Jillian-Lare-Des-Moines-Interior-Designer-Kitchen-02

How to Determine Your Kitchen Remodeling Budget

I designed my very first kitchen back in 2006. We were living in the Woodlea Historic District of Central Phoenix, and I got this gut feeling that it was time to cash out of the market. But, first, we needed to do something about our disaster of a galley kitchen.

At that time, I had started my transition into interior design by working at a home improvement/decor store for several months in the kitchen department. I learned enough in that time to plan and budget for my own kitchen remodel.

We purchased IKEA cabinets – one of their least expensive door styles – and butcher block countertops, kept two of our three appliances, and used a handyman rather than a remodeling company. Our 10′ x 10′ kitchen came in on budget at $10,000.

I can’t imagine trying to fully remodel a kitchen for $10,000 today unless it were very small, the materials were all low-end or creatively sourced, and we were doing all of the work ourselves. 

I’ve been designing kitchens for fourteen years now, and I have found that most people know they need more than $10,000 to remodel a kitchen. However, reality design shows have skewed perceptions of how much a kitchen remodel really costs.

Every time I hear Chip and Joanna Gaines or the Property Brothers claim they’re going to remodel a kitchen for $20,000 or less, I cringe.

But, let’s define “remodeling” first. When I refer to a kitchen remodel, I am describing a project in which the entire existing space is demoed and everything is being replaced, including cabinets, flooring, countertops, appliances, etc. The space plan will change – walls might come down, plumbing could move, the lighting will be reconfigured.

Remodeling Magazine has a great online resource for getting a general idea of how much your remodel will cost. Their Cost vs. Value report can be customized according to where you live. For example, a mid-range, minor kitchen remodel in Des Moines will cost around $22,000 while a mid-range, major remodel is closer to $66,000.

It’s important to read the definition of “minor”, “major”, “mid-range,” and “up-scale” very carefully when referencing the report.

An upscale, major kitchen remodel in Des Moines will cost well over $100,000. I know that number may seem high, but in my experience, it’s very accurate. 

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about how you can plan your kitchen remodeling budget.

Make a Plan

Kitchen Remodeling Budget Plan Example
Conceptual Layout for a Kitchen Remodel

The first step in any remodeling project is to make a plan. The better defined your plan, the more accurate your budget will be. If you’re capable with a computer or scale and pencil, you can sketch the space yourself.

You’ll want to measure your existing space as accurately as possible and then sketch your new layout, showing the locations of the major functional elements like the appliances and sink.

The first phase of my kitchen design process involves developing a conceptual plan based on accurate measurements. Once our layout is defined, I put together a budget and scope of work. I need the plan so I can estimate the quantities I need for materials, fixtures, flooring, and other design elements.

Identify The Major Elements

When planning my budget, I begin with the major elements or cost drivers for the project – the cabinetry, countertops, flooring, and appliances.

Cabinetry

IKEA SEKTION kitchen remodel Fells Point Baltimore Maryland
IKEA Kitchen Remodel

Cabinets can vary widely in price, with IKEA and some online sources at the low end, semi-custom cabinetry in the middle, and fully custom, hand-crafted cabinetry at the top end, depending on where you live.

In the IKEA kitchen catalog, each cabinet door style will have a price for a 10′ x 10′ kitchen from which you can calculate the cost per linear foot. For example, a basic BODBYN kitchen is $1999 for a 10′ x 10′ layout or around $100 per linear foot. You can easily pay five times that amount for semi-custom cabinets and ever higher for custom.

Your cabinetry cost will be influenced by the frame style (framed, frameless or inset), construction, wood species, door style and finish. There is a huge range of price points depending on the combination you choose.

The best thing to do is establish your budget first and then work with your kitchen designer to figure out what you can accomplish within your budget.

The cabinet fittings and hardware will also affect your budget. Soft-close doors and full-extension drawers cost more. Pull-outs, drawer organizers, and drawers all cost more than a simple base cabinet with two doors and a top drawer.

If you are shopping around, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

I recently designed an IKEA kitchen for a family in West Des Moines, and $150 per linear foot turned out to be a fairly accurate number for their cabinetry estimate, with most of the bells and whistles like soft close doors, pull-outs, lots of drawers, and even drawers within drawers.

Countertops

white kitchen soapstone countertops des moines iowa
Soapstone Countertops

There are more options for countertops now than ever before. Popular materials are quartz, granite, quartzite, marble, butcher block, soapstone, and concrete. Sintered stone and porcelain slabs are now becoming popular as well.

Some quartzes and granites can cost less than others. Caesarstone and Cambria are on the higher end for quartz countertops. For budgeting purposes, I’ve found that $75.00-90.00 per square foot is a good place to start.

The edge detail that you choose for your countertop will affect the price as well. A basic eased edge (square) is included in the cost. More complicated edges like an ogee will add to the cost by linear foot. 

Thicker countertop edges are a popular detail now, especially for  islands. The double edge is created by mitering two pieces of the solid material together. The labor and materials involved will increase your cost.

