12 ways to upgrade IKEA kitchen cabinets for a luxe look on a budget

Elevate IKEA kitchen cabinets with these simple tricks that will help you create a bespoke cooking space without breaking the bank

Ikea kitchen cabinet with a blue elm veneer by Holte
(Image credit: Holte)

IKEA kitchen cabinets provide a brilliant, affordable base that you can elevate in your design scheme. Hacking IKEA cabinets offers the perfect style-meets-savvy solution for anyone looking to carry out a renovation with an upscale aesthetic while still keeping a keen eye on costs.

We know that IKEA produces excellent quality kitchen cabinets, but what kinds of IKEA hacks can make them look bespoke on a budget? 

One easy way is to use different doors and handles from companies like Custom Fronts, Holte, Superfront and Semihandmade. 'The texture, warmth and natural grain of the products mean each kitchen will be unique,' says Rachel Thurlby, Director at Custom Fronts, 'especially as you can choose to mix and match finishes, a choice which is becoming increasingly popular.'  

'You can also get beautifully simple shelving units and panels, which you can use to create all kinds of storage solutions, including kitchen islands.'

If you want to carry out an IKEA kitchen hack, a simple lick of paint and new handles goes a long way in style terms. We've pulled together some of the best ways you can upgrade and elevate IKEA kitchen cabinets to show that you can create designer good looks no matter what your budget is. 

12 ideas to upgrade IKEA kitchen cabinets

1. Mix patterns and shade finishes to add visual interest

Ikea kitchen cabinet hacks with blue fronts by Superfront

(Image credit: Superfront)

If you're looking for an on-trend aesthetic that's also timeless, adding different shades of grey to your kitchen cabinet ideas is a good place to start. It's a subtle way to bring depth and dimension to a space that you spend a large majority of your time in.

This IKEA Metod kitchen base has been given a gorgeous glow-up with Superfront doors, drawers and brass handles for an added element of glamor.

'Mixing cabinetry – seen here with Superfront Parallels (in Ashton Grey) and No Pattern doors and drawers (in Cloudy Grey) – in dark and light grey tones paired with contrasting white marble adds a luxurious touch to this kitchen,' Superfront tells us. 

2. Opt for a sustainable Scandi style

Ikea kitchen cabinet hacks with birch ply Scandi style

(Image credit: @tooting_reno_project)

Using an IKEA kitchen as a base is a really savvy idea that allows you to create a high-end look for less. As far as wood kitchen ideas go, this Scandi-style ply finish is a great option as it's stylish as well as sustainable.

Ash of @tooting_reno_project says: 'By combining IKEA cabinets with birch ply fronts from Custom Fronts, we were able to achieve the look for our kitchen that we wanted at a really affordable price.

'We had a planning consultation with IKEA over Zoom, sent our plans over to Custom Fronts and they did the rest. By sourcing things individually, we created a bespoke kitchen without breaking the bank.'

3. Handcraft your own kitchen cabinets for a truly customized finish

a hacked ikea kitchen painted green

(Image credit: @mytinyestate)

Over in beautiful Warwickshire, creative couple Dean Poulton and Borja De Maqua are renovating a stunning Georgian property, and detailing the works on their addictive Instagram account, @mytinyestate.

In the oldest building, called the Caretaker's Cottage, the boys have created a stunning green kitchen sanctuary that looks completely bespoke.

a painted green ikea kitchen

(Image credit: @mytinyestate)

Explaining the process, Borja says: 'We got all the carcasses ready and we then cut 18mm thick MDF to create the doors. We created a very simple design for the doors as we wanted to add paneling to make them look more in keeping with the age of the property.

'Once the doors were cut to the right sizes, we bought an attachment online so we could make the holes for the IKEA hinges and, after some painting and many evenings working, Voila! We made ourselves a kitchen that no one would know is IKEA until they open the cupboards. Inside the cupboard, we have shelves and drawers from IKEA too (you can’t beat their storage solutions).

'We invested in a quartz worktop and the taps and handles, in fact, the kitchen tap (from deVOL) cost us more than all the kitchen cupboards put together!'

This beautiful green kitchen idea uses Jade from Fenwick and Tillbrook and the brass handles are from Yester Home. The result? One of the most characterful IKEA kitchens we've seen. 

4. Choose clean and contemporary with handleless white kitchen cabinets

Ikea kitchen cabinet handleless white kitchen fronts by Custom Fronts

(Image credit: Custom Fronts/Anna and Tam)

A white kitchen is a classic design that is ageless and can be shaped to fit any decor scheme, from classic to minimal.

