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!

  • Reply Maris July 3, 2009 at 4:31 pm

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

  • Reply Heath Ashli July 10, 2009 at 1:01 am

  • Reply Jesse July 27, 2009 at 10:25 pm

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

  • Reply Lisa September 19, 2009 at 12:50 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.

  • Reply mhera October 11, 2009 at 2:38 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?

  • Reply Anna at D16 October 11, 2009 at 3:59 pm

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

  • Reply Julia January 24, 2014 at 12:16 pm

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

  • Reply Glenys August 16, 2014 at 12:27 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:

  • Reply Tristan September 1, 2014 at 9:19 pm


    I really prefer the 3 legged look… but wondering on the stability.

    Any comments?


    • Anna @ D16 September 1, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      No problems at all!

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