12 ways to Make an Ikea Kitchen Look Custom

​We renovated our kitchen a few years ago, and in order to save money we used Ikea cabinets and DIY’ed the whole thing.  I did not want the end product to scream IKEA, though, so we did quite a few things to customize our kitchen.  Over the years we have used Ikea kitchen cabinets for things beyond cabinets as well.  I thought I would round up 12 ways to make an Ikea kitchen look custom!  

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Modern Traditional Kitchen with Beige and black cabinets, tongue and groove backspash, walnut butcher block, soapstone and marble backsplash
Finished DIY kitchen using Ikea cabinets

Table of Contents

1 – Upgrade Cabinet Doors to make your Ikea Kitchen Look Custom

This has got to be my most recommended hack.  This is the one I recommend above all others and is a great way to make your kitchen look more custom.

Ikea does have some pretty good doors, but they are highly recognizable.  They also vary in price and quality, they have cheaper doors and more expensive ones.  Using custom cabinet fronts and drawer fronts on Ikea Sektion cabinets will elevate your kitchen immensely and make it look a lot more custom.  

Modern Traditional Kitchen with Beige and black cabinets, tongue and groove backspash, walnut butcher block, soapstone and marble backsplash
Handles KnobsCurtain FabricCafe Rod Faucet

There are quite a few different companies that do this now.  I chose a company called Allstyle Retrofit, and I chose them because they paint their cabinet doors any Benjamin Moore paint color that you want. 

I am the type of person that needs to fine-tune my colors and sample 10 different ones before I get what I want, so the ability to choose any color swayed me towards Allstyle Retrofit!  There are numerous options for different doors like Semihandmade Doors, Swedish Door, Nieu and Kitch, to name a few.  Each company has different door styles and colors so it’s a matter of choosing which one has what you want.

Modern Traditional Ikea Kitchen with Beige and black cabinets, tongue and groove backspash, walnut butcher block, soapstone and marble backsplash
We used custom doors in the colour Indian River and Jet Black, both by Benjamin Moore

The cost of custom doors does not add a ton of extra cost, either.  The cost of most of these door fronts is just slightly higher than the cost of Ikea’s most expensive door line.  

My cabinet colors are Benjamin Moore Indian River and Jet Black.

2 – Consider New Ways to Stack or Combine the Cabinets

When you are in the Ikea kitchen planner you are led down the path of traditional cabinet installation.  Lower cabinets and upper cabinets, with the standard depths and dimensions for everything.  

This is a good place to start when you are planning your layout.  However, I would encourage you to think outside the box with how cabinets can be used.

I wrote a whole blog post on standard kitchen dimensions and what is considered standard size for most things, and you can read all about that here.

But sometimes you want to do something a little different for a more custom look.  In my kitchen, I wanted hutch-style cabinets to sit right on the counter.  To do this, all I had to do was stack 2 – 40″ cabinets one on top of the other on the countertop.  

Modern Traditional kitchen with stacked cabinets as uppers
These uppers consist of 2 – 40″ upper cabinets stacked on top of each other on the countertop. We then added 60″ and 20″ doors

I have seen people create a really great option for an appliance garage using Ikea wall cabinets put on it’s side on the countertop with hinges that lift the door up.  This is a really great example by Michelle at @phillipingourhome.  

I love this appliance garage that Katie did at House with Home, not only did she line the inside of the cabinet with wood (swoon!) but she also hinged the doors so they fold open like a bifold.  So clever!

Katie from House with Home Customized her Ikea pantry with a bi-fold style door!

When I was planning my kitchen, I had a Pinterest board full of dream kitchens which were very custom and expensive.  Then I took elements that I wanted to incorporate and had a look at Ikea cabinets to see how I could build them up to get the look I wanted.  

You can read more about my tips on standard kitchen dimensions here!

3 – Customize Your Island to Make your Ikea Kitchen Look Custom

Similarly to building up vertically, you can combine cabinets of different depths and widths to make your own custom island! You can read all about how to make an island out of Ikea cabinets here!

