Making an IKEA kitchen look custom made

The LA Lady's IKEA Adel DIY Kitchen

When you talk to contractors, you keep hearing the same thing over and over again when you mention an IKEA kitchen:

  • We don’t do those
  • My cabinet guy can match their prices per linear foot
  • They look cheap
  • They are poor quality

I disagree with all of that.

One of the main reasons contractors shy away from IKEA is because of the kind of construction. IKEA cabinets are based on the European “frameless” construction that hasn’t been used too much in the United States until recently. I’ve found that most tradesmen, whether they be cabinet fabricators or plumbers, are quick to reject anything out of the norm. I really don’t blame them as I’m sure they’ve seen all sorts of trends come and go in their business. However, there’s doing things up to code and there’s giving the customer what they want. I can see why a plumber would look at an IKEA sink and say, “the inspector isn’t going to approve this.” But I can’t be the only customer requesting an IKEA kitchen, right?

For us, it means we will install the cabinets ourselves (a task we weren’t averse to doing and we’ll save about $2500).

Price:  measuring cabinets by the linear foot is like measuring a piece of cake in inches: even though the measurement might line up, cake comes in different sizes, have a varying number of layers and of course is made with a varying quality of ingredients. You wouldn’t compare a store-bought birthday cake to something from my beloved bakery, so why would you do it for cabinets? I think the answer is it’s hard to compare apples to apples when it comes to kitchen cabinets and so they need something to measure it by, even if it’s not a very accurate measurement. But here’s what I’ve found: you get more bang for your buck with IKEA. All those linear foot prices I saw at the big box stores were only for the cabinets. Once you started adding hinges and interior fittings, the latter of which can transform a cabinet from useless to priceless (see my current pantry for a perfect example), the price skyrockets. And don’t forget installation. These cabinets don’t come with directions for the DIY inclined and you’re stuck with whatever installer is on hand. So if you’re dead set on not using IKEA, take that linear foot price and triple it. With IKEA, many of the lower cabinets come with pull-out functions and drawers. The pantry cabinets have several pull-out functions. Having to add these after you’ve already purchased traditional cabinets is a pain. No thank you.

And then there’s the cheap argument. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.




The last three images are from one of my favorite blogs. It was the reassurance I needed to go ahead with an IKEA kitchen and know that with some attention to detail I could get the results I want. I’ve read a lot of kitchen renovation tips and they say hardware is a place to skimp, but when you’re using IKEA you should splurge. Aubrey and Lindsay did this, along with great plumbing fixtures, and it really works. They also added extra plinth pieces and moulding at the top of the uppers.  This will make your kitchen look custom and not like it’s right out of the IKEA box.

For my own kitchen, I used the IKEA cabinets simply as a base for more luxurious materials.

These are the main materials we used: IKEA Adel cabinetry in off white, Cambria countertops in Bellingham and a sandy gray tile

These are the main materials we used: IKEA Adel cabinetry in off white, Cambria countertops in Bellingham and a sandy gray tile (not sure of the manufacturer)

The Cambria counter tops are gorgeous. It really takes our white kitchen to the next level.


Detail of Cambria Bellingham


The result is fantastic. The cabinet hardware is made by Richelieu and we were really happy with that as well. They’re a bit more interesting than what IKEA had to offer and since we were saving money elsewhere, why not splurge a little?



And honestly, go to a big box store, look at something similarly priced to IKEA (if you can figure out what that is) and tell me they feel any better than IKEA. I found that the cabinets were of a poor quality and made out of the same MDF as everything else.

I’m sure if we had the money and got custom cabinets will all the interior fittings we wanted, we’d be extremely happy. But it doesn’t make sense for us to put in a $30k kitchen in our little condo and we’d much rather go on an awesome vacation next year instead of financing a kitchen this year. So for us, IKEA is the way to go.

Have you installed an IKEA kitchen? Do you like it? Let me know in the comments!

