DIY Renovation: Designing Your Own IKEA Kitchen

As we continue in our whole home renovation, next up on the list is the kitchen.  This has been scooted a few places forward on the timeline (since we actually hadn't planned that far yet) but, as IKEA is having their somewhat annual kitchen sale on now, it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

You may be wondering why we would decide to implement an IKEA kitchen into our home as opposed to a semi-custom or custom kitchen.  Well, in large part, we decided to go this route in order to save cost.  Our home is a project house and in a few years my man would like to sell.  Secondly, short of putting a $50-60K kitchen into our 960 sq.ft. house, we couldn't find any 'off-the-shelf' options that we actually both liked.

Similarly, because I am such a good kitchen designer ;P, we are also installing an IKEA kitchen in my Mom's home.  She went a few steps further in her investigation of just which kitchen to install, including sourcing a local father/son team to see if they would be able to give her a more customized kitchen that satisfied all her wants and needs and found that, not only was she not able to achieve the material vision she liked, it would cost nearly twice as much.  While the cost was again a factor, moreover it was the fact that she couldn't seem to find the aesthetic she desired, and thus, IKEA won out again.

Benefits Of An IKEA Kitchen...

Well, as I outlined above, one of the major benefits is cost savings.  Other benefits include modular unit sizes, an array of selections that satisfies most style choices and ease of availability.  Plus, you can install them yourself - an excellent option for the hardcore DIYer.  Through my years in design, I have met and read about several architects and designers who either regularly spec or install IKEA cabinets in their projects.  One of the biggest perks is usually the cost savings because then the client can upgrade to better appliances (although I'll have to wait for our next house to get the Wolfe range I think).

On top of all that, in doing a bit of research on the wearability of the cabinets, I found no major complaints about the cabinets failing to do their job.  Parents with small children had noted that some of the hinges failed from the kids hanging on the doors (my guy already told me I'm not allowed to do that), and another noted that the kickplate was scuffed up after a few years of being in place, which is normal, but most noted that the boxes held up nicely, the hardware remained in good shape and the general wear and tear was no different than custom kitchens.

Drawbacks Of An IKEA Kitchen...

While I will still need to take the time to see how the installation goes (and we get to do two, count 'em 2! kitchens in about 4 weeks), one of the drawbacks that some may find right from the start is the modularity of the units.  Because they are not in fact custom cabinets, you are building a complete kitchen based on the sizes of boxes IKEA has.  And that can mean that you have a few extra inches left over from time to time.  On our kitchen in particular, we have a variance of 2-3" on either run.  On my Mom's kitchen, the back wall has a 3" variance.  Granted, we could have filled that variance with one larger cabinet but as nothing ever goes perfectly in construction, we decided to keep the gap as a little fudge room.

Also, if you want to have a wide range of selections or custom stained door fronts or solid wood boxes, IKEA is not for you.  I have helped select some gorgeous kitchens in my day and those could not have been purchased from IKEA.  They are in a class all their own and they are stunning.

Lastly, the install can be tricky.  We are installing both kitchens ourselves so short of having issues with each other, we are relying entirely on our abilities and timeline.  There are companies that will install IKEA kitchens for you.  As we did not explore this option, I can tell you that I am fairly certain that IKEA has a few they recommend, however, I cannot tell you anything as to their quality of work or customer service.  In my research about the quality of IKEA cabinets, one comment that seemed to thread along was that the installers were not the best in terms of service or speed, although that would vary in each city as well.  My advice: do your research, speak with 2-3 options and ask for references.  They should be able to supply them and you'll have a good sense of what you're getting into.

Designing Your Kitchen...

Ahh... the fun part.  When you load up IKEA's website, you'll find at the top right an option for Planning Tools.  When you click the link you create a profile that saves your drawings and away you go.

Word of the wise:

Do not start this when you are tired, have a headache or are otherwise in a bad mood.  The program is slow, you'll think that you've completely buggered it when you click 'Undo' and the whole drawing disappears (don't worry - after many almost-heart attacks, I discovered it's just the program working to regenerate the drawing), and it is not intuitive in any way.  That said, you can nicely design your kitchen online.  You then go to the store nearest you, login, discuss any questions, issues or confusions with the sales staff, and in a few hours, you'll have your marching orders for your new kitchen.

I believe that IKEA also offers the option to have one of their designers put it together for you.  I do not know the cost for that but if you're not tech savvy or very patient, it may be an option you want to consider.

What's Next?

As noted in my previous post, we'll be installing these kitchens in the next couple months.  Stay tuned as I show you before and after images, fill you in on what I learned along the way and let you know if at the end, my man still loves me and my family is still talking to each other. ;)

Until then, I'd love to hear your thoughts!  Please share your comments, questions or feedback below or connect with us to discuss your own home and how we can help you create your very own beautiful, personal spaces!