Why I Love IKEA Kitchens

Customized Kitchen with Ikea base cabinets - by Carol Reed Interior Design

Customized Ikea Kitchen - by Carol Reed Interior Design 
Photographed by Michael Graydon for Canadian House & Home

Ikea Kitchen - by Carol Reed Interior Design

This won’t be the first time you hear me declare my love for Ikea kitchen cabinets.  I designed and installed my first Ikea kitchen about 7 years ago and I’ve been a loyal fan ever since.  The three photos above are of some of my favorites that I've designed, one I've posted about previously (see cover of Canadian House & Home link in the sidebar) and the other two will be featured in future posts.   For anyone who has doubts about the quality of Ikea kitchens or for those who think its just not good enough for them, I have a little secret to let you in on.......Designers and Architects LOVE Ikea kitchens and use them all the time, have been for years.   We were quick to recognize the hardware they use is the same we were specifying for our custom millwork jobs,,,,and that we could shave 2 months off our construction schedules because this stuff was off the shelf!   When your budget and timeline are tight, you just can't beat it.  But it hasn’t been until more recently that the option of using ikea cabinetry has become more mainstream and appreciated for its great price and quality.  Here's another little secret, I have clients in quite affluent neighborhoods opting for Ikea over custom - some actually request plain, unmarked delivery trucks so their neighbours won't know!!!!  True story ; ) 

To really appreciate the quality, design and selection offered by Ikea you first have to have an understanding of kitchen cabinetry in general and what is available on the market.   Anyone who turns their nose up at Ikea cabinets is either completely in the dark or their kitchen budget is in a different stratosphere than the average homeowner.  Basically unless you’re going for a custom wood kitchen (meaning the base cabinets are made of wood, sized to fit, and start at at least $35k) then every other option you’ll look at will consist of base cabinets made from melamine, this goes for in-stock cabinetry and semi-custom cabinetry at Home Depot, Rona et al, and even semi-custom kitchen companies like AYA and Canac and Cameo - are all melamine base cabinetry.  And I can tell you, no other stock cabinetry has drawer boxes nearly as good as Ikea nor do they use high quality Blum hinges like Ikea does, never mind they don’t have nearly the selection of cabinets or interior organizers to chose from.   As for the kitchen companies, I have seen one of these companies that uses the exact same drawer boxes as Ikea and the same hinges, but none of them have as many cabinet sizes to chose from nor the interior accessories - and they’re at least 2 to 3 times the price, even factoring in installation.  I just have a hard time justifying to anyone why you should pay $20k or more for melamine cabinets that you can get for $6k or $7k.  These serious costs savings mean you can splurge on counters and appliances - which in my opinion is much better value for your money than expensive melamine cabs.

As far as new home construction goes, with few exceptions, they have some of the  poorest quality kitchens i’ve ever seen despite their luxury price tags.  Last year I toured a development in Yorkville which was selling multi-million dollar luxury condominiums ($2M and up),,,,of course the first thing I checked out was the kitchen cabinetry and sure enough behind the lovely wood cabinet doors was your basic melamine cabinet with cheap hinges and really lousy, poor quality drawer boxes.  

With all melamine base cabinets being equal (although not all drawer boxes are!) what it comes down to is you’re ultimately buying a door style.  Aesthetically, this is what your kitchen is all about because obviously its the visible part of your kitchen.  To me, this is the biggest differential between Ikea and any other kitchen options because Ikea certainly doesn’t offer the range of doors and glass that the kitchen companies do.  So you have to weigh the benefits of paying a premium for a company that offers more door styles or, compromising on your door style so you can take those savings and put that money into counters and appliances.   Alternately, if Ikea doesn’t offer a door style that you like then you can customize one of their doors (spraying) or simply order your doors elsewhere from a company like Cabinet Mart, an on-line supplier of made to measure doors.

Below are some photos of other Ikea installations published in various magazines, mostly from the UK magazine Living Etc.  I really think the Europeans do Ikea best, probably because they take a more utilitarian approach to kitchens, the cabinets are never the ‘feature’ of the room, always simple and understated.

Customized Ikea Kitchen - Living Etc. November 06

Sleek & White -  Living Etc.

A monochrome look in stainless - Living Etc., January 06

Mixed with antique buther block - Living Etc. March 08.

