In my last post, I talked all about the Home Depot kitchen remodel process and what it was going to cost us to upgrade our sad 1980s kitchen. Today, we’re chatting about the IKEA kitchen remodel process, and a couple tips you need to know before considering a kitchen upgrade with IKEA.

Why we’re considering an IKEA kitchen remodel

So a few months ago, a thing happened on a random Saturday morning: we discovered one of our kitchen cabinets was majorly pulling away from the wall and decided to remove it from the wall.

Here’s our poor cabinet, which was falling apart. Warning: unedited iPhone photo ahead…

kitchen_cabinet_before

And here’s what that same space looked like after we randomly decided to remove the cabinet:

cabinets_before_2

After that weekend, we decided that something needed to be done. At a minimum, we’d patch up the wall (there’s no sense in putting the cabinet back up because the wood is starting to splinter) but decided we’d do some research on what a full kitchen remodel would cost.

Our first stop was Home Depot, where we met with a kitchen designer and scoped out what a full remodel would cost us, and what that process would look like from start to finish. You can read all about our Home Depot consultation right here, along with my two cents on the pros and cons of working with Home Depot on a kitchen remodel.

Next stop? Our local IKEA to meet with a kitchen designer.

Our visit to IKEA to talk about an IKEA kitchen remodel

No matter what time of day you visit IKEA, it’s always slammed. So make sure to book an appointment for a kitchen consultation before you head to the store. You can use this button on their website to book an appointment with a kitchen designer at your local IKEA.

When we arrived at IKEA, we sat down with our designer and he first asked for our kitchen measurements. When I say “measurements,” note that they need the measurements of the space itself NOT the measurements of your current cabinet configuration. I’ll talk about why this is important in a minute. He noticed that we had a peninsula in our kitchen (not ideal but hey, they were all the rage in the 80s, I guess) and immediately raised a red flag to us.

Why does all this matter? Because like most things sold at IKEA, their cabinets are all very modular. There aren’t really any “custom” options if you need or want differently sized cabinets. You’re at the mercy of the sizes IKEA produces in bulk. Yes, you can sort of customize the interiors but as for the exterior dimensions, there’s a finite number of options. Angled cuts are possible, but doing that takes more work. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that IKEA kitchens work really well in some spaces and not so well in others. More on that shortly.

We worked with our designer to build out a kitchen configuration using IKEA’s online kitchen planning tool. It’s free to use — you can log in right here and start building out your own design. Here’s a screen grab of what it looks like when you log in:

ikea_kitchen_planner_screen_shot

5 Things I Learned About an IKEA Kitchen Remodel

I won’t detail every single step in the kitchen planning process because frankly there are lots of posts out there on the interwebs already do this. If you’re looking for a soup-to-nuts account of what it’s like buying and installing an IKEA kitchen, then this post from Apartment Therapy’s editor-in-chief is a great one — she talks about her personal experience working with IKEA to create a kitchen and even tells you the final cost for all her cabinetry (note that flooring and appliance costs aren’t included in her tally).

If you’re more of a Cliff’s Notes person, here’s the summary of what I’m about to share: IKEA kitchens can be great. There are plenty of beautiful photos and great reviews of IKEA kitchens, with homeowners raving about how they were able to design a custom-ish kitchen for a good price. But IKEA kitchens and their level of awesomeness depend on a lot of factors, particularly 1) how much work you’re willing to do yourself, 2) your DIY/cabinet assembly skill level and 3) the layout of your space.