Of course, laminate and other composite materials will be on the lower side while quartzite, marble and soapstone will be on the higher side. Once I have my conceptual plans done, I send them to my countertop fabricator and ask for quotes based on different materials, thickness, and edge details.

Flooring

White and gray modern kitchen remodel with high gloss white cabinets by Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer
Refinished Red Birch Wood Floors

I include flooring among the major elements because a change in spatial configuration will require the floor to be replaced or repaired.

Depending on square footage, the cost of new flooring or repairing existing flooring can add up. If you’re patching a wood floor, your contractor might determine that you need to refinish all of your wood flooring in order for the new to blend with the old.

Popular kitchen flooring choices include hardwood, engineered wood, luxury vinyl plank, and tile. I would start at $5.00 (LVP or tile) – $15.00 (hardwood or engineered wood) per square foot for budgeting purposes.

Appliances

Custom cabinetry style hood, white kitchen, dark hickory floors
GE Monogram Professional Style Range

Just like with cabinets and countertops, you can easily blow your budget on appliances. On the low end, you could spend $10,000 for new appliances, and on the high-end, you could spend $60,000 or more. There is an enormous range.

What is appropriate for the value of your home and your neighborhood? This question is more important than ever because many higher-end appliances are now built-in and not easily changed without modifying cabinetry. If you live in a high-end or exclusive neighborhood, then future buyers may expect luxury level brands like Sub-Zero, Wolf, Viking, or Monogram, to name just a few. 

Ask yourself what you really need out of your appliances.

Clients often tell me that they can’t live without double ovens, but upon further questioning, I find out they only use them once or twice per year. A slide-in range with two ovens can save money and increase your countertop space by eliminating the large cabinet required to house the double oven.

Fill in the Rest

After you’ve identified the major elements, it’s time to list all of the supporting characters. This category includes the sink, faucet, and garbage disposal as well as decorative lighting, cabinetry hardware, and backsplash tile. It could also include other decorative elements, accessories, and window treatments.

Sink & Faucet

Under-mount sink in front of windows with stainless faucet, quartzite countertop
Under-mount Sink with Stainless Faucet

Sinks are a very personal selection. How big of a sink can your plan accommodate? Do you prefer a farmhouse style or an under-mount sink? Do you like stainless steel, cast iron or a composite? What color sink do you like?

Sinks can range from a few hundred dollars to well over $1000 dollars.

I almost always recommend single handle pull-down faucets. Delta makes a few great options at reasonable prices, and Kohler and Brizo have some higher style (and higher priced) models.

Finish will affect the price of your faucet with polished nickel and brushed brass being higher than polished chrome. 

Hands-free technology is an option with most major brands, and it will increase the cost of the same faucet model without touch by a few hundred dollars.

Build.com (owned by Ferguson) is a good place to research your plumbing fixtures.

My advice is to purchase your faucet from a local plumbing supplier (like Ferguson). Often, the parts in faucets that you can purchase at big box stores are cheap plastic even though the brand name is the same. You can add $300 to your budget for a lower end, quality faucet, and $700 and up for a higher end, high-quality faucet.

Backsplash

White and Gray Modern Kitchen, Beveled gray subway tile backsplash, Jeffrey Court subway tile
Beveled Subway Tile Backsplash

From your plan, you can easily figure out your backsplash quantity by multiplying the linear cabinetry feet by 1.5, then adding another three square feet for the range area, and multiplying the total by 1.1.

A basic subway tile splash might run you $6.00 per square foot while a marble mosaic can cost $50.00 a square foot or more. I like to start with $15.00 per square foot.

Decorative Lighting

Jillian Lare Interior Design - Grimes Iowa Kitchen Remodel White Farmhouse Kitchen
Lantern Pendants over the Peninsula

Count the number of decorative lighting fixtures you’ll need for your plan. Maybe you need two or three pendants for your island or peninsula and another for over the sink. $300 per pendant is a healthy budget, though you can certainly find them for much less or much more.

Hardware

Black Bar Pulls in Different Sizes

If your plan isn’t finalized yet, you won’t know how many knobs or pulls you’ll need, but you can add an allowance for hardware. $400 is a good mid-range number for a small to medium sized kitchen. A large, upscale kitchen with decorative appliance pulls could require well over $1000 in hardware.

Labor

I think this is the hardest category to estimate. It can be influenced by so many different factors. Lately, I’ve been doubling the cost of my materials to estimate my labor costs just to start. A project with more construction might have a higher labor to materials ratio.

Once you’ve started getting bids on your project, you can update your labor estimates with more concrete numbers. The bids might also help you prioritize some of your material selections. Maybe fully custom cabinetry doesn’t work for your budget, but you can still get a great kitchen with semi-custom or even stock cabinetry.

