When it comes to customizing an Ikea kitchen, cabinet fronts tend to get the bulk of the attention. (And for good reason: With numerous options on the market, it’s easier than ever to achieve a variety of decidedly high-end looks.) But, it should be noted, there are other impactful ways to elevate your system—in many cases, without professional help, should the desire to DIY strike.
The secret? Direct your focus to the details. “I’ve designed a lot of Ikea kitchens, and you would think you could call that out: ‘That’s Ikea!’” says Bay Area designer Gina Gutierrez of Gina Rachelle Design. “However, with thoughtful attention to detail, you can make a luxe kitchen that no one would guess was built from off-the-shelf components.”
Ready to finesse your kitchen’s finer points? Here, we’ve rounded up five tricks designers swear by for an instant Ikea upgrade.
1. Swap out (and switch up) your hardware.
“There are so many good options from big-box stores that look high-end but come at a very affordable price point,” says interior designer and star Bobby Berk. “You can take it up a notch by having a few different styles of hardware on different doors: lower doors get knobs, lower drawers get pulls, uppers get latches. That will give your cabinets a custom look without the custom price.”
2. Install floating shelves.
“Once cabinet design is mapped out, I start to think about the ‘jewelry of the kitchen,’” says Gutierrez. Among her choice accents? A set of floating shelves. Not only are they functional, providing easy access to everyday items, they’re an opportunity to bring a bit of personal style to the space. In addition to staple pieces, use these open surfaces to display treasured ceramics and glassware, or your favorite artwork.
3. Add a soffit.
“Unless you’re incredibly lucky with your existing conditions, there will be some sort of space between the ceiling and the top of your upper cabinets,” says New York City-based designer Kevin Greenberg of Space Exploration. “If I could offer only one piece of advice, it would be to build a soffit down to meet the tops of the upper cabinets. This gives a much more built-in and custom appearance to the kitchen. Otherwise, that airy gap between cabinet and ceiling not only gathers dust, but also underscores the fact that you chose pre-fabricated components.”
Note that unless you’re an experienced craftsperson, this task is better left to professionals.
4. Source appliances and fixtures you love.
“The more unique the elements that adorn or flank your Ikea kitchen, the less it will read as a democratically-priced, mass-manufactured product,” Greenberg continues. “A great range can make a big impact, and a panel-ready refrigerator and dishwasher can help convey a custom look.” Remember that smaller swaps—like a statement faucet, chosen to complement your kitchen’s overall aesthetic—can elevate the appearance of a space, as well. Greenberg’s go-to? A gooseneck model with a separate side sprayer.
5. Get playful with paint.
“I’m a huge proponent of adding a little flair with paint color,” says Boston designer Dane Austin, who incorporated robin’s-egg blue walls to offset the dark Ikea cabinets in his former kitchen. “There’s no greater way to change the look and feel of a space than with paint. It’s a great way to dress up a space but still remain cost-conscious.”