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The One Thing I’d Do Differently If I Were Starting Our House Remodel Today

I absolutely love DIYing and building things myself. And I take great pride in being able to envision something like a piece of furniture, and then take it from concept to completion with my own two hands and a few tools.

And example of that would be the six-drawer console table that’s in our entryway. I did a very quick and simple drawing of what I wanted…

…and then I built the thing from scratch. I was so proud of how it turned out!

I built that back in 2018, and it’s still in our entryway today. I did give it a little makeover a couple of years ago, so it looks a little different today.

So that’s the kind of thing I find a great deal of satisfaction in spending my time building. But there are other things that I’ve spent my time on over the years that I look back on and think, “Why?” Looking back, it doesn’t seem like there was any real benefit to building it myself from scratch other than bragging rights. But now, I wish I had forgone the bragging rights and just made things faster and easier on myself.

What am I talking about specifically? Cabinets! If I could start at the beginning of our house remodel today, the one major difference would be my approach to all (or most) of the cabinets in our house. Specifically, I’d use IKEA cabinets.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m now a huge fan of IKEA cabinets. I had never had any experience with them at all until I began working on my studio, so I’m a recent convert. 😀 But when I installed them on the long 20-foot mural wall in the studio, I became an instant fan.

They’re easy to put together, and they function very well. All of the doors and drawers are soft close, and there are so many customization options available that I’ve only just begun to delve into. Also, all of the doors and drawer fronts are three-way adjustable (in/out, left/right, up/down) so that you can get the spacing just right.

It’s not that I’m unhappy with my DIY cabinets. My pantry cabinets are just fine. But I look back at all of the time I spent building my pantry cabinets from scratch, and while they turned out nice, I could have saved so much time and frustration by using IKEA cabinets.

Walk-In Pantry – After

And I have to admit that there’s part of me that wishes I could come up with a really good excuse for why I need to tear out these pantry cabinets and redo with IKEA cabinets. 😀 So far, I haven’t thought of a good excuse, and I highly doubt that I can come up with one other than, “I want…“. And that’s not really a good excuse for tearing out perfectly good and functional cabinets. I’m okay with that. I really am satisfied with my pantry cabinets.

I just really like consistency. And knowing that I probably will one day relatively soon have a new IKEA kitchen, I do long for that consistency into the pantry. But again, I highly doubt that that will ever happen. I just can’t justify the cost…and the waste it would produce.

We’ve already talked about the kitchen, and especially how inefficient and basically unusable the upper cabinets are on this wall.

unfinished stock oak cabinets used in my kitchen remodel
Kitchen – After

I won’t feel any guilt at all removing the inexpensive stock utility cabinets that I used to remodel our kitchen 10 years ago (because that’s literally all we could afford at the time), and replacing them with new IKEA cabinets. I’ll find a good home for these cabinets. Someone else can put them to good use, and I’ll replace them with functional IKEA cabinets that can actually hold a dinner plate, and hopefully a whole lot more! 😀

But do you know where else I wish I had used IKEA instead of building from scratch? The closets in our guest bedroom (which is our main bedroom for now).

guest bedroom - finished - closet and window wall

I would bet money that if I went back and read comments on posts I wrote about planning these closets, I’d find at least a few comments from people suggesting that I use IKEA Pax wardrobes instead of building from scratch. But back then, I was still turning my nose up at anything IKEA. I just hadn’t had any experience with IKEA products (beyond our butcherblock countertops in the condo kitchen), so I just couldn’t imagine that such mass-produced cabinets or wardrobes could be worth having in our house.

So I did what I do, and I built the closets from scratch. I put the doors on a track to slide open to the side rather than open on hinges. It was a fun build. I enjoyed the process, and I learned some things along the way.

guest bedroom diy closets - 12

But once again, now that I have my own personal experience with IKEA cabinets and I know how much I love them, I look back in hindsight and wish that I had saved myself the time and effort of building from scratch, and had gone with the IKEA Pax wardrobes.

Every time I see another person reveal their new Pax closet, I want to place an order and swap out these DIY closets for Pax wardrobes. And again, it’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong with the DIY closets, but the possible customizations available with the Pax wardrobes make them so user-friendly and ideal.