33 Comments on "Making an IKEA kitchen look custom made"

  1. April C. says:

    We recently did a full kitchen reno and had a very similar experience. The general contractor totally tried to shame us into something other than Ikea cabinets. We dumped him and ended up going with Ikea. We love love love them. The quality is great. They look super modern and have clever design features like pull outs and soft closes that are extra with standard box cabinets. Our local Ikea partners with a company that installs the cabinets for a reasonable price. They did a terrific job. Good luck with your project!

    • LALady says:

      Thank you so much for the feedback! How are the actual drawer and door fronts holding up? One of the contractors that we didn’t end up going with went off on a big tirade that they’re difficult to clean and chip easily. I, of course, thought he was crazy but it’s always nice to have a second opinion.

    • LALady says:

      Also, you have posted the first official comment on my blog, so thank you very much for that!

  2. Monique says:

    Please post some pics of your new kitchen.

  3. The quality is great. They look super modern and have clever design features like pull outs and soft closes that are extra with standard box cabinets.

  4. The general contractor totally tried to shame us into something other than Ikea cabinets. We dumped him and ended up going with Ikea

  5. LALady says:

    Hello all: I updated this post with some images from the kitchen. Leave a comment if you have any questions!

  6. LSC says:

    I’m just signing in so that I can receive future comments and posts re: IKEA cabinets. We are just at the planning stage having unexpectedly torn out the entire kitchen in our newly purchased home. oops!
    (We thought we were just going to put down inexpensive temporary flooring while we “lived with the house” and decided next steps.)

    • LALady says:

      Thanks for posting, LSC! I’ll be doing a lot of kitchen posts, including a time-lapse video of the whole process and some of the organizational things we’re doing (one of which is a “coffee drawer” for all of my coffee paraphernalia). All of that should be happening in the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you’re stuck on something or have a question, leave a comment or use the “contact” page in the top right-hand corner of the page and I can get back to you ASAP.

      • LSC says:

        That would be great! We just spent several hours at IKEA doing up our initial plan. There will likely be lots of changes/tweaks to come. I would love any organisational ideas. The best news is that when I asked about when their kitchen sale starts it turns out it starts tomorrow!!! That is GREAT timing for us and especially so because we didn’t have the crowds to deal with for our initial planning.

        • LALady says:

          Perfect! Hopefully you don’t live too far from IKEA. Even with all the planning, you’ll have to make a trip back for additional parts. We had a couple of soft-close hinges that didn’t work and even got some cabinets delivered to us that weren’t part of our kitchen…

          We actually took the day off work to go during a weekday to beat the crowds. As much as I love IKEA, Saturdays there are like the airport at Christmas…

  7. Jen says:

    I was just at ikea today to go over our kitchen plans with them. Their sale ends August but the next one is in October, so if you miss something or want to live in the kitchen for a while and add extras later you wont have to wait too long until the next one! Good luck!

  8. Jen says:

    Ps the pics you posted of your kitchen look amazing! Hope mine looks that seamless when complete!

  9. chad g says:

    I am a cabinet guy myself and am about to finish up my first ikea kitchen (I usually build custom). I had to build some custom euro style cabinets to match where ikea didnt have prefab sizes to fill certain areas but I used IKEA panels to match everything. There really wasnt any challenge matching the ikea frameless cabinets and I definitely look down on any carpenter that can not do so. All in all IKEA is a great buy for the money and can easily be modified for that custom look

  10. We’ve just ordered tiles today. I popped over here and they are virtually the same as yours! Great minds & all that. 🙂

  11. Anne says:

    “they’re difficult to clean and chip easily” – uh, no. Ten years on, my white Abstrakt door fronts look like new and I’m not exactly obsessive about keeping them that way!

  12. Louise says:

    It’s amazing what you can do with an Ikea kitchen when you thin outside the box. Great post 🙂

  13. bo says:

    What did you end up using the gray tile for? Please let me know. Kitchen looks awesome!