There are many parts, pieces and variables that play into your kitchen remodeling budget. The faster you can make decisions, the more quickly you can hone in on the right number. With cabinetry playing a key role in the budget and design process, I recommend engaging a kitchen designer as soon as possible. Once you establish a layout for your kitchen, the other elements fall into place pretty easily.

If you need help planning your kitchen remodel, I’d be happy to schedule a Discovery Call with you. It doesn’t matter where you live…I can help you with an overall space plan and selections that you can use as the starting point for conversations with your cabinet supplier and contractor.

 

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How to Plan Your Kitchen Remodeling Budget
Grimes-Iowa-Kitchen-Remodel-01

Merging Styles – Clean Lined Meets Rustic in This Grimes, Iowa Remodel

Today I have a fun project reveal with before and after photos and floor plans to share with you. I was brought in on this first floor remodel in early 2018 by Des Moines remodeling contractor and home builder Dave Adickes of MCC Focused Building. The clients had moved into the home several years earlier and spent their initial efforts on updating the exterior. For their next major project, they wanted to remodel their very cramped and outdated kitchen and give their fireplace wall a makeover.

Design Priorities

I start every project by getting to know my clients and understanding how they live so we can determine the priorities for the project together. This house is located on a stunning rural property in Grimes, Iowa, which is a northwest suburb of Des Moines.  The clients are avid animal lovers and have dogs, horses, a saucy cat, and even a miniature donkey. I am a huge pushover for clients with pets, so I knew that this was going to be a great project right from the start. They love to cook, bake, and are members of a gourmet supper club that they host on a rotating basis. Aesthetically, the husband preferred a more rustic look while the wife likes clean lines and more transitional or even contemporary pieces. They have a wonderful original art collection.

Priority #1 – Create a well-organized cook’s kitchen with ample countertop space for prep and baking and incporate a beverage fridge for wine storage.

Priority #2 – Open up the first floor as much as possible to maximize natural light and views to the exterior.

Priority #3 – Create dining space for up to twelve.

Priority #4 – Incorporate rustic elements without going overboard on the farmhouse trend.

Priority #5 – Repurpose the unused formal living room.

Priority #6 – Redesign the laundry room and mudroom to create more hanging storage and a bench.

Priority #7 – Update the outdated powder bath.

So you can see we had a lot to accomplish in this one project. In addition, we decided to take on the stairway to the second floor while we had everything torn up.

Before Plan & Photos

This plan shows our starting point for the remodel, and the before photos will help make more sense of how dark and cramped the kitchen and dining area felt. When you enter the house from the front door, you walk right into the stairway and can see through the hall to the family room and kitchen.

A formal living room is on the left, and the dining room is on the right. The powder room and laundry room are accessible through the kitchen (or the garage) at the back of the house.

Kitchen Before

Grimes Iowa Remodel Kitchen Before

The shot above is looking into the kitchen from the family room. There was definitely a lot of wasted space on that wall with the refrigerator.

Grimes Iowa Remodel Kitchen Before

I’m standing in the same spot here but looking back towards the powder room and laundry room. On the floor plan, you can see how congested that area is with three doors all in the same spot with the pantry, powder room, and door from the garage.

Grimes Iowa Remodel Kitchen Before

This photo is looking into the kitchen towards the dining room at the front of the house. On the right, you can see the door under the stairway that leads to the basement. The wall cabinets were much too short for the almost 9′ ceilings, and the layout was completely dysfunctional.

Dining Room Before

Grimes Iowa Remodel Dining Room Before

The photo above is looking into the dining room from the kitchen, and in the photo below, I’m standing in the entryway looking at the kitchen. You can see the funny angled tray ceiling in both photos.

Family Room Fireplace Before

Grimes Iowa Remodel Fireplace Before

I would say that the fireplace in the family room was the design element most out of sync with how the clients wanted their home to feel. They wanted to keep the built-in cabinets along with the angled TV (really no other place to put it) but inject more rustic character into the design.

Formal Living Room & Entry Before

Grimes Iowa Remodel Entry Before

The finishes throughout the house, like the white tile in the entry and kitchen and the honey oak stairs, were dated and needed updating.

Grimes Iowa Remodel Entry Before

Here I was standing just inside the dining room looking through the entryway into the formal living room, and below, I was standing in the family room and looking into the formal living room. My clients rarely used their formal living room, and it was a gathering spot for furniture they had no other place to put. It felt cramped, dark, and purposeless.

Grimes Iowa Remodel Living Room Before

Another view looking towards the family room…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Living Room Before

Powder Bath Before

Grimes Iowa Remodel Powder Bath Before

The powder bath presented a challenge because it serves as a passthrough from the mudroom, but it was lower on our priority list. We planned to give it a small facelift.

Grimes Iowa Remodel Powder Bath Before

Floor Plan Ideas

When clients hire me for major remodels like this one, or even for bathroom remodels, I explain that I’ll generate as many options for the floor plan as possible. Sometimes I can come up with four, and sometimes there’s only one good option. For this project, I presented two options to the client that I felt addressed the majority of their priorities in the best way possible.