While I will probably never get my IKEA pantry (which, again, is perfectly fine because I’m content with what I have), I really have started considering the possibility of swapping out the guest bedroom closets for IKEA Pax wardrobes. And, of course, our new bedroom will have an entire wall of Pax wardrobes on the wall shared with the bathroom. I’m so excited about customizing all of that storage space.

So that really is the one big thing I’d change if I were starting this home remodel today. I’d go with IKEA cabinets and wardrobes at every opportunity. Never mind building from scratch when IKEA makes it so easy! It’s funny to me how I went from turning my nose up at the mention of IKEA to absolutely loving IKEA cabinets so much that I’ll very willingly tell anyone and everyone about them, and I’ll do so without anyone paying me. I wish I had taken a chance with them 10 years ago!



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  1. Using IKEA cabinets may have saved time, but I doubt they are as well made as the cabinets you made, nor do they look as nice.

      1. Of course Kristi totally customized hers color wise as well as trim, etc. They are perfect for her now. If there was any worry about strength she would have added what might be needed…that’s what I would do as well. I do think the kitchen cabinets are awesome, and they have more features available than I have seen anywhere. I would have LOVED to have the gray Kitchen display I saw years ago, but I will be stuck with the builder’s cabinets in our down-sized house. 😁 But my closets will be IKEA planned.

  2. I just finished a project in my living room with IKEA cabinets. I used wall cabinets as lower cabinets. I cut down the 30” to 25”, which was easier than I expected. Then I built bookshelves above the cabinets on either end. I had originally planned to build the lower cabinets but decided to use IKEA because it would be so much faster. I don’t know how it compares cost wise, but I know about time wise!
    I’m glad to hear you’re an IKEA convert! They really are good.

  3. We did an IKEA kitchen in 2015 (sold home, which was later destroyed by hurricane), but we loved that kitchen! Hidden drawers, great features utilizing space, and 15 inch uppers really give so much extra space without infringing into the room. If people are too much of a snob, they can add custom doors from at least a couple of cabinet companies, while still getting all the great features from the boxes👍
    I’m currently looking for places to use the PAX closet system 😊

  4. I’m happy you love your IKEA cabinets, but I would much rather make my cabinets (as I have for my kitchen and bathrooms). I enjoy building them and like that I can use quality materials and the inside of my cabinets are so pretty as the outside. IKEA cabinets may save time but they are definitely not quality, they are made from Particleboard, Particle-and fiberboard with honeycomb paper filling (100% recycled paper), Plastic edging, Paper foil. I guess I’m an IKEA snob. 🙂 But, one of the best things about owning our own homes is we get to do what makes us happy.

  5. You are absolutely right. We have done 3 kitchens with Ikea cabinets, just small galley kitchens, but they have always been square and straight and have never failed us. And lowered the cost of a kitchen reno. I would never use anything else.

  6. I will be very very intrigued to see how they hold up to heavy use. I have loooottts of IKEA items with varying durability. Usually I think of their furniture as temporary solutions for people in a budget not a lifetime setup.
    My sister just redid her kitchen with IKEA and she currently loves it. I’m just hoping they hold up. She did have to drive two hours to pick everything up and the first order was missing one door so she had to make two trips but she saved a bunch of money!

  7. Ikea cabinets get/got such a bad rep-mostly from those who have never used them. I have used them in 4 different kitchen remodels -1 was almost 20 years ago and those cabinets are still looking good and working for my brother who had 4 children at the time of the reno. Basic white shaker style doors were a great choice-when my son did his kitchen almost 10 years ago-he didn’t want white, so we did a wood tone, and although the cabinets themselves are in perfect condition, the kitchen does look dated to me-but there are options with paint or new door fronts-the boxes are perfect and the layout of the kitchen just works. The price of custom kitchen cabinets are just not worth it to me.

    1. We have also used PAX and Billy Bookcases-and added moldings to make them look very upscale and have never regretted it.

  8. When my ex and I were building we used IKEA cabinets in the kitchen. They didn’t have a door/drawer front that we liked at the time so we built our own out of MDF and trim. I’d love to swap the doors and drawer fronts out now (because I’m bored and have painted them 3 times) but it wouldn’t be a straightforward job because we modified some of the cabinets to fit our situation and we have a couple of cabinet carcasses that we built ourselves and moved from our previous rental and accommodated them into the overall design.

