The Benefits and Drawbacks of an IKEA Kitchen

Renovating a kitchen is a big step no matter how you approach it.  But I am a big fan of IKEA kitchens and I am sharing ideas on how you can make a remodel less painful–and maybe more functional and beautiful in the end.IKEA Kitchens–Benefits

My fanaticism of IKEA Kitchens is based on all of the things that IKEA is known for:  design, price, and availability.  The offerings in the Sektion line of cabinets is as broad as any custom kitchen you can imagine. The choices start with 24 different finishes, including their signature sleek/modern designs and more traditional finishes.  Base cabinets are available in 52 different configurations, not counting the variety of 15″, 24″, 30″ and 36″ widths that most come in.  Upper cabinets have 31 different set ups, plus they all come in either 30″ or 40″ height and various widths.  They literally have every combination you can imagine, and it is all right off the shelf and ready to go home with you!

IKEA kitchens are cheaper than custom cabinets and more customizable than other stock cabinets.  Although the IKEA cabinets are made from MDF and not solid wood, IKEA’s construction design compensates for the lesser materials.  Another advantage over custom is the IKEA cabinets are “frameless,” meaning there is more actual storage space in the cabinet. One thing to note on the IKEA quality:  the hardware (hinges and drawer slides) are as high of quality as you will find in custom cabinets.  All are very sturdy and have the soft close feature.

IKEA Kitchens–Design Process

The best way to begin an IKEA kitchen design is with the planning tool on the IKEA website.  Tutorials are included on how to measure everything precisely, which is the most critical step.  After entering the measurements of your space, you get to start picking your products!

IKEA Kitchens
In process kitchen design–3D view

Mostly, you are selecting components from their inventory, with just a few tricks.  You can make the design generic, and at the end use the “change all at once” to select desired finishes.

One item to remember is that the boxes only come in white and wood brown.  This won’t matter in the end because the box color only shows on the inside of the cabinet.  However, you must choose end/cover panels to cover the end of a cabinet run.  The cover panels come in the same choices as the fronts, so then there is a uniform finish.  If the planner says that you need a cover panel somewhere, pay attention.  This is one of those times it is smarter than you are.  Lastly, make sure you save your design frequently!  The program can be slow and a bit glitchy and you don’t want to lose all of that hard work.

IKEA Kitchens–Support

Shopping List from IKEA Kitchens Planner

IKEA offers this service in store and they will send someone to your home for measuring.  But if you aren’t comfortable measuring the space yourself I suggest you check with your contractor for measuring.  Or better yet, call Mamakea!  Once you have the measurements you can play with the planner and then have the IKEA personnel check your work.  If you are going to have IKEA do the design from your measurements, plan on spending several hours in store.

The best feature of this planner is that once it is complete, you automatically have your shopping list. This helps keep track of how much you have spent as you are designing, too.  The same list shows the eventual assembly and installation configuration, so it is a useful tool from start to finish.

IKEA Kitchens–Appliances

Many people do not realize that IKEA offers appliances, but they actually have some great options.  They are made by the same manufacturers of brands you recognize, but often have better deals.  This review is the best way to compare IKEA options.  In many cases the prices are equal or better.  The standard warranty on IKEA units is 5 years, instead of one year offered by name brands.  And IKEA offers some cabinet depth (24″) options.

IKEA Kitchens–Options

Drawer inside drawer
IKEA Kitchens “hidden drawer”

As discussed above, the configuration options are almost endless, but there are a couple of specific things I love with IKEA cabinets.  First is the “hidden drawer.”  This second drawer is installed inside of a deeper drawer  (pictured at right.)  The practicality of this is being able to have a unified front configuration, but smaller drawers in front.  One specific uses for this is a secret drawer in a silverware drawer that holds less frequently used items like serving pieces and steak knives.  Another idea I love is having a secret drawer in the top of the pullout trash cabinet to store trash bags, right where you need them.

IKEA Cabinet Lighting
IKEA Kitchens In and Under-Cabinet Lighting



The other IKEA design advantage is integrated lighting.  To really appreciate this you need to see the store displays, but be careful: if you see it you will love it, and it becomes expensive very quickly.  This picture shows the lighting at the top of the cabinet and under the cabinet.  They also have options for in the drawers, which is just as beautiful.



IKEA Kitchens–Drawbacks

Legs & Toe Kicks

There are two major drawbacks to the IKEA Kitchens, but both are manageable.  The first and worst is their standard cabinet legs and the coordinating “toe kick”.  It is cheap, cheap, cheap.  The plastic feet snap into place on the bottom of the cabinet.  Because the cabinets are hung on a rail on the wall the legs are not load bearing, but they do serve a purpose. The toe kick is snapped to the legs that are snapped on the cabinet.  This entire setup is very precarious and not very attractive, and I will avoid it in my own kitchen.

But, there are several non-standard solutions that I think are better.  First and the most simple is to use the cover panel from your cabinet line and cut it into “toe kicks” that can be bracketed to the bottom of the cabinet.

IKEA Catalog Cabinet Legs
IKEA Kitchens Leg Options

For an added design touch, skip the toe kick and use other leg options and leave them exposed.  This results in a more furniture feel installation, but I think it is so much more attractive.  IKEA has several options, but really this hardware can be from anywhere to get the look and feel you wish.  You can see my sample design above has this option.

IKEA Hack Kitchen Toe Kick Drawer
IKEA Kitchens “Hidden” Toe Kick Drawer




My favorite solution to avoid the plastic feet and toe kick, however, is another “secret” drawer.  This hack is brilliant and adds more storage space in a previously dead space.  It involves using the IKEA drawer and front, but installing it below the cabinet. You can install flat (hidden) finger pull hardware so it is not obvious; or, I think the best solution is putting a push open latch on them so there is no hardware.  This is not just an IKEA cabinet hack, and there are plenty of videos on how to install them.



The last drawback and one of the biggest complaints about IKEA Kitchens is the same as the biggest complaint about IKEA in general–the assembly.  For all of the kitchens I have done the contractors were not interested in assembling the cabinets, which is why the homeowner contacted me.  Based on my experience, I think it is best to call an assembly professional.  Obviously, in the St. Louis area, this would be Mamakea!  But seriously, any region that has an IKEA store has assembly professionals.

I do my part of kitchens in two phases: first I put the cabinet boxes together and have them ready for the contractor, and then come back to the job site after the boxes are hung to finish the drawer/door installation.  This makes it lighter and easier for the contractor to maneuver during installation and minimizes damage to the fronts.  And using a professional assembler and a separate contractor is the least expensive approach because an assembly professional can be much more efficient at this part of the job than a contractor is.

In addition to the assembly, I am happy to consult on the design.  I can help use the IKEA tools and make design recommendations based on my experience.  I can’t wait until I can renovate my kitchen, but until then I will enjoy living vicariously through yours.  Give Mamakea a call!