How I planned my space for IKEA kitchen cabinets

Ever since the launch of the new METOD kitchen range, I’ve developed a major crush on it. Whenever I visit IKEA, I would open and slam the doors of the IKEA kitchen cabinets just to hear “nothing”. (Yay for soft-closing!)

And don’t get me started on the super configurable drawer dividers, fittings and accessories. All just soooo organized!

Then I go home, glare at my kitchen and sigh …

My Metod Makeover - Kitchen before

My current kitchen is my first

But we’ve lost a lot of love. When I moved into my apartment 16 years ago, I didn’t know very much about the way kitchens should flow or understood how I preferred to prepare food and cook. But in time I learnt a thing or two and cooked many more meals.

My Metod Makeover - Kitchen before 2

It’s a custom built and it’s not an awful kitchen. Not by a long shot. The white laminate kitchen cabinet doors show no signs of yellowing or chipping.

It has adequate countertop space, does offer decent storage and does abide to the working triangle rule (even though I knew nothing about that then).

Layout wise, it’s an open plan. Next to the kitchen is my home office. And further down, is my living room. (Not in picture) Because it’s so open and the first thing anyone sees when they come through the door, it needs to at least look neat. Being handsome would, of course, be a bonus.

While the current kitchen is adequate, there are a few things that irk me.

The jaundiced countertop:

It’s a solid surface. At installation, it was white with grey specks but it has aged ungracefully. Besides that, my mom branded it with a hot pot. See halo below. This sickly yellow is one of the main reasons for a new kitchen because every time I look at it, I lose all appetite.

kitchen before - yellowed worktop

The small prep area:

I like to prep on the left of the sink, which somehow works better for right-handed me. The space I have now is too narrow. I manage but in this case, more is more.

kitchen before - counterspace

The kitchen cabinet door that won’t fully open:

This is the thing that really pissed me off and got me into a fight (verbal, not the fist kind) with the contractor. Look at this.

kitchen before - problem door

The handle of the next cabinet gets in the way. And he said it was my fault for choosing those troublesome handles.

I said it was his mistake for not adding a spacer between the 2 cabinets. He said … I said … you know how that went …

Lack of organization options:

It has 8 drawers. The other cabinets are mostly shelves. Stuff are stacked on top of one another. And it’s a chore trying to get stuff out from the back of the cabinet. It works but not the best.

My Metod Makeover - limited drawers

Besides all that it has been with me for 16 years and I want a blast of fresh laminate air. When the chance to collaborate with IKEA Malaysia on the METOD kitchen came up, I jumped at it and so it began …

Now, one thing to note, it is easier to set up IKEA kitchen cabinets from a blank slate. Since I had an existing kitchen, it involved the extra step of dismantling the old.

I started planning with rough measurements, but after the old cabinets were taken down, I had my space re-measured for accuracy and to make sure the plan fits well and takes into account all the inlets and outlets.

Buying an IKEA kitchen seems daunting at first but it’s pretty straightforward as detailed in this 4 step guide. The IKEA Kitchen Planners are also more than happy to assist and guide you along.

Step 1: Measure

After the old kitchen was removed, I made an appointment to have my site professionally measured, because ’tis better to err on the safe side. Hafiz from CT Art (IKEA Malaysia’s approved contractor) gave me a sketch with all the numbers pencilled in. It cost me RM65 (approx. USD16).

IKEA kitchen site measurement sketch

If you don’t want to dish out the dough, you can measure on your own. Measure the width, length and height of your kitchen space.

Indicate the height of tiles (see dotted lines in pix above) and include any other walls and obstacles. Also measure the water inlet and outlet and where all the electrical points are. If the existing points do not fit your design, you will need to get them moved before the installation.

I have this huge box which hides the plumbing from upstairs. This is a problem area as I’m not allowed to block access to the pipes. No cabinets for this corner.

kitchen before - plumbing

Step 2: Dream and plan IKEA kitchen cabinets config

This is the fun part. First thing I did was set up a Pinterest board and went pin crazy.

I then downloaded a copy of the IKEA Kitchen Buying Guide (or you can pick up a copy from the Kitchen Department). This is the METOD bible and offers an excellent overview of what the system entails.

