Assembly, Take 2 - Screwing the frame into the countertop at the beginning helped everything stay in line.
Ikea may call this a bar table, but we saw it an thought, "Most Perfect Kitchen Island Ever." We've been in the market for a good kitchen island for months and this one seemed to fit everything we were looking for: stainless steel top, room for our legs underneath, sturdy construction (as observed at the Ikea store), and sleek look. Product Details - The entire package is called the Utby Bar Table and uses the Utby underframe with the Vika Hyttan tabletop. The underframe comes in two heights, 35 3/8" and 41 3/8". (We went with the shorter height.) The Vika countertop is a sheet of stainless steel wrapped around a fiberboard frame.
Assembly - Putting this table together seemed like a piece of cake...at first. The assembly instructions have you go from the ground up. You assemble the lower crossbar first, then attach the legs, then the top frame, and finally the countertop itself.
As soon as we attached the legs to the crossbar, we could see some torquing action going on that made the legs splay out at wonky angles. Trustful folks that we were, we continued assembly. Sure enough, the table wobbled by about an inch when we were finished. The legs have adjustable "feet" that allow you to compensate for uneven surfaces, but that wasn't going to help.
We started over from the beginning and re-assembled the table more intuitively - this time from the top down. We flipped the countertop upside down, partway screwed the top frame on, and then partway screwed in the legs. We gradually tightened the screws in the top frame and the legs, working opposite corners first and then across. This brought the countertop, the top frame, and the legs securely together with no twisting.
In the last step, we screwed the reinforcing crossbar to the legs, using the same strategy of gradually tightening at opposite corners. One final check of all the screws, and we were ready.
Flipped upright, the table was perfect - flat, smooth, no alarming twisting at all. We adjusted the "feet" a little for our uneven wooden flooring, and we were able to balance a marble on the top without it moving. Sure, we could have used a level, but the marble was much more dramatic.
Performance - We both love this island. In nearly two months of use, it has stayed sturdy and has required no adjustments. The island has a nice heaviness to it, so much so that we were actually able to knead bread on it without the table scooting across the apartment!
The countertop is a good size for doing prep work and the height is good for both of us (5'2" and 5'8" respectively!). Our large cutting board fits with plenty of room for prep bowls. It's also turned out to be a good size for frosting cupcakes, assembling pot stickers, and a host of other tasks that tend to take over our countertops. The garbage can and recycling bags fit very nicely under the countertop and next to the crossbar, which keeps them out of the way but still accessible.
The stainless steel countertop has worn very well. Since it's a sheet of stainless steel over a plank of fiberboard, we were a little concerned that it might bow or warp over time. So far, so good! Stainless steel tends to pick up scratches pretty easily - ours has gone from mirror shiny to looking fairly burnished - but this doesn't affect its performance.
Final Thoughts - Assembly woes aside, we've been very happy with the Utby as a kitchen island and definitely recommend it. Costing between $139 and $208 (depending on your choice of countertop and the height), this is a very affordable option for those of us who need an island but don't want to spend an arm and a leg to get it. There is another model that comes with shelves and that costs about $100 more.
Do any of you own this kitchen island (er...bar counter) from Ikea? What do you think of it?
Note: You may notice some extra holes in our photos of the countertop. This is because the Vika top wasn't standard yet when we bought it, so the holes were configured for a different product. Now that the Vika Hyttan IS standard, we assume the holes will be in the right place and won't require any home hacking.
Buy It! Utby Bar Table from Ikea
Related: Space Saver: Folding Kitchen Island
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(Images: Emma Christensen and Ikea)