This may come as a shock but I’ve never designed a kitchen before. I’ve heard of “the kitchen triangle” and I figured out on my own that it’s stupid to have a stove placed next to the fridge (scorched fridge, lost security deposit) but that’s about the extent of my knowledge. I knew that I didn’t want to hire a designer because A) I’m cheap and and B) a micromanager, but I also knew that I needed guidance. Mainly because I had no idea what I was doing. That’s where IKEA Individual Kitchen Planning came in. The kitchen staff at the Brooklyn IKEA (excellent staff BTW) told us about in-home IKEA Individual Kitchen Planning and recommended it to us as a safety net to ensure that what we were dreaming up would work in reality. It’s essentially a planning service that has a consultant come to your home to measure and design a kitchen (or review what you designed) for up to 4 hours. The best part, the service is $200 and after you buy the kitchen from IKEA you get the $200 back on an IKEA gift card. In my world that’s the same as cash. So $200 gets you someone to do your measurements, give you a workable layout, and ensure that you won’t set your cabinets on fire. Yes please.
I’m sure a lot of people go into their IKEA Individual Kitchen Planning (IKP) appointment completely open and ready to let their consultant take the lead. These are people that are kind, trusting, and content with letting professionals do their job. Not I! Before my appointment I sketched out various kitchen designs on paper and in IKEA’s online kitchen planning tool.
I knew I wanted a kitchen that felt open (as much as possible for galley) and that didn’t change the layout of gas/water (extra time and $$$). That limited our options pretty immediately regarding possible layouts. The stove, sink, and dishwasher (!!!) would be on one wall and the fridge on the other. It’s essentially the same layout as before just with modern cabinetry and normal human sized appliances. Goodbye 38 inch range and 42 inch sink. Given those limitations and the fact that I knew I wanted the kitchen to feel “open” I decided to nix the upper cabinets. This decision was a lot easier to make when I realized that I had to pay for each individual cabinet. Duh. Getting rid of something you’re already ambivalent about is a lot easier when you realize it’ll save you money. So no uppers on the main stove/sink wall. Behind it we decided to do a built in counter depth fridge with a pantry unit surrounding it. This would be for the bulk of our storage and utilize our vertical space (9 ft ceilings). My biggest fear with this layout is that the pantry wall will remind me of a monolith and that I’ll develop a recurring nightmare of being crushed by my own cupboards. Only time will tell.
After getting a general sense of our layout and the proportions of the kitchen we started taping down the area to get a sense of what this felt like. We went with a ratio of 10 feet of kitchen to 6 feet of “nook”.
One of the walls was deep enough to hold regularly sized cabinets (24 inches) but the other was a paltry 21 inches. The door frame wasn’t centered on the wall. Someone in 1933 hated me. We needed advice, badly. Do we just accept that the fridge and cabinets will jut out into view from the door frame or do we go with shallower cabinets (15 inches) to keep the line of sight clear? Aesthetics vs. practicality. My least favorite celebrity death match. AND, if we went with 15 inch cabinets where the hell does the fridge go? Are we even sure we need a fridge? ALSO, WHY DIDNT I MEASURE THE WALLS OF THE KITCHEN TO MAKE SURE THEY WERE SYMMETRICAL BEFORE WE BOUGHT THIS THING. Life is full of regret.
Once we had our appliances selected (a story for next week) we went ahead and scheduled our IKP session to get some much needed advice. We played phone tag with the kitchen staff for about a week before we ultimately just went to the store and made the appointment immediately. The two main lessons I learned during this process- if you need to make an appointment with IKEA just go to the store and only attempt to navigate the IKEA kitchen planner tool at home if you have a vast network of social supports to call on when you ultimately find ourself on ledge contemplating ending it all. Sounds bad? I’m minimizing it. The seventh layer of hell is filled with people attempting to utilize this program on computers with modern operating systems. It’s bad. You have so much to live for, don’t do it.
With that the appointment was set and Kathleen from Traemand (the company IKEA contracts with) arrived one afternoon with her tape measure, graph paper, and magical computer that could actually load IKEA’s kitchen planning tool. Like I said before I’m sure many many people use Kathleen to design their kitchens and only provide input regarding cabinetry design and placement. That’s not what I wanted and Kathleen was totally fine to let me take point. I showed her my designs and walked her through the layout. She offered her feedback and helpful insights regarding how we could make the plan better and more functional. In addition to this she also knew IKEA’s sektion system inside and out and was able to navigate the kitchen planner without it crashing every two minutes. Witchcraft. I had many questions where I just wasn’t sure if an idea would work or was even possible. In most cases Kathleen was able to provide me with a simple and precise yes or no. Heaven.
Kathleen used my design as a reference but made her own in the kitchen planning tool with accurate measurements (important) and ensuring that everything connected to water/gas/electric (also important). With her guidance we were actually able to get the stove off the side wall (previously a concern due to the spacing of gas and pluming) and give me 9 inches of counters on one side and a foot on the other. She encouraged me to do a smaller sink (21in) to have a larger dishwasher and recommended we under mount the sink to maximize counter space. Done and done. Regarding the pantry wall Kathleen recommended keeping the first cabinet shallow so that the cabinets don’t come out past the door frame but to then extending the rest of the cabinets out to their full 24 inches. I was worried this would look weird. Kathleen said that it wouldn’t. In Kathleen we trust. Kathleen’s plans were covered in notes for the installer to ensure that the the kitchen looked as “built in” as possible.
I cannot say enough how much she improved upon my plan in both simple and dramatic ways. I had no idea that using filler was even an option and now the kitchen was covered in it! The best part of this experience for me was that at no time did Kathleen try to change my mind. She didn’t balk at my lack of uppers or decision to go with black in such a relatively small space. She got what I was going for a went along with it. She just made it all, you know, work. So when we were done Kathleen completed her design and gave us PDFs of the design and an itemized list of all the pieces we needed to make it work. All this for $200 that we were about to get back on a gift card. Would I use IKEA Individual Kitchen Planning in home service again? That’s no brainer.
The grand total for IKEA cabinets and appliances (fridge, stove, vent hood, built in dishwasher) was right around $8,000. Before we started this process when we googled about kitchen renovations in NYC we were coming up with figures of 25-50k. Sweeten stated that what we had planned would land us in the 22-27k realm. If we’d ended up with those kinds of numbers we would have gotten awful cozy with our hotplate for quite a while. Of course the project isn’t done yet and it’s possible that a real live troll will show up in our apartment and demand 10k to let us enter but it’s pretty much looking like we’ll complete this part of the renovation in and around $15,000. Knocking on every damn kind of wood I can find right now- but that’s the truth. Maybe the internet doesn’t want you to know that but from where we’re standing it’s (thus far) totally possible. Just… keep your fingers crossed for us okay?