IKEA Hacks: 6 Ways to Customize Your Kitchen

IKEA Hacks: 6 Ways to Customize Your Kitchen

Many people want a kitchen straight out of HGTV magazine. But the reality? A kitchen demo and remodel can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and the time and budget constraints are out of reach for many North Americans. But – there’s good news! You don’t have to give up on your dream kitchen, or wait till retirement to finally tackle that new look.

By utilizing IKEA cabinet bases for an easy to install, affordable cabinet base, and customizing the exteriors, you can create your own IKEA hack kitchen that costs a fraction of what you see on TV! IKEA’s kitchen system allows you to order their products modularly – so you can get the cabinet bones from IKEA, and customize the exteriors, and some interior accessories to suit your needs.

Upgrade from melamine to wooden dovetail drawer boxes

When ordering your IKEA cabinets, for a custom look that extends beyond your cabinet exteriors – swap your IKEA melamine drawers for custom sized, wooden dovetail drawer boxes and full extension, soft closing drawer slides. The craftsmanship of dovetail joinery and flexibility of custom sizes makes your kitchen chef-worthy kitchen in design and functionality.

For a thoughtfully designed space, consider keeping drawer sizing consistent on adjacent sections of cabinets. Areas like pot and pan stacks and dishware are natural drawers to group together for size and ease of storage. Keeping the lines in a space consistent will make your space feel streamlined and can make smaller kitchens feel larger by avoiding visual distraction.

To upgrade your drawers – remove your drawer boxes from the IKEA planner. IKEA drawers are named either UTRUSTA or MAXIMERA depending on the style you’ve selected at IKEA. Consider the size of drawer faces you’d like when ordering your custom drawer boxes. The height of drawer faces will inform the corresponding drawer box that pairs with it.

Following these instructions, your custom drawers are just a few clicks away.

Use decorative panels for end gables

IKEA cabinets require cover panels for exposed sides of base or upper cabinets, and the sides and backs of peninsulas or islands. Customizing the look of panels by using a faux door (also known as a gable) to create a focal point is the extra step in creating a custom look in your IKEA kitchen.

Sizing and ordering these panels is a straightforward process of measuring the required width and height, considering if the panels will sit flush with or proud to the cabinet doors. To order decorative panels to match your cabinet doors, simply order the required size as a door without hinge boring. These decorative panels are mounted from the inside of the cabinet so that no screws are visible from the exterior for a seamless finish.

Trim out your island or peninsula

Much like end panels, using decorative gables on an island creates an attractive centerpiece for cooking, dining, or entertaining. 

For oversized islands (greater than 48” wide), consider decorative panels in 24” widths for the look of custom millwork. Wrapping the panels onto the sides of the island is a trendy look that lets your island take center stage. For a more minimalist island, consider using flat side panels and leaving the decorative look for only the front and back.

A grey kitchen island with decorative panels and stainless steel appliances.
Adding gables to an island create a focal point in your kitchen.

Add decorative trim or molding to upper cabinets

Tired of dusting on top of cabinets, or have an awkward bulkhead you’re hoping to disguise? Trim work and moulding will be your best friend to hide these areas and make your space feel intentional.

Custom trim pieces can be ordered to fill gaps between the tops of upper cabinets and the ceiling, while decostrip or under cabinet light valence provides a finishing touch to your design.

Incorporate floating shelves to your IKEA design

Custom kitchens typically use a balance of upper cabinets and floating shelves to combine storage needs with opportunities to display decorative items and break up large runs of cabinets. Consider where you can remove one or two cabinets and opt for custom floating shelves to match your cabinet doors.

Common locations to incorporate floating shelves are around windows, on either side of a kitchen sink or range, or in a pantry to store jars full of baking supplies.

While you can’t easily design shelves in the IKEA planner, simply leave blank wall spaces in the floorplan. When placing your custom door order, be sure to select the appropriate shelf depth, and custom length to suit your needs.

