A new kitchen is at the top of many people's Christmas lists this year, but their hefty price tag makes it unlikely they'll appear in many stockings. There's no avoiding the crazy prices of kitchen renovations but IKEA offers plenty of more budget-friendly choices, and they don't need to look cheap, either.
IKEA's simple Scandi aesthetic makes it a go-to for those of us looking to update our home at an affordable price, but, being mass-produced, they can look a bit too uniform and formulaic. If you want a modern kitchen that looks expensive and bespoke without costing the earth, there are a few simple updates you can make to really elevate its look.
To find out more, we spoke to two designers who have transformed off-the-shelf IKEA kitchens into design-forward paces that look anything but cheap. Here are five things you can do to turn basic IKEA cabinets into your unique, luxury vision.
1. Custom table top
One of the biggest giveaways of an IKEA kitchen is uniformity. The standard fit looks the same in every space and is very average. The key to making it look expensive is making changes to create a more custom look.
One thing that's easily changed and will have a profound impact on the look of your kitchen is the countertop. 'When we made our IKEA kitchen, we decided to get a tabletop made by a local carpenter instead of getting the often quite thick and cheaper-looking IKEA tabletops,' says interior stylist Freya Asgersdatter. This simple change instantly makes the kitchen look more unique and gives that custom-built feel.
The options for kitchen countertop ideas are endless, giving you plenty of opportunities to customize your kitchen. 'We chose a mushroom beige linoleum top on a hardwood plywood plate,' says Freya. 'This gives the kitchen a delicate and softer look, and I think it is the perfect match for our IKEA kitchen.' Try wood for a classic rustic look, or quartz if you want an extra infusion of luxury.
2. Switch up the hardware
For an instant upgrade, switch out your standard IKEA hardware for something that makes a statement. 'The knobs or handles really are the final touch to the kitchen,' says Freya, 'and the easiest and cheapest way to upgrade your kitchen'.
The best kitchen handles not only give a more luxe feel but also allow you to add some personality to your kitchen design. Take the time to find the perfect style for you as it will dictate the look of your kitchen. This needn't be expensive either, there are plenty of affordable options, like these T bar knobs from Amazon. Once the hardware is updated your kitchen will no longer resemble anything off the shelf and will be transformed into something far more exclusive.
3. Utilize color
When you envisage an IKEA kitchen, white is probably the color that springs to mind, but that shouldn't be the default choice. Often people avoid color in a kitchen, and while it can be an intimidating choice to make, there are many luxe kitchen colors that will instantly make your space look more expensive.
To upgrade your IKEA kitchen cabinets, paint them with more unusual shades outside of the traditional palette. 'Painting the doors is a great way to personalize it and elevate your kitchen,' says interior designer Michelle Harris from Harris & Home. 'IKEA has a few colored fronts but if you go for a color that is 100% not IKEA, people will automatically assume it's bespoke.' Michelle painted her pantry cupboard in Farrow & Ball's Inchyra Blue, which looks incredibly chic against matt black hardware and pine paneling.
4. DIY your cabinets with fluted panelling
Textured surfaces such as reeding and fluting are some of the biggest kitchen trends for 2024, but did you know you can achieve the look with an IKEA kitchen? Michelle DIYed a fluted oak panel island with ease. 'I used 4mm sheets of fluted oak, cut to size, and then glued them to the fronts of the IKEA oak veneer doors and drawers,' she says. 'They make the island fronts look more like furniture fronts than kitchen ones and as they face the rest of the space, it is such a lovely detail to see all of the time.'
Introducing a different texture breaks up the monotonous space and provides some interest that's sparse in the traditional IKEA kitchen. This simple hack can be adapted to any of the kitchen styles and a range of spaces, guaranteeing instant kudos from designers and friends alike.
5. Decorate with vintage
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Lastly, avoid falling into an IKEA rabbit hole and styling your whole kitchen from their stock room. Their kitchen range is great, but your kitchen mustn't turn into one of their staged rooms filled exclusively with the beige products of the Scandi brand.
To break up the space and give it some character, opt for unique accessories and vintage pieces to give a more eclectic style. 'I've decorated the kitchen with vintage items, such as a table lamp and beautiful bowls,' says Freya. 'Cookbooks and a stone tile with some nice oils and spices on also make the kitchen feel more personal.' Accessorize in line with your personal style preferences and the kitchen will be unrecognizable.
The secret lies in seeing the IKEA kitchen as a blank canvas for everything else. It's all these smaller details that will have the biggest influence in creating a totally luxe-feeling space that looks far more expensive than it really is.
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Amy recently completed an MA in Magazine Journalism at City, University of London, with experience writing for Women’s lifestyle publications across arts, culture, and beauty. She has a particular love for the minimalist aesthetic mixed with mid-century furniture, especially combining unique vintage finds with more modern pieces. Her previous work in luxury jewellery has given her a keen eye for beautiful things and clever design, that plays into her love of interiors. As a result, Amy will often be heard justifying homeware purchases as 'an investment', wise words to live by.
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