The IKEA kitchen cabinets and drawer sizes, configurations, interior fittings, lighting etc. I pored over it like a good student. You may not need to but my brain can’t seem to function till I get a good grasp of all the components. Only then can I piece them together. Being new to the METOD system having this brochure was a huge plus for me.

Next, I signed up for the IKEA Home Planner. Khairul, an IKEA Kitchen Specialist, helped me enter all my wall and ceiling dimensions to create the floor plan and I was all set to put my dreams in motion. (Side note: The IKEA Home Planner is not only for kitchen planning, you can also use it to plan your dining space, office and bathroom.) 

I thought the plan for my IKEA kitchen cabinets would be done in 2 days but little did I know, the Home Planner is actually a black hole in disguise.

Once you get sucked in, you pretty much get lost till you crawl out on the other side, usually with squinty panda eyes and coffee jitters. There is no end to the tweaking. The options to change and customize is both dizzying and exhilarating at the same time.

Well, I’m glad to emerge alive, wresting two solid kitchen plans from it. *Fist pump* Take a look:

IKEA Kitchen Design 1: U-shaped cabinets with storage sideboard

IKEA Home Planner - kitchen plan 1

This keeps to my current layout but with an update. I moved the sink from current position to the adjacent wall. I’ve had a fair bit of washing boo-boos, with water and soap splashing onto my work area, so this should solve it.

IKEA Home Planner - kitchen plan 1

I also had a moment of epiphany – “Why keep it within the current area?” I added storage along the left wall, eating into my entryway, thus expanding the overall space of the kitchen.

For this space, I used four IKEA kitchen cabinets (for walls) to create a hanging sideboard, which will also serve as a landing catch all.

Next to it is my fridge. Not the best place but I can’t find anywhere else to slot it. After that is a line of low base cabinets that double as storage units/ dining bench when I have guests over. With cushion and pillows added at later stage.

Cons: The wall where the cooker hood is hung used to be covered with cabinets, so there’s some patching up to cover the old scars. I will also need to spend money on a nice looking T-hood. I don’t fancy where the fridge is. Not the best view when I enter the main door.

IKEA Kitchen Design 2: L-shaped with kitchen island

This design gives my kitchen a totally new flow. I’ve lined the walls with a L-shaped countertop and turned the focus onto a slim kitchen island/ breakfast bar. (One of my kitchen fantasies!)

I moved the fridge out of the left corner (where the washing machine is now) to the right wall, giving me at least 2 additional feet of countertop space. Beyond the fridge is a row of hanging IKEA kitchen cabinets for work related storage.

I’ll line up my work desk next to the kitchen island, galley style. Besides that, I like how easy it is to move from one spot to another as well as how it stitches up my kitchen and work zone into one, rather than cleanly separating them like the current kitchen.

IKEA Home Planner - kitchen plan 2
IKEA Home Planner - kitchen plan 2

Cons: There is a lot of re-laying of pipes to change the position of the sink. My washing machine is snug under the countertop and between the IKEA kitchen cabinets. I fear the day it breaks down (again!) It has had 4 repairs in the past few years, so I’m worrying ahead. (Actually, this is an con in Design 1 too.)

Decisions, decisions…

Both designs do give me what I want — more countertop space, ample storage, worktop lighting and larger food prep area. At the moment, my heart is leaning towards the Design 2 but who knows, things may change as I tweak along.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you too. What’s your experience planning an IKEA kitchen? Do share the good, the bad, the cautions, the must-haves, things you would have done differently, dos and don’ts?

Next post, I’ll talk about the IKEA Home Planner and the tricks I gathered from using it. I’ll also move on to Step 3 and 4 of the buying process. So come back for the next My METOD Makeover update.

See other posts in my IKEA kitchen series:

How to use the IKEA Kitchen Planner

How I use IKEA kitchen accessories to organize my kitchen

My kitchen command center in IKEA kitchen cabinets

IKEA Kitchen – The Reveal

Disclosure: IKEA Malaysia is the sponsor of my new METOD kitchen. However, my experience and views on the IKEA METOD range are entirely my own.