A white, open laundry room with shaker cabinet doors, black cabinet pulls, and floating shelves.
Floating shelves to match your cabinet doors create stylish storage space.

IKEA hack your kitchen with a custom door style and color

The beauty of an IKEA hack kitchen is making it completely custom in style and color. When choosing the door style and color combination that’s right for you – consider door styles different than those that are available at big box stores. Choose from 8 variations of shaker doors, a style like our Skinny shaker for a modern look, or Decora for a Tuscan kitchen design.

Our hand-picked paint palette is curated from the top Sherwin Williams paint colors for cabinetry in 2021. Don’t see something you like? Just reach out, we’re happy to complete custom color job for just a small additional fee. Simply send us the Sherwin Williams paint name and color code, and your cabinet doors will be painted custom, just for you.

Large open concept kitchen with white cabinet doors, black handles, stainless steel appliances and pendant lighting.

Your IKEA hack awaits

With a few simple customizations, your IKEA kitchen can become uniquely yours, at a price point well within your reno budget. You might be surprised that you can remodel your kitchen, and take a vacation next year!


IKEA is a registered trademark of Inter-IKEA Systems B.V. and is not affiliated with Nieu Cabinet Doors.

10 Tips to Plan Your Custom IKEA Kitchen

10 Tips to Plan Your Custom IKEA Kitchen

What’s the ultimate design and budget friendly kitchen remodel? IKEA cabinet boxes and custom door faces.

If your cabinet boxes are worn out, damaged, or you need to completely reconfigure your layout, a kitchen remodel might be in order. If you are budget conscious but don’t want to sacrifice on design or quality, using IKEA cabinets for an affordable base with custom fronts can get you that designer look on a budget – and it can be designed, planned, and installed yourself.

We rounded up our top 10 tips to help you get started on planning your custom IKEA kitchen, including handy tips and tricks to navigating the IKEA planner.

All images used for planner guidance in this blog are from the IKEA planner website.

1. Measure your Kitchen Space

Start by measuring the height of the room from floor to ceiling, then the length of each wall. Measure the width and height of windows including trim, their distance from the ceiling and floor, and distance to the nearest corner. Repeat for doors including trim.

Mark down utilities – electrical outlets and switches, plumbing, air vents, bulkheads, drains. If you plan to move any of these utilities, consult a professional to complete the necessary re-configuration.

2. Create your Room in the IKEA Planner

First, create an account so you can save your plan(s) for easy access.

Input your room dimensions, then create and insert windows, doors, partial walls or bulkheads where applicable.

You can even add your plumbing pipes and wall outlets to your design for handy visuals as you plan out your design.

An image of a room layout from the IKEA kitchen planner.
Insert your room size and ceiling height for accurate space planning.

3. Insert Appliances into your Floor Plan

The planning tool has resizable appliances – insert your fridge, stove, dishwasher and vent hood using your current appliance sizes (if keeping what you have), or modify the size to what you intend to order.

Place the appliances at their desired location – noting their proximity to required utilities. If you plan to move water lines or electrical to suit your new layout, don’t worry about locating your appliances where the old ones are!

A resizeable appliance demonstration in a kitchen planning tool.
Insert your appliances to match your exact specifications as core pillars in your layout.

4. Evaluate the Functionality Needs in your Kitchen

Consider how you use your space – do you prefer to access dishware and pots in drawers or on shelves? Do you need tall cabinets for pantry food storage or cleaning supplies? Take note of how you currently use your space, what your pain points are, and what changes would increase the functionality of your kitchen.

A helpful exercise is to make a list of everything you’ll need to find a spot for in your new kitchen. Group items into like categories such as: canned food, utensils, baking trays, cutting boards, etc. Create an inventory so you can check off that these items have a home when you are finished with your new design.

5. Choose your Corner Cabinet Style (If Applicable)

If your kitchen layout will have corners – start by choosing the type of corner cabinet that works best for you. Corner cabinets will affect how much remaining space you can fill with other cabinets, so start with these in your floorplan to save you a headache later on!

