If you’re in the process of researching an upcoming kitchen renovation, chances are you’ve encountered your fair share of interviews extolling the virtues of IKEA kitchens. Designers love them. Homeowners swear by them. Seductive images of enviably streamlined IKEA kitchens—typically outfitted with custom hardware and trendy, pastel-colored cabinetry—call out from the Instagram accounts of notable influencers like a siren song on endless loop. It’s enough to make you wonder: What exactly is it about this seemingly simple, off-the-shelf option that makes it worthy of such widespread hype?
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For answers, we consulted designers who have worked with IKEA kitchens to give us the scoop. The five top reasons so many swear by this big-box mainstay are outlined below—plus details on the downsides you need to know about and customizable upgrades.
Unless you’re in need of a highly specialized custom kitchen (which can easily run up a six-digit price tag), you might want to shop for an off-the-shelf option. But it’s not just IKEA’s low costs that make their kitchens appealing—it’s that the level of quality for the cost is, according to many designers, unbeatable. “In terms of functionality, interior organization, and hardware, you’re not going to be able to get a comparable product at a comparable price point,” says Des Moines-based designer Jillian Lare. “You’re going to have to increase your budget significantly in order to get the same functionality from another brand.”
In addition to its accessible pricing, IKEA offers a 25-year limited warranty on its SEKTION kitchen system, along with a 10-year limited warranty on faucets, and a five-year guarantee on appliances. (That’s actually pretty solid considering the cost: Greenberg points out that while Henrybuilt, a high-end kitchen system manufacturer, offers a lifetime warranty, Boffi, a luxe Italian brand, only offers a 3-year warranty.)
The process of ordering an IKEA kitchen is fairly straightforward: Start by doing research into the styles and materials you like; then, take measurements of your space to create a working floor plan (IKEA’s kitchen planning software can help, and will allow to see your dream designs in action). Once you’re got your plan perfected, you’ll visit an IKEA store to place your order in person. From there, you’re all set to start installing—on your own, for ultimate cost savings, or with help if you’d prefer to leave this part to the pros.
Additional IKEA kitchen conveniences include easy replacements of broken or missing parts, and, perhaps best of all, non-existent lead times: Generally, if items are in stock, you can purchase them at the store and take them home (or have them delivered) right away. A custom kitchen, by contrast, requires months of fabrication before you see a part.
This is the fun part. “The IKEA kitchen is modular and allows you to really customize a kitchen to your needs,” explains Bay Area interior designer Gina Gutierrez. In other words, renovators can select the combinations of components that make sense for their space, and design solutions to fit pretty much any kitchen layout. To further customize, there are myriad in-store options to choose from when it comes to cabinet styles and countertops, faucets and fixtures, hardware and accessories (think pull-out trash units, soft-close dampers, and drawer dividers).
“While the components might be viewed as a neutral set of tools that can be employed in the service of many different approaches to kitchen design,” says Kevin Greenberg of New York City firm Space Exploration, “[competitive brands] seem to be conceived as an all-in-one package, so you have to accept certain limitations of the available design options and accessories when you commit to using the system.”
Of course, no conversation about customizing an IKEA kitchen would be complete without a mention of what designer he calls “the easiest and most impactful IKEA hack”: custom cabinet fronts from increasingly popular third-party retailers. Dreaming of a kitchen clad in cotton-candy pink? Brass? Beadboard? These businesses can help make it happen.
When it comes down to it, Greenberg says, “There’s a reason IKEA kitchens are so popular, and that’s because they’re such a versatile product. The cabinetry comes in a wide range of widths, from 12 inches to 47 inches, and you can do so much with them—that alone makes them a great option for homeowners to consider.”
What’s more, the system’s adaptability—and the option to add custom fronts and hardware—makes it the chameleon of the off-the-shelf kitchen world. It can conform to a variety of different looks, lifestyles, and locations, making it equally at home in a polished urban apartment, cozy country home, or breezy beach shack by the sea. According to New York designer Dani Arps, IKEA kitchen cabinets serve their purpose well in workspaces, too: “ I’ve used them in a number of smaller offices I’ve designed,” she says. “They’re simple and minimal, and the low cost allows for pricier add-ons—custom islands, or Corian countertops, for example—that bring added function and personality to the space.”
Though, as might be expected, products made (and priced) to work for everyone come with certain trade-offs. But there are always workarounds~
The DIY Factor
Daunting though it may seem, it’s entirely possible to install an IKEA kitchen without professional help—especially appealing if you’re prioritizing keeping costs low. (Just keep in mind that installing parts correctly is key to ensuring that they’ll last, so plenty of research and prep work are a beginner’s best friend.) But even if you’ve chosen to enlist assistance, there will be countless ways you can flex your DIY muscle along the way. If you’re aching to experiment with custom accents, try your hand at installing some high-end hardware. If you need additional storage, hang a set of floating shelves. Love to paint? Coat an accent wall in your favorite color (match them to the walls for a truly built-in look). You get the idea.
Additional reporting by Samantha Weiss-Hills.
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