Ikea kitchen cabinets with no counter from above showing how they all fit together to make an island
Our island was made up of different cabinets and some spacers to make it what it is

4 – Consider Upgraded Inserts

Ikea has some great organization options but then some of them are… well, not awesome.  I didn’t like Ikea’s garbage pull-out, for example.  

I upgraded the garbage pull-out to this one by Rev-a-Shelf.  I like how the bins sit in the wood frame and attach to the door mid-height instead of Ikea’s bottom-mounted one, which feels a little flimsy.

Garbage pull out in an ikea kitchen cabinet
I bought a nicer garbage pull-out and retrofitted it inside the Ikea cabinet

I also added a corner pull-out into the blind cabinet corner and I love that so much!  It was really quite a splurge but it is much nicer than the lazy Susan type of pull outs that Ikea has.  I wrote a whole post about corner cabinet options here!

Corner cabinet pull out extended outside of an Ikea kitchen
I love this blind corner pull out, it was a bit of a splurge but worth every penny!

5 – Get Creative with Fillers to Make Your Ikea Kitchen Look Custom

Filler pieces are going to be a part of your kitchen renovation if you go with Ikea, there is just no getting around that. 

However, you can be strategic about where and how you place your fillers to make it look a lot more intentional. I wrote a whole blog post about customizing your fillers here!

Back of an Ikea kitchen island showing the strategic placement of filler pieces
I spread these fillers out in the back of the island so they looked intentional and were not all on one side

6 – Consider Outlets

This is not really specific to Ikea but it’s a good overall thing to remember when planning any kitchen.  Consider where you electrical outlets are going to go, especially on a kitchen island, and plan for that. I wrote a blog post about outlets in the kitchen, and you can read more about that here!

End view of a black island showing a skinny cabinet with an outlet above, with arrows indicating the best location for an outlet
We added a skinny cabinet at the ends of the island so that we would have a spot to put the outlet

7 – Upgrade End Panels and Decorative Panels

This is where you are really going to be able to customize your kitchen.  Once you have the general layout of your kitchen, there are going to be places where the side of the cabinets will show.  

For example in my kitchen, I have an end panel on the base cabinets and top cabinets on one end of my kitchen, and large island side panels on either side of my island.  

Once my layout was complete, I worked with the kitchen designer at AllStyle Retrofit to come up with some custom panels.  These take a basic Ikea Kitchen to the next level.  

Kitchen with no counters showing the installation of the large side panel for the island
I had the island end panel made up by my cabinet door company, You could also make your own using MDF sheets, planks, beadboard, etc.

Even if you can not splurge on custom panels like the ones we built on the end of the island, you can buy MDF panels and paint them to match your cabinets to give them a finished look.  

We created our corner appliance garage cover panel and custom hood all using large sheets of MDF that we painted ourselves and a little trim for a fraction of the price that it would have cost to have these made by the cabinet door front company.

Modern Traditional Kitchen with Beige and black cabinets, tongue and groove backspash, walnut butcher block, soapstone and marble backsplash

8 – Upgrade Your Toe Kicks to Make Your Ikea Kitchen Look Custom

Upgrading your toe kick to flush or custom ones makes a huge difference to how your kitchen feels!  I wrote a whole post dedicated to planning and installing toe kicks here!

Cut out decorative toe kick, beige cabinets, black soapstone counters in front of a kitchen sink
I made my toe kicks flush and did a removable one in front of our dishwasher.

9 – Upgrade Your Hardware

Hardware choice is so important for the overall look of your kitchen.  Upgrading to nicer hardware is instantly going to elevate things.

​Choosing nicer hardware is always going to pay off in the long run.  Hardware can get fairly pricey but if you look at the overall cost compared to your kitchen renovation, it is a drop in the bucket!  You just saved all that money using Ikea, take a little bit of that savings and put it into really lovely hardware that you touch and see every day. I wrote a whole post about planning kitchen hardware here!

Close up of kitchen cabinets and hardware
Upgrading your hardware makes a huge impact

10 – Upgrade Your Backsplash

Backsplashes are another area that I think is worth the splurge, or at the very least, careful consideration. 