Here are the “must knows” about IKEA kitchen remodels that I don’t see many people talking about, all of which I learned through hours of research and our in-store meeting with an IKEA kitchen designer:

IKEA kitchens work best in “two straight line”-type kitchens, or in brand new spaces that had no previous layout. I said it before but it’s worth repeating — IKEA kitchen cabinets are very modular, and they come in a finite number of sizes. And if you’re trying to work within an existing kitchen space, you may have to get creative with your layout or swap in different cabinet designs so that the length of your cabinets combined aligns with the length of your wall. IKEA kitchens work best, in my opinion, in two different scenarios: One where you’ve got a blank slate — maybe you took everything back to the studs and are doing a complete gut job, or you built an addition and have the freedom to lay out the space however you want — or one where you essentially have a galley kitchen or a wall of cabinets plus a small island. It’s pretty good for the “two straight lines” approach to kitchen design.

semihandmade_2 ikea
An IKEA kitchen (wall cabinets + island) featuring Semi Handmade Doors; Photo credit: Semi Handmade and Beginning in the Middle

A kitchen designer never visits your home, so it’s really important that YOUR kitchen measurements are accurate. The kitchen cabinet ordering process at IKEA is a lengthy one — you can do this in store or you can do it online. Either way, make sure your measurements are super accurate. If they’re not — and even if you’re off by an inch or two — it’s a pain to try to reconfigure things post-order, especially when you’re swimming in a sea of cabinet fronts, screws, toe kicks, and a bunch of other boxes. My advice? Have a professional come in and measure because this isn’t a step you want to mess up.

If you want in-store help from an IKEA kitchen designer, make your appointment for before their twice-yearly kitchen sale. IKEA runs kitchen sales three to four times a year — the most recent one started in March — and we luckily snuck in our in-store appointment before the sale kicked off. We didn’t know it at the time, but get this: IKEA doesn’t accept in-store appointments for kitchen consultations while they run their sales because their consultants simply get too busy. This in-store appointment rule may vary depending on where you live, but at least in the Washington, DC area IKEA doesn’t take appointments during their sales. Call your local store for more info on kitchen design appointments.

You don’t have to buy IKEA kitchen doors. IKEA has some respectable door designs, but this might be the best news of all — there are several companies that make different cabinet door styles that are specifically designed to fit on IKEA cabinets. It’s genius! My personal favorite is Semi Handmade. This Los Angeles-based company has lots of options for cabinet doors that all look far more custom and expensive than the IKEA door selections. Their “Our Process” page details exactly how you’d work with Semi Handmade and IKEA to get the kitchen you want. If you haven’t seen IKEA kitchens with Semi Handmade doors, then prepare to be impressed. Their Supermatte Shaker line is my personal favorite, which is the door style used in the kitchen pictured below. Check out Semi Handmade’s Instagram account for more inspo.

semi-handmade cabinets ikea

Photo credit: Semi Handmade & Union and Park

If you don’t want to assemble your IKEA kitchen yourself, you can work with IKEA’s specified contractor in your area. IKEA kitchens are designed to be assembled by homeowners. But if you don’t want to do it yourself and don’t feel 100% comfortable with IKEA’s infamous word-less instructions, every IKEA store has a designated contractor they work with that’ll assemble the IKEA cabinets for you. However, one thing you should know that we learned during our in-store appointment is that these contractors are ONLY approved by IKEA to assemble the IKEA cabinets. From what we heard, IKEA doesn’t vet the contractor on demoing your current kitchen, unhooking or re-hooking up gas lines or water lines, and other tasks that often come along with a kitchen reno. And that’s totally fine, but please, please, please remember this: Don’t assume that the contractor IKEA recommends for cabinet assembly is a go-to contractor for your entire kitchen remodel project. So if you’re using IKEA’s contractor for assembling your cabinets, you might need a second one to take care of all the other tasks associated with getting your kitchen back up and running.

But…..do your research on that contractor. I’m begging you.¬†Ask your local IKEA for the name of the contractor they work with. Then Google them. I know it sounds so simple, but please — do not skip this step. I asked our kitchen planner for the name of the contractor IKEA uses in my area, and read all 32 of their Yelp reviews. Those reviews validated exactly what I said above: IKEA’s contractors are great at putting together cabinets, but there were very mixed reviews on their abilities to do more than that. I’m sure contractor abilities vary depending on where you live and who IKEA works with, but the takeaway? Do your research on their contractor of choice to decide if you’d like to use them. Making an informed decision in the beginning will potentially save you headaches down the road.

Do you have an IKEA kitchen? Have you considered getting an IKEA kitchen? I’d love to hear about your experience and any tips you learned during the process!

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