Option 1

In both versions of the proposed floor plan, I removed the wall between the family room and kitchen and opened up the wall between the entryway and dining room to improve the circulation, sight lines, and light throughout the right (North) side of the house.

I also assumed we would need some sort of beam for structural support where we removed the wall between the dining room and kitchen, but at this point, I had no idea how large it would need to be.

In both plans, I turned the formal living room into an entertaining space by adding a built-in dry bar along the shared wall with the stairway rather than force the desired beverage fridge into the kitchen.

Option 1 shows a small dining nook with a bistro table at the end of the long peninsula/island and turned the dining table. The other end of the island incorporated storage for dog food and the dog food and water bowls. I also removed the drywall pantry in favor of built-in cabinetry.

Option 2

In Option 2, I created a built-in bench for the dining table with the idea that more people could squeeze in along the continuous seating surface if necessary. I adjusted the end of the island to accommodate a fourth stool and kept the fridge in its original location.

The powder room stayed pretty much the same, and I designed a set of lockers with a bench in the laundry room, closed the existing door on the North side, and added a new door to the garage at the clients’ request.

Construction Issues and Final Floor Plan

I presented those two plans to my clients over Skype since I was still on maternity leave and incorporated their feedback into the final working version. I say it’s a working version at this point because there were a lot of variables we didn’t yet understand like the beam and locations of plumbing and ducts in the walls we were planning to remove.

We met with Dave on site to discuss logistics and structural issues of which there were several. First, we couldn’t remove the short wall to the left of the refrigerator, which affected the cabinet layout. Second, we discovered a pipe in the North wall very close to the wall we removed to open up the dining room to the kitchen. These were frustrating but not insurmountable obstacles, and I was pretty confident we’d find a good solution that didn’t compromise the design.

After demo, we had a long meeting on site with Dave, the electricians, HVAC guys, and Waukee CabinetWorks to figure out how to solve these layout issues. Together we brainstormed several possible solutions and ended up with this final plan. I love this kind of teamwork during the construction process because the end result is so much better than if one person rams through his/her own vision.

This final floor plan…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Floor Plan

Here’s the kitchen all opened up during demo…

Once we worked through all of the mechanical and structural issues on site, we were able to finalize the cabinetry plan. Again, this was a team effort with myself and Waukee Cabinetworks. Because of the pipe in our range wall, we had to create a soffit on the range wall, which is never ideal. We also had to figure out a creative way to hide the pipe in the cabinets. Definitely a huge challenge!

The moral of this story is that there are almost always issues that pop up during construction no one can foresee, but a combination of creativity, time, and money can usually win the day.

Enlarged Kitchen Plans

We had so many restraints on our space plan, and we were still able to create a 9’6″ long island with seating for four and tons of storage. My favorite part of the design is actually the pantry cabinet shown in yellow. There are actually two tall cabinets, one is only 12″ deep and faces out towards the room. The other is 24″ deep and faces the garage. The deeper cabinet has a shelf that hides the microwave and pull-out drawers. Waukee CabinetWorks trimmed out these cabinets so they look like one piece.Grimes Iowa Kitchen Remodel MCC Focused Building Waukee CabinetWorks Jillian Lare

This elevation of the range wall shows how we ended up accommodating the pipe with a soffit trimmed out with crown molding to look like part of the cabinetry.

Kitchen Before & After

Now for the fun part – before and after photos! Looking towards the powder room before…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Kitchen Before

And after…

Jillian Lare Interior Design - Grimes Iowa Kitchen Remodel white kitchen modern farmhouse kitchen soapstone

Here’s a closer view of the corner with the new pantry cabinet. It takes up less room than the old pantry and is so much more efficient!

white kitchen modern farmhouse kitchen soapstone pantry cabinet

Before…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Kitchen Before

And after…

white kitchen modern farmhouse kitchen stainless hood soapstone

The refrigerator is in the same spot but everything else has moved. This photo clearly shows how we used the soffit to unify the cabinetry on this elevation while hiding the plumbing. The wall cabinet on the right is actually shallow to conceal the plumbing stack as is the drawer bank below it.

Before…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Kitchen Before

And after…

white kitchen modern farmhouse kitchen soapstone lantern pendant

The whole house feels so much more open, light, bright and welcoming once we removed the walls between the dining room and kitchen and kitchen and living room.

Dining Before & After

The dining room before…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Dining Room Before

And after (looking in from the entryway)…

white kitchen modern farmhouse kitchen dining table trestle table dining bench

We added a trestle style table and long dining bench so they could squeeze as many people in as possible. The bench is also now a favorite spot for the homeowner to work from home.

Entry Before & After

Looking into the entry from the dining room before…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Entry Before

And after…

Jillian Lare Interior Design - modern farmhouse entryway hickory floors

Installing one type of flooring throughout most of the first level played a huge role in improving the visual flow. This hand-scraped dark hickory is just stunning.

