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Designing Our IKEA Kitchen

By House*Tweaking on Jul 09, 2012

That was the Underdog’s kitchen a year ago. A year later, it’s by no means completely finished but from a renovation standpoint, it’s done. We have plans to add open shelving and a backsplash. The french doors and their surrounding trim need painted, and I still need to organize everything in the glass-front cabinets. I’m also on the hunt for a comfy upholstered stool for the desk area. Here it is as of today.

All cabinetry, hardware and most of the appliances hail from IKEA. When we tell people we recently renovated our house and installed an IKEA kitchen, we get mixed reactions. Some equate the Swedish retailer with cheap, flimsy materials and assume that any IKEA kitchen will result in dissatisfaction. Others are more curious about {if not accepting of} our decision. This week I’m sharing our entire kitchen renovation process, from concept to reality. First up, the design.

We demo’d the original 1950′s kitchen.

The cabinets had sustained water damage and were rotted through in places. They weren’t worth salvaging but we were able to sell them on craigslist for $100.

When we first toured the house before we bought it, Handy Hubby and I were imagining the possibilities. We both agreed that tearing down the kitchen walls between the living and dining rooms would make the house function better for our family since we prefer an open living space. After we bought the house and the renovation started, removing those walls was one of the first things we did.

Losing two of the kitchen walls meant the kitchen layout had to be totally reconfigured. The refrigerator had previously lived along the kitchen-living room wall and needed to be relocated. We also wanted to incorporate a dishwasher {something the original kitchen didn’t have} and we envisioned a large island for everyday dining and a desk area devoted to paying bills, making grocery lists and blogging. We’re not formal people and a formal dining room wasn’t on our wish list. So, the decision to extend the kitchen into the previous dining room was an easy one. {FYI – We do have plans to incorporate a small dining area in our mudroom for occasional use and entertaining purposes.}

With the measurements of our gutted room, we used IKEA’s online planner to come up with a preliminary design. I’d been eyeing two-tone kitchens for a while and was loving the idea of black lower cabinets and white uppers, and I wanted to mix and match cabinet styles for a custom look. Even though we were buying from a big box store, I didn’t want the kitchen to have a big box aesthetic. IKEA offers many different options for cabinetry and we were happy to find colors and styles that suited our taste.

{The ‘den’ area has since been re-designated as a mudroom/dining room/laundry nook combo.}

As far as the details go, the online planner was great for space planning. It took a little getting used to but once we played around with it for a while, we were able to nail down a pretty concise kitchen design. The planner would notify us whenever a choice we made wouldn’t work. For example, if the top of a base cabinet was too close to the bottom of an upper cabinet then a warning would pop up to change the size of either the base or upper cabinet. Standard things like that that you don’t always know off-hand what is kosher {unless you’re a kitchen designer in which case I don’t think you’d be using IKEA’s online planner} were very useful. The 3D visual aides were great for getting as close to the real deal as possible without spending a dime.

We saved our preliminary design to IKEA’s server so that we could open it up at any IKEA store in the kitchen department. In theory, that sounds great, right? However, the first time we went to an IKEA store to tweak our plans and ask questions, the store’s computer system was down and we weren’t able to pull up our design. Bummer. It was a total waste of time except for noting a few appliances that we liked in person. If you are planning to use IKEA’s online planner in store, I would highly recommend calling the IKEA store beforehand to make sure all systems are go before making the drive. We were told by store employees that the ‘systems down’ thing happens more than they like it to.

IKEA’s kitchen specialists were extremely helpful. We actually visited two different IKEA stores in two different states during our design process. Both stores had knowledgeable staff who were able to answer all of our questions. It was very reassuring to have confident employees give us straightforward answers without any hem-hawing. They knew their stuff. Maybe we just got lucky but I would still recommend going over your kitchen design several times at home and in-store with an educated employee before buying anything. You know, dot your i’s and cross your t’s.

If you are considering an IKEA kitchen here are some helpful hints for the design phase:

*watch this video

*take exact measurements of your space

*take photos of your space as-is

*look over inspiration images to nail down your desired design aesthetic {Believe me, if not, you will get confused and become indecisive.}

*create a preliminary design using the online planner and save it to IKEA’s server

*call your IKEA store to make sure their server is up and running correctly before making a special trip to discuss your kitchen design

*meet with an IKEA kitchen specialist to discuss your design – ask LOTS of questions!

*if possible, go over your design several times at home and more than once in-store

After we were 100% satisfied with our design and excited to make a purchase, we sat and waited…for one of IKEA’s 20% off sales.

Next up, the purchasing phase. It’s not as straightforward as you might think. Stay tuned…

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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