...because home doesn't happen overnight.

IKEA studio organization 1

I’ve been working to add more function and organization to the studio. The space is essentially one big room with no closets or closed storage. Thinking outside the box, I built a dry bar and made over a large armoire to create hidden storage. When it came time to load the drawers and shelves, I knew I wanted to incorporate a slew of baskets and bins along with other organizational accessories.

IKEA is one of my go-to sources for affordable and versatile small storage items. I have a mix of fabric and woven baskets from IKEA in Mabrey’s room and various boxes, bins, letter trays and magazine files (all from IKEA) in the kitchen office. Our kitchen is outfitted with many IKEA pieces as well.

It just so happened in the midst of making my shopping list for the studio, I was asked if I would be interested in becoming an IKEA brand ambassadör. Seeing as how I’ve been regaling you all with my fondness for the Swedish company for, oh, six years or so, I was very interested. To make a short story even shorter, I happily signed on to be an IKEA brand ambassadör. I liken it to the marriage of Brad and Angelina. IKEA and I have been living together happily for many years. Why not just make it official? It’s official! Not much will change on my end. I will still only share IKEA products that I would use regardless of a partnership, but the difference is I am being compensated to share those products. I just thought you should know.

My role as an ambassadör actually began a few months ago when I participated in an online program to learn more about the history and mission of IKEA. It was so interesting! Did you know that IKEA is an acronym (Ingvar Kamprad, Elmtaryd, Agunnaryd) incorporating the founder’s name + the name of his family’s farm + the name of a nearby Swedish village? Or that Mr. Kamprad was passionate about life at home and would often visit other people’s homes and open their closets and drawers for inspiration? Or that the flat pack concept started when a designer took the legs off a table to fit it in her car? Or that a product design always starts with a price tag?

There are all these little backstories that have influenced the company in many ways, but the mission has always remained the same: to create a better everyday life for the many people. IKEA enforces this philosophy of democratic design by focusing on five key elements: form, function, quality, price and sustainability. Who knew so much thought went into a lamp or basket?!

Anyhow, let’s get back to organizing. Isn’t that what everyone does in January?

I finished my shopping list and made a quick trip to IKEA. (I strongly suggest making a shopping list before going to IKEA. Otherwise, you will be distracted. You will be tempted. Stay strong. Make a list and stick to it.) My local store is ~25 minutes away by minivan. It’s a blessing and a curse.

IKEA studio organization 3

IKEA studio organization 2

I grabbed two VARIERA flatware trays for some of the smaller drawers in the dry bar. They fit like a glove. I use one to corral kitchen paraphernalia (think break room > kitchen) and the other holds frequently used DIY supplies. Steve gifted me a portable tool box and a bunch of tools. I can’t tell you how convenient it is to have my own tools. Before, I was lugging stuff back and forth from our garage to the studio in paper bags.

IKEA studio organization 5

I grabbed a MAXIMERA drawer divider for each of the 36″ drawers. The drawers are deep and roomy. The dividers provide separation and keep loose items from sliding around. I used a variety of VARIERA boxes in recycled plastic and sustainable bamboo to corral everything from snacks to office supplies to toilet paper. The top drawer near the mini fridge holds kitchen items like paper plates, dried fruit and dish towels. There’s no water supply in the studio but there is a shared sink down the hall. When I need to wash dirty dishes, I grab the dishwashing box with dish soap, dish towels and sponges, place dishes in the empty bamboo box and go. I keep a few snacks on hand for me and the kids. We haven’t had any issues with mice in the warehouse and I’d like to keep it that way, so open food goes in TILLSLUTA bins with lids.

IKEA studio organization 4

The other top drawer holds cleaning and office supplies. I keep extra toilet paper on hand because no one likes being stranded in a stall with no toilet paper. The little bamboo box in the bottom right-hand corner is the designated “restroom box.” It holds a roll of toilet paper, hand soap and hand towel. (The shared restroom in the warehouse sometimes has soap but often times does not. I like to be prepared.) It has a nifty little handle which makes it easy to carry down the hall and back. The larger bamboo box in the upper right-hand corner holds notebooks, note pads, pencils, rubber bands, post-its, tape and other office supplies.

