IKEA Kitchen Renovation | Part 1: The Design Process

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The lack of cupboard and storage space in the kitchen was one of the first things we noticed about our house when we bought it two years ago. For the elderly lady who lived here previously, the kitchen was ideal, but despite our minimalist bent, it’s a challenge for our family of seven to find a place for everything.

Our kitchen truly is the heart of our home. More than just the place where food is prepared, it also serves as our dining room and homeschool room. We eat here, talk here, play here, and study here. We’ve decided to renovate the most used room in our house this year by designing a homeschool-friendly kitchen on a budget.

The main goal for our new kitchen is functionality. Aesthetics are important too, but our biggest objective is to squeeze the most use out of our space. To do this, we’ve settled on a few features:

  • tall cabinets (40″)
  • 2 pantries
  • no glass doors or open shelving (I love the look of open shelving, but it would cut down greatly on our storage space. Glass doors are pretty, too, but they’re also more expensive and can look cluttered if they’re not styled properly.)
  • a built-in desk
  • cabinets for school books

A few months ago, I found a used kitchen on Kijiji that appeared to be ideal for our space for $1200. It came with a new, stainless steel 36″ double door refrigerator with a bottom drawer freezer, 2 stoves, and a dishwasher. I knew the refrigerator alone was worth well over $1200, so even if the cabinets didn’t pan out, we still would’ve scored big time. The tall, shaker-style cabinets were right up my alley, but they were stained a light brown with a pink undertone, so our plan was to get them refinished in white (I adore white and grey kitchens alike, but our kitchen is too dark to handle grey cabinets).

I sold the two stoves, the dishwasher, and an unused fridge in our garage for $450. We consulted with a cabinet maker who priced out the cost of refinishing the cabinets. It was 3x more than I expected, and he told us that the cabinets only had 5 years of life left in them. It was simply not worth it. I re-listed the cabinets on Kijiji and they sold within a few days for $1100. We kept the refrigerator, which essentially ended up being free after the sale of the cabinets and the other appliances!

I went back to the drawing board and researched (read: scoured the Internet for inspiration and visited all of the custom cabinet builders in our town) different ways to achieve a simple, affordable, quality farmhouse-inspired kitchen with a touch of elegance that suited the style of our house.

We concluded that an IKEA kitchen would be the best option for us. Their price was unbeatable. The cost of a brand new IKEA kitchen was less than the price we were quoted to refinish and install the used cabinets I had originally bought off Kijiji! After talking to other friends and family and touring their IKEA kitchens, I was convinced the quality would stand up to heavy use by our tribe of seven, too.

Image via Houzz


Image via Zillow


Image via Pinterest

Aesthetically, I had a couple dreams for our new IKEA kitchen. My wish list included:

  • white GRIMSLOV cabinets (Luckily for me, they are one of IKEA’s most affordable options per linear foot! I really wanted pure white cabinets, but GRIMSLOV ‘s shaker style doors only come in off-white. With the right counter top, wall paint, and backsplash, I think it will still be bright and beautiful! Plus, off-white shows dirt less, right? :) )
  • a chimney style range exhaust hood
  • brushed nickel door and drawer pulls
  • subway tile back splash
  • granite-look laminate counters, or solid surface in a medium grey color/pattern

After taking our kitchen measurements (a boring, but  essential step), I spent a few days designing our kitchen on IKEA’s handy kitchen planner tool. IKEA was on top of their game when they launched this thing (which now allows you to design your own office, bathrooms, and closets too!). With a keyboard and mouse, you can have a realistic picture of what your future kitchen will look like without even visiting the store. The IKEA kitchen planner features a floor view and a 3D view. You can zoom in and pan out; add, delete, and open up all the different cabinet, drawer, and pantry configurations; change the door fronts for a different look; move cabinets and appliances around; add furniture; select different handles, knobs, pulls, faucets, and sinks; add counter tops and crown mold, and even choose your wall and floor colors!

Proposed new kitchen layout via IKEA’s Kitchen Planner

There are a few things to be aware of if you use IKEA’s kitchen planning tool to design your own kitchen:

  • Disable any ad-blockers for IKEA’s webpage. I was getting frustrated about not being able to set up an account (which is free, but necessary in order to use the planning tool), until my husband disabled the ad-blocker for the IKEA webpage. The planning tool worked like a charm after that.
  • Measure, measure, measure, and be sure to add any permanent fixtures such as windows and doors to your plan.
  • Be aware that your ceiling height must be at least 96″ in order for the IKEA’s taller 40″ cabinets to work. This is standard for newer homes, but double check, just in case!
  • Take into account any plumbing or electrical changes. The plumbing for our kitchen renovation is staying the same, but we will need an electrician to hard wire the under counter lighting, the exhaust, and the new lights above the table.
  • The software can be a little glitch-y at times, so it’s important to save your work as you go. (Did you notice the misplaced cover panel next to the window in the drawing above? That was one of the issues the planner couldn’t resolve for me!)
  • Keep the “Work Triangle” in mind as you plan your layout. You want your fridge, stove, and sink to be close enough to each other that you’re not wasting steps between them.
  • Change things up to see how they look. I changed my mind about a few things after seeing how everything looked put together. Play around before you buy so you don’t have any regrets later!
  • Make use of the open cabinet feature. This allows you to see what’s behind your cabinet doors so you can plan your kitchen with maximum efficiency and functionality.
  • Don’t forget to add cover panels to your design. You’ll want these on the sides of any cabinets that are exposed to the eye to cover the frames.
Image via Cape 27 Blog

