Before and After: A 10-Day, $2300 IKEA Kitchen Makeover

published Apr 10, 2018
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(Image credit: Anne-Claire)

This kitchen, submitted by reader Claire-Anne, underwent a huge transformation without a huge renovation budget. As you’ll see, the new space has so much more personality and flair than before, but it still has something in common with the old: IKEA. If you’ve ever wondered how to update old AKURUM cabinets with new SEKTION doors, here’s your answer.

(Image credit: Anne-Claire)

Here’s a full-length shot that’s somewhat of a “in process” shot: the cabinetry and wall remain the same, but the muddy laminate floor has been replaced by beautiful hardwood. Here’s how Claire-Anne describes the project:

Our kitchen was installed by the previous owners of the house, probably 12-15 years ago. It was an IKEA kitchen with birch cabinet doors, black granite counter tops and a stainless steel back-splash. When we moved a few years ago, we replaced the laminate tile floors with hardwood and we painted a couple of walls in a bold blue that we love.

And now onto the full new space….

(Image credit: Anne-Claire)

This is so fun and rustic! I love the way the new black handles and the black grout of the backsplash help the black countertops make perfect sense. The pops of red are delightful, the removal of some upper cabinets really opens up the space, and those new cabinet doors and drawers—pretty damn cool. I naively thought they were custom-made, reclaimed wood numbers out of reach for mere mortals, but they are from IKEA!

(Image credit: Anne-Claire)

Here we can see the blue wall that predated this full renovation (I love that the pans on display have miraculously expanded). Claire-Anne was generous enough to explain the full renovation inspiration and process in detail:

I’ve never disliked this kitchen and I was happy that it was not the usual dark cherry cabinets and patterned granite counter-tops that we saw in most other houses we visited during our house search. The layout also worked for us. The kitchen has a lot of openings to the other rooms around it, but it’s still enclosed enough so that the spaces are well defined. And it has plenty of cabinets, including some tall ones on each side of the fridge and some under the island. So, it felt OK for a few years.

But I always thought that it didn’t have the charm and retro style that I would have picked… and I kept searching for ways to make it more my style, without totally gutting it. I thought of painting the cabinet doors but a white kitchen didn’t feel right for the space. And I love my blue walls and couldn’t figure out any other cabinet color that could work with it.

Then one day, during a visit to IKEA to buy a couple of small things, I met… the TORHAMN kitchen. It was love at first sight! I loved the Shaker style mixed with the fun light ash wood. It felt modern and rustic at the same time. And it had that warmth of the wood that I wanted to keep in my kitchen. It was perfect! On top of that, it happened to be IKEA’s annual kitchen event… They offered a 15% gift card of any $2000+ amount spent on a kitchen. So, it felt like a perfect opportunity to finally make this kitchen mine!

Not a bad budget for such a dramatic change!

(Image credit: Anne-Claire)

The TORHAMN doors, BORGHAMN handles , hex tile from Home Depot, and handcrafted brackets from Amazon all play together so well. The stainless steel appliances pair well with the stainless faucet, toaster, and teapot, while the black parts of the appliances (stove knobs and range, microwave door, dishwasher control panel) match the handles, brackets, and counters. This thorough background coordination allows the bold cabinet doors and accent wall to shine without being too much.

Claire-Anne describes the exhilaration and despair inherent to all IKEA trips:

I came home from this IKEA trip very excited and started to take measurements to place my order. The excitement didn’t last long. After a little web search, I realized that my cabinets were the Akurum ones, that Ikea stopped producing in 2015 to replace them with SEKTION cabinets. And everywhere I looked on internet, I read that Akurum and Sektion were not compatible… My perfect plan of keeping my cabinets and only replacing the doors was falling apart…

But I’m stubborn! And, when comparing the measurements of my present kitchen and the ones sold on Ikea’s website, I didn’t see why it couldn’t work. The doors width were the same. And most of the heights too, except for some drawer fronts or tall cabinet doors, which could be easily fixed by going for a different combination. Shipping was free and I could always return everything if it didn’t work out. So, I had to give it a try.

Five minutes after the delivery, I was already trying a door. First good news: the older doors hinges were fitting in the new doors. Yay! Now, the distance between the two hinges of a door was not the same anymore. No big deal. All I had to do was to remove the hinges parts that were attached inside the cabinet and drill new holes to put them at the right distance. And that was all it took to make the old and new IKEA kitchen compatible! What a relief! Now, I could move on the next steps…

Since we had plenty of cabinets, I decided to removed a couple of them to replace them by floating shelves. It would open up what used to be a whole wall of cabinets. I also got rid of the stainless steel backsplash to install matte white ceramic 2″ hex tiles, with a charcoal grout. I’ve only done tiles once, but it was many years ago and with my parents’ help… So this time felt like a first but it was not too difficult. Hex tiles are actually more forgiving that they seem.

The whole project took me 10 days (not full time), with a little help from my husband here and there… I spent $2000 at IKEA for the cabinet doors and got 15% of that amount in a gift card that I used to buy the hardware, and other little stuff. And the backsplash and shelves came under $300. So, the whole project came to under $2300.

Three cheers to stubbornness and its knack for Getting Things Done, and to Claire-Anne for not only persevering but thriving—and tiling. That makes the 10-day turnaround time all the more impressive.

(Image credit: Anne-Claire)

So often when we see upper cabinets replaced with open shelving, it’s difficult to enjoy their beauty because we’re plagued with thoughts of “But where is all the stuff?!?” This photo shows that there’s still lots of cabinetry; it seems like a kitchen that is practical and user-friendly, as well as attractive. And this closeup reveals that many of the items on display are everyday essentials: plates, bowls, and glasses. Fortunately, Claire-Anne likes it, too:

I love the warm feel of my new kitchen. The floating shelves open up the space so much! And the black granite counter-tops, that were not my favorite before, work now really well with all the black accents of the hardware and tile grout.

Now there’s an unexpected benefit to this project, that came from removing these two upper cabinets. I was going to lose some storage, so I had to go through all my stuff and decide what I really needed and what I should donate. Also, the organization of the cabinets dated back to when we moved. At the time, when I had to unpack a whole house, I didn’t necessarily take the time to think the kitchen organization through. This project made it a great opportunity to re-organize it all and now, my kitchen feels more beautiful and more functional too. I love it!

Clearing out can feel so great, especially when you have a fantastic place to donate all the stuff you don’t absolutely love or need. Refreshing a kitchen’s organization once you’ve lived with it a bit is also a way to majorly improve the room without spending any money.

(Image credit: Anne-Claire)

I have questions about the jar of silverware on the far left—Claire-Anne, if you read this I’d love to learn more—but for now I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom gleaned from a very successful kitchen makeover:

Don’t throw away your old IKEA cabinets. You might be able to fit new doors on them!

If you have any experience replacing the doors of IKEA cabinetry, please share!

Thank you, Anne-Claire!