Ikea Kitchens: Why We Got Started

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By fate and fortune, I found myself needing a solution for replacing 51 kitchens in a Pasadena apartment building undergoing renovation. I’d never been involved with construction or even much home remodeling. I’ve been in marketing most of my life.
But as the manager and leasing agent for the property, whose pay depended on having the work finished fast so there would be apartments to lease, it was in my court to get these kitchens done. On a fairly restricted budget, I wanted to end up with some “sizzle” to help me lease these small, pricey studios in a downtown neighborhood where there are lots of rentals. The building, before it was rehabbed, had been half empty.
The first few kitchens the building owners had rehabbed were custom built by a cabinet maker the previous manager had found in the Yellow Pages. When I came on the scene I found the following problems with the cabinets and the maker:
1) The $6,500 price for one straight wall of plain-looking “Victorian” cabinets with absolutely no sizzle.
2) The cheap wood that had to be painted but the price didn’t include painting.
3) The white ceramic tile countertops, the same tile we used in shower stalls, about the worst mistake you can make in countertops, at least in rentals (what you want is a smooth, impenetrable surface, NO GROUT, please). His price didn’t even include sealing the grout (revealed only after he was fired) and he needed six weeks advance, from the point of ordering, to build the cabinets in his shop. Then he’d deliver them and install them, when he had time.

I was in Ikea buying a butcher block table around this time and, in spite of the crowds, took a good long look at the kitchen displays. The average 10 x 10 kitchen price noted on the displays was about $2400. And these were great-looking kitchens, loaded with cool features like wire rack baskets, slide out pantry shelves, and lots more. I am talking sizzle. There were 15 styles and more color choices. I found five I really liked.
In the following weeks I looked at other kitchen options--cabinet builders, kitchen designers, kitchen stores, online resources and even Home Depot. But, when my research time was up, it was obvious that Ikea offered the best product for the price.
So, next time he came to town, I brought my boss, the owner, to Ikea. He swears he has no aesthetic sense, is color-blind, and style unconscious. But he liked the price tags at Ikea and he trusted me. So I had the go ahead to fire the cabinet maker and proceed with our first 5 Ikea kitchens.

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