IKEA Kitchens for Beginners

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I decided to write down some basic basics about IKEA kitchen projects. If this data seems obvious and useless to you, go back to a more "advanced" posts, for example about choosing a contractor or layout tips. I don't mean to "dumb down" kitchen remodeling with IKEA cabinets, but it has come to my attention that quite a few people have never remodeled a kitchen, don't know much about IK

The most basic thing to know is that you are simply buying some cabinets from IKEA. An IKEA kitchen somehow suggests that the IKEA company is going to be involved with the remodeling of your kitchen. This is an inaccurate foundation on which to base your project. You simply want (if you do) to buy cabinets from IKEA, because, for the price, they are the best product on the market.

In my experience, it is usually a mistake to involve IKEA, or considering involving IKEA, in your remodeling project any further than as a source of cabinets. That is to say, don't assume that store will NECESSARILY provide any of the other materials or labor you will need to complete your project, such as measuring for the design, installing the cabinets or appliances, designing the layout, removing the old cabinets, etc.

IKEA sells great kitchen cabinets. The countertops and appliances sold there are also good. However, IKEA is not a remodeling company/contractor. A remodeling contractor is needed for a kitchen remodel, unless you plan to do all the labor yourself. IKEA does offer some basic services (as opposed to materials) but these are far from the best options for the labor part of your project. I've explained why I feel this way, in other posts.

In order to buy cabinets at IKEA, you have to have a kitchen layout. You can't walk into the store and ask to buy some cabinets. The layout defines which cabinets, the sizes and styles, that you will need and want. Whereas there are computers with a basic layout program on them in all IKEA kitchen departments, and whereas sometimes you can get a bit of help from store staff to string together a layout, it is far from the best way.

It is also not a good idea to use IKEA planning services or any designer who comes out to your house and sits with you for 5 hours to design your kitchen. I have worked on hundreds of IKEA kitchen projects and thousands of designs, and it is absolutely necessary to design a draft for a client, have them provide feedback to enable an initial design to be created, and to give the client TIME, between versions and revisions, to consider options, talk things over with family members, shop, etc. Doing an entire design in one afternoon is a high pressure situation that you really don't want.

Not to mention, the IKEA services person is using the same free online software you can use yourself and that is so limited, so full of software bugs, that your finished kitchen will, to a greater or lesser degree, look like, and function like, it was designed with bad software.

Buy IKEA cabinets. Find a designer and a contractor that are not affiliated with IKEA. The one except might be using the service IKEA refers you to for installing the cabinets. They are very fast and usually very good. But don't hire them to do demo, electrical, plumbing, etc. Hire a licensed, insured, bonded general contractor who is familiar with IKEA cabinets. That's the best way.

More later.

 I offer a free, no-obligation 30-minute consultation to my blog readers.


IKEA Kitchen Sale Tips about Designing with the Home Planner and then Ordering

(Request my free eBook, How to Budget for an IKEA Kitchen Remodel)

A lot of homeowners wait for the IKEA kitchen sale and the Spring sale is most popular among those. It's timing the project to coincide with warmer weather, I suspect. Or possibly after a winter indoors in an old kitchen, they just have to get into action.

In any case, I have talked to many people in the first two weeks of the current US sale, as well as many in Canada where their IKEA kitchen sale ends the 24th of March. I've looked at photos of kitchens in various states of disrepair, from really quite nice to nearly destroyed. I have also looked at many IKEA Home Planner drafts that homeowners sent me to review, and I feel obligated to offer some tips for anyone trying to base their remodel on an IKEA Home Planner design.

As I've written elsewhere, I completely biased. I own an IKEA kitchen design company so, of course, I am always pitching professional design services. But if you saw what I see, the mediocre, or even terrible or unsafe layouts some do in the Home Planner, you would convince everyone you knew of the true value of professional kitchen design for IKEA kitchen projects.

First, it is important to know that the online planner is FREE, and you get what you pay for. The purpose of the planner is to sell IKEA cabinets, it is not to design an elegant, optimal layout for a remodel.

Second, the planner will allow you to place cabinets in ways that won't install correctly, and, worse, will NOT allow you to place them in many elegant and optimal ways. It's software limitations mainly, but also consider that I work with professional kitchen designers who know how to do things by training and experience, that most of us just don't realize are possible and beautiful.