IKEA studio organization 6

The bottom drawers are mostly empty except for a few vases and pots which are kept in check by the drawer divider. I like having room to breathe and grow. I’d love to share the studio with other creatives.

IKEA studio organization 8

Speaking of vases and pots, they’re also items I particularly like scooping up at IKEA to hold greenery, fresh flowers and even crayons. The SINNERLIG pitcher is great for watering plants or serving drinks.

IKEA studio organization 9

I thrifted the brass bowl for 99¢ and plopped a vase of flowers inside for a layered look. The teeny wood bowl was another 99¢ thrift find that serves as a drop zone for keys.

IKEA studio organization 10

With the dry bar in working order, I turned my attention to the entry. I brought in a SORTERA recycling bin, and the space was in dire need of hanging storage for a broom, dust pan, coats and bags. I picked up ten BJÄRNUM hooks, spray painted them satin black then mounted them to a piece of timber salvaged from our home renovation. I made two hook racks consisting of five hooks each and hung them at adult and kid heights on a sliver of wall between the door and a concrete column. After they were finished, I realized I should have staggered the hooks on the bottom rack. Live and learn.

IKEA studio organization 12

I sanded down the boards but didn’t stain or seal them. I used wood screws to attach the hooks to the boards. I thought about disguising the stainless steel crews with black paint but ultimately decided I like the contrast. It is a warehouse so metal accents and raw wood feel right at home here. Even so, I could totally envision these hook racks in a living space.

IKEA studio organization 11

Each hook actually features two hooks so items can be hung in front of or behind one another to double the hanging capacity. One neighboring studio rehabs mopeds; the other is a rotating art gallery. Inevitably, grease, grime, paint and sawdust migrate into the space. It’s so great to finally have a place for hanging everyday items and keeping them off the floor.

IKEA studio organization 14

I love how the storage armoire turned out. To make it more functional, I loaded it up with a ton of baskets and bins.

armoire organization

The bottom serves as a mini garage of sorts and houses leftover paint, a tool box, a few battery-powered tools, a bucket, my sewing machine and looms.

IKEA studio organization 13

The upper portion holds crafting and sewing supplies along with paint and fabric samples. I left the lids off the KUGGIS boxes so they can hold even more. They’re 21″ long which means they extend to the back of the armoire and minimize wasted space. They’re made of recycled PET plastic, an added bonus. The SKOGSTA box is made from renewable acacia and is beautiful. It’s great for grabbing supplies from the cabinet and carrying them elsewhere to work on projects. The MÅLA paper holder and watercolor paints keep Mabrey occupied for hours. (Cheaper than a babysitter!) I love the texture of the MAGGA seagrass baskets against the black cabinet. Again, there’s plenty of room to grow as I take on more projects. I can easily move things around as needed for maximum efficiency.

IKEA studio organization 15

I wanted to hang a noticeboard of some kind on the interior side of one of the doors, but everything I found was too deep or too wide and would have interfered with the door closing properly. When I spotted the AVSKILD cork placemats ($4 for a 4-pack), they sparked an idea. I used wood glue to glue two placemats together, front to back. The result is a pair of noticeboards thick enough to push a tack through yet thin enough for the doors to close properly. Problem solved! I used damage-free hanging strips to attach the noticeboards to the door. They’re perfect for displaying photos, to-do lists and project ideas. I used an adhesive hook to hang a calendar on the inside of the other door (seen in the gif above).

IKEA studio organization 16

The new storage zones ensure that there’s a place for everything. With portable baskets and bins, nothing is permanent so I can easily switch things up or move things around if necessary. Everything is so functional! Finally!

What are some of your favorite pragmatic items from IKEA? We use the BEKVÄM step stool on a daily basis. I use it to reach items in cabinets above the microwave and fridge. Steve has used it as a stand-in step ladder for home projects. The younger kids use it to help out in the kitchen. Sometimes Mabrey even sits on the bottom step and uses the top step as a “table” to eat her lunch. Cheetah likes to nap on it next to the humming refrigerator.

