Professional's Tips on IKEA Kitchen Design

...and visit our website to find out about expert IKEA Kitchen Design Services

Here are some tips from a discussion I had with our expert IKEA kitchen designer recently. If you would like to consult with him about your own project, just email us:

Me: What do you think are the most important things a homeowner should know about designing an IKEA kitchen?

Designer: It's not about filling in the spaces with what seems to fit, and it's definitely not about "this is where my stove is now, so I guess I should keep it in the same place, etc." I approach the design with the idea of maximizing options for a more functional, more attractive, more appealing kitchen. 

Me: Why should someone get professional design help? Canʼt a homeowner do it with IKEAʼs online software?

Designer: A homeowner can certainly design their own a basic layout. Software is available online. However, most homeowners don't have comprehensive knowledge of the cabinets themselves, of their possibilities, and they don't know how to customize and use the cabinets creatively to make the most of their kitchen layout. 

Me: Can you work with an architect?

Designer: Yes, as long as the measurements are correct and the vision is clear. 

Me: Can you work with blueprints?

Designer: Yes, but most blueprints do not supply all the measurements that are needed, and they can easily be off by one or two inches. That is too much room for error when you are designing an IKEA cabinet layout. It can lead to installation problems. 

Me: Can a homeowner do a new IKEA kitchen for $5000?

Designer:  It is possible to do a kitchen, including cabinets and installation, for $5,000, but it would be a very small kitchen. More typical and workable budgets are from $10,000-$20,000. This is still a great bargain for a beautiful new kitchen. 

Me: Can you give us more data about costs?

Designer: The cabinets and countertop costs are sorted out during the design phase. Labor costs depend on what needs to be done. Will the flooring be replaced? Do we need to repair and patch drywall? Painting? A big factor is how much electrical work is needed. Same with plumbing. Susan's eArticle is helpful:

Me: Do you have any suggestions on how to keep costs down?

Designer: First, order cabinets during a sale. Second, choose a less expensive door and less costly countertop. Countertop can always be replaced in a year or two. Laminates and butcher block are very inexpensive. Also, although I know this sounds like self-promotion, the best way I know to keep the overall costs down is to start out working with a well-informed kitchen designer.  For a small fee you have an expert on your team, you gain knowledge and thus control. And you are most likely end up with a much better kitchen for the same money. 

Me: Can you design a kitchen so that the cost of the kitchen is within a given budget?

Designer: An honest, knowledgeable designer can work with any reasonable budget.

Me: What are the most important things to consider when designing an IKEA kitchen?

Designer: Everyday kitchen needs, entertaining needs, function, practicality, designing the layout so that you make the most of the space without feeling closed in by it.

Me: Are IKEA cabinets different, insofar as designing, than other cabinets on the market?

Designer: Most cabinetry on the market, including custom and semi-custom, have 1/4" to 5/8" frames. IKEA offers 3/4" frames. The frame is the box of the cabinet, excluding the door. This is really a technical point insofar as design. For the homeowner, this just means IKEA frames are sturdier, are likely to last longer. Some other cabinet suppliers do offer more door styles and finishes to work with, but the cost is so much higher. IKEA offers about 20 different door styles in various finishes, plus the glass door options. 

Me: Do you think IKEA cabinets are as good as those at Lowes and Home Depot?

Designer: Yes, in most cases...better.

Me: Is there any other brand youʼd recommend?

Designer: There really are no other cabinets with the quality and warranty IKEA offers that are also in the same price bracket. If a homeowner has $35,000 or more to spend, they can certainly look at other, more costly brands. 

Me: Do you recommend IKEA countertops?

Designer: Their laminates are great for work areas and garage applications. Their butcher block is great when trying to save money and for cooks who prefer a wood working surface. The Caesarstone and granite IKEA offers is usually through a third-party company which includes installation in the cost of the countertop. 

Me: Do you recommend IKEA appliances?

Designer: Their appliances are supplied by Whirlpool Gold, specifically for IKEA. 

Me: What can you tell us about tile, say for backsplashes?

Designer: IKEA does not offer tile. Just as a tip, if you work with a kitchen designer, often they will design the tile work as well as the kitchen layout and then use their designer discount for you at tile stores. I do this for many of my clients. 

Me: What about lighting and flooring?

Designer: IKEA has few lighting and flooring options so you'll probably go elsewhere for these materials. It is best to consult your contractor about lighting so that you purchase lights that will meet code requirements in your area. As a note, flooring can be installed under IKEA cabinets, but it doesn't have to be. In other words, you can save on material and labor by installing the flooring after the cabinets are installed. You do need flooring under appliances, but not under cabinets. The toekick (bottom trim) is then installed to cover the seam where the flooring meets the cabinets. 

Me: What can you tell us about islands?

Designer: One tip as you design the kitchen is to keep in mind that you should have a minimum of a 36" walkway all around the island, or a 42"walkway in homes with 3 or more bedrooms.

Me: Any tips for when the kitchen is really small?

Designer: Then it's even more important to make sure the design is planned carefully to include all the homeowners' everyday needs.

Me:  On the other hand, how do you use cabinets to divide up a big, open space?

Designer:  Island, bar area, high cabinets back-to-back, and other ways depending on what the homeowners need and want. 

Me: Do you use kitchen cabinets for bathrooms or IKEA bathroom cabinets?

Designer: Usually I use kitchen cabinets modified to fit the bathroom space. They are stronger and offer more options than the bathroom cabinet line.

Me: Are there any sinks or light fixtures or types of tile you recommend?

Designer: With solid surface countertop, an undermount sink is best. With light fixtures and tile, it's really a personal choice. I like IKEA's low-wattage Dioder lights, which are very affordable, and Interstyle glass tile, which have a wide range of colors to choose from. 