IKEA has two base corner cabinet options: Lazy Susan and Blind Corner cabinets, with interior organizers you can choose to your liking.

Five examples of various types of corner cabinets.
Base corner cabinets are either Lazy Susan or Blind Corner style.

Lazy Susan cabinets are L-shaped and utilize 2 doors fastened together to make the 90 degree corner. Blind corner cabinets require two separate cabinets to turn the corner. The blind corner cabinet has an extended width that the 2nd cabinet butts up against creating the 90 degree turn. Depending on how tight your space is, Lazy Susan corners can tuck in nicely where you’re hoping to maximize the rest of your cabinet storage.

For upper cabinets, IKEA has 45 degree or blind corner cabinet options that can be selected based on your design/space preferences.

6. Plan your Working Triangle

A “working triangle” is the zone between food prep, washing, and storage – and typically refers to your stove/oven, sink, and fridge. Having these zones accessible in a triangular arrangement, free of obstruction from islands or peninsulas creates a highly effective workflow, and means you (and your sous chef) can easily travel between the various stages of meal making.

Using the appliances you inserted into the planner earlier, consider how these three are arranged (don’t worry – you can adjust these if needed once you begin to add cabinets). Keep in mind the location of your water lines, gas supply and electrical when placing appliances.

A bird's eye view of a kitchen layout.
A working triangle allows for smooth flow between food prep, cooking, and washing up.
A front view of a kitchen layout showing the workflow.

7. Layout your Base Cabinet Configuration

With your corner cabinets and appliances placed, insert the rest of your base cabinets to fill up your space.

IKEA cabinets come in standard sizes, starting at 12” and available in 3” increments up to 36”. Larger cabinets like 30” and 36” cabinets are typical sizes for sinks, pots and pan drawers, and dishware cabinets.

Start by placing your sink cabinet, then move on to other wide cabinets. Fill in the remaining space with cabinet widths and door/drawer combinations to suit your function needs.

Focus on placement rather than doors vs. drawers to start – you can change the configuration of these later once you have the cabinet sizes determined.

8. Design your Upper Cabinets, Hutches or Floating Shelves

Once your base cabinet layout is settled, consider where (and if) you’d like to add upper cabinets or floating shelves.

Upper cabinets provide great storage hidden away behind doors, or can add a decorative look if used with glass doors

Floating shelves are a gorgeous and on-trend element, and can make a smaller kitchen feel large, but if you worry about keeping shelves neat and tidy – closed doors might be more your style!

Countertop hutches – created out of upper cabinets placed on your counter instead of wall mounted, hutches offer a functional stack of storage without adding congestion to the kitchen. These are a great option for a modern look or if you have lots of windows and want to keep simple, clean lines.

A 3D rendering of a wall of kitchen cabinets and stove.
Upper cabinets provide closed-door storage to hide clutter.

9. Add Cover Panels, Trim and Toekick

Exposed sides of IKEA’s frameless cabinets need to be covered with side panels to hide the melamine cabinet box. To add cover panels – click on the cabinet that will need a side panel, click “More” on the right hand menu, and then you’ll be presented with the locations you can choose a cover panel – left/right or back (for islands). Add the appropriate panel here.

A 3D rendering of kitchen cabinets adding a cover panel.
Cover panels can be added to the sides and back of cabinets.

Cover panels are used for base and upper cabinets with exposed sides, as well as the sides or backs of islands. Additionally, large fridge panels can be used to frame in your fridge beneath a cabinet, and create a more built-in look.

By default, the IKEA planner adds toekick to hide the feet the cabinets rest on – leave this in the plans as you insert your cabinets.

For upper cabinets, you may want to add light valence and crown moulding to your design. The planner calls Crown Moulding “Soffit” and light valence “decostrip” – to clear any confusion on what those mean! They’re added much like your side panels, click on the upper cabinet, click “more” and then select soffit/deco strip if applicable.