*I am a brand ambassadör for IKEA. This post sponsored in part by IKEA. I received product and payment for this collaboration. IKEA is a registered trademark of Inter IKEA Systems B.V. and is used with permission. The views, ideas and opinions expressed here are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

IKEA studio organization 14

After building a dry bar in the studio to store items you would normally find in a break room or desk drawer, I was still in need of closed storage for craft and DIY supplies, basic tools, fabric samples and paint swatches. Essentially, I needed a freestanding closet. I spent a few weeks searching Craigslist for large armoires. I was looking for something solid and sturdy with clean lines and a cheap price tag that I could tweak with paint and new hardware.

armoire tweak 1

Enter this beast. I scored it for $100. It’s difficult to visualize the scale in photos, but, believe me, it’s BIG. And heavy. When Steve and I unloaded it, Mabrey promptly claimed it as her “room.” She fits inside easily. Tiny house living? Kidding.

armoire tweak 2

In its previous life the armoire was used as an entertainment cabinet, but the solid wood construction, cavernous interior and adjustable shelving made it a perfect candidate for storage, too.

armoire tweak 3

The wood finish wasn’t all that bad but in the context of the space (there were so many different wood tones in the studio already) I knew I would like it better painted. I imagined it as a tall, dark and handsome cabinet. So I removed the hardware, doors and shelves, scuffed the surface with a medium grit sanding block, wiped it clean and gave it a few coats of Valspar Reserve latex primer + paint color-matched to Sherwin-Williams tricorn black. (We used this paint color on the front door of our previous home. It’s moody with blue undertones.) I used a 6″ foam roller and angled trim brush to apply the paint. I opted not to paint the adjustable shelves because I figured they would get scratched up anyway. Plus, I really like when warm wood and dark paint play together.

armoire tweak 4

I reassembled everything and replaced the original scroll-like knobs with these sexy leather pulls. I probably could have DIY’d something similar with a belt, but I’m so glad I splurged on the pre-made version. The pulls are thick and robust and I really like the simple stainless steel hardware. The honey leather looks so rich and dreamy against the black paint. I did have to trim the length of the included screws for a proper fit but that was the only real work involved. It’s pretty much guaranteed that anything I would’ve whipped up would have been waaaaaaaay subpar compared to these.

armoire tweak 6

As you can see, I left the brass hinges as is. Mixing metal finishes is okay! Even on the same piece of furniture! The paint is semi-gloss which makes it easy to wipe down and ideal for furniture.

I’ll be sharing photos of the armoire’s interior in an organization post later this week. In the meantime, let’s talk more about Mr. Tall, Dark & Handsome. I would gladly put him in my house if I had room. Have I mentioned how sexy those leather pulls are? They remind me of this kitchen.

People! There are so many entertainment armoires out there waiting to be repurposed. As flat screen TVs become more and more mainstream and boxy tube TVs fall by the wayside, large secondhand media cabinets like this one are in high supply. Instead of using them to hide media components, I could totally see them housing toys, books, craft/office supplies and clothing in nurseries, playrooms, craft rooms, offices, dens, family rooms and bedrooms. Get creative with interior organization: hanging rods for clothes, baskets for toys/diapers, labeled clear plastic bins for craft supplies, a pull-out shelf for a printer or laptop, etc. The possibilities are endless. #savetheentertainmentarmoire

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

nebraska home

It seems the consensus is that you guys would like to continue seeing and reading about IKEA kitchens regardless of which cabinet line – AKURUM (previous) or SEKTION (current) – is featured. For that reason, I will continue to share the best of the bunch that come my way. Thanks for reading!

Obligatory preamble rambling: When we were renovating our kitchen, I searched high and low for any information I could find on IKEA kitchens. The results were few and far between. We did end up with an IKEA kitchen (which we love) but I’d like to shed more light on IKEA kitchen renovations from the perspective of other real life homeowners. It’s something I wish we would have had access to when we were considering IKEA for our own kitchen remodel. Plus, it’s fun to see how others use IKEA to suit their personal style and needs in the kitchen. I hope you find these posts helpful and inspiring – whether you ultimately end up with an IKEA kitchen or not. Enjoy!