Me: Thanks so much for all these tips. One last question. I have baking pans and I can't find an IKEA cabinet that will hold them. Do you know of a solution for this?

Designer: IKEA sells tray dividers. These will easily fit in the cabinets that go above the refrigerator.

If you'd like to discuss your project with us, I can offer you a free, 30-minute phone consultation. Here's my calendar, just pick a time that works for you.


Our company, Modern Family Kitchens, offers an IKEA kitchen design service. We can provide this service locally, or remotely. We think you'll spend the least and get the best results when you invest in expert design. Call or write us to discuss your project. 877-550-1753.

IKEA Kitchen Sales: Getting Ready

...and visit our website to find out about expert IKEA Kitchen Design Services

There's a sale coming so if you've been planning an IKEA kitchen project, take note.  The details or discount structure hasn't yet been announced but no matter, these sales are almost always the best deal in town for kitchen remodels.

The best time to order, during a sale, is towards the beginning. If you are going to buy your cabinets during this upcoming summer sale, it would be best to get the layout design started now. If you run into trouble with the online IKEA software or just know you want professional design, and would like a referral to a qualified IKEA designer, feel free to call or write me (971-313-4449 or I recommend spending a bit on expert design help. Even a small kitchen with a tight budget will come out better, and sometimes will cost less, with an expert designer on your team.

I've published a comprehensive article for Kindle: HOW TO PLAN YOUR BUDGET for an IKEA KITCHEN REMODEL. It's meant to provide expert knowledge on estimating and budgeting the materials and labor. The most frequently asked questions I get are about costs and it's just not something I can answer lightly and feel I've helped someone. Each project is unique and the costs can vary widely. The price tags at IKEA are for cabinets and countertop only and thus are not that helpful when what you need to know is how much EVERYTHING is going to cost, all materials plus all labor needed to get the result you want. My hope is that this Kindle (or Kindle apps) article saves you worry, time and money.

There are several reasons to get started as soon as possible if you want to order your cabinets during the sale. First, you have the longest runway before ordering. You want as much time as possible to plan the project, including but not limited to the budget, get the design finalized, line up a contractor, and order non-IKEA materials.

IKEA kitchen experts, designers and contractors, get booked up quickly once the sale starts. The design resources I have are able to get a kitchen designed in a day if they have measurements. But why not give yourself a week or more, to study the design work, map it out perhaps on your kitchen floor and walls, revise, ask questions that come up, shop for tile and revisit IKEA to confirm your choices. After all, there's lots of money involved, tearing your house apart involved, and quite a few factors to coordinate.

Once you have ordered the cabinets delivery is often within two weeks. You can sometimes get delivery sooner but once the sale is underway, delivery timeframes can get longer. IKEA will not hold an order for long. Once the delivery date is set, either you have to have some place to store them convenient to the kitchen (say, your garage) or you need to have the contractor scheduled on, or right before, or after, delivery.

The best way we've found, as a contractor, if there is no garage in which to store and build the cabinets,  for example in a condo, is to start the project about two days before the cabinets will be delivered. If there are to be wall changes, electrical re-wiring or flooring installed before cabinets, a contractor might need as much as a week of work before being ready for the cabinets.

Your delivery, even for a small kitchen, is going to be massive. IKEA cabinets come completely disassembled. Expect a pallet of flat, heavy cardboard boxes, sometimes two for larger kitchens. This is something to consider in your planning.

My other posts discuss contractors, finding one and working with one. My suggestion is not to expect IKEA to provide the data, nor the contractor, needed. The companies contracted with IKEA to install their cabinets are likely to sub-contract everything else. Most projects, 95%, require some demo and wall repair, wiring, and plumbing. These require expert skills, and the latter two require permits and inspections. The best contractor in most cases is one who can do everything expertly. Second best is a contractor who will do everything except assemble and install the IKEA cabinets. In this case, you can work with the IKEA-affiliated installer or another proven IKEA installer in your area. I have some resources in this regard for those in the Los Angeles area that I am happy to pass on.

A very smart "test" when you are interviewing contractors is to ask about permits. A contractor who says "you don't need one" is almost always operating illegally so don't hire him. A contractor who does not pull permits is suspect, so find out why and if his answers satisfy you, make sure you can pull your own permits before hiring him. A contractor who will pull permits and who includes the cost of doing so as a line item in his bid is best.

Ask the potential contractor for a copy of his license, liability insurance, and worker's comp policy (if he has employees). Keep these in a folder with the contract which, you must, must, must get. A contract that lists the exact project specs and the cost of getting these done is vital. Check your state's contractor license board for more data on hiring contractors.

Once you have a contractor lined up and your design work done, you are ready to order materials, including your cabinets. If you are buying everything at IKEA, it's easy. If you are buying some materials, for example tile and light fixtures, elsewhere, order these in advance so they are onsite (in your home) when your contractor needs them. If your contractor is installing new appliances, they can be delivered at any point in advance. It is usually best, for a kitchen remodel, to buy appliances without paying extra for installation. This is because the appliance delivery date may arrive and the kitchen may not be ready for the appliances. Most stores will deliver and install in one trip and if you aren't ready for installation, you'll pay more for a return trip.

I hope these quick tips help you get ready for the sale! IKEA has lots and lots of inventory of everything so don't worry about that. Just get the design done and research materials and contractors this month.

If you'd like to discuss your project with me, I can offer you a free, 30-minute phone consultation. Here's my calendar, just pick a time that works for you. 


Our company, Modern Family Kitchens, offers an IKEA kitchen design service. We can provide this service locally, or remotely. We think you'll spend the least and get the best results when you invest in expert design. Call or write us to discuss your project. 877-550-1753.