Ikea kitchens offer amazing value, great design, 25 years warranty and looks as good as any $50,000 kitchen. What is there not to like?

Before answering my own question, let me sweeten the deal even more adding a few facts you might not know:

  • The IKEA hardware, i.e. hinges, drawer gliders, drawer components etc. is made by Blum, the very SAME Austrian company as used by many of the major designer kitchens, like Snaidero and Poggenpohl
  • The high gloss kitchen doors are made by the same Italian manufacturer as all the designer brands

Now you probably wonder where the catch is. It’s all in the sizes. Ikea kitchen components come only in certain sizes – if they don’t fit, you are out of luck. You should never expect an IKEA kitchen door to fit on a Snaidero cabinet or vice versa. And while IKEA will happily sell you and 80″ tall kitchen cabinet, they won’t sell you a matching 80″ inch tall kitchen door.

The size scheme, by the way, is also how IKEA gets away with charging much more for their kitchens than for their wardrobes. The pieces from one product line simply don’t fit the other. But we are smarter than that. Elsewhere on this blog you will find a model showing which cabinets fits the best in your space. Who says you can’t use a kitchen cabinet in your bedroom if your available space is 24″.

And while the fancy Italian doors may come from the same Italian manufacturer, the same definitely is not the case for the cabinets themselves (also known as frames.). IKEA’s cabinets are all made of particleboard. Except for the snob factor, this really is not a bad thing. Particle board doesn’t warp, it is easy to work with and actually has a smoother surface than solid wood. The downsides are few: It should never get wet, and screws attached to the end of the board don’t have much to hold on to.

IKEA recently started offering installation, and in the process got closer in price to the custom kitchen makers. But that doesn’t address some of the shortcomings of the Ikea standards. Good luck finding a sponge drawer (typically found in front of the kitchen sink) or a 6″ cabinet typically used for cutting boards and spice racks – and more importantly used to fill a narrow gap between other cabinets and the end wall. The biggest limitation probably is the absence of a 27″ full height cabinet. This is what you normally use for a built-in oven – so if you plan to reuse your old 27″ wall oven, be aware. Over the years, I have come across many “missing” sizes/components/features – and in the process found solutions – and they are all here for you.

IKEA is providing a great web-based tool for designing your kitchen. IKEA will tell you that you can design your dream kitchen and then send them the file and they will automatically create your shopping list. Unfortunately, that is not quite the case. The tool is very powerful, but it has it’s shortcomings – a big one is that the modules offered in the tool doesn’t match the combinations they actually sell. So the sales rep at IKEA will review what you sent, and match it up against what they sell. And in my experience, they WILL get something wrong – every time. I have spent much time waiting for the warehouse to call the kitchen department and ask them what they think they are doing – or worse – you don’t find out until your kitchen is delivered, that pieces are missing and that they delivered pieces in the wrong material – wrong size shelves, missing fronts, etc. etc. They will get it mostly right, but I don’t think you were dreaming about a mostly being able to build your kitchen without dealings with returns. In the section about measuring and designing, I’ll show you have to get this right – yourself. It isn’t that hard and if you insist on them using our list, your chance of getting all the right pieces is much bigger.