    All that said – I wouldn’t swap out the cabinets for anything. They are well built and have taken a beating over the last 23 years. The interior fittings have held up wonderfully – the wire racks in the pantry and the drawers in some other units. I’d recommend them to anyone. I have friends who have both IKEA kitchen and PAX cabinetry and have had for years. No issues there either.

    I have had to swap out one cabinet – the big sink one – because I got a leak and sustained some water damage. That’s it.

  9. Mmmmm, we have PAX wardrobes, Billy bookcases, and chest of drawers (don’t remember the name but they are similar to PAX in both look and materials.
    Kristi, you have much more storage space than me, perhaps you drawers and shelves are not as full as mine. The backs of furniture and the bottoms of the drawers are flimsy. I had to take apart all the drawers and flip the bottom upside down, because all the bottoms had bowed down from the weight. And I don’t keep anything particularly heavy in them, just clothes.
    The back of one of the wardrobes has detached and is warped, gapping at one of the corners.
    So, no, I would rather build my own cabinets than buy IKEA again.
    As for IKEA kitchen cabinets, the last time I looked, there is no gab between the back of the cabinets and the wall. Which makes the fitting very difficult if your walls are not perfectly flat. There is no space to run pipes or electrical cables behind the cabinets either. If these are not problems, the IKEA kitchen cabinets are as good as any stock cabinets. For a house with solid masonry walls as ours, I would be coushes.

    1. We have PAX wardrobes and like them but you do have to be careful how much weight you put on the shelves. They bow more easily than I think they should.

  10. You are a true artist!! Did you ever consider installing those drop down shelf units inside the high cupboards? I don’t know the exact name, but you can just pull and the shelves come down.

  11. However, because you do detailed posts about the build process, you provide a wealth of information for those inexperienced or new to DIY. The IKEA is just a piece of your arsenal!

  12. We recently remodeled a house and replaced the kitchen. I had initially wanted IKEA cabinets, but due to supply chain issues, they were saying it would be over 6-8 months to get them in, so we started looking at other options. We got a bid for custom cabinets that was completely out of our budget and didn’t have any of the nice features that IKEA has. Then we went to a kitchen design place and they provided some “semi-custom” options that were still more expensive than IKEA, but also without the nice features, and had horrible reviews online saying how cheaply made they were. We ended up waiting over a year, and then went with IKEA after all. From all the many reviews we looked at online, the consensus seems to be that the IKEA cabinet frames themselves are about on par with other cabinets in a similar price range, but where IKEA really shines is the hardware options. The hardware is really high quality – far better than anything else we looked at. I was also pleasantly surprised that most of the IKEA cabinet components are made in European countries and even the US.

  13. We have a whole wall in our laundry/mudroom that is exposed wire shelving. It’s a TON of storage, but so stinking ugly! And dirty–the shelving, support, and contents collecting all that dryer lint that manages to get every where over time. I keep looking for affordable (narrow) cabinets to just get all that functional clutter behind doors. I’ve look at about every option and keep coming back to Ikea for function and price. I’m hoping 2024 will be the year of the laundry room for us! Thanks for sharing your Ikea cabinet experience. Cabinets aren’t cheap, no matter what avenue you go, so I appreciate having an expert’s opinion. 🙂

  14. I have no experience with anything IKEA except the drapes in my living room, because we didn’t have IKEA anywhere nearby until about eight years ago. But they are still about over an hour away, and unless I were planning a huge buy, I won’t make that drive. I had my husband pick up the drapes when he was still working, as he was in the general vicinity one day. Love the drapes, but I thought they were washable and found out too late that they weren’t! I lost about 2-1/2 inches on them, so I bought some rings with clips and hung them from those, which gave me back 2 inches, good enough for me! But I know everyone raves about their furnishings being nice quality and easy to assemble. The Petersons (Young House Love) are big fans, and they have used them in many remodels, so has Layla Palmer (Lettered Cottage.) If I ever plan to redo a room, I’m keeping them in mind!

