Home & Style

Diary of A Fixer-Upper: The Kitchen Cabinets

While buying the big, shiny appliances for the kitchen was fun, the cabinets are what brought everything together.

Luckily for most kitchen renovators these days, IKEA offers affordable, stylish cabinets. One of the contractors who came to look at my kitchen early on left me a catalog, with which I spent some serious quality time over the next couple of weeks.  

First, I made careful measurements in the kitchen. I even came to a surprising conclusion: Remember the drywall I removed from the chimney? If I hadn’t uncovered the chimney I would have had an awkward empty vertical space—those few extra inches gave the kitchen wall the length to fit standard cabinets, without a millimeter to spare.

I summoned the skills I learned during my elective drafting class in high school, broke out the ol’ ruler, and started drawing. Then I got out the catalog and turned to the pages of tiny print at the back, where all the cabinet styles were listed. Oh, and were they listed. Two drawer or three drawer? Pantry with drawers or baskets? Thirty or 39” tall?  The choices were nearly limitless, even for my tiny kitchen.

I dedicated a Sunday to it, decided on each piece, and listed every item that I would need to purchase. The only slightly unusual piece I chose was an 8” lower cabinet, which I thought would be a great place for a trash can.

IKEA, naturally, was a huge mess. A very generous friend, whom I probably still owe for doing this, drove me to the store in his SUV on a Monday night. I’d called the day before to clarify some things, to make the purchasing go as quickly as possible, but the rep gave me entirely wrong answers. Luckily, my preparation paid off, and we were able to get all the pieces that night with my precise list (and a little forceful prodding of a reluctant IKEA employee).

By the time we got the 100+ pieces into the car and strapped to the roof, they were turning out the lights in the parking lot. IKEA gives you an inventory sheet for you to double check, which was a big help. Even though my contractors would be doing the installation, I worried that a house crammed with boxes would lead to errors (and more trips back to IKEA for me), so I spent the next day sorting huge bags of hinges and reams of identical boxes.  

The real excitement was coming home over the next few days to see the kitchen in my mind transforming into the kitchen of my reality. The dishwasher and microwave, which had been sitting in my living room for more than a week, were finally unboxed and installed. It may sound funny, but washing the dishes and kitchenware and placing them in their brand new cabinets was perhaps the most exciting moment of this entire fixer-upper process.

To read Heather's home adventures from the beginning, click here. 

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