Sometimes I stink at making decisions. (And about writing timely blog posts.) Of course decisions are especially hard when there’s a lot at stake, which is definitely the case when it comes to buying kitchen cabinets. Hello, expensive. Plus I tend to change my mind a lot and the thought of making a very costly mistake was driving me nuts. Needless to say, I stressed A LOT about ordering my kitchen cabinets. I made spread sheets, I drew diagrams, I price shopped. I made myself crazy!
For me designing a kitchen layout is kind of like the chicken or the egg scenario. I couldn’t finalize my kitchen layout until I finalized my choice of kitchen cabinets. But I couldn’t be sure that a particular cabinet line would work until I knew exactly what I wanted in terms of cabinets. Did I ever mention that I tend to make things 10x harder than they need to be??? I rock at over thinking things!
Obviously I made this much more complicated than the average person. For instance, my mom hired a contractor do her kitchen 7 years ago. (Dude, time really does fly!) She kept insisting she didn’t need my help — probably because I was very pregnant with my 3rd kid and in the process of selling my house — but then two weeks before the contractor was scheduled to install the cabinets she asked me to design her kitchen. No joke!
Let’s just say that the Ikea Philadelphia workers knew me very well… as the crazy lady who designed a kitchen with a 5 week old strapped to her body. Yup, we sold our house, but we were in limbo at my in laws’ until our new house was vacant, and I passed the time by taking my newborn to Ikea everyday to plan and place an order for my mom’s kitchen cabinets. My mom obviously chose the cabinets first and the layout second. But she was going to be (relatively) happy with whatever she got.
By the way, my mom was completely against Ikea and the idea of using their cabinets until she went to have a look at them herself. Her contractor was down right pissed about using them… That is until he actually installed them. He loved the Ikea cabinets so much he started recommending them to all his clients. Go figure!
That being said, I hate that you can’t get my mom’s same interior color anymore and we would never be able to do her kitchen the same way she did 7 years ago. Read my post about Ikea changing their cabinet line 2 years ago. The take home message is that the interior colors are now white or ugly dark brown. It used to be white or birch.
Designing a Kitchen Layout
- Start with basic configuration ideas
- where will appliances and trash be located?
- how will people walk through or use the space?
- try removing unwanted cabinets
- set up temporary configurations using existing cabinets or other furniture, this also works to test out counter heights
- tape out configuration ideas on the floor to see if they work for you
- Choose a cabinet maker or manufacturer
- the finer details of your plan cannot be made until specific cabinets are selected
- Fine tune each cabinet type and purpose
- drawers vs. doors (Duh, go with drawers!)
- what specifically will you store in each cabinet?
- what types of interiors are necessary? (rollouts, wire baskets, lazy susan, etc)
Okay, so clearly when I say layout I’m talking about more than just the floor plan. I’m also talking about all the specifics within each cabinet as well. I already had a general idea of the layout I wanted in my head because I had been redesigning our kitchen layout in my mind since the day we moved into this house! My demolition was strategic in that it helped move me closer toward my end goals. For instance, I knew I wanted to get rid of the former peninsula because it blocked the flow of traffic coming from the back porch, So removing the peninsula cabinets was one of the first things I did during Kitchen Demo – Round 1. Everything else kind of fell into place as I moved along.
You can read about how we installed the giant Pella Patio Doors HERE.
My Best Options for Kitchen Cabinets
At one point I narrowed my focus to 4 main cabinet maker options:
- Cliq Studios cabinets
- Custom built cabinets by a local shop
- IKEA cabinets, probably with Semihandmade Doors
- Barker Cabinets
I found Cliq Studios online, actually I first saw another blogger using them on Instagram, and then looked them up online. (It was Mique from Thirty Handmade Days, find her kitchen HERE) The Cliq Studios website is top notch, if you ask me, and you can get a FREE layout from an actual person and it really works. I went through the process and it was pretty impressive. *If you don’t know me, I don’t throw around complements willy-nilly!* I sent in a
terrible diagram, per the website’s instructions, and I got professional renderings, including a floor plan, color elevations and a price list. I loved that you could see right away how much the cabinets will cost!
It’s fun for me to look back at the design progression… At first I was trying to do island seating, which I ultimately scrapped, not that I was ever into the above island design though. This first design from Cliq Studios was done BEFORE we even decided to take the wall down between the dining room and kitchen, as seen in this post. At the time I was adamant about keeping the rooms separate because of the flooring. There is hardwood in the dining room and I was planning to tile the kitchen to match the tile I installed in the family room. (You can read about the herringbone tile job that almost killed me HERE.) In the end I decided to take the wall down, and instead of tile, I installed matching hardwood flooring in the kitchen.
The refrigerator next to the wall oven worried be too. Not only did I think the refrigerator doors would hit the wall oven handle, but the idea of HOT right next to COLD bothered me too. I decided to put a cabinet in between. I also wanted more uniformity in the door heights. I like clean lines and this was giving me a headache.
I was able to use the Cliq design and modify it. I printed the layout and drew on it. I told my designer at Cliq Studios about the changes and she sent over a 2nd draft. One of the things we added was a row of cabinets on the dining room side of the peninsula. At one point I thought I needed seating at either the island or on the dining room side of the peninsula, but in the end I ended up with no seating in either place. I didn’t think there would be enough room to walk around the island if there were stools, but the Cliq designer thought there was.
After looking at tons of pictures of dining rooms with bar stools at elevated counters, I realized I hated the look… and it just makes the dining room cramped! In the end, I added seating at the half wall bar overlooking the family room. Between the half wall and the dining table, and a large table on the screened porch off the kitchen, there was no need for seating at the island or peninsula. It seems so obvious to me now, but it certainly wasn’t back then.