A 3D rendering of the soffit and decostrip on an upper cabinet in a kitchen.
Soffit and deco strip (also known as crown moulding and light valence) finishes the look.

10. How to Order your Custom Fronts for IKEA Cabinets

You’ve got a winning design, now how do you make that come to life with custom doors?

Save your plans as a PDF, with “all design views” so we can see your vision!

Check off “Dowload all Design Views” to export your planner PDF.

Next, you can either place your order working from the planner itemlist for the doors, drawer faces, panels, and trim you’ll need from us, OR

Send in your IKEA plans with doors still on – we work from these dimensions to create your quote

Before ordering your cabinets and accessories from IKEA, use the “Change all at once” option to REMOVE the products you’re ordering custom – doors, drawer faces, panels, trim and toekick. This will reduce your order to only the IKEA products you need like cabinet boxes, feet, suspension rail, hinges, drawers and other accessories.

An image showing how to remove cabinet fronts within the IKEA kitchen planner.
The “Change all At Once” option is handy for quick adding or removal of items.

Final tips to make planning your IKEA kitchen a breeze:

  1. Place 2” fillers between cabinets and walls, so your doors open properly without smashing into the wall!
  2. Ensure aisles are a minimum of 48” where doors open on both sides of the aisle so they don’t bump into each other
  3. When adding products into the IKEA planner – click the product, then wait for it to populate in your design. Don’t drag and drop from the item menu – this doesn’t work!

With these helpful tips and tricks, designing and planning your custom IKEA kitchen can be simpler than you think! Stay tuned for the rest of our tips, IKEA hacks and ways to customize your IKEA kitchen for a magazine ready look without the price tag.  


IKEA is a registered trademark of Inter-IKEA Systems B.V. and is not affiliated with Nieu Cabinet Doors.

A Fast & Affordable DIY Bathroom Vanity Makeover

A Fast & Affordable DIY Bathroom Vanity Makeover

Beyond kitchens, bathrooms are an area of the home that we spend more time in than we might realize. Creating a relaxing retreat in your bathroom can provide a place to unwind and reset, and is also something that helps your home value when selling!

Bathroom makeovers can get expensive, and quickly if the whole room is being updated. From flooring to showers and tubs, vanities and accessories, doing a bathroom refresh on a budget might seem impossible.

This featured makeover by @allthingsnew_home walks through how a dated 90’s oak vanity was given new life with fresh cabinet doors, drawer boxes and faces – without ever replacing the vanity unit itself!

Before: Dated 1990s Oak Vanity

The “before” vanity was dated oak with exposed hinges, partial overlay doors, and drawer boxes that had passed their prime – becoming difficult to open with daily use. A refresh as part of the One Room Challenge made it like-new.

We had a very tired 90’s bathroom vanity that needed everything from new drawer boxes, hinges, and doors.

@allthingsnew_home
A photo of an oak bathroom vanity cabinet with tile countertop and flowers on the counter.
The Before: A dated 1990s oak vanity.

Vanity Makeover on a Budget

The old cabinet doors, drawer faces and drawer boxes were removed, and the vanity was measured for full overlay cabinet doors, and new drawer boxes and faces.

With other updates happening in the bathroom to bring it up to date – the door style chosen was our Shallow Shaker in Totally Taupe to create a neutral contrast color with the soft palette in the room.

While waiting for their custom cabinet doors and drawers to arrive, the vanity was given a fresh coat of paint to match the new doors – using the matching paint color to the doors. In this case, Sherwin Williams Requisite Grey was applied to the face frames, toekick and side panels for one cohesive look once doors arrived.

Install of Custom Vanity Cabinet Doors

In as little as an afternoon, new doors and soft close hinges were mounted to the made-over vanity, and drawer boxes and glides installed.