Third, the list that the Home Planner generates is far from complete for any given layout you have drafted. It's another software limitation. Even if you meticulously place cover panels and trim, the chances are more than 100% that there are parts you'll need that are not listed. This means that when you go to the store to order, you'll be waiting in line, and waiting in line some more, for an IKEA staff person to help complete your plan and list. Talk about stress on a $7000+ purchase!

This is off topic, but I wanted to mention that kitchen remodeling IS a pretty stressful activity. A lot of emotion can come into it, even if you have the money and the time. Unfortunately, to remodel your kitchen you are going to need the help of others, whether contractors, tile settings, IKEA sales people, designers, plumbers, permit offer people, electricians. delivery people, etc. etc. Given that on earth at this time, a considerable percentage of people don't consider being on time to be important. not to mention doing what they promised to do, kitchen remodeling, dependent on at least SOME of these people, is stressful. Take B vitamins during the entire process.

Back to topic, let's say you created a layout in the Home Planner and you feel somewhat confident it will work. It looks OK, it seems to fit. Can you order it and do your project? Yes. SHOULD you order it and do your project? NO. "OK design: and "somewhat confident it will fit" are the formulae for disaster. For projects that tale 7 months to install and are not really a lot better than what you started with.

People: kitchen design is a professional skill. You want , with your IKEA cabinets, the elegance you see in magazines but at an affordable price. You want a smooth installation in which all factors were predicted pretty darn well.

Let's consider ordering by phone. Is it possible? Maybe. It depends. Some have done it. It's not easy or guaranteed, but if you have a COMPLETE order list, it can be done. But wait with the Home Planner there is no complete order list. So, if you are set on using your Home Planner design, go to the store to order. That is a big tip.

With our professional services, the designer creates a complete order list for every client, with product codes. Our clients waltz into IKEA, bypass the moaning hordes of people with Home Planner lists, slap their complete lists on the counter and demand to be sold just those things. No discussion required. Ah, what a better way to go.

One last thing to mention today. The US sale ends on the 27th. If you are, wisely, going to consider professional design services (my company's or any other comparable, is fine), don't wait till a week before the sale ends. Our service has no time limit and it's a process not a one shot design. In fact, any service that designs your kitchen in 4 hours is worrisome to me. I create things, sleep on them, and always have new ideas the next day.

Anyway, if you want to order during the current sale, which in the US ends April 27, or in Canada March 24, let's get started. You want that perfect design, complete confidence, and complete order list before the last few days of the sale. The hordes get more stressed, less patient and bigger, as the sales draw to an end.

Call me, go to my calendar to schedule a time to talk. I am happy to help you.


IKEA Kitchen Sale Spring 2014: TIPS

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Dear Readers: If you'd like to discuss your project with me, or if you are interested in my company's professional IKEA kitchen design services, I can offer you a free, 30-minute phone consultation. There is no obligation and I am happy to give you tips or guidance specific to your project. Here's my calendar, just pick a time that works for you.

The IKEA US Kitchen Sale for Spring 2014 has started. Mark your calendar, it starts February 28 and will run for until April 27.

If your total purchase is $3,500.00 (including kitchen cabinets, appliances, counter tops), you get a 10% discount. If your total purchase is $4,500 you can get a 20% discount.

An average kitchen requires 18 cabinets total, top and bottom. The cost of your cabinets will vary (a lot) with the door style you choose. Countertop is another big variable. You could spend $200 for laminate or butcher block, or $3000+ for solid surface types (like Casearstone) for the same square footage.

Most kitchen purchases will easily top $3,500-$4,500, so by ordering during the sale period you can save $500-$900 or more. 

There are many ways to get the best benefit from the sale. The methods vary with the type of project and purchase. For example, sometimes buying something extra you don't necessarily need can boost your sale discount. You can then sell that item on Craigslist or give it as a gift. We show our clients how to best take advantage of the sale discounts. 

Now is the time to get started on the planning and design phase. First, get our free eBook, How to Budget for an IKEA Kitchen Remodel. This will help you know what the real costs are, both labor and materials.

The next step is to plan the layout. That's what my company does, so contact us if you would like help. I offer a free, no-obligation 30-minute consultation to my blog readers.

 An expert and carefully checked layout plan is vital for the next step, which is getting labor bids. A contractor needs to know what the cabinet placement will be in order to give you a comprehensive, and thus accurate, bid. 

The sale, running for eight weeks, really is the best time to order, but only if you can either launch the project during or right after delivery (usually 1-2 weeks after ordering) or if you have a storage place that is dry. Timing is part of the planning. If you can order in the first half of the sale, you'll run into less of a crowd, less wait time for delivery and less likelihood of backordered parts. 

