Is an IKEA Kitchen Right For You?

The new kid in town is far from the runt of the litter. IKEA’s arrival to Winnipeg means Prairie folk now have three locations and more options when renovating their homes.  While many call IKEA the Euro Wal-mart, you can’t argue that they have some pretty well-designed products at those big box ultra-mass-production prices.  And complete kitchens are no exception.

But before you embark upon renovating the most important room in your house, do your homework. Know your home, your budget, and what you want ahead of time.

Are you detail-oriented? Do you live in a grand old house? Do you have limited space but love to cook? Do you like one-of-kind pieces?

If you said yes to a couple of these questions, strongly consider local cabinet makers instead. You might be surprised how many companies, from large to small, fabricate cabinets here in Manitoba.

Ikea kitchens are ideal for open-concept homes or large rooms.  They are slightly less appropriate for character homes with their typical small kitchens that have lots of corners and tricky areas like chimneys and radiators.

Having designed and installed many IKEA and non-IKEA kitchens, my partner Adam and I have compiled a list of pros and cons so you can know a bit more of what you’re committing to.

moms kitchen beforest

moms kichen afterst

IKEA Kitchens – The Pros:

  • Get it now. In stock cabinets eliminate the typical four-to-six-week wait, and allow you to replace damaged or misordered pieces without a delay.
  • Expect quality hardware. Full extension soft-close drawer slides and adjustable hinges come as standard with Ikea.
  • Organize. Ikea has a decent selection of interior organizers like spice inserts, lazy susans, etc. with the option of adding more from a third party supplier like Lee Valley or Richelieu.
  • Save. Thousands of dollars can be saved by assembling and installing yourself (if you have the skill, time, and ambition).
  • Splurge elsewhere.  Lower cost of cabinets might mean you can splurge on counters and tile!
  • Get quality. The cabinet boxes are made of 11/16” particle board.  If you want to nit-pick on quality, almost everyone else uses only ⅝” thick particle board (yes, 11/16” is thicker than ⅝”)
  • Cover your bases. Ikea’s 25 yr warranty is comparable or better than the competition

IKEA Kitchens – The Cons:

  • Expect design limitations. Ikea has a smaller selection of door styles, wood species, wood stains, and thermofoil colours.
  • Be wary of wood doors. Wood veneers are spliced together resulting in a patchy look.  (Tip: Go black and you won’t notice, or just turn a blind eye)
  • Accept space challenges. There’s no 33” wide cabinet. If a 36” is a bit too big, you have to go with 30” and have a huge filler strip, which is unsightly and a waste of space.
  • Know your hidden costs. The advertised price does not include delivery, assembly, and installation (add in another $1800 to $2500 for the average kitchen, or sacrifice your own time, talent, and energy).
  • Pay attention to key details. The melamine cabinet boxes don’t match the doors (unless you go white or natural birch). This means you can’t get an open shelf or glass-door cabinet with a wood-veneer or colored interior to match. This is a huge deterrent in using open shelves and clear glass.
  • Forget about trim and extras. Crown moulding anyone? Ikea’s trim pieces are almost non-existent. While this may be ok for modern minimalism, don’t try to design a chunky island with turned posts, baseboard trim, and bar brackets.
The cabinetry in this Ikea kitchen isn’t what makes it look high-end. Designer Sarah Richardson chose instead to splurge on travertine penny tile and sleek appliances.
The cabinetry in this Ikea kitchen isn’t what makes it look high-end. Designer Sarah Richardson chose instead to splurge on travertine penny tile and sleek appliances.

Local Cabinet-makers – The Pros:

  • Get exactly the look you want. Hundreds of options for door styles, wood species, stain colors, glazes, paint colors, and thermofoil/melamine for a totally personalized look
  • Get the fit you need with custom sizes. Many places make every piece custom, others offer standard size cabinets with custom add-ons.  This is huge bonus when space is tight.
  • Think beyond the lazy susan.  Local places offer interior organizers galore:  there’s literally hundreds of options for pull-out pantries, self-closing waste bins, the famous “magic corner” cabinet, etc.
  • Upgrade at will.  Solid wood dovetailed drawer boxes are almost always available for an extra charge.
  • Expect top-notch service. This applies to everything, from having an experienced salesperson measuring your space for you, placing the order and arranging for your delivery, to booking your installation, and even popping by if there’s any issues.
  • Buy Manitoban.  Know that you’re supporting our local made-in-manitoba economy.

Local Cabinet-makers – The Cons:

  • Hurry up and wait.  Typically you wait four to six weeks for cabinets, and if a piece is damaged, three more weeks to replace it.
  • Dig deeper. Manitoban fabricators simply can’t compete with mega-big-box volume pricing.

How To Make Ikea Look Custom (And Avoid The Catalogue Look):

  • Hire a talented carpenter to modify cabinets and build custom elements, like trim, an island, or open shelving.
  • Send a few ikea doors and boxes to a spray booth for a custom paint treatment
  • Don’t overload on Ikea products. If you use Ikea cabinets, try a different brand of sink, lighting, handles, etc.
  • Stick to their classic door styles. Take the Stat door, for example: Nobody but Ikea makes such a bizarre version of a cape cod door.
  • Take advantage of their full height end panels and various size cover panels which can be cut-down and used as filler pieces, trim pieces, valances etc. Again, this requires another level of carpentry
  • Mix and match colors and door styles.  You can order cabinet parts separately.
  • Enclose your fridge with cabinetry or extra deep panels on all sides for a built-in look.  (Appliances aren’t meant to be seen from the sides).
  • Mix Ikea cabinets with freestanding furniture and shelving for an eclectic look, and
  • Make room for art in the kitchen!  From framed prints to sculpture to antique kitchen gadgets, curate your items and work them into the design.
This custom kitchen uses a basic cream-colored Ikea slab door in combination with a stunning exotic wood on the island and trim.
This custom kitchen uses a basic cream-colored Ikea slab door in combination with a stunning exotic wood on the island and trim.

Regardless of whom you may choose to supply your cabinets, either result will fall short if planning and design are not given adequate attention before you buy.