From our very first viewing of our new home, we knew we’d soon be having to replace the kitchen. In fact, the existing kitchen was completely unfunctional (tiny row of cabinets only half deep to accommodate a radiator inside, decades old refrigerator with strong mildew smell, completely worn floors,…). So, far before we closed on the house, we began drawing up plans for the new kitchen. In a way, this was really exciting to be able to go into a house and have the kitchen of our own planning. In other (bigger) ways, it was going to be a huge project!
We did a lot of research before deciding on installing an IKEA kitchen. We had a lot of reservations at first, as anyone really familiar with the big box store would. They make great stylish furniture and household items, but they really aren’t known for quality materials that last long. Sure, you can get a decent entertainment center to last you through college, but that’s about it. So, we were very skeptical, but the price for a new kitchen really couldn’t be beat! Plus there were awesome pictures in the catalog like these:
Yeah, that last picture shows a kitchen clocking in under $3,000! So, we turned our sights to IKEA. We did some internet research and stumbled on a few sites and postings that really helped us make the decision. This article from Apartment Therapy gave a lot of positive feedback and praise to IKEA for their cabinets. Plus, my good friend Matt, a contractor, had installed an IKEA kitchen in his own home. IKEA cabinets also come with a 25 year warranty.
The downside of buying IKEA cabinets is that you have to do the work yourself. You know all the things you hate about IKEA furniture? Having to put it all together, the instructions that come without any real words, the little tools they give you to complete the tasks, how you never seem to have all the right pieces? Well, that comes with the cabinets, too!
I’d say on a DIY scale of difficulty, IKEA cabinets are about a 4 out of 5. They’re not simple (depending on how much of it yourself you’re going to do). We did it all ourselves – putting the cabinets together, installing them on the wall and floors, etc. You can definitely hire someone to do the work for you, and it’s still a lot cheaper than a custom kitchen.
One of the great features of IKEA kitchens is the free software you can use to design your new space. You can simply put in the dimensions of your new room, draw up a to-scale plan, and add the cabinets as you like. You can even get 3D views of the room to make sure you like it from every angle. They also alert you whenever you put cabinets too close together or don’t leave enough clearance to add that dishwasher you want. We have a sort of galley kitchen, so we had to be especially mindful of putting cabinets on either side of our narrow room and ensuring that there would be enough room not only to pass through but also to open the dishwasher and cabinets fully.
That’s what the plans look like. This isn’t our kitchen, but it’s pretty representative of the floor plan one can make using the IKEA software.
We really wanted a sleek, clean, modern kitchen, but we also wanted it to be in keeping with the home’s existing architecture. Our home is nearly 80 years old, after all. So, we eventually ended up going with the “Adel” style cabinet – a Shaker style all-white cabinet. It gave us that clean contemporary look while also still being classic enough to stand up to the rest of the house.
My parents had helped us to put all the cabinet boxes together before they left, so all we had to do was install them. We started with the wall cabinets (per IKEA’s suggestion), so the base cabinets wouldn’t be in the way.
Our friends Andrew and Erin helped us put everything together. First, we installed the mounting rail. The wall cabinets would hang from the rail, which was screwed directly into the studs.
Here’s the large wall cabinet hanging from the rail.
And from another angle. The mounting rail was a bit of a pain to get installed, especially in such an old house where the studs aren’t necessarily the standard sixteen inches apart. But, it was really nice because some of the wall cabinets otherwise wouldn’t be directly affixed to a stud. This way, they all hang securely and can be moved close together for a built-in look.
We installed one long cabinet on the left side of the refrigerator, an over-the-refrigerator cabinet next, then three wall cabinets to the right of that. That’s Catherine sitting atop the fridge and affixing the top cabinet to the others. We temporarily clamped then in place until everything was installed, then screwed them together.
After the wall cabinets were installed, we moved on to the base cabinets. We mostly put wall cabinets only on the North wall of our kitchen. Save for the cabinet above the stove with the microwave underneath, we didn’t install any cabinets on the South wall of the kitchen. We instead planned for some open shelving over there.
The base cabinets were actually a bit harder to install than the wall cabinets. Each base cabinet rests on four legs that adjust to make the cabinet level. In our house, nothing is level! The floors had warped from 80 years of traffic and radiator spills, so this proved to be a difficult job.
These are the plastic legs that screw up and down to give each cabinet stability and a level footing.
We finally had a radiator guy come out and move that beast of a radiator from under our kitchen sink. Here’s the South wall of the kitchen ready for cabinets:
That’s me adjusting cabinet legs to fit over our massively uneven floor.
Cabinet one, which had to be notched out to accommodate the gas pipe for the stove, is in!
Cabinet 1 and 2!
Cabinet 1, 2, and 3 (with space for a new dishwasher), microwave, and on to the other side!
Once all the base cabinets were installed, the countertops were next. We chose to go with a butcher block countertop, because we really liked the way it looked with the bright whiteness of the room as well as with the natural floors.
Here’s the first piece being measured to fit. We still had to cut out the hole for the cast iron sink. We were salvaging the beautiful old (heavy!) sink that was original to the house. The difficult part was that it was very heavy and only had about a 1/4 inch overlap on the edges. It also didn’t clip onto the countertop like most modern sinks but merely rested on the countertop. So, we had to cut the hole exactly right. The countertop was difficult to cut, but after nearly an hour and a half of cutting, measuring, cutting, we got it!
Catherine polyurethaned the inside edge of the countertop before we installed the sink.
Here’s the countertop, sink, and dishwasher freshly installed.
And the other side!
There’s still lots left to do, but I’ll save that (and some after pictures) for a later post.