ikea nebraska kitchen before 3

ikea nebraska kitchen before 2

ikea nebraska kitchen before 1

In 2013 Nicole, a maker of small batch home goods, and Adam, an engineer, bought a 1910 fixer-upper in a small town in Nebraska. Along with pulling up old carpet and cheap laminate, refinishing the original hardwood floors, painting the exterior (black!) and adding new landscaping, they completely overhauled the kitchen. Working with a limited budget, the couple retained the original floor plan and used IKEA cabinetry mixed with natural materials to achieve a look they describe as “rustic modern.” The couple recently sold their Nebraska house and made a cross-country move to Philadelphia for a job transfer, but Nicole was kind enough to share more about the renovation just before the big move. Read her thoughts and see the beautiful results below!

(FYI – Nicole and Adam’s kitchen was a finalist in the amateur category of the 2015 Remodelista Considered Design Awards. It’s even more inspiring when you know what the kitchen looked like before and how much work the homeowners put into the project!)

ikea nebraska kitchen after 1

ikea nebraska kitchen

ikea nebraska kitchen

Which items in your kitchen hail from IKEA?

The cabinets, door/drawer fronts, interior organizers and range hood are from IKEA.

What made you decide to source these items from IKEA?

We had some previous experience that we were able to rely on. This is the third IKEA kitchen we have installed! We knew we would be completing most of the work ourselves to stay within our budget. IKEA was a great choice since we could build everything ourselves, and the price point helped stretch our budget. We also found IKEA to be an ideal choice when it came to small town living. With limited local options, IKEA stood out because we could plan, select and order everything online then have it delivered.

Who designed your kitchen? What aesthetic were you aiming for?

I designed the kitchen aiming for a rustic modern aesthetic. Our home was built in 1910 so we wanted the kitchen to feel like it belonged to the rest of the house while still incorporating some fun, modern elements.

ikea nebraska kitchen progress

ikea nebraska kitchen progress

ikea nebraska kitchen

ikea nebraska kitchen progress

ikea nebraska kitchen progress

ikea nebraska kitchen progress

ikea nebraska kitchen progress

ikea nebraska kitchen

ikea nebraska kitchen progress

Did you assemble and install all IKEA kitchen components yourself? If not, what did you seek help with?

Yes, we assembled and installed all of the IKEA components ourselves. The assembly of the cabinets was pretty easy but the installation was dicey at times with our crumbly plaster walls and extremely unlevel floors. We built our own toe kick platforms to raise the countertops a little higher than average. (We are both tall and a friend of ours had done the same thing.) It was very tricky getting things to level out. Instead, I would definitely recommend using the legs or rails that IKEA offers.

ikea nebraska kitchen

How did you customize your IKEA kitchen to suit your needs and preferred aesthetic?

We used the cabinets to set the foundation for the kitchen. One of the choices we made that we have been really happy with was incorporating lots of drawers into the cabinet design. We chose larger drawers over cupboards so that we could easily pull them out and have access to everything within the full 24” depth of the cabinet instead of rummaging around in the back of a cabinet. I would definitely do this again if I were to design another kitchen!

ikea nebraska kitchen

ikea nebraska kitchen progress

We have been working over the past few years to really pare down our belongings to the best and most special things. This drove our decision to give the open shelving concept a try. We sourced reclaimed barnwood from a Nebraska barn to provide a warm and rustic element against the black and white backdrop. I worked with my brother, a designer and fabricator in Oakland, California, to create brackets that mount behind the tile to give the effect of floating shelves.

ikea nebraska kitchen

For the countertops, we wanted something with a matte black finish. Soapstone was out of our price range. We found beautiful brushed granite that popped against the cabinets and subway tile and gave us the look we wanted.

We found a floor model Kenmore Elite integrated dishwasher at Sears for a steal right before we moved into the house so we were able to incorporate it into the design with a door panel from IKEA. We went with a smaller fridge which allowed for more counterspace.

ikea nebraska kitchen

To contrast with the traditional and rustic elements, we incorporated some modern pieces such as the brass hardware, West Elm wall sconces and clean-lined faucet.

How long was it from design to the final product?

