Custom Kitchens with IKEA Cabinets

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One of the more fun aspects of working with expert IKEA kitchen designers is seeing how they create custom solutions using IKEA stock cabinets. I am always impressed by the creative use of IKEA kitchen cabinets and accessories to create truly wonderful kitchens.

As a heavy user of my kitchen (I'm a vegan cook which means cutting, chopping, water sauteing, mashing, etc., at least once or twice every day), I always want more storage (for new gadgets, admittedly) and more counter space (to use those gadgets!). Maybe not everyone needs to store 25lb boxes of raw cashews, or needs a place for two blenders and two food processors (I use them, I swear) but every kitchen, every kitchen-user, has unique requirements. If you are wondering if you can create the storage or function you really want with IKEA cabinets, the answer is almost always, yes.

The trick is to know how to customize cabinets, to research and find add-on products, and, fundamentally, to have expertise with both IKEA cabinetry and kitchen design, in general. I do talk with homeowners who plan their kitchen for a year or even several years. They eventually find or figure out custom solutions, sometimes. But for the majority of working people, having the help of a kitchen designer is key. Even a basic layout in a modest kitchen can be made exceptional in the hands of a skilled kitchen designer who knows IKEA cabinets.

Keep in mind that an IKEA kitchen designer, or any kitchen designer, needs to know what you want, your ideas, concerns, even your dreams. I always recommend that clients write down all they would really like in their new kitchen, disregarding for a moment whether or not they have the money or space. We let the designer understand what is wanted and we let the designer come up with solutions. The homeowner chooses what seems to him or her the best solution, and then comes the fine-tuning. It's a fun and a creative process. Yes, there is a limit to budget and space, but with a good designer, all sorts creative things can come about.

Anyway, you can use IKEA cabinets for a low cost remodel, certainly. But you can also use them for an affordable, major change with customized cabinets and incorporating other brands of products. It takes skill and experience, but I've seen it done beautifully hundreds of times.


P.S. That online planner is going to be your worst enemy if you want to customize cabinets or design a custom sort of kitchen. It just won't do these things. It's not a good tool for kitchen design, in general. For custom or creative design, it's impossible to use.

IKEA Countertop: Tip

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IKEA sells laminate and butcher block that are IKEA products. They also sell, store by store, more costly solid surface countertop, name brands that a third party company provides and installs on behalf of IKEA. In planning out your project. it is important to know how these materials are delivered and installed.

Laminates and butcher block are purchased in stock-sizes slabs, as much as will be needed for your kitchen layout. IKEA personnel can determine this at the time of ordering. These materials are delivered with the rest of your cabinets and other IKEA materials. Once the base cabinets are installed, the counter pieces are cut to fit, including a sink cut-out, and installed. You would want to stain/finish the butcher block yourself.

The amount of counter top you need is estimated when you order your cabinets from a layout that you provide. You pay for this with your cabinets. Installation is included in the price (at IKEA).

It is important to know that there are two steps to solid surface counter top installation, in most cases. First, once your base cabinets are in place (and leveled), the  counter top company will come to your home and make a TEMPLATE. A week or two later, they will return to your home to install the now-fabricated counter tops.

You have to make an APPOINTMENT for this template-making. Since you are likely to have a contractor or installer in your home at a fairly predictable time, it is often best to schedule this template appointment as soon as you pay for your materials.

In many places, there is a wait for a template appointment AND, often, you will have to wait one to two weeks AFTER the template is made for the counter top to be installed.

This takes some planning. You don't want to wait two weeks with nothing happening. Work it out with your installer/contractor so that you have the minimum down time.

The key is to know that:

1) you have to make an appointment for the template to be made, a step which cannot be done until the base cabinets are in place and leveled.

2) you will typically wait one to two weeks after the template is made for countertop installation

There are a few companies we've worked with who will template and fabricate and install solid surface counter top all in one day. They bring their cutting machines to your home. You have to have a space (front yard?) where they can cut. However, no IKEA store we have ever come across offers this type of service.

The price on solid surface countertop at IKEA, especially during a sale, can rarely be beat. But you do need to coordinate the template and installation of it with other aspects of your project.

Kitchen remodeling takes a week or 10 days only in the rarest of circumstances. Typical is 3-6 weeks, start to finish. Some projects take months to complete, but this is rare, too. Try to ensure the start date and time frame are noted on your contract with your installer/contractor.

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IKEA Kitchen Sale Begins!

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The Fall 2013 IKEA kitchen sale starts tomorrow, October 4, 2013. Here's the window of opportunity to save on IKEA kitchen cabinets, countertops and appliances. The sale runs until December 1. It is always better to order earlier in the sale than towards the end.

Here is IKEA's discount structure for this sale, same as the summer 2013 sale

● Spend $3500 or more on your new kitchen and save 10% on your entire kitchen purchase.
● Spend $4500 or more on your new kitchen and save 20% on your entire kitchen purchase.

Many of my blog posts cover how to plan an IKEA kitchen project, find a contractor, design the layout, order your IKEA materials and other materials, and how the process works, overall. I've done hundreds of IKEA kitchens and worked on thousands of IKEA kitchen designs, so I'm pretty good.

The key really is having a correct, elegantly designed layout. Even if you have a small kitchen, even if your budget is tight, even if you are keeping the same footprint, it is vital to have an expert help you create the optimal layout. The cost of professional design help will pay you back many times over. 

A lot of people ask me about timeframes. I recommend taking a minimum of two weeks to work with your kitchen designer (at least, if you use my company's services). We can get you through the design process in two DAYS (with our Elite service) but it's really good to review our initial design work, and have time to shop, consider options, revise and adjust the plan until it is truly perfect for you. We want you to order confidently, knowledgeably and excitedly, too!

During the design process you want to be looking at IKEA materials online or in the store, to best consider the designer's recommendations and the design itself. The design process is really a communication process, and the more you know, the more precise the layout and design choices will be. 

Once you have the design work, you'll also have a schematic showing cabinet placements and measurements (again, if you work with us, not all designers might provide this). This makes it easier to get contractor bids because you can show the contractor the specs of the finished kitchen. For example, knowing the final cabinet layout, the contractor can correctly estimate electrical, plumbing, wallboard, and many other items on the bid. Without a correct layout, with the finished requirements unknown, the contractor always bids higher. I was a contractor, I know this. 

In any case, planning can take a month. This includes, design, finding a contractor, choosing appliances, tile flooring, etc. Some projects have a week or two or more of prep work, such are removing walls, before cabinets can be installed. Once they are installed, countertop, sink, faucet and finish work can take a few days or week, to a month or more. Always insist that a timeframe is specified in your labor services (contractor) contract. You can deduct a specified charge for each day over that specified finish date if you and the contractor have agreed to this in the contract.

Typical projects of 18-23 cabinets should take one to three weeks from demo to completion. You would want to order your cabinets 1-2 weeks before the demo of the old kitchen begins. Backtracking, start the design process two weeks to a month before ordering. Our designers can get your design done in a day, but you really want time to enjoy the creative process and the knowledge you will gain from working with a professional kitchen designer. 


P.S. Visit our website to find out about expert IKEA Kitchen Design Services