Here’s a detail shot of the stairs. We stained the new handrail, treads, and risers to match the floor.

Jillian Lare Interior Design - Detail of stairway makeover with carpet runner

Formal Living Room Before and After

The formal living room before…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Living Room Before

And after…

wine fridge floating shelves home bar - Jillian Lare Interior Design, Grimes Iowa

The new wine bar is perfect for storing liquor, wine, and all of their glassware. When they’re hosting, they can easily put everything out on the soapstone counters and guests can help themselves.

Fireplace Before & After

This was the fireplace before…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Fireplace Before

And after…

Jillian Lare Interior Design - Stone fireplace with rustic wood mantel

We completely transformed the fireplace with stacked stone, a new gas insert, limestone hearth, and a reclaimed wood-look mantel accented with iron straps. The painter finished the beam in the kitchen to match the mantel, which helps to tie the two rooms together.

Powder Room Before & After

We gave the powder room a little face lift that made a huge impact. Here’s what it looked like before…

Grimes Iowa Remodel Powder Bath Before

And after…

Jillian Lare Interior Design - Farmhouse powder room soapstone countertops

This was a simple update in that everything stayed in the same spot. We installed a new vanity to match the kitchen with coordinating soapstone countertops, new ceramic tile, lighting, and accessories.


So that wraps up this little tour of my recent Grimes remodel. I hope you enjoyed it. Which area do you think underwent the most dramatic transformation?

Modern kitchen, marble backsplash, brass hardware, IKEA kitchen

Five Simple Ways to Make IKEA Cabinets Look Expensive

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of IKEA kitchen cabinets. I’ve used them in three of my own houses and specified them for several clients over the years.

They are incredibly affordable for what you get, which includes some of the bells and whistles you’ll find in the highest end European cabinets. But, this post isn’t a love letter to IKEA…I’ll save that for another time.

This post is about how you can make IKEA cabinets look expensive with a few simple design tricks.

Add legs to your island

IKEA SEKTION kitchen remodel Fells Point Baltimore Maryland
In my Fells Point IKEA Kitchen Remodel, we used custom island legs and base molding to create a custom look on the large island.

Many of my clients request a “furniture” look for their island. I interpret that to mean they want legs, base molding, or panels – or a combination of all three.

Legs can anchor the countertop overhang, avoiding the floating look and providing balance. They also allow you to create a deeper overhang. The max countertop overhang without legs is 12″, but with legs you can easily extend that to 15″ or deeper. It’s best to check with your stone fabricator on what they recommend.

IKEA doesn’t sell furniture style legs for their islands, but it’s pretty easy to order them online in a variety of styles. You can buy them in person at Lowes or Home Depot or even make your own out of stock plywood and molding pieces. They are available in a variety of woods, and a good painter should be able to finish them to match your doors.

Incorporate custom moldings

IKEA SEKTION kitchen remodel Fells Point Baltimore Maryland
We used a two-part crown in the Fells Point IKEA kitchen remodel.

If you are considering a traditional or transitional style IKEA kitchen, you can make it look more polished and finished by adding stock molding like crown molding, light rail, and baseboard from your local big box store.

Crown or cove molding can help build your cabinetry up to the ceiling for a fully built-in look. It’s important to understand a frameless cabinet box like IKEA SEKTION doesn’t have a place to attach the crown molding, so you actually need a two-part crown. This sounds more complicated than it is.

The first part is a straight or L-shaped piece that is attached to the top of the cabinet, which gives you a vertical surface to attached your angled crown. It also helps when trying to close the gap to the ceiling because ceilings are rarely level. The straight piece allows you to manipulate the crown if needed and avoid unsightly gaps.

Light rail molding is attached to the bottom of the wall cabinet to conceal any under-cabinet lighting. The height will be determined by the style of lighting you choose. I prefer to specify the LED tape lights because they have a very small profile. IKEA sells matching deco strips for their cabinet doors that are meant to be used as light rail molding.

Base molding builds up the base of the island to create that furniture look. You can also wrap it around the bottom of the cabinet at the end of a run and return it into the toe kick. You generally want your base molding to be shorter than the height of the toe kick (the recess at the bottom of a base cabinet) so that you can make that return if necessary. IKEA toe kicks are designed to be 4.5″ tall (the 30″ high box plus 4.5″ to bring you to the 34.5″ standard height), which gives you some nice options for molding styles.

If you are doing a “painted” IKEA door like BODBYN, you can bring a drawer front to the paint counter and have it color matched to a semi-gloss paint. Stains are a little trickier, especially if this is a DIY project.

A good painter should be able to stain moldings to match. Be aware that stain grade moldings will be more expensive than paint grade.

Get Creative With Cover Panels

IKEA Cabinets Laundry Room
Laundry Room Makeover with IKEA Cabinets

Cover panels are a must when designing with IKEA cabinets. The boxes are unfinished – white or dark brown – and don’t match the door finish. Cover panels match the door finish and are attached to the side of the cabinet box so everything appears seamless. There are a few ways I use cover panels to make my IKEA kitchens look more expensive.

