Kitchen Plan: Cabinets, Part 1

OK, down to the nitty-gritty: selecting and ordering the cabinets. This one is a doozy. Because it was a somewhat complicated process and I had to figure it out every step of the way, I’m going to get down to the details. Maybe it will be helpful to someone who is looking to go the same route.

Cabinet and door choice

I knew from the get-go that I wanted to get Ikea kitchen cabinets with Semihandmade doors. We had Ikea cabinets in our Bayou St. John kitchen, and I really loved it.

our BSJ kitchen | photo by Kayla Stark

Ikea is known for somewhat disposable furniture, but their kitchens are really high quality. At the time we did our BSJ kitchen, I used the local Bluebag service to order, deliver, and assemble the whole thing — they were so great! Tragically, that company is no longer in business. But in theory, I could do all of this myself, right?! We’ll see…

What I love about Ikea kitchens is that you can design it online using their inventory of cabinets. The choices are pretty awesome — including corner cabinets, pull-out pantry drawers, lazy susans, trash bin pull-outs, etc. The sizes come in 3-6″ increments so you can make your kitchen look almost custom by puzzle-piecing cabinets to fit your room dimensions. They even have a ton of interior organizers for cutlery and such. They’ve thought of everything! What I don’t love, however, are the door front options. We used gray Bodbyn in our BSJ kitchen, which I really liked… but honestly, I didn’t even have a “next favorite” and I wanted something different for this house. (Actually, I do quite like Lerhyttan if you can commit to a black kitchen. I think it could be very cool.) Thankfully, I didn’t have to think too hard about the solution given the amount of blog content that I consume on a daily basis. Even more ubiquitous in the blogosphere than Ikea kitchens are Ikea kitchens with Semihandmade doors. Semihandmade makes door fronts for Ikea kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities. Their doors are better quality (thicker etc.) and offer better style and materials options, including doors that are paint-ready for your chosen color.

The kitchen above is a great example of using Semihandmade doors and some customizations (including paint color) to achieve a really tailored look. Since painting the doors is a massive task on its own, I decided that I wouldn’t put myself through that and just chose one of Semihandmade’s available finish options. You can order samples online or make an appointment at one of their four showrooms. I did the latter when I happened to be in L.A. and I gotta say, it was awesome to see the finishes on full-size doors instead of a 3″ x 3″ sample. I opted to use the Supermatte fronts in Desert Gray:

Pretty, right? Desert Gray is a soft, warm gray with green undertones — like an earthy, clay color. I also considered the two grays (a bit too cold and too similar to what I did in BSJ) and the navy (but I got a lot of navy going on in the front room). I’m going to have a combination of shaker style doors on the cabinets and slab/flat style fronts on the drawers. The door style in the above picture is different, but it was the best representation of the color I could find in a full kitchen.

Cabinet and drawer layout

I’ve talked about the kitchen layout before and how the appliances were situated, but fitting the cabinets around that layout was a whole other battle. Ikea has a kitchen planner where you can build out your room and then plug-and-play with different cabinet arrangements.

I built out our kitchen including the doorways, window, and fireplace bump-out, and placed the appliances where they were planned. Then it was a matter of placing cabinets where they were needed or where they just fit. In somewhat logical order:

  • the sink cabinet [6] is centered under the window where the sink is planned
    • the size of the sink cabinet is based on the size sink that I wanted – so 36″ wide
  • to the right of the sink is the dishwasher, so no cabinet necessary
    • BUT I did get a panel-ready dishwasher and ordered a custom door panel for it, because we intend to get a new fridge and stove down the line and I didn’t want to worry about them matching the dishwasher
  • next to the dishwasher is the refrigerator, which has a cabinet [10] above it — 36″ wide (same as fridge) and 20″ high (to bring it to the height of the tall cabinets on the other side of the kitchen)
    • the cabinet is 24″ deep but will be bumped out to be flush with the fridge — 30″ from the wall
  • the corner cabinet [4] has to be in the corner, of course
    • Ikea has a couple of options for corner cabiners, but I like the one with a full lazy susan
    • the cabinet itself is 38″ by 38″ total, with two 13″ doors on the inside corner
  • now I have a 27″ space between the sink and corner cabinets, so gotta fit something there — like a 24″ cabinet [5]
    • I like the symmetry here: the sink cabinet is flanked by two 24″ doors (since dishwasher will have a door panel too)
    • this leaves another 3″, but that will be a covered by a custom-cut filler piece
  • on the other side of the corner cabinet is the stove
    • the stove placement wasn’t exactly set in stone, so the corner cabinet [4] size determined its exact location: 38″ from the wall with a 13″ door to the right of it
  • the narrow cabinet [3] on the left side of the stove
    • since the stove has a 13″ door to the right of it, I wanted the door to the left of it to be somewhat symmetrical — the options were 12″ or 15″ and I opted for 15″ for a bit more space
  • the tall cabinets [1 & 2] had a lot of considerations…
    • since I have no upper cabinets and limited shelf space, these tall cabinets will have to fit a ton of stuff
    • I wanted some pull-out drawers for pantry items and some shelving to house the microwave and other small appliances
    • I had about 53″ of space to fill between the narrow cabinet and the end of the room, but because the room ends with a doorway, I knew I would have to stop short of that distance
    • tall cabinets come in two heights (80″ or 90″), two depths (15″ or regular cabinet depth of 24″), several widths in 3-6″ increments, and a bunch of options for the innards of the cabinet itself
    • I went with 90″ because why not?
    • I went with 15″ depth, because I think this narrower profile will look better from the open doorway into the kitchen
    • I ended up going with two 18″ wide cabinets (total 36″, leaving some breathing room between the cabinets and doorway), one with drawers and one with shelves that will have electrical outlets within it for those appliances
  • trash pull-out [9] in the island was essential
    • we had a 18″ wide drawer cabinet for trash and recycling in our previous kitchen so I knew that size worked for us
    • I placed this at the end of the island so that it would be adjacent to our main work surface and fairly close to the sink too
    • this cabinet has a fake front — it looks like 3 drawers of 5″, 10″, and 15″ heights
  • to keep the symmetry, I put another 18″ wide drawer cabinet [7] with the same configuration of drawers on the other end of the island
  • for the middle cabinet [8], I went with the same configuration of drawers again, but had to decide on the width
    • this is where the clearance between the end of the island and sink determined sizing — a 30″ wide drawer cabinet gave me a good 45″ for the aisle

The above are two angles of my kitchen in the Ikea planner. It’s not a perfect tool, but it is pretty cool to see your design come together in a 3D space (you can move around all kinds of angles in the planner). Most importantly for me, these straight-on images reassured me that the cabinet placement looks balanced and symmetrical from the most common point-of-views into the kitchen.

By the way, you may have noticed, but I used cabinets on the perimeter and drawers on the island only. This goes back to one of my guiding principles to keep things simple. Not only did this make my design process easier, I think it will work out well in real life too. Aesthetically, the shaker cabinet doors will all be in a row with the same knobs, and the slab drawer fronts will be confined to the island with matching pulls almost like a separate piece of furniture. It will help with organization as well, since all larger items will live in the cabinets and smaller tools in the drawers. Speaking of organization, here is an old Instagram post of my very organized (thanks to Ikea) drawers in our BSJ kitchen:

I will have that again one day…

So how do you go from the Ikea plans to actually ordering all of the components? Despite the internet being full of Ikea/Semihandmade kitchens, this part of the process was somewhat of a mystery. If you have a local Ikea, you go into a store and make an appointment with a kitchen planner who takes it from there. The closest Ikea to New Orleans is 8 hours away, so you have to rely entirely on the online ordering process. It took some trial-and-error and meticulous planning, but I figured it out. Next up, I will describe that process from beginning to end — hoping it will help anyone who wants to venture on this path themselves one day.

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