My husband and I recently purchased a 40-year-old fixer-upper vacation home and have spent the last few months slowly getting it into shape. While we hired contractors for the Serious Business projects like structural and electrical work, we decided to tackle updating the kitchen cabinets ourselves. We chose IKEA cabinets because they were generally agreed to be the best quality for the price, and we wanted to keep this a budget kitchen wherever possible.
IKEA kitchen design: DIY vs. pro
IKEA provides a 3D planning tool if you want to design your kitchen all by yourself. Personally, I found the tool completely infuriating. I can’t imagine actually designing a kitchen with it. I thought I could use my SketchUp skills to do the design myself, but I got bogged down in all the variables/details of what a kitchen needs.
I read articles about the work triangle and tons of forum threads with benefits and drawbacks of various options, but ultimately I felt completely overwhelmed. This plus the fact that the SEKTION system is totally new, and therefore there aren’t pre-made SketchUp 3D models available, led me to the decision to hire a professional IKEA designer.
You can hire one through IKEA or use a third-party service. We opted for the latter because reviews of IKEA’s service were mixed. The design process took about a month from start to finish. I provided all the measurements as well as a list of wants/desires, and my designer sent me a 3D design mockup. They also loaded the entire design into the IKEA software for easy ordering.
Taping everything out
At this point, I got out some painter’s tape and marked out where everything was going to go. This let us get a feel for how much space we’d have to move around. It also let us verify that we had enough room between the island and the laundry room door to move the appliances back in. Up until this point I’d been a little wary about the island, but once we taped it out I decided to go for it.
Custom doors for IKEA cabinets
While choosing countertop colors, wall colors, and various trim options for the IKEA cabinets, I slowly realized I just wasn’t that into the BOBDYN doors I’d originally chosen, or really any of the doors IKEA offers.
This is where IKEA’s somewhat-infuriating, hyper-modular system comes in handy: I could order the cabinets and drawer hardware from IKEA but get the doors elsewhere. I chose to order paint-ready poplar doors from Scherrs, a custom cabinetry shop based in North Dakota. Working with Scherrs was great, and I highly recommend them. The doors were about 50 percent more expensive than the ones from IKEA, but they’re solid wood rather than particleboard. We opted to paint them ourselves in order to save money and also to make sure the shade of white matched our trim.
Fit, finish, and tweaks
At this point, I did decide on a couple of tweaks to the original layout. I decided to get a narrower fridge so the sink could be closer to center under the window, a slightly narrower cabinet to the left of the window, and added a narrow cabinet next to the stove for baking sheet storage. Then, in an excess of faith in my own carpentry skills, I decided I could make an open cabinet for the end of the top row of cabinets.
Since the pro design company had already loaded the design into the IKEA planning tool, modifying it wasn’t too hard at all. Even though I ended up tweaking their design a bit, I was really glad someone else did the lion’s share of the layout work.
Ordering IKEA cabinets
The last and most terrifying step in the process was ordering the cabinets. I was warned that it could be a slow process but was still surprised when it took three hours. There were a few reasons my experience was so slow. First, the guy who was helping me was new and didn’t know how to do some of the more unusual parts of my order (like removing all the doors from the cabinet order). Second, I came in towards the end of the 20-percent-off kitchen sale so the place was mobbed. And finally, it’s just a slow process. The order has to be imported from the 3D design tool and then hand-checked for accuracy and compatibility.
Overall, I’m happy with the design of the kitchen. There are a few areas I feel are a little unresolved (particularly around the window), but I think I can work with them using window treatments, small shelves, or maybe a small painting. The total for the cabinets, doors, and quartz countertop came to just over $5,000.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be tackling DIY IKEA cabinet installation as well as painting our custom doors. Wish me luck!