These are the 2nd drafts from Cliq Studios…In the end I went with drawers and not doors on the cabinets facing the dining room. After much consideration, I also decided to make the cabinets standard height, so there would be one continuous counter top. I love how it turned out! While having raised cabinets would have helped hide messy kitchen counters from the dining room, I decided I didn’t like the look. It had the feeling like this area had been converted from bar seating to cabinets. Does that make sense?
Price Point: The above cabinet package was $11,274.31, or $7,353 without the island.
Again, it was all pretty impressive. Except… it just didn’t work out for me in the end. You see, the more my layout progressed, the more customization I realized I needed, and unfortunately I couldn’t get said customized options from Cliq Studios. I also decided somewhere in this timeframe that I HATE face frame cabinets. Yup, I’m all about European style cabinets mainly because they have more interior space, but also because I like the cleaner, more simplified look. Oh well, it wasn’t meant to be.
Custom Made Cabinets
A friend of mine recently had her kitchen redone and used a local cabinet maker for her cabinets. I decided to give him a try, but I put in
a few months some more time working on my own design. The visual from the Cliq Studios renderings pointed out a few things I hated.
- Get rid of all evidence of a WALL from between the dining room and kitchen, the cabinets should back to one another, not to drywall
- Panels are need at the end of cabinet runs, because I hate when you can see overhanging toe kicks from the side #ihaveissues
- The cabinets on the refrigerator wall needed to come all the way up to the ceiling, the tiny cabinet above the refrigerator was a juke #ihatesoffits
- The cabinets on the refrigerator wall also need to match better, they looked like a hot mess to me with all the different sized doors
I also ordered new appliances — refrigerator, wall oven, gas range, hood and dishwasher — before I moved further with the design. I needed exact measurements for the appliances before I could finalize the cabinet layout. There’s that chicken and egg thing again!
Here are a few of my sketches…
I showed my sketches to the custom cabinet maker and his wife when they came for a consultation. They took pictures of my drawings so they could work up an estimate, but when they came back they had changed my designs for the worse. Let’s just say I didn’t go with the them. I also discovered that this cabinet maker didn’t make his own doors and he wanted to use Rev-a-Shelf interiors. He would also only make face frame cabinets. I walked away.
Price Point: $14,469.11 for the cabinets (with a reasonable $2,700 for install = $17,169.11)
Ikea! Ah, my dreams of European style cabinets could finally be answered. After helping my mom with her Ikea kitchen, I couldn’t help but give the AKURUM a real consideration. Except it was during my kitchen demo that I discovered Ikea was changing up their cabinet line. I wrote a whole post about the new SEKTION line here. Aside from hating the new interior color, I decided that going with Ikea would require me to modify the cabinets to such an extent that it wasn’t worth using them. I’ve never been a fan of the Ikea doors, so I looked extensively into using the Semi Handmade Doors. While looking into custom doors I stumbled upon Barker Doors… and then Barker Cabinets.
I played around with layouts using Ikea’s free design software, which I also used when I designed my mom’s kitchen. It’s a little annoying, but not a deal breaker. And because you are choosing from actual stock Ikea components, you can generate a price sheet (also your order sheet) from your design. Unfortunately Barker Cabinets does not give you this capability, just so you know.
Another plus to using Ikea cabinets is that it is not as cost prohibitive to make design changes. You can go as far as to purchase your cabinets and doors, before making making a change to your design, you simply bring the cabinets back and return or exchange them. That’s the beauty of buying stock cabinets. You can return them. For example, let’s say you buy a base sink cabinet with the false drawer front at the top. When you get home you realize that you prefer to have doors that come all the way up to the counter top, because the doors on either side of the sink are similarly full height. No worries, you take the two doors and false drawer front back to Ikea and exchange them for two full height doors. Done.
Price Point: I couldn’t even give a good estimate due to the modifications needed + the custom made doors
Barker Cabinets seemed to be the cabinet company of my dreams! The cabinets are completely customizable to .25″ increments, while most semi-custom cabinets only come in 3″ increments. The quality seemed great — all American made, using Purebond Plywood (my fav!) and Blum hinges and drawer slides — and the price was right! Oh and did I mention that they are European-style cabinets with full overlay doors? There are tons of wood choices, but unfortunately the only color you can have them painted is white. The cabinets are RTA (ready to assemble), which means they also cost less. I decided to go for it!
I ordered all the pantry cabinets and the the lower cabinets , but not the island. Once you place your order you are locked in and have to eat the cost on any errors you made in ordering or designing. Because I wasn’t definitive on the island configuration, I decided to hold off on it and make a decision after the rest of the cabinets were installed.
Here is the progression of the pantry wall…
I was determined to have the top row of cabinets match up. That meant raising the wall oven high enough to match the height of the refrigerator, which resulted in 2 drawers underneath.
Which later gave me the idea to have drawers all along the bottom. I tried putting a second cabinet above the wall oven. I also moved the wall oven to the far end to give some space between it and the fridge.
I liked the double drawers better. But the height still wasn’t right, so I tried small cabinets above both refrigerator and wall oven.
But that looked weird, so I lowered the height of the four pantry doors to match the fridge.
But there was still the matter of needing some separation between the fridge and oven. So in the end, this was the final design for my pantry wall. Look at all those quarter inch increments! Woohoo!!
Price Point: $7,344.59 (Remember that doesn’t include the island, but it does include upgraded doors and a ton of pull-outs)
The Barker ordering process was complex and deserves it’s own post, which will be forthcoming… and hopefully it won’t take me months to write.
In the meantime, you can check out pictures of the current state of the kitchen HERE, but here’s a sneak peek…