First, I always cut or purchase my panels at a size so that they will extend past the edge of the box to cover the thickness of the door. The doors are 3/4″ thick (7/8″ when you add the little bumper dot). So, if a wall cabinet is 15″ deep, I specify the panel at 15.75″ wide so that it will hide the door from the side. This little trick instantly gives a more finished, custom look.

Unfortunately, IKEA cover panels only extend 5/8″ so they won’t fully cover the door thickness. I usually instruct my clients to purchase several of the large refrigerator panels and have them cut to size on site instead of purchasing the stock panels.

You can also use cover panels to simulate a cabinet “leg” by adding them to your base and tall cabinets in certain locations. I sometimes add a full-height panel (meaning it touches the ground vs. stopping at the toe kick) to the sides of base cabinets at the end of a run or an island. I almost always add them to full-height pantries on both sides. Sometimes I will use them to define a specific cabinet, like on either side of a sink base. 

Upgrade to Custom Doors

Modern kitchen, marble backsplash, brass hardware, IKEA kitchen
Semihandmade doors by Sarah Sherman Samuel for Design Milk

I so wish this option existed when I installed my own IKEA kitchens in 2006 and 2008. Today there are several companies providing gorgeous custom doors that you can install on your IKEA cabinets. 

IKEA cabinets are completely modular, meaning every piece is purchased separately. You do not have to purchase the IKEA doors, drawer fronts, panels, and toe-kicks.

Instead, you can order your doors, drawer fronts, panels, and toe kicks from another company like Semihandmade for a truly custom look. If you choose this route, no one will ever know that your kitchen is from IKEA. Of course, there will be an up-charge over the standard IKEA doors, but I think it’s worth the cost if it fits in your budget.

Modern IKEA kitchen, custom drawers by Reform, modern kitchen island, colorful kitchen
This modern style by Reform has gold edges, revealed only when the cabinet is open.

Another benefit of using a custom door company is that you can request your cover panels at the right sizes vs. having to cut them down yourself. 

Don't Forget Overlay Fillers

You might be wondering what a filler is let alone an overlay filler. Stock cabinets come in specific widths that are usually in 3″ increments. For example, 12″, 15″, 18″, etc. 

Fillers are needed in certain instances:

  • When a run of cabinetry is not exactly divisible by 3".
  • When a frameless style cabinet (like IKEA) is being placed next to a wall.
  • When a frameless style cabinet (like IKEA) is being placed next to another cabinet or panel that is significantly deeper. For example, a wall cabinet next to a refrigerator panel or a pantry.

IKEA boxes are a little weird in that they don’t sell a 27″ or a 33″ cabinet box, jumping from 24″ to 30″ and 30″ to 36″. Don’t ask me why, but it complicates things even further and requires a little extra creativity when planning your layout.

Fillers help us solve certain problems, but why do we need the overlay filler and what the heck is it anyway? A filler is just a flat strip of material painted or stained to match the cabinetry doors. When it is installed, it is placed in between the box and the wall or the box and the adjacent cabinet creating a seamless transition.

BUT…frameless cabinet doors sit proud (ie. on top of) the cabinet box and are usually 3/4″ thick (7/8″ when you add those little bumper dots). When they are all installed properly, you should not see the front of the cabinet boxes at all.

The overlay filler is installed on top of the filler piece and sits almost flush with the face of the cabinet doors and drawers. Then the fillers aren’t as noticeable because you have a smooth transition from door to wall (or cabinet) and no change in depth, which can create a shadow effect and distracts the eye.

Whew! I feel like I should write a whole post just on fillers and how to deal with them now.

I really hope you enjoyed this post on how you can make IKEA cabinets look expensive with a few simple hacks to create a custom looking kitchen.

If you need help planning your IKEA kitchen, I would be happy to help, and it doesn’t matter where you live. Just send me a quick note, and we’ll schedule a time to talk.

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Modern White Kitchen Remodel West Des Moines Jillian Lare Interior Design

Modern White Kitchen Remodel Project Reveal

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Last year, an old client contacted me about renovating the kitchen in her West Des Moines home. She is originally from Australia, and she and her husband have been in the process of transforming their outdated traditional 1980s house into a clean-lined, bright, and transitional home ever since they purchased it several years ago.

Layout Before

The existing kitchen was awkwardly shaped with an angled island. It was cramped and dark and lacked enough room for their dining table, which was pushed against the wall out of necessity. The traditional cherry cabinetry was as far from my client’s style as possible.

The pocket door on the left side of the kitchen leads from the mudroom, which we renovated in 2013 during our initial project together. The family uses the formal dining room as their den/office as well as a piano room. The sunroom faces out to their deck and lush backyard and was largely unused.

Kitchen Before
Kitchen Before

The “before” version of the kitchen wasn’t necessarily bad, but it had the potential to be far better. It also didn’t feel like the rest of the house, which had been mostly updated with a light gray and white palette and modern furniture and lighting fixtures.