Initially, I thought I wanted black knobs for our doors and black pulls for our drawers, but realized it looked too heavy for the cabinets. I eventually settled for much sleeker, matching LANSA handles of the same size for all the cabinets and drawers (pictured above).  They feel classier and more cohesive to me.

IKEA NORRSJÖN Double bowl top mount sink

I also changed our sink selection at the last minute. Instead of the pure white DOMSJO double-bowl apron sink, which I thought clashed too much with the off-white cabinets, we chose the stainless steel NORRSJÖN sink. It can be top-mounted or under-mounted.

After touring IKEA’s kitchens, we decided to pass on their laminate counter tops. I really loved the look of their grey stone and white marble laminates, but one stretch of counter top will be over 10 feet long, and IKEA’s largest laminate slab is 98 inches. This means that we would have a seam somewhere in the stretch that would be near the sink or over the dishwasher, which can cause major moisture induced problems later on.

White Ice Granite laminate counter top via Formica

We’ve settled on Formica’s White Ice Granite laminate. We’re hoping to do this kitchen reno for under $10,000, so real granite is not in the budget, but laminates have come a long way and the White Ice Granite laminate looks incredibly close to the real deal.

I was torn between a light grey subway tile backsplash with white grout, or white subway tile with a light grey grout.

Grey tile back-splash with off white cabinets. Image via Jeleba.

I like the depth grey adds to white kitchens, but I feel grey tile is a fad that will be over long before white tile is. I plan to paint the main walls a very light grey paint, and the accent wall by the patio doors a wonderful charcoal paint called (Cracked Pepper by Behr). Paint it easier and less expensive to change.

GRIMSLOV cabinets with white subway tile via Southern Hospitality

White subway tile appeals to me because it’s timeless, bright, and has a definite farmhouse feel about it. The trick is finding an off-white tile that will work with the GRIMSLOV cabinets. Pure white tile would make the off-white cabinets look grungy. After searching online, I discovered Home Depot has an off-white 3×6 tile that’s almost an exact match to our kitchen cabinets. I took a cabinet door to the store with me last week to make sure, and was thrilled to discover that these perfectly matching tiles were on sale!

For the lighting in our kitchen, we’ve settled on IKEA’s hardwired under cabinet lighting by UTRUSTAWe currently have recessed lighting over our sink that will be staying, and I’m still deciding on which pendant lights to put over our farmhouse table. It’s a toss up between IKEA’s RANARP or ALVANGEN pendants:

RANARP Pendant lamp via IKEA
ÄLVÄNGEN Pendant lamp via IKEA

or, these pendant lights I found on Amazon:

For the wall color in our kitchen, I was leaning towards Sherwin Williams’ Repose Gray, but since Behr paint is my favorite, we checked out Home Depot to see if they carried a similar color. My 7 year-old found nearly identical match: Dolphin Fin.

Dolphin Fin will be our new main floor color. It’s a gorgeous gray that has just enough of a greenish brown undertone to keep it from feeling cold.

For a depth and drama, I plan to paint the accent wall (where the patio doors are located) and possibly the walls behind the cabinets Cracked Pepper by Behr.

Miss Mustard Seed’s kitchen via Miss Mustard Seed

I think it will make the cabinets pop. Miss Mustard Seed did this in her kitchen and I love how it adds a bit of contemporary moodiness without detracting from the farmhouse feel.

While my type of farmhouse style has evolved over the years, I’ve always loved the country look. Even as a little girl, I decorated my side of the bedroom (my poor sister) with twinkly lights, tin pails, and anything wooden or rustic. I’ve saved several farmhouse pieces, similar to the ones below, and can’t way to display them in our new kitchen!

Next up in the great IKEA Kitchen Reno Series: Ordering & Delivery!

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5 thoughts on “IKEA Kitchen Renovation | Part 1: The Design Process”

  1. We spent $1300 on Ikea cupboards in our first home and got 10 years of use; they are good value. You may want to consider Formica’s Ideal Edge. We used it if you want to see it.

  2. Just wondering how your cabinets are holding up almost a year and a half later. Getting ready to pull the trigger in mine and am looking for a little reassurance. Thank you.

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