In my kitchen, I have a custom marble backsplash (that I cut myself!) behind the range and an inexpensive tongue and groove panelling behind my sink.

Marble octagon and dot tile behind a stove and a built in spice rack
I added a marble backsplash behind my range

I also had the countertop company cut me a little curved backsplash behind my sink which didn’t cost much more but adds a lot of character to that space.  You can read all about how I cut the marble octagon and dot backsplash here and all about our soapstone countertops here

Modern traditional kitchen sink with shelf above and curved soapstone backsplash
I had my countertop company cut a curved stone backsplash behind the sink and used inexpensive painted tongue and groove for the rest of this backsplash wall

11 – Build in Your Fridge to Make your Ikea Kitchen Look Custom

One of my favourite upgrades we did in our Ikea kitchen was to make our fridge look built-in.  We pulled the cabinet over it out so it would be more in line with the fridge, and then added a filler panel on either side to cover all of that up.  

Having my fridge not stick out like a sore thumb brings me an unreasonable amount of joy!  You can read all about how we built in our fridge here!

Kitchen with Fridge built with fillers all arounda nd deep cabinets over the fridge, beige cabinets with a stove nook beside the fridge and built in spice rack and marble tile
We pulled the cabinets that were over the fridge forward and used some cover panels on the side to make our standard fridge look more built in

12 – ​Customize your Cabinet Sizes

I always try to make stock sizes work to save on labour but sometimes they just DON’T FIT.  Don’t be afraid to cut down a cabinet to make it work!  Especially if you are doing custom fronts, you are able to have the door made to match your newly adjusted cabinet.

That was sort of a last minute decision but it has become a really functional little spot in our kitchen! I wrote all about how we cut down an Ikea cabinet to make a skinny cabinet in this post!

A skinny 4 1/2" ikea cabinet opening showing a cutting board inside, in a black island cabinets
We cut an Ikea cabinet down to make a skinny little cabinet in a spot that would have otherwise just been a filler. this also gave us a spot to put the outlet. We store cutting boards in this one!

Add In Some Custom Details

If you are an avid DIY type, take inspiration from custom kitchens and see if there is anything that you can incorporate or build into your design. Or hire out a carpenter if DIY is not your thing, as long as you can dream it up you can find someone to help you build it!

We took advantage of the dead space in the corner by building this custom sliding stone tray. You can read all about how we did that here.

appliance tray pull out for coffee maker and toaster pulled out in a corner cabinet

We also built in a little spice rack into the wall next to the stove. It took less than 4″ of space but it is so handy and it’s really a lovely feature! The tutorial on how we made this one can be found here!

DIY Built in Wood and brass spice rack wtih black and white marble backsplash and black countertop
DIY spice rack

Kitchen Cabinets are not just for Kitchens! Why I Use Them Everywhere

We have used Ikea Sektion cabinets in a few areas of our home, including the mudroom and the office.  

Mudroom with door closed, shiplap, wallpaper, basket hanging on wall
HooksHandlesBlue PillowBrown PillowWhite PillowBasket WallpaperTile

We are planning on adding some more Ikea cabinets to the office in the next few months too!  

​Don’t be limited by the thought that these are labelled kitchen cabinets.  What they are are boxes that can be used for a multitude of things.  

Built in Desk into a nook area with cabinets above and a library ladder

I prefer to use Ikea kitchen cabinets instead of some of Ikea’s other products or build them ourselves.  

Starting with Ikea boxes means most of the work is done for you.  Putting them together is easy.  They are sturdy, and made out of 3/4″ thick material that have a 25-year warranty!  

The Ikea hinges and drawer slides are made by Blum. That means they are the same high quality you would get from a high-end cabinet company but for a fraction of the price.  If you use Ikea cabinets, installing the doors and hinges is much easier than if you were to build them yourself, as all the holes are pre-drilled in the right location.  

Ikea sells a multitude of inserts, organizers, and extras for their cabinets and you can add to them at any time.  I recently added a second interior drawer in the cabinet next to my stove to keep my lids.  

And if that is not reason enough to use Ikea cabinets, they are affordable!  Saving money while still having a dream kitchen is the best part of all!  

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