Sunday, March 27, 2016
This is our second IKEA kitchen, and I have learned a few things about how to get the best results (with the fewest trips to IKEA). Here’s my advice:
Go on a scouting mission
Even if you live far away from IKEA, I would highly suggest that you visit the IKEA kitchen showroom and look at their cabinetry in-person before making any decisions. Both times we have used IKEA cabinets, seeing the door fronts swayed our choices. Make this a quick-looking-only trip (don’t buy anything, so you won’t have to stand in line!), since you’ll definitely be back soon.
We chose IKEA because it was literally half the price that a local cabinet vendor quoted us for the space. Many of the cabinets we wanted were considered custom elsewhere, but were available off-the-shelf at IKEA, meaning there was less lead time. However, friends of ours who used more common cabinet sizes found that IKEA was only slightly less expensive than cabinetry from a local kitchen design showroom, and I am sure it was less of a hassle.
Figure out how much additional space you need first
Your cabinetry and appliances will need a little extra room beyond their exact dimensions: Fridges need a few inches so the door can open properly, as do kitchen cabinets. When measuring your space, calculate these extra inches first, so you’ll be prepared to do your floorplan in IKEA’s planning software.
Use the IKEA kitchen planner
IKEA offers a kitchen-planning tool, which has greatly improved in the three years since I first tried it, but it’s still a bit of a hassle. Note that it works MUCH better on the Safari browser than Chrome. Also, SAVE OFTEN: I accidentally deleted my design several times. I recommended calculating your extra space first because IKEA has built in recommendations, which in some cases may be more cautious than you need to be (for example, IKEA felt the two sides of my galley kitchen were too close to one another, but there’s nothing I can do about that, so I had to ignore the program’s recommendation to place them further apart).
No, really, opt for the tallest wall cabinets. IKEA offers 40-inch tall cabinets that can be hung directly below the ceiling. This gives you the maximum amount of storage space, and eliminates that awkward gap between the tops of your cabinets and the ceiling. You’ll need a stepstool to reach those top shelves, but trust me, the extra storage is well worth it.
While IKEA kitchen cabinets are stocked in stores, it’s not a bad idea to order your kitchen several weeks to a month before you plan to install. There’s a good chance that a cabinet or a door you need may not be in stock in your local IKEA, which could cause delays. We had two cabinets that were not available at the Brooklyn location, and it would have been four weeks before the store had them in-stock again. Luckily, the New York City metro area has several IKEA stores, and we were able to find the cabinets at another store. If you live in an area with only one store, you’d be really frustrated to have a single cabinet hold up your entire renovation.
Make a plan for your countertops
IKEA has different countertop options in all its stores. If you’re lucky, you might be able to do them through IKEA and have one less vendor to deal with. In our case, it turned out our kitchen was too small to meet IKEA’s minimum for the quartz countertops. Then we found out that while the independent countertop installer could do the quarts we wanted it would be much more than the $89/square foot, we’d seen as the price at IKEA. Instead, we opted to use remainders from the warehouse that all matched, which saved us a significant amount of money. It all worked out, but we did have of a scramble figuring out the counters in a hurry. Plan ahead to avoid this. Also, the IKEA butcher block is tempting because it’s so cheap, but having used it once, I would never choose it again: Wood is just not a durable enough material for constant contact with liquids—and who has the time to reseal/re-oil every few months?
Think about the ends
If the ends of your cabinets are going to be exposed, you’ll probably want panels to cover the exposed cabinet ends.
Skip the hardware and the faucets
For me, most of IKEA’s cabinet hardware (pulls and knobs) leaves something to be desired style-wise. It’s super-easy to pick these up at a hardware or home improvements store where you’ll have greater selection. Likewise, I’ve never heard great things about IKEA faucets, so I would suggest looking elsewhere for your spout.
We bought one of IKEA’s very nice-looking white farmhouse-style DOMSJÖ sinks the first time we renovated a kitchen. Unfortunately, the sink’s finish chipped almost immediately while one of us was doing dishes. It could have been a fluke, but I cannot recommend them because of it. Their stainless sink for Kitchen #2, however, has been great.
Know your whites
IKEA's white cabinet doors are not actually white—they're a significantly off-white. Looking at them in the showroom, this can be hard to see, but in daylight, it's quite obvious. This isn't a big deal, but it might influence your decisions about other materials in your kitchen, like say backsplash tile or wall paint.
Buy extra shelves
If you do opt for the 40-inch tall wall cabinets, remember to order some extra interior shelves! You’ll have more space, so you may need more shelves. I had to go back to IKEA, which took 3 hours out of a day to get $15 worth of shelves—don’t make the same mistake!
Listen to the sales associates
IKEA seems to place their best sales associates in kitchens, and if you get a good one, their advice can be invaluable. Yes, waiting is a pain; yes, you may not always get a good sales person, but for the most part, I have found that the sales associates know what they're talking about. If they suggest you might need something, you probably do. They're not trying to up-sell you, they're trying to help.
*All photos are from IKEA; photos of our kitchen coming some day!