The After: Shallow Shaker in Totally Taupe

Tackling Your DIY Vanity Refresh

Bathroom vanities are a great, small project to try as a first time or seasoned DIYer! In a matter of a few short hours for small vanities, you can make a significant update to the space, without needing plumbers, demo, or hiring out the project.

By saving big with a DIY bathroom vanity project, you can spend any leftover renovation budget on a new mirror, faucets, or accessories to update the space.

If your old oak vanity is looking for a makeover, why not try your hand at a quick refacing project? You might surprise yourself with its simplicity – and can tackle a larger project with ease.

“The new drawer boxes they offer are a high quality and we love how the modern design of the doors really transformed our previously outdated vanity. I highly recommend Nieu Cabinet Doors, and will for sure be using them again for my next projects!”

@allthingsnew_home

HGTV “Cabinets with Attitude”

HGTV “Cabinets with Attitude”

The introduction of our recent collection with Angela Rose Home brought two fresh looks to the timeless shaker door.

Two styles, the Angela Rose Slim Shaker and Angela Rose Slim Shaker Detail are available in 14 standard colors to take your DIY cabinetry project to the next level.

HGTV “Cabinets with Attitude” is the perfect description for this fresh collection that enables you to transform existing cabinets through refacing, customizing IKEA cabinets, adding doors to cabinets you built yourself, or any combination in between.

An image of a tall wall of pantry cabinets in a dark green color, with a woman standing in front.
The Angela Rose Home collection gives your cabinets attitude! Photo by @angelarosehome.

As part of the collection, we’ve introduced three new colors: Only Olive, Dream Dusk, and Bonny Black. These earth-toned neutrals add an accent color to your space, or create a moody and inviting retreat within your home. Paired with white cabinets as an accent color, or stand-alone for a dramatic look, how are you going to give YOUR cabinets some attitude?

A closeup image of shaker style cabinet doors in a dark green color with aged brass handles.
The Angela Rose Slim Shaker in Dream Dusk. Photo by @angelarosehome.

MDF vs. Solid Wood Cabinet Doors

MDF vs. Solid Wood Cabinet Doors

When searching for new cabinets for your kitchen, one of the big decisions you will face is around the material used for the doors. Options are a-plenty and include plywood, particle board, solid wood and MDF. Often the style that you are after will determine the materials used, as each have both unique characteristics and limitations when used for cabinet door construction.

To help debunk some myths and explain the best uses of various cabinetry materials, we’ve broken it down for you by material.

Plywood Cabinet Doors

Plywood is rarely used but can be the material of choice for some cabinet makers when constructing slab or flat panel doors. Furniture grade plywood with a hardwood veneer face layered over a softwood plywood core can produce solid slab doors. A veneer tape applied to the edges will ensure a good match to the fronts. The layered construction of plywood doesn’t allow for the machining of the face so they really are only suited to slab style doors.

A photo of three plywood sheets in a stack.
Plywood creates a strong base for building cabinet boxes, but has limits if used for cabinet doors.

Solid Wood Cabinet Doors

Solid hardwood doors in maple, oak or cherry are commonly used for stained doors where the natural beauty of the wood grain is both enhanced and protected by a professionally applied finish.   Wood doors are strong and durable, and scratches or dents can be repaired with a little sanding and a coat of matching stain. Stained wood doors are a great choice for homeowners wanting a classic looking kitchen using a traditional design that shows off both the beauty and the sturdiness of hardwood doors.

As a painted door however, solid wood has its limitations. As durable as solid wood is, it also has a weakness of expansion and contraction when exposed to varying degrees of humidity. Just like a solid wood entry door that seems a little harder to close in the heat of summer, solid wood cabinet doors will expand in high humidity as they accept more moisture and contract in the winter as the air dries out. Since most cabinet doors are constructed using stiles and rails that frame a center panel, changes in humidity can cause the joints between the rails to shift ever so slightly as the wood expands or contracts.

