Saturday, April 9, 2016

Designing your IKEA kitchen

We are out the other end of our IKEA kitchen design & install and hindsight, as you know,  is a wonderful thing. Our family joke is now we are ready to tackle an IKEA kitchen. This is the first of a series of posts around the design and installation of our new kitchen.

 Design is key

Without good design any reno is throwing good money after bad.  If you haven't really thought out how you want to work in your kitchen,  and how you want it to look overall, no matter how well you install it, you won't be happy

 I hope some of my musings, and what I learned as I worked through the design process, will be helpful to you if you are planning an IKEA kitchen as a renovation project. 

Get what you want by designing well 

Know what's hidden

Know the bones of your kitchen  so there'll be no surprises. We wanted 90 inch pantry units and had a bulkhead with pot lights in it.  I kept nagging my husband to have a look, and I was so glad because to our surprise we found vent work.  Just enough to cause me to move to 80 inch pantries.  Not a happy camper letting go of my floor to ceiling pantries, and needing more filler pieces to accommodate what was available in that height pantry.

We were also planning to keep our current footprint and we knew that the flooring did not extend under our cabinets. 

That meant we had to get all our cabinet measurements correct and use fillers to make it come out even.  If you have an island or peninsula and are keeping your existing flooring,  it is even more important to do careful measurement in terms of depth. We found out we could not have a toe kick on the back of the peninsula so the cover panel had to extend to the floor.  

Analyze your current kitchen 

Make a list of what works and what annoys you in your current kitchen layout.  For everything that annoys you, you should try to come up with a solution if possible. It is easier and more cost effective  to keep appliances where they are, but sometimes their placement is part of the inefficiency. Our cooktop and oven were in a major traffic area, and it was downright dangerous when we entertained.   You could also see the stove top from the dining room; I am not a tidy cook. We chose to flip the refrigerator to the cooking area, and make that area into a wall of pantries with the refrigerator centred.  The perfect solution to storage in a walkway.

80s kitchen, European cabinets, updating European cabinets
80s cooking area 
Standard sizes for pantries 

Fridge and pantries

European cabinets, 80's kitchen, updating european cabinets
80s layout of kitchen across from cooking area 

Moving appliances meant hiring an electrician, but it was worth it. 

 Everyone expected me to move my sink under the window, but that would have meant a very squat prep area if the stove moved to where the fridge was.  When I stand at my sink now I have a view of two prominent St. John's landmarks - Signal Hill and Cape Spear.  Why would I want to exchange that for a view of my neighbour's house? Now I have a huge prep area and I can make all the mess I want when I entertain.  Perfect planning!

Several friends brought up the idea of "updating" to an island.    I like my kitchen to myself when I cook, even when I entertain.  No island for me, and it could have happened in the space without too much effort.  Personal choices are important in design.  I made an entertaining hang out area by removing the half wall in pic below and opening it up to the family room. 

Another big problem for us was  a bottleneck area  at the end of the peninsula because of a contractor error in the initial construction. The wall by the oven was  built 10 inches too long and changing it was complicated and expensive because it contained pipes, heating and air exchanger vent work, plus light switches.   When we redesigned we took three inches off the length of the peninsula to open up the walkway.   That was possible because we had floor tile left over.  

Visit an IKEA store 

By chance we ended up grounded for 24 hours in Toronto when returning from a trip.  We took advantage of that time ( a year before our reno) to check out everything kitchen related.  I took over a 100  pics of things that interested me, and  I kept referring to them as I designed.  If you can't do that, find someone who has designed and installed an IKEA kitchen and go for a chat.  I managed to find two people who were obliging, and it was helpful even after the store visit. 

Start a reno board on Pinterest 

Look at various IKEA kitchen layouts and cabinet styles online.  Think about  improving storage options especially if you have a smallish kitchen.  Pinterest is a great resource and you can pin everything you see on one board.  Consider a secret board so you can make comments and track ideas or a shared secret board if you have a design partner.  Check out my Kitchen reno board here and a previous post about Finding your decor style.

Find inspiration pictures

Your kitchen should meet your needs in style and function.  Make it yours.  Here are two pics that helped me refine the look I wanted. They are not everyone's cup of tea!

Create a vision 

Many people just go headlong into a reno and don't stop to think about their design aesthetic.  What kind of feel do you want in the space?  What style of cabinets and layout suits that feel? What is the rest of your home like?  Are there interior aspects of the cabinets that will add to how you want to feel in your space? 

