Kitchen confidential: Bespoke option for a fraction of the cost

Smart ways of customising your Ikea kitchen on a budget – high style at reasonable prices

When architect James Crowley renovated his tiny cottage in Dublin 7, an Ikea kitchen was the most cost-effective option for his rebuild.

“Ikea designs are ingenious. They offer smart drawer internals and use Blum, one of the world’s leading fabricators, to make their hinges. The downside is that everyone’s home looks the same.”

So, he sought to cook up fresh ideas by adding creative flair to his shop-bought carcasses.

“I wanted something that looked a bit more unique. I wanted to use plywood; architects love exposed materials and plywood gives you modern, sharp edges, rather than the soft edges of more traditional kitchens,” he explains. To do that on a one-off basis, he would have needed to get a specialist joiner involved and that would have cost an estimated €25,000 to €30,000 back in 2018 when he did the works – and even more now.

So he opted for what was available.

“White-faced plywood is pre-laminated and the cheapest you can buy. It costs about €100 per sheet versus about €250 per sheet for any other colour,” he explains.

He then got in touch with his friend, digital fabricator Michael McLaughlin, whose expertise is in 3D design and printing, and he made the doors for his Ikea kitchen.

The kitchen not only had to be cheap, but it also had to be shoe-horned into a small and unusual space. The ground floor only extended to 35sq m (376sq ft) and all told, the kitchen took up about 10sq m of this. He also loves to cook so wanted the space to be able to do so. It was in the centre of the property and encompassed the volume under the stairs. “I’ve designed bedrooms that are bigger than that,” he laughs.

Choosing a light colour also helped to bring light into an area at the centre of the property.

Crowley’s own home turned out to be a prototype, as from this living laboratory, he hatched a new business for himself, McLaughlin, and another friend.

Comprising architect Feargal Foley from Mayo, who is his fellow director at practice Foley + Crowley, and McLaughlin from Donegal, they created Modoco (the name is an amalgamation of the first two letters of each of the three counties that they hail from – Crowley is from Cork).

The trio needed more options than just Crowley’s kitchen, so they asked some of their clients if they might be interested in trying out the concept, to become, in effect, guinea pigs for their hacks.

Now available for sale, the limited range, which is compatible with Ikea’s Metod kitchens, includes a lovely khaki green, a near black style and zesty yellow countertops, which form part of the five sample styles that they have constructed as tests. As there is no physical showroom, you have to choose your options online.

You can choose plywood faced with Formica, linoleum or fenix, or just straight-up plywood. Using a range of materials and finishes the price will depend on which combination you go for.

Individual components such as a dishwasher front will cost €240, while a standard cutlery drawer front costs €110. These prices are the same regardless of which handle you go with, be that a handless or integrated option or the styles sold on the website.

These are more expensive that their Ikea comparables, respectively €85 and €35, which exclude handles, but the Modoco styles are made entirely of solid wood.

It was a couple in Dublin 7 that went for the most vibrant combinations that pairs canary yellow with cyan blue. Ikea internals such as carcasses, drawers, plinths and panels for it cost about €1,265, and Modoco doors, fronts, plinth and panels for kitchen and island cost about about €6,275, so the total cost was about €7,500. A small apartment-sized kitchen, of say five units, will cost from about €2,150, including the Ikea carcasses.

The fabricated fronts and counters arrive delivered to your door and require self-assembly, a thought that may have many readers running for the hills. But fear not; anyone who can assemble an Ikea kitchen can do it.

Hacking also allows you to refresh an existing kitchen, to give it an outward refresh reusing your existing carcasses. This cuts down on the so-called fast fashion element of the built-in kitchen that many tear out and dump in a skip to replace it with new versions of the same.

There are thousands of Ikea kitchen hack ideas online and some stand-out companies within this customisation industry.

Several well-established companies, which typically combine with Ikea Metod and Faktum kitchens, are Stockholm based, starting with Superfront, whose fronts, handles and legs let you create custom kitchens, sideboards, wardrobes, bathroom furniture and storage units – all using Ikea’s internals. The company claims that you can create more than 14 million different combinations of furniture, thus making it easy for you to create something unique. Kitchen doors range from about €100 to about €290, depending on the style you choose. The vertical reeded look is particularly alluring, as are the textured fronts which include fish scale, graphic and harlequin patterns. There is about 50 different door-handle styles from which to choose.

These range in shape from bars, to ball shapes, leather pulls and push openings with the holy-wafer shapes, and little elipses in gold, possibly one of the most delightful. These range from about €20 to €47 each for the more standard-size doors. The company says that fronts, sides and a counter for a small kitchen of say six or seven units long, can cost from about €2,850 upwards, while the same options for a medium size kitchen with a small island will cost from about €4,770 upwards. These prices will depend on your door choices and are ex delivery to Ireland.

Noremax is another. Its more standard door fronts, not the fridge-freezer and pantry presses, range from about €89 to €134 each, and you will need to factor in side panels and tops as well as delivery charges.

The third Stockholm-based company is Pretty Pegs, which deals in handles and legs only. It is super specialised, supplies a wide array of forms, from supermodel long to squat shorts, like those of us that have beef to the heel like a Mullingar heifer. Fresh new pins for existing cabinets range in price from about €13 to €44 each, while knobs and handles for presses start from €6 to about €26, all ex-delivery.

Dubai-based Fronteriors is another notable option that can ship to Ireland. It is in the process of integrating international shipping rates into its website in order to streamline the delivery process, which will be live within a few weeks.

In London, Fiona and Tom Ginnett set up Holte kitchens in Hackney. Former designers of luxurykitchens, they now calculate the carbon emissions of every one of their creations, and also sell a range compatible with some of the Swedish chain’s carcasses. Their latest Dorset Road project, for example, artfully mixes colour and texture. A small, seven-cabinet galley style will probably start from about €7,000, while a medium size with island will be in the region of €12,500, ex delivery from the UK. You will also have to factor in assembly.

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