Ikea Stainless  - Living Etc. July 09

Rustic Loft Kitchen - Living Etc. December 08

White Kitchen - Living Etc. April 08

White & Wood kitchen in a Swedish flat -  Kitchen via Desire to Inspire

My favorite door style of Ikea's is the Applad white or any of their simple plain slab doors, they're understated and timeless.  For a more traditional look I like the Tidaholm shaker style but I'm not a fan of the natural oak colour so I prefer it with a custom sprayed finish.  The photos below are not Ikea kitchen installations (I'm pretty sure the 3rd one down is but I just wasn't able to confirm), however you can get this same look with Ikea.

Kitchen Design by Timothy Mather photographed for Canadian House & Home.

Sleek Glossy White - Living Etc. July 07

Living Etc.

Here’s a brief summary of my thoughts on Ikea:


  • excellent value,,,top quality hardware
  • love their drawer boxes
  • huge selection of cabinet styles
  • their butcher block counters are fantastic value
  • amazing selection of interior organizers
  • limitless design possibilities using their standard cabinets
  • 12”depths avail. including drawers
  • automatic self-closing drawers are standard
  • RETURN or exchange any unused pieces or pick up more pieces easily (in most cases) if there is a change in plans
  • SAVE thousands by installing yourself (if you’re really ambitious)
  • low cost of cabinets means you can splurge on counters and appliances
  • order online or by phone for delivery anywhere
  • 25 yr warranty


  • limited selection of door styles
  • they don’t do the greatest wood (basic birch, oak)
  • drawer widths limited to 30” (not a big issue)
  • the Ikea logo on their appliances (a huge turnoff, who wants a retailers logo on anything?)
  • the price does not include assembly/installation (add in another $1200 to $1700 for the average kitchen)
  • As of this summer, kitchens purchased in store now require most parts/pieces be picked up by the customers in the self-serve warehouse!!!  Insanity!  This is a MAJOR bummer, up until recently you only had to take a written order to the cash desk and be on your way - piece of cake.  The new process now requires loading up two or three carts and lots of help to wheel your flat packed kitchen to the cashier and then the delivery desk.  And once at the cashier, the cashier has to go thru every single item (there are hundreds of pieces).  Trust me,,,,this is not fun.  I hope Ikea comes to their senses and changes this system - this makes the experience completely frustrating, physically challenging, prone to errors, and hugely time consuming for their customers and staff.  It's enough to turn many people off using this product again.


  • AVOID the catalogue look ......use only their cabinetry.  Purchase sinks, faucets, lighting, handles/knobs, appliances and kitchen furniture elsewhere or your kitchen will look like an ikea showroom display
  • don’t buy their appliances with the Ikea logo on it!
  • stick to classic door styles .....avoid their cabinet door styles that are uniquely ikea, stick with cabinets that are more generic and available at most kitchen supplier (ie; white flush doors, shaker style, doors with plain glass, )
  • think of the base components like lego’s or building blocks to create unique layouts, the possibilities are limitless
  • 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.
  • you don’t have to order a ‘cabinet assembly’, you can order the components individually ie; just the base cabinet, or just the drawers,
  • mix two or three different colours, ie; wood end panels with white doors,,,or white or wood end panels with stainless steel doors
  • don't use 12" deep gables and cabinets around your fridge, enclose it fully for a truly built-in look (those black sides of your stainless steel fridge aren't meant to be seen!)
  • visit the showroom as not all their cabinets or parts are shown on line or in the catalogue
  • mix Ikea cabinets with freestanding furniture and shelving for an unfitted look
  • if you want a cabinet colour other than what ikea offers, have your doors, end panels and cover panels custom sprayed (tips on this coming up in a future post). 
  • use an experienced installer who's worked with Ikea cabinets before.

All of this being said, I’ve seen some really unappealing and poorly designed Ikea installations so like any home improvement project, the end result is only going to be as good as your design and the installation.  For the best results, hire a designer to plan your Ikea kitchen for you, no matter how much you spend on your new kitchen, it will fall short on function, style and quality without a great design plan and proper installation.  Check out my e-design website for more samples and info on affordable kitchen redesigns like Lori's kitchen shown below, seen at www.thedesignshop.ca.

Ikea Kitchen installation in progress - Kitchen design by Carol Reed via thedesignshop.ca

Photos: 1st, 3rd, and last photos by Carol Reed.