This clean-lined white kitchen idea keeps things on-budget and contemporary with smooth-surface cabinets, pops of color in art and lighting, and a warm timber floor.

Get the look by installing IKEA Metod base cabinets and transforming them with Colour Fronts in Chalk by Custom Fronts.

5. Think blush pink for a pretty and practical cooking space

Ikea kitchen cabinet with pink fronts from Holte

(Image credit: Holte)

Along with green, pink is a top kitchen trend for 2022.  ‘Coral, violet, and pink are analogous colors, which sit next to each other on the color wheel,' explains Eva Sonaike. 'They are bright and exciting tones that are associated with energy and symbolize health and vitality. I think we all need a good dose of this for 2022.’

And what better place to start adding feel-good hues than the kitchen cabinets in the heart of your home?

Ikea kitchen cabinet hacks with pink fronts by Holte

(Image credit: Holte)

Fiona Ginettt, director at Holte, which makes bespoke fronts for IKEA kitchens, says of the pretty project above: 'An extension to a Victorian house in Stoke Newington created a light-filled space with staggered ceiling heights. 

'The clients opted for our LAM-P fronts in Formica Just Rose with exposed ply edges and WOOD in oak with a dark oil finish for the wall cabinets and island. 

'The worktops are Caesarstone Frozen Terra and handles are our Straight Integrated Pull. Several bespoke components complete the scheme including an open wall shelf and a double pantry cabinet.'

6. Transform an IKEA Sektion from basic to bespoke

Ikea kitchen cabinet with white Sektion by Trica Design Studio

(Image credit: @trica.design.studio)

When Ania @trica.design.studio wanted a high-style look for a client on a budget, she decided to give IKEA Sektion base cabinets a modern makeover – with impressive results.

She used the Ringhult doors and simply gave them a refresh with new contemporary pull handles. 

To make the space really sing, she then added custom porcelain counters and a marble-effect kitchen backsplash idea for an elevated finish.

7. Give the IKEA Torhamn doors a lick of paint for a modern farmhouse feel

Ikea kitchen cabinet with a green painted modern farmhouse look by Jenna Sue Design

(Image credit: Jenna Sue Design)

With its sumptuous hue and Shaker-style finish, you would never guess this rustic kitchen idea was created with an IKEA kitchen cabinet hack.

Jenna Sue Design created the look, which used a rich green hue give IKEA Torhamn doors an upscale feel.

She says: 'For the lower cabinets, we ordered IKEA Torhamn wood doors, which was their best option for painting. 

'They were sanded, primed and painted with Benjamin Moore Advance in Peale Green, and finished with new brass handles and knobs. 

'The upper cabinets are stock white IKEA Axstads, and we gave everything a built-in look with custom panels and trim.'

Accessorize with a vintage-style rug, open shelving and rustic wood countertops for a contemporary country aesthetic.

8. Work a deep blue hue for a fresh mid-century modern kitchen

blue kitchen from ikea kitchen cabinets by Holte

(Image credit: Holte)

'This kitchen in an East London Victorian terrace uses the IKEA Metod system combined with our fronts and bespoke cabinets,' says Holte's Fiona Ginnett.

The rich blue kitchen idea mixed with wood grain cabinet fronts creates a welcoming space that's also design-forward and stylish.

Fiona adds: 'The client opted for our MATT-V for the majority of the kitchen, which comprises blue Fenix laminate on a black Valchromat core. They combined this with WOOD-E fronts in American red elm for the upper cabinets.

'We provided a bespoke open shelf wall cabinet as well as crown cut European elm wall paneling for the dining area. The client chose stainless steel worktops with a seamlessly welded sink and our Straight Pull integrated handles for a streamlined overall look.'

9. Fashion an updated traditional style for enduring design

Ikea kitchen cabinet hacks classic white by Semihandmade

(Image credit: Semihandmade/Nicole Dianne)

Go classic with a traditional style that's given an updated feel with brass kitchen hardware and pale timber floors.

A well-designed white kitchen will never date, and this design by Jessica Jones is a wonderful example of how an IKEA Sektion base can be completely transformed with new cabinet fronts and handles.

 'In a Northern California lakefront fixer-upper, Jessica Jones combined ornate brass hardware with Semihandmade DIY Shaker cabinet fronts painted in a warm white to create an updated traditional kitchen,' says Semihandmade. 

'Glass ready doors and pale wood open shelves offer distinctive opportunities to display treasured items that continue the neutral color scheme. Pronounced curved edges on the range hood, oversize chandeliers, and turned legs on the island add a classic flair to the overall vibe.'