On a painted door these small shifts between the joints can result in a hairline break in the painted surface resulting in a dark line at the joint. Over time as seasons pass and the wood continues to expand and contract, these breaks can lead to the paint actually chipping at the joints making for a less than perfect looking door in just a few years.

A man installing wooden cabinet doors into a kitchen.
Wood cabinetry has unique variation and texture when left unpainted.

MDF Kitchen Cabinet Doors

MDF, or Medium Density Fiberboard, like plywood, is a manufactured wood product that combines wood fibers with resin. While plywood uses thin layers of wood sandwiched together with pressure and glue, MDF uses compressed wood fibers and glue. When manufacturing MDF, wood chips are sorted, cleaned, and fed into a defibrator that uses rotating disks to break the wood chips down to small fibers. Wax and resin are added and the fibers are then dried and become fluffy. The fluffy fibers are then arranged into mats, and compacted by heat and pressure to form the dense sheets of material available at the local building supply store.

MDF is denser than hardwood and offers a much smoother finish with no grain. This makes MDF an ideal material for making painted cabinet doors. Due to its density and consistent structure, MDF can be machined using high speed CNC cutting tools to create a variety of different 3-D profiles perfect for cabinet doors.

A two-piece shaker cabinet door constructed using MDF will consist of a single piece forming the four-sided frame and another piece used for the center panel. MDF will expand and contract although less so than hardwoods, but since the frame and the centre of the door are made of the same material they move together. With a the shaker frame machined as a single piece, there are no joints to split apart like solid wood rails and stiles. The super smooth and consistent surface of MDF allows for a high-end painted finish, while solid wood doors are harder to achieve a glass like painted finish, as deep grain and knots create rough areas that paint accentuates.

Painted white shaker MDF cabinet doors in a contemporary kitchen.
MDF can be precisely cut, sanded and painted for a glass like finish.

Painted Cabinet Doors

When designing your space with painted cabinetry in mind, a professional looking finish is easily achieved by using MDF cabinetry. Before tackling a large painting job, or ordering solid wood doors to paint, consider the variety of quality cabinet door styles available in MDF. If you’re feeling adventurous, order them raw or primed and paint them yourself!

5 Common Questions about MDF

Is MDF Waterproof?

  • MDF as a material on it’s own is not waterproof. But by painting the surface of MDF it does become highly water resistant and is recommended for use in high humidity like bathrooms and kitchens. It’s also a favorite for cottages to hold strong with hot and humid summers, while staying beautiful in your lakeside retreat!

Is MDF Stronger than Plywood?

  • Plywood is stronger than MDF and for this reason plywood is the choice for floor sheeting cabinet wall construction. The cross graining of plywood makes it an ideal choice over MDF for those areas in the home where weight is applied.

Is MDF a Sustainable Product?

  • MDF is made using wood products that might otherwise be discarded – in other words it is a sustainable use of wood fiber. In most regions MDF is a recyclable product that stays out of landfills and is used for making other wood products.

Is MDF Safe to Work With?

  • When cutting or shaping any wood product dust is created that can cause nose and eye irritation and MDF is no different. Protective eye-wear, dust masks and proper ventilation are always recommend when working with any wood product.

What is the difference between one piece, two piece, or five piece MDF cabinet doors?

  • One piece doors are manufactured by routering out the cabinet door design from one piece of MDF. Due to the way they are made, it is more difficult to achieve precision in cutting and sanding in tight areas like corners or where the rails and stiles meet the center panels.
  • Two piece doors consist of a frame made from one piece of MDF, and a flat center panel inserted into the frame. This method produces doors that allow for easier finishing, are less prone to warping, and provide a more stable finished product.
  • Five piece doors are created with each rail and stile cut and assembled in a frame, and attached to a center panel. These doors have more seams which can result in a less stable door at the corners than a two piece door.

If a custom looking painted kitchen is what you’ve always dreamed of, choose trusted MDF products to bring your kitchen refacing project to the next level.