  15. I put in an Ikea kitchen in circa 2002 and the only thing I didn’t love was my insecurity about having an Ikea kitchen. Now I fantasize about putting in an Ikea kitchen in my current home and will have no such insecurity. If I did it today, I’d probably choose door fronts from https://www.semihandmade.com/ which only makes doors for Ikea frames. I agree it’s satisfying to build something from scratch, but if I add up my time, Ikea is still a bargain for furniture too.

  16. I am so happy to hear your positive opinion of IKEA cabinets. I’ve been thinking of redoing my kitchen with IKEA cabinets but I just wasn’t sure about the quality. They have such cool options and accessories!

  17. I have found the Pax shelves don’t support nearly as much weight as those I make of plywood and the backs are less firmly attached than in the kitchen line.

    If you just really love the interior options (drawers, special shelves etc.) for the wardrobes, I would consider making the cabinets yourself and just ensure they are the same interior dimensions as the Ikea Pax. I agree though, the kitchen cabinets are fabulous.

  18. Kristi,
    I love the way the studio cabinets look. I love the way all your self built cabinets look just as much.
    Seeing you build them gave me the courage to do the same in my home. So if you hadnt done that my courageousness wouldnt have happened. So thank you for showing me and lots of others that it can be done. Im not a beginner. I already had the tools and had built a studio in a out building. I used random cabinets from Habitat Restore, And altered them to my needs. But, l had to learn as l went and you helped! Thank you!

  19. Kristi, I was one of the people who encouraged you to look at IKEA products for the studio. I have purchased several cabinets and shelves for my craft room, and they are perfect and gives me so much storage. Over the years I have shopped there occasionally, as the nearest IKEA store for me is at least 2-1/2 hours away, so we don’t get there as much as I would like. BUT, I think the quality is fine for what I need, and you go so much further to customize the color and look, yours are incredible. I have had a bookcase for at least 15 years, and still perfect. (lived through several moves as well) I am so happy you have found them great as well, and I am planning to put all those closet solutions to good use in our master closet as well. It’s so nice to have the biggest part of all that cabinetry done, and just customize what you want. I think it’s a no-brainer! 😂

  20. I have had quite a pieces of Ikea furniture in my life and I am rather divided on them. First of all, their quality, esp. in the last 2 or so decades, has decidedly waned. My Pax wardrobe of more than 20 years has never had doors which closed properly, assembly was very difficult and it it’s fairly wonky these days. The Ikea kitchen in the house we moved into a decade ago has aged badly in some places and it is utterly ridiculous how much work repairing it would require (nearly taking the whole shebang off before getting to the broken bits). and there is more….
    I enjoyed your posts on Kristi-styling the studio cabinets, as that gives hope and advice to those of us who are not able to build furniture from scratch and still like to customize their (boring, functional) Ikea furniture.
    But going back on all the gorgeous and solid stuff you built over the last 10 years just because you find Ikea helpful these days left me a bit breathless with astonishment. I’m pretty sure that everything you build by yourself like the wardrobes in your current bedroom are WAY better than Ikea stuff! And – that might be as important: had you started out with Ikea furniture, I for one wouldn’t have been as much intrigued by your blog as I am. Your can-do attitude and the explanations when building your own make you so very special! Ikea is out there in every home of people who cannot build and design, and there are loads of hacks to improve on it on the internet. Your USP is tackling everything so uniquely and without Ikea!
    That doesn’t mean I’m not following you anymore if from now on you use their stuff, because I’ve come to admire your blog and advice far too much! But I really love the fact that you go beyond that bland, one size fits all and industrial approach when it comes to furniture, and hope that there will still be typical handmade, high end Kristi projects around in the future.
    (I really hope this does not come across as rude or impolite; it is not easy for me to put this subtly in a different language, but be assured that I mean it as admiration and appreciation of what you do and criticism only of that furniture mass producer…)

  21. Your work is outstanding and you can be proud of the product you produce. Don’t tear out the guest bedroom closets. Pretty soon you will be sleeping in your own bedroom and probably won’t even go into the guest bedroom closets for anything. No reason to spend the money or time redoing that.
    Instead, think of finishing the studio and porch. Designing your tool workshop is something you could think about. Yes, tear out carefully the little narrow cabinets in your kitchen and replace them with something useful. Someone some place will be glad to get them.
    Just be content with what you have. Hindsight is always 20-20.