Keep in mind that during sales, all IKEA kitchen departments and even all IKEA kitchen pros, get very busy. The best time to order is early in the sale, when stocks are high, wait times are minimal, and you can schedule to suit your own preferences, rather than having to wait for a contractor or installer. 

Ready, set.....


IKEA Kitchen Layout Tips

(Request my free eBook, How to Budget for an IKEA Kitchen Remodel)

 I offer a free, no-obligation 30-minute consultation to my blog readers.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that my company designs custom IKEA kitchens and that I used to be a partner in a remodeling company that installed them. Hundreds of them. Thus, I do know about kitchen layout although I am nowhere near as knowledgeable or as talented as the professional kitchen designers who design for my company, Modern Family Kitchens.

I wanted to provide some tips because many people start out their kitchen remodeling process by going to the free IKEA planner or some other basic layout software and do their best without really knowing what makes a great kitchen.

While there is no easy replacement for professional design, and expecting that you can design a kitchen as well as a professional isn't reasonable. I also recommend hiring a professional, using our services, of course. I don't want to say bad things about IKEA's $199 design service other than to say it's not.

However you proceed, I do want to offer some guidance so that if you really can't afford the cost of expert design, you don't make major errors and end up spending way more time and money than you need to.

1) To the extent possible, draw out the kitchen AND surrounding areas. In other words, if your kitchen has a pass through window to a dining room or a family room, or a hallway, include these in the shape of the overall room. If you have a small galley kitchen, this is less important. But to ensure the proportions of things are optimal, you wan to include the bigger area related to the kitchen, even if you won't be putting cabinets beyond the obvious kitchen footprint.

2) A row of cabinets that FIT, is not necessarily a row that LOOKS BEAUTIFUL. Try not to use too many door sizes. A 36 inch wall cabinet has two 18 inch doors. Try to use other 18 inch doors, or place other-sized doors symmetrically so that it's not a mishmash of sizes. This is more important for wall cabinets than for base cabinets, and more important where the kitchen is viewed from another room. But even if you have a small galley kitchen, you might was well have an elegant one.

3) Make allowances for filler. Filler means pieces of the IKEA material that is used ordinarily for panels to cover sides of cabinets, or to trim the foot of wall or base cabinets. A row of cabinets almost always has to have some filler so that appliance and cabinet doors open without hitting adjacent items. Filler can be placed arbitrarily or artistically. It can be installed sloppily or elegantly. Filler is an important part of kitchen layout and aesthetic.

4) Keeping the kitchen work triangle in mind, design a kitchen that you'll enjoy. You might want to avoid glass door cabinets above or next to a cooking surface because they get greasy quickly. You might want to ensure you have adequate space for two cooks at a time. You want to make sure you have a place to put glassware that is near the dishwasher so you don't have to carry glasses across the room when you are unloading.

5) Don't let your budget determine the layout. You might spend LESS with a more elegant and functional layout so do the layout so that it really works and then, if you need to, trim down the cost of things overall. One larger cabinet requires less labor to install than two small ones. Consider using laminate or butcher block counters for a year or two and later replacing with solid surface. This can allow you to use your current budget for expert design, more cabinets, better and more lighting, better appliances, etc.

6) Make sure you really like the way horizontal cabinets work (by going into IKEA and trying them out in a display kitchen) before using them in your layout. It's really different to access a cabinet you use frequently when there is a horizontal door to lift, versus a vertical door to swing open.

7) Consider buying crown molding at a third party supplier, like a lumberyard, if you like a more traditional style kitchen. Have your contractor paint or stain to match your cabinet doors.

8) Don't let your contractor ALSO be your designer. Keep these two things entirely separate. No IKEA kitchen-skilled contractor has a professional kitchen designer on staff, or is also a skilled designer him/herself. It's much better to give a contractor a finished design you love and ask for a bid to turn the current kitchen into THAT one. Nothing ambiguous, nothing the contractor has to guess at. Keep in mind that plan errors can cost you in labor since if you have some, the contractor will try to solve the problems and will not only turn into your designer, by default, but is likely to charge you for the time the errors take to correct. 

There are many more tips I can offer and I will write on this again. Feel free to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation with me if you have specific questions.


Get my free eBook, How to Budget for an IKEA Kitchen Remodel. This will help you know what the real costs are, both labor and materials.

 I offer a free, no-obligation 30-minute consultation to my blog readers.