Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Choosing Cabinets: the Perfect Kitchen for 50% Off!

If you checked out Jenn's the last post, you know we were looking for a shaker cabinets in white with butcher block counters or natural wood shaker cabinet with white stone counters. Shaker doors meant pretty much every brand of cabinet was open to us. I decided to compare Shenadoah cabinets from Lowes, Barker cabinets, and Ikea cabinets.

The Shenadoah cabinets from Lowes were the first we considered. The kitchen designer did a great job refining out kitchen design and drafting it into CAD. She pointed out the features of the cabinets which included fancy pull outs, dividers, and a smooth running lazy susan. We had the price quoted in a white painted shaker door style and it came to $11k not including installation. Not. Going. To. Happen.

Hoping to save some money, we decided to try the ready to assemble (rta) cabinet route. Ikea is the heavy weight when in comes to rta cabinets. I could do an entire post about the benefits of Ikea cabinets, but there are hundreds of reviews on Apartment Therapy, Houzz, and Consumer Reports; most people agree - they rock.

I used Ikea's kitchen planner software to help me layout our kitchen design. I like to tinker and I had about a dozen different cabinet layouts in the planner before we decided on one. Ikea only has two solid wood door choices in a shaker style - Grimslov and Bjorket.

Ikea -  Grimslov Brown

Ikea - Bjorket
We started using the Ikea Kitchen Planner right as the Akurum line of kitchen cabinets was on its way out after 25 years and was being replaced by the new Sektion line. The new modular design of the Sektion cabinets meant we could mix and match wall cabinets to create our pantry:

Once the design was completed, the kitchen planning tool gave an accurate quote. There were 23 cabinets in total... a huge upgrade from our original kitchen's cabinet count of 5!

Ikea Cabinet list

Base Cabinets:

  • 1 - 36" dbl door sink
  • 1 - 12" sgl door
  • 1 - 18" sgl door sink
  • 1 - 30" 4 drawer
  • 1 - 24" 4 drawer
  • 1 - 15" 4 drawer
  • 1 - 37" corner lazy susan

Pantry Cabinets:

  • 1 - 24"w x 30"tall x 15d sgl door
  • 1 - 24"w x 30"tall x 15d door/dbl dwarer
  • 2 - 24"w x 20"tall x 15d sgl door
  • 1 - 18"w x 20"tall x 15d sgl door
  • 1 - 18"w x 80"tall x 15d dbl door

Wall Cabinets:

  • 3 - 36"w x 20"tall dbl glass door
  • 2 - 36"w x 15"tall dbl door
  • 1 - 21"w x 30"tall sgl door
  • 1 - 21"w x 20"tall sgl glass door
  • 1 - 18"w x 30"tall sgl door
  • 1 - 15"w x 30"tall sgl door
  • 1 - 15"w x 15"tall sgl glass door

The price for the cabinets in Grimslov Brown came to  $4956; in Bjorket the price was $4357. Those quotes had us feeling a little better after the Lowes heart stopper.

While we like the price of the Ikea kitchen, the door styles were not quite what we had in mind. The Grimslov Brown was a little dark, the Bjorket a little too light. We wanted something closer to natural unstained cherry or alder:

Kitchen with Alder Cabinets
Between natural cherry and alder we decided to go with alder because it doesn't darken with age like cherry and it is significantly cheaper. Barker Cabinets, a rta cabinet shop from Oregon, consistently came up on Houzz when we tagged dream kitchen pictures. They had fantastic reviews and they carried select alder cabinets.