Layout After

Des Moines Kitchen Designer Jillian Lare Interior Design Kitchen Floor Plan
Layout After

After I took my initial measurements and analyzed the floor plan, it was immediately clear that the best option would involve opening the kitchen into the sunroom to create an eat-in dining space and infuse the entire space with sunlight from the south-facing windows.

We initially planned to completely remove the wall, but structural limitations prevented it. In the end, it worked out well as the header and wing walls define the dining area as its own space.

Des Moines Kitchen Designer Jillian Lare Interior Design Kitchen Cabinetry Plan
Detailed Kitchen Plan

Our biggest challenge was finding the perfect place for the range top. The island is never my first choice for the range and hood, but in this case, it was a necessity if we wanted to eliminate the wall separating the kitchen from the sunroom. We eliminated the double oven and located a single oven under the range top on the island. The fridge, sink, and dishwasher remained in their original locations, and we had moved the microwave into the mudroom during our earlier renovation.

Chief Architect Kitchen Perspective Des Moines Kitchen Designer Jillian Lare
Conceptual Rendering
Chief Architect Kitchen Perspective Des Moines Kitchen Designer Jillian Lare
Conceptual Rendering

The result is very close to a galley style kitchen, which is incredibly efficient and functional. I was also able to create a drop zone across from the refrigerator, though my client is so tidy that the countertop is always clean.

Selections

My client hoped to create a more modern space reminiscent of Australian style kitchens like the one she had installed in her previous home. She sent me several inspiration photos that featured simple white slab cabinetry with white countertops. A skilled jewelry maker, she favors silver metals and cool hues, so I knew that we would be using polished nickel and light grays along with the white.

She wanted to keep her dining table as it was a special piece that they had custom made in Australia from indigenous wood. It fit perfectly in the space, and we also kept her existing chairs and added black cushions to tie into the black in her vintage rug and the cord on the pendant over the sink.

Des Moines Kitchen Designer Jillian Lare Modern White Kitchen Design Concept

I selected a marble look white quartz countertop with beautiful veining. It is truly a showstopper in person. To bring out the gray in the countertop, I specified elongated light gray subway tile that has a handmade quality and slight waviness to add texture and depth to the backsplash. Hexagonal polished nickel knobs and cabinet pulls are the jewelry of the space.

I kept the light fixtures simple and understated to complement the rest of the design and added the woven wood window treatments for texture. Modern counter stools bring the warm wood from the dining table into the kitchen and contrast beautifully against the white island.

After Photos

Modern White Kitchen Remodel West Des Moines Jillian Lare Interior Design
Modern White Kitchen Remodel West Des Moines Jillian Lare Interior Design
Modern White Kitchen Remodel West Des Moines Jillian Lare Interior Design
Modern White Kitchen Remodel West Des Moines Jillian Lare Interior Design
Modern White Kitchen Remodel West Des Moines Jillian Lare Interior Design
Modern White Kitchen Remodel West Des Moines Jillian Lare Interior Design
Modern White Kitchen Remodel West Des Moines Jillian Lare Interior Design
Modern White Kitchen Remodel West Des Moines Jillian Lare Interior Design
Modern White Kitchen Remodel West Des Moines Jillian Lare Interior Design
Modern White Kitchen Remodel West Des Moines Jillian Lare Interior Design
Modern White Kitchen Remodel West Des Moines Jillian Lare Interior Design

The end result is a complete transformation from dark, dated, and dysfunctional to light, bright, and efficient. I knew that removing the wall between the kitchen and sunroom would result in a more open and airy feeling space, but I was still astonished by just how much of a difference it made. My client now has unobstructed views to the backyard and a clear circulation path to the back deck, which they rarely used because it wasn’t connected to their main living spaces. The kitchen itself is incredibly well organized with all of the major functions within a few steps of each other. Best of all, my client has reported that her visiting family and friends have remarked on how “Australian” the updated kitchen now feels.

PS. That lovely bird print is actually a framed tea towel. You can find it here.

Are you interested in remodeling your kitchen and need help? Contact me today to begin the process

shiplap fireplace, slate floor, white IKEA kitchen remodel

Historic Fells Point Row House IKEA Kitchen Remodel

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I may receive a small commission. This helps me to support my blog and allows me to continue to make free content. I only recommend products that I have used and loved or would purchase myself. Thank you so much for your support!

Last year, my little sister Kate and her then-fiancée (now husband!) Andrew began searching for a home to buy in their Fells Point, Baltimore, neighborhood. They had already been living in a rented row house in the vicinity of Patterson Park for several years and wanted to stay close by.

The challenge with living in a row house in Fells is that most of the homes are incredibly narrow (10 feet across or less!), making furniture placement and circulation a challenge, to say the least. After touring several possibilities, they found the perfect house with a width of almost 14′ across. It had a large outdoor space, three and a half bathrooms, historic details like fireplaces in the bedrooms, exposed brick, and hardwood floors.