    • LALady says:

      It was a cheap version of a tile from Porcelanosa. I found it at a tile dealer but I’m not sure if there’s a “brand” as there’s no markings on my leftover boxes.

      I think you could find something very similar if you went to a tile store. You might have luck at a big box store but the tile stores definitely have more selection.

  14. Jim Farris says:

    Hi, nice post. simple and very neat design and easy to clean. For people looking for this idea of custom kitchen cabinets this is helpful for them.

  15. Michelle says:


    I posted a question a few days ago and was really hoping you could tell me the type of flooring you used in teh kitchen. It looks amazing.


  16. Nate says:

    Could you please tell me what size sink base that is? Is it a 24″? Also, what kind of sink did you use? Any chance it’s still in production? I’m designing a kitchen that is very much inspired by your breathtaking creation!

  17. Victoria says:

    Love your kitchen! Do you have a counter depth refrigerator? We are choosing new appliances and am trying to decide what to get.

  18. Bryan Flake says:

    I am in a wheelchair currently, I cannot swerve my legs and wheels under the sink, to do the dishes. I need to get those cupboards under the sink, taken out. Is that going to be a hard project to do?

  19. Vil says:

    Thanks so much for posting these pictures and sharing your experience. I know this post is a bit old but though I should mention I found another blog ( that has some neat tips for doing Ikea customization to make a very custom looking kitchen.

  20. Its amazing.! great designs.

  21. Sue Spence says:

    My Ikea kitchen in France (where I live) is now 11 years old, the same Shaker style but in Ash and the top cupboard carcases are also faced in Ash (now discontinued, they are all white melamine or similar). All still looking as good as they day they were installed. So of course I went for Ikea for a London rental flat I own BUT I was unable to place the order from France and arrange for Ikea to fit the cupboards unless I was physically present to sign the contract two months ahead of delivery/fitting. So they wanted me to get on a plane and fly to London to sign a piece of paper! – I didn’t, of course, so they lost the contract but I went to the store when I was in London for the kitchen re-fit and placed my order.

    Foolishly I bought Ikea appliances – dishwasher, washing machine and fridge/freezer. Why was I foolish? Because I didn’t realise that the appliance repair company Ikea uses for appliances under guarantee will not pull an appliance away from the cupboard; this may not seem important but I manage my rental flat from afar (France) and the company I would normally use does everything and will come the same day I call, or the next day or maximum within 48 hours. With the Ikea repair company they took five days for the first appointment to check out the problem (washing machine, ball bearings) then 8 days to order parts & fit.

  22. Kate says:

    We just bought the same floor tile. I haven’t seen what it looks like yet. What a coincidence I came across this pin, and there it is….wow! Looks beautifuo

  23. Mavis Jones says:

    I’m in the mist of a bathroom redo and got the exact same arguments for installing an IKEA bathroom vanity. Was even told to go to either Lowe’s or Home Depot because their vanities were of better quality. Was also told IKEA makes good furniture but not cabinets.

    Well, for me, 1) there was nothing in Home Depot that I liked and what I saw I thought was poor quality. I cabinet in Lowe’s that I liked but the configuration of the drawers wouldn’t have worked with my plumbing and everything else Lowe’s had I thought was crap. 2) I did end up getting a RTA vanity for Hayneedle but that was because style-wise, it was exactly what I was looking for. And honestly, even it is better than anything in Lowe’s or Home Depot.

    Whenever I get around to doing my kitchen and master bath, I will definitely be giving IKEA another look. While I want nice things, I don’t live in a fancy neighborhood, so it would make no since for me to sink and arm and a leg into a remodel.

  24. Cool site. Thank you for posting

  25. Nicci says:

    Your kitchen is beautiful. Since contractors are trying to make money, I’m sure they get no benefit from having to learn how to install a product in which they’re not familiar. More money in our pockets usually means less in their pocket. I’ve finally learned to advocate for myself. You did a wonderful job.

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