I started designing the kitchen a few months before we moved into the house but, due to our work schedules, we didn’t start working on the kitchen for another six months after closing. We completed the demolition and cabinet and countertop install within a couple of months so we had enough of a functioning kitchen to get by. The remaining items such as the lighting, tile, shelving, painting and finish work took about a year for us to complete as we worked on it as time allowed.

ikea nebraska kitchen

How long have you lived with your IKEA kitchen? Have you encountered any problems? Explain.

It’s been a year since we completed the kitchen renovation. So far, so good! The open shelves are super efficient for quickly grabbing dishes and dry goods. The drawers…did I mention those drawers?!…they are the BEST.

ikea nebraska kitchen

What is your favorite thing about your kitchen? Least favorite?

Our favorite thing about our kitchen is that it is so comfortable for cooking. It’s compact size makes everything easily accessible. We’re in love with the finishes. Sometimes we just pet the countertops and gaze fondly at them, and our houseguests do, too. We love being in the room.

Our least favorite thing is that it is a separate room. It would have been nice to open up the kitchen to the rest of the house but it wasn’t in the budget.

Would you recommend IKEA as a source for a kitchen remodel? If so, which items?

Absolutely! The cabinets are great and they have some nice interior organizers. Some of my favorites include the pot lid organizer, the VARIERA door-mounted hanging storage and the baking sheet organizer. We have also used their exhaust hoods in more than one project. They always work well and look stylish. We didn’t use them for this project but I would also recommend their butcher block countertops. We have used them in other projects to top freestanding islands.

Would you consider IKEA for a future kitchen remodel?

Yes! We went with IKEA for this project because, historically, we’ve had success. The tradition continues! We hope to do another IKEA kitchen in the future.

Sources of note:

wall paint – rodeo by Benjamin Moore
door paint – onyx by Benjamin Moore
cabinets – AKURUM cabinets with LIDINGÖ fronts, IKEA
countertops – brushed black granite
subway tile – Menards
faucet – Delta trask pull-down kitchen faucet, Lowe’s
water filter faucet – Amazon
garbage disposal air switch – Amazon
gas range – Kenmore
fridge – Summit counter-depth, bottom freezer refrigerator, Home Depot
range hood – DÅTID exhaust hood, IKEA
ceiling fan – Amazon
wall sconces – West Elm (I painted the backplates matte black before installation.)
rolling butcher block – Goodwood Furniture in Virginia Beach years ago (It has moved with us several times.)
cabinet hardware – Liberty, Home Depot (discontinued)

ikea nebraska kitchen

ikea nebraska kitchen

Thank you Nicole for sharing your kitchen during such a hectic time in your lives! I hope the move went well and that you’re having fun working magic on your new old house in Philly. I can’t wait to see what you do with it.

So readers, what are you taking note of in this kitchen? I think this space is a great example of how you can make a dramatic change without removing walls or shuffling appliances around. Sometimes reconfiguring an entire kitchen just isn’t in the budget, but cosmetic changes can go a long way in bringing more function and style into a kitchen. Optimizing drawer space, incorporating a slim counter-depth refrigerator, paring down kitchen essentials, replacing overhead cabinetry with open shelving and bringing in a freestanding island make the space look and work larger without changing the room’s footprint. I love the black, white and rustic wood mix. The hidden mounting hardware for the open shelving was an ingenious solution. Sourcing veiny, matte granite over soapstone was a smart choice that fit the couple’s aesthetic and budget. And I had no idea the dishwasher cover panels from IKEA could work with non-IKEA appliances! Little DIY details like the black painted backplates of the sconces and the butterfly joinery in the wood shelves draw the eye in for a closer look. The entire space is the perfect backdrop for Nicole’s handmade woodwares. So special!

Be sure to check out Nicole’s shop, Vestige Home, for beautiful wood pieces. Follow her @vestigehome to watch the renovation of her new old home in Philly!

Want more inspiration? Click the “See Real IKEA Kitchens” button in the sidebar to read about all of the kitchens featured in this series.

Do you have a project (big or small, IKEA or non-IKEA) that you would like to share with House*Tweaking readers? Email me at housetweaking (at) gmail (dot) com for consideration. Thanks in advance!

images: Nicole Cole