While they loved most aspects of the house, they weren’t wild about the style of the kitchen. My sister initially asked me to help her choose a paint color for the cabinets, new floors, lighting, and countertops. But, when I heard they also wanted to start moving cabinets around, I hesitated. I knew, at that point, that if they could increase their budget, they could get a whole new kitchen with the perfect layout that would be exactly their style and very attractive to future buyers or renters.

I hate when clients end up throwing good money after bad, and I knew that they would eventually regret their partial remodel and want to rip it all out. So, without even asking, I redesigned their entire kitchen using IKEA cabinets and sent them the plans with an estimate for how much the cabinets would cost. Thankfully, Andrew was on board right away, while Kate needed a little more convincing.

The kitchen is actually fairly large, but the old floor plan didn’t maximize the functionality of the space. An old stove took surrounded by tile and brick took up the far wall, and a corner built-in (not original) limited the cabinetry on the long wall. The sink was shoved into the corner while the range was located on the island with no hood – two kitchen planning elements that I avoid at all costs.

Layout Before

Fells Point Baltimore Kitchen Remodel Floor Plan Before

My goal was to use as much of the square footage as possible for storage and to create a large island for informal dining and entertaining since they are frequently hosting guests. 

Aesthetically, I wanted to keep it feeling light, bright, and modern while incorporating traditional details like crown molding so it felt in keeping with the rest of the house.

I removed the angled built-in and reworked the stove into a fireplace with a reduced footprint. I relocated the sink to the island, which can easily seat four people, and the range to the long wall, which allowed us to add a hood.

I was also able to incorporate two large pantry cabinets on either side of the refrigerator. On the short wall, Andrew requested a beverage center, so we added an under-counter wine fridge.

Layout Afer

Fells-Point-Baltimore-Kitchen-Remodel-Floor-Plan-After

Before Photos

Island view with cook top
View of the existing fireplace

In these before photos from the MLS listing, you can see the awkward features of the layout and the dated finishes. It would have been nice to keep the exposed brick on the fireplace, but when the tile was removed, it was too damaged to salvage.

IKEA Kitchen After Photos

IKEA SEKTION kitchen remodel Fells Point Baltimore Maryland

We used the white BODBYN door from IKEA’s SEKTION line, since the white is not quite as creamy as their Shaker style door, and the raised panel detail works well with the other historic details in the home.

The contractor added crown molding to the wall cabinets, island legs, and baseboard trim, all painted to match. The floor is tiled in 12″ x 24″ black slate, and the walls are Sherwin Williams Worldly Gray.

IKEA SEKTION kitchen remodel Fells Point Baltimore Maryland

In this photo, you can see the redesigned fireplace and a glimpse of the new back door, painted Benjamin Moore Hale Navy, which lets in more natural light and a view to the back yard.

The fireplace is clad in painted white shiplap topped with a reclaimed walnut mantel. The interior of the box was left the original brick. Future plans include adding a gas insert since the original chimney is still intact.

IKEA SEKTION kitchen remodel Fells Point Baltimore Maryland

The countertops are a marble-look white quartz with just enough gray to contrast slightly with the cabinets. The large format subway tile is from tilebar.com. We loved how the wavy finish has a handmade quality to it, adding subtle texture to the backsplash.

We selected the budget friendly lanterns and industrial style stools from Ballard Designs to inject some contrast with the white finishes.

The open shelves are the same reclaimed walnut as the mantel and supported with simple iron brackets (similar from Signature Hardware). Kate styled the shelves with her favorite cookbooks and Anthropologie coffee mugs.

IKEA SEKTION kitchen remodel Fells Point Baltimore Maryland

Polished nickel pulls and knobs add a little bit of sparkle and shine throughout the kitchen. The original artwork above the mantel was a gift from Andrew’s parents. Kate found the vintage runner online. The large vase is a Target find.

IKEA SEKTION kitchen remodel Fells Point Baltimore Maryland
IKEA SEKTION kitchen remodel Fells Point Baltimore Maryland

At first Kate was a reluctant participant in the full remodel but both she and Andrew agree that the extra investment and time were well worth the result.

IKEA SEKTION kitchen remodel Fells Point Baltimore Maryland

 

  1. Cabinets – IKEA BODBYN
  2. Pendants – Ballard Designs
  3. Pulls – Top Knobs
  4. Knobs – Top Knobs
  5. Backsplash – Tile Bar
  6. Quartz – Q Stone
  7. SW Worldly Gray
  8. Brackets – Signature Hardware
  9. Mugs – Anthropologie
  10. Stools – Ballard Designs
  11. Slate Tile – Home Depot
  12. Benjamin Moore Hale Navy
  13. Tribal Vase – Loom & Kiln
  14. Vintage Runner – Splendid Rugs

If you’re thinking about an IKEA kitchen remodel, check out my tips for planning your IKEA kitchen as well as another one of my IKEA remodeling projects.