After all the cabinets and gray horizontal lines in my old kitchen I wanted something  visually quieter this time around. 

 The two photos above illustrate "the feel" I wanted : uncluttered, quiet, airy, bright, calm and minimal,  but with elements of warmth and nature. These are the words I kept in my head throughout the design process.  I wrote them  down and checked my decisions against them constantly.  You will probably have other words entirely, but have  descriptive words as benchmarks for decisions.

I really wanted a kitchen that flowed from the rest of our house  and reflected our arty, organic and calm decor style. 

  • Uncluttered ...lots of thought to interior storage options and eliminating "stuff" you don't need 
  • Airy ... an absence of upper cabinets so your eye moved around the space 
  • Calm and bright...  from colour and style choices and layout
  • Warm and quiet ...   no laminate, granite, or other hard surface counters 
  • Organic...  from natural products like wood, cork, plants etc.

 Stick to your vision 

A reno is a headache in many ways, and you will reach a point where you are fed up and want to take the easy way out.  Don't.  Take a break from it and look at the problem with fresh eyes.  Make all decisions based on your initial concepts for the space.  

Work out a rough sketch on paper

Perhaps it's my age and my visual art training, but I begin everything with paper and pencil.  I found the kitchen booklet  we picked up at IKEA a great help when doing this because all cabinet sizes were listed and you could plainly see what was inside  each one.  There is an online version.  I didn't spend a lot of time at this stage,  just enough to decide on the flow and placement of drawers or doors. 

Refine your sketch in the kitchen planner

I work  with design apps all the time, but I found the IKEA kitchen planner very frustrating.  It had lots of little glitches, and if you have an island or  peninsula as I did, the cabinets kept wanting to line up by a wall.  I was also working on a MAC.  In the end I refined the plan enough to send to IKEA and get the order made, but it never looked pretty.

 Imagine working in your new kitchen 

Once you have a preliminary design in mind, consider it the next time you bring home groceries.  Is there a place for everything.  If you are entertaining, is there a place for all those things you only use every now and then?  Prepare an imaginary meal and clean up. Are your movements efficient? Have you solved all the design issues in your previous kitchen?

Explain your design to someone outside your family 

Walk through your design with someone outside the family and explain your layout decisions. This really helped me confirm that I wanted things the way I thought.  You also have an opportunity to question the IKEA staff when you order your kitchen. They were super helpful when I called.

Record your questions before IKEA ordering 

I had at least ten questions recorded for clarification when I called to place my order.  Many of them were of a confirmation type, making sure I had interpreted the cabinets properly and that I could do what I wanted to do. 

And yes, you will have more than one design.

 I'm happy to answer any questions or hear your comments about your IKEA kitchen design suggestions. 

The big reveal is coming up in the next post and yes, it was worth all the thought, frustration and mess.... 


  1. Marg, it is lovely to hear you talk through your reno--I can't wait to see the big reveal! I am too curious to wait, though, to find out what material you used for your countertops. You mention no hard surfaces, so I am wondering what you chose and why.
    BTW--it's Gina--I can't figure out how to set the Comment to my name!

    1. Thanks Gina. Hard surfaces for me are noisy ones like granite. Let's face it there aren't many counter options. I chose the one I thought was warmest and quietest. Working on the next post....

  2. The kitchen is so eternal. I loved the white and settings. Would check back again whenever I would have my kitchen makemover.


  3. nice blog! step by step pictures..looks so beautiful. i am very happy for this site. thankyou for shearing this information with us! More Design

  4. nice blog, design is a key of beauty.

  5. Nice kitchen designs! thanks for sharing..
    Home decor

  6. It's completely modern design. love it <3

  7. Great tips! I think it’s really helpful article for those who are interested in complete kitchen refurbishment or enhancement, and the most important is to create a vision of the space and to make a design project. Also the inspiration is very important, but sometimes it’s very hard to make a final decision because of a variety of options.

    1. For me it's never the options and decisions that are difficult, it's adhering to your budget!

  8. I’m really impressed with your article, such great & useful knowledge you mentioned here
    home design

  9. Beautiful! This post is going to be so useful for my kitchen. thanks for sharing with us

  10. I just came across to reading your blog it serve very useful information about the kitchen remodeling thank u.

    kitchen remodeling canoga park


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