Barker Cabinet Specs
Barker uses frameless cabinet construction very similar to Ikea. The differences between Ikea and Barker cabinets:
  • Barker's cabinet box is made from cabinet grade plywood vs Ikea's use of MDF. MDF is actually more dimensionally stable, but not as water resistant as plywood. Many posters on Houzz think plywood looks better aesthetically - I agree; though it doesn't necessarily mean the cabinets are better quality as many high end cabinet makers in Europe choose MDF. Barker's plywood and Ikea's MDF are both formaldehyde free and made in the USA.  
  •  Barker makes dovetailed drawer boxes with Blumotion slides. Ikea uses Tandembox Plus drawers. The drawer mechanisms are identical and both have soft close, but I have to say that I love seeing dovetailed drawer boxes when I open a cabinet!
  •  Barker uses Blumotion cliptop hinges with integrated soft close vs Ikea's use of Blum cliptop hinges. The hinges are nearly identical but the blum cliptop hinges need a door dampener to be clipped to the hinge to make them soft close. 
  • The MAJOR difference - Barker cabinets are available in any size down to quarter inch increments! Ikea cabinets are only available in 3 inch width increments.   
The customization of the Barker cabinets meant I could fine tune our Ikea design. A 36 inch wall cabinet could be changed to 37-1/4 and reduce the need for fillers, and smaller cabinets could be combined to save a little money. We wanted cabinets that went all the way to our 9ft ceilings. With Barker, I had the option of using 50 inch tall wall cabinets (option 1),or 30 inch tall wall cabinets with 20 inch glass cabinets stacked on top (option 2) similar to our Ikea design.

Barker Cabinet List

Base Cabinets:

  • 1 - 36" dbl door - farm sink
  • 1 - 9" sgl door
  • 1 - 18" sgl door for prep Sink
  • 1 - 30" 3 drawer
  • 1 - 24" 3 drawer
  • 1 - 15" 3 drawer
  • 1 - 37" Lazy susan cabinet

Pantry Cabinets:

  • 2  - 23.5"w x 72"tall cabinet sgl door
  • 2 -  23.5"w x 30"tall wall sgl door

For wall cabinets there were 2 options.

Option 1: Tall wall cabinets with solid doors that go to the ceiling:

  • 2 - 39"w x 50"tall wall dbl door
  • 1 - 27"w x 50"tall wall dbl door
  • 1 - 15"w x 50"tall wall sgl door

Option 2: Stack two wall cabinets and have glass doors on the top:

  • 2 - 39"w x 30"tall wall dbl door
  • 1 - 15"w x 30"tall wall sgl door
  • 2 - 39"w x 20"tall wall dble glass door
  • 2 - 27"w x 20"tall wall dble glass door
  • 1 - 15"w x 20"tall wall dble glass door

Option 1 - in select unfinished alder came to $6499 (15 cabinets)
Option 2 - in select unfinished alder came to $7318 (21 cabinets with glass uppers)

The price for high quality rta cabinets was still significantly less than our quote at Lowes, but was still 30-70% more than our Ikea quote. We really liked the custom look available from Barker, but would it really function that much better than the Ikea kitchen we built at our Condo?

The best of both worlds?

How could we get the look of the Barker cabinets for the price of Ikea? Combine the two!

Ikea cabinet boxes and drawers - $2324
Barker select alder doors -           $1681
Blumotion Hardware -                 $284

Grand total -                                 $4289

There is not a lot of information out there on combining Barker Cabinet and Ikea Sektion boxes. That is coming to you in our next blog post!


  1. What a great post, thank you! What about fill and end panels? Did Barker custom make those for you? Any tips on Sizing them to fit with IKEA? Do you happen to know if they will do a specific paint from Ben Moore?

    1. Erica,

      If you are staining, you can order PureBond veneer plywood through the Home Depot Pro Desk from Columbia Forest Products for about $90 a 4' by 8' sheet. Print this pdf and take it with you to help the Prodesk out:

      Cut the plywood down to size with a table saw and edge band it with the closest color match of FasCap PVC Fastedge:

      Barker can custom make the end panels by just ordering plank style doors in the sizes you need; but it is going to be pricy compared to buying plywood. You can order the nominal sizes corresponding to what IKEA suggests (look at the dropdown menu):

      I would suggest waiting until you have the cabinets installed and custom cut plywood for your end panels, fillers, and toe kicks. In our old house, the panels and fillers had to be scribed to match our not so square walls.

      Barker does not do custom paint matching. If you have your heart set on a specific color, paint the doors yourself or find a local cabinet shop to do it for you. Instead of plywood end panels, you can buy MDF at Home Depot for $40/sheet and paint them to match your doors!