If you look at the small print below photographs of gorgeous designer kitchens in housing magazines, you’ll notice many of the spiffiest cabinets are made by Ikea. Ready-made cabinets from the Swedish retailer, best known for kitting out dorm rooms and first apartments, are becoming increasingly popular. Sure, they look great in photos, but one has to wonder, are they built to last?
According to architect Andre D’Elia, the answer is an unequivocal yes. Not only does he have an Ikea kitchen himself, but he’s used them in the homes of several clients. “The primary reason to use Ikea is the relatively low price,” he explains. “But for the price, it’s still good quality.”
Yes, Ikea kitchens are built with MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard)—but so are most kitchens, both off-the-shelf or custom. Plywood and hardwoods are prohibitively expensive and MDF is strong enough to handle the wear, tear and humidity common in most homes. “It’s funny, Ikea is still trying to shed the image of the makers of the flimsy, wobbly Billy Bookcase,” says architect Heather Dubbledam, “but I’m happy with my Ikea kitchen and my clients are happy with theirs.” She says that thanks to Ikea’s extensive purchasing power, it has been able to partner with Blum, a top-quality German hardware manufacturer that supplies the company’s door hinges and drawer runners.
There are some hidden costs though, warns Robert Koci, publisher of Canadian Contractor magazine. It can be difficult to install ready-made (as opposed to made-to-measure) cabinets in older homes where the things aren’t perfectly straight. “You might think you will spend $6,000 on your Ikea kitchen compared to $10,000 from a competitor,” says Koci. “But ultimately, you’ll have to spend more on a contractor to put in extra time so it all works properly. It will still be affordable, it just won’t be dirt cheap.”—Matthew Hague