10. Elevate IKEA kitchen cabinets with brass hardware

Ikea kitchen cabinet with green kitchen fronts by Trica Design Studio

(Image credit: @trica.design.studio)

Sage green kitchen ideas are soothing and can create a stylish sanctuary that's calming and tranquil while remaining chic – and IKEA's Bodarb doors are just the ticket. 

The kitchen above, designed by @trica.design.studio, takes an IKEA base and Sektion doors and gives them a simple modern makeover with  new brass handles from Richelieu.

Custom quartz counters and a painted wood slat paneling backsplash further combine to create a polished yet inviting finish.

11. Be bold with a dramatic black IKEA kitchen cabinet hack

Ikea kitchen cabinets with black kitchen by Semihandmade

(Image credit: Semihandmade/Elizabeth Messina)

Give your IKEA Metod or Sektion kitchen base a modern, sleek makeover with black cabinet fronts that really pack a design punch.

This black kitchen idea was designed by Anne Sage and uses Semihandmade's new BOXI Peppercorn Edge cabinets to create a cool, statement feel.

Semihandmade says: 'BOXI’s Peppercorn Edge cabinets, which feature a subtle, pencil-thin molding, are a hair more contemporary than Shaker cabinets, and slightly more dynamic than pared-back slab cabinet fronts.

'A mix of textures - glossy tiles, a natural wood shelf, and smooth black marble with brown accents - make perfect harmony with the simple Peppercorn Edge cabinets. The key here is to not overdo things - hence brass cabinet pulls that are placed right in line with the cabinets’ pencil reed detail.

'Although their molded edge gives them a modern look, you can bring in a contrast with rounded hardware or elevate their naturally sleek look with straight cabinet pulls that seem to blend into the cabinet fronts. 

'Black cabinets also look great with a wide range of backsplash and countertop options. You can keep things totally simple with white counters and subway tile, or you can create a beautiful cohesive look with marble countertops that feature black veining.'

12. Go for an all-wood finish for sleek mid-century cool

a wood ikea kitchen cabinet design by Holte

(Image credit: Holte)

The mid-century modern aesthetic is a trend that continues to endure, and dark or warm wood kitchen cabinets can help create the look.

Holte's Fiona Ginnett says: 'In a comprehensive remodel of a family home in Tunbridge Wells, our clients wanted a kitchen with a mid-century feel. 

'They chose to keep it simple with our WOOD-E fronts in walnut with J pull integrated handles throughout, letting the timber do the talking. 

'On a base of IKEA Metod cabinets, the kitchen is completed with marble effect quartz worktops and a simple floating shelf.'

Proof, if it were needed, that wood can work for modern kitchen ideas as well as traditional ones. 

How can I make IKEA kitchen cabinets on-trend?

Designer IKEA hack queen Sarah Sherman Samuel tells Semihandmade that shades drawn from nature will be strong in 2022 and beyond. She's still a fan of terracotta and ochre, but green is the one to watch. She says: 'I feel like there’s a lot of fig leaf and other greens. It’s so grounding and everybody could use some of that right now.'

In terms of finishes, New York City interior designers Emma Beyrl and Chris McGovern describe flat-front slab cabinets as a great choice for a streamlined look, perfect for industrial lofts or mid-century modern homes. 

Shaker cabinets 'transcend design trends' for a timeless feel, while beadboard cabinets are ideal for a more formal look. Glass-front cabinets are a good option for brightening up a kitchen and are a good upper cabinet choice to display pretty objects.

'Dark timbers, curves and sustainability are key for on-trend kitchen cabinets,' says Fiona Ginettt, director at Holte. 'We have been making a lot of walnut and cherry kitchens and, in general, our customers seem to be erring towards darker and warmer veneer species. 

'Curves are very popular at the moment, both in larger formats as curved bookcases or ends to islands and on a smaller scale in the curves of ribbed or reeded panels on cabinets. 

'Our clients are also becoming much more engaged with the sustainability of their projects, opting for lower-emission materials and asking for the CO2 screening so that they can make choices to balance their purchase.'

Ruth Doherty is a lifestyle journalist based in London. An experienced freelance digital writer and editor, she is known for covering everything from travel and interiors to fashion and beauty. She regularly contributes to Livingetc, Ideal Home and Homes & Gardens, as well as titles like Prima and Red. Outside of work, her biggest loves are endless cups of tea, almond croissants, shopping for clothes she doesn’t need, and booking holidays she does.