How to Customize Ikea Furniture

February 6, 2014 | Alex

Continuing with my Ikea kick this week, I'm rounding up the best ways to customize your KARLSTAD, BESTA, AKURUM...you name it! The handy have long embraced the DIY opportunities presented by Ikea's modular, flat-pack approach. But many of the best Ikea hacks require access to power tools, a certain level of know-how, and-- most importantly-- enthusiasm for messy and physically demanding projects. For example, Jenny Komenda's recent PAX hack for Domino Magazine-- total knock-out transformation, but fairly involved for the average adult.

If you're not quite as DIY savvy as Jenny (and how many of us are?), there are a lot of "plug-and-play" customization options out there. The big caveat, as always with Ikea, is that not all are available in the US. And those that are often come with heavy duties tacked on. But notwithstanding the geographical limitations, I think it's just brilliant that a whole cottage industry is developing around Ikea customization!

Here's a run-down on the companies I'm familiar with:

Customize_Ikea_Furniture.jpg

Sources: 1. Bemz | 2. Superfront | 3. Pretty Pegs | 4. Superfront | 5. Shaker Cabinets by Semi-Handmade (via Smitten Studio) | 6. Bemz

+ BEMZ | Swedish company Bemz sells slipcovers for Ikea products. The website is designed so that you can search for your product by name and then preview their multitude of fabric options. Most Ikea textiles are synthetic, so an upgrade to a high-quality cotton or linen (or velvet!) can go a long way towards increasing comfort and longevity. If you like a more relaxed look, their line of "loose fit" slipcovers is very pretty. Another bonus is the range of premium textiles by major scandinavian designers, including Stig Lindberg, Göta Trägårdh, Stellan Mörner (#1 above) , Marimekko (#6 above) and more! Note: Bemz does ship to the US, but be prepared to pay double once you factor in duties. Add an item to your shopping cart (with your shipping address entered) for the real cost. As an alternative, Georgia-based Knesting offers slipcovers for Ikea furniture, but their offerings are much more limited.

Bemz's Collection of Loose Fit Slipcovers

Bemz's Collection of Loose Fit Slipcovers

+ SUPEFRONTSuperfront (also Swedish) is geared towards customizing cabinetry, like kitchen cabinets, PAX wardrobes and BESTA sideboards. The main draw, as the name suggests, is their array of "fronts" (in vibrant lacquers and mod patterns), but it's a soup-to-nuts operation-- fronts, hardware and legs...even marble and limestone tops for sideboards. They have some beautiful door handles, but keep in mind that because Ikea requires you to drill holes for their door fronts, you can use any handles you please. There's no such thing as "Ikea-specific" handles. Note: Superfront does not yet ship to the US, but they recently expanded their shipping range to other Northern European countries, so fingers crossed that we'll be next!

A Superfront kitchen and PAX wardrobe in bottle green. (via superfront.com)

A Superfront kitchen and PAX wardrobe in bottle green. (via superfront.com)

+ PRETTY PEGS | Pretty Pegs makes solid and patterned legs for Ikea furniture, in all sorts of swanky shapes. These are about as plug-and-play as you get. If you're looking for maximum impact with minimum effort, Pretty Pegs is your ticket. All you have to do is screw them in. Swapping out the legs is one of my go-to tricks for Ikea sofas and chairs. If Pretty Pegs is out of your budget and you have a little DIY pep in you, you can buy replacement legs at Home Depot or Tablelegs.com. Just make sure they come with a hanger bolt installed. (You have to pay extra for this at tablelegs.com. They come standard with most Home Depot feet.) Also know that they'll require sanding and finishing/painting, unless the raw wood look is what you're going for. Note: Free shipping worldwide! Hooray!

Pretty Peg founders Ana Cagin and Mikael Söderblom (via prettypegs.com)

Pretty Peg founders Ana Cagin and Mikael Söderblom (via prettypegs.com)

+ SEMI-HANDMADE DOORS | Semi-Handmade Doors is a California-based woodshop that makes kitchen cabinet fronts for Ikea cabinets. If you're looking for a wood-veneer finish that looks custom (without a custom price-tag), I strongly recommend checking out Semi-Handmade. They do everything from laminate to exotic and reclaimed woods. I also like that they're committed to working with you on all elements of your kitchen. For example, if you need an integrated appliance panel to match your ikea fronts, you can provide Semi-Handmade with the specs. If you're looking for lacquered shaker or flat-front cabinets, they'll ship you the unfinished fronts to have sprayed locally.

Flat-sawn Walnut Fronts by Semihandmade (via Facebook)

Flat-sawn Walnut Fronts by Semihandmade (via Facebook)

Two caveats with Semi-Handmade: 1) If you're not West Coast based, remember that you'll be paying to ship a kitchen's worth of drawer and cabinet fronts, side panels, etc. across the country. It might be worth seeing if you can convince a local cabinetry shop to make Ikea-sized fronts for you. 2) If you do go the unfinished route (what Semi-Handmade calls the "DIY" option), be prepared to a) paint 'em with a brush or roller, and live with the resulting texture (remember, food gunk will cling to texture); b) invest in a spray gun and rent an air compressor to spray 'em yourself; c) spend a lot of time and money finding a pro to paint them for you (the blogosphere is filled with urban myths of spray job makeovers, but don't for a second think it's cheap. Also, some facilities are hesitant to take on small jobs or even spray things they haven't built themselves. If you don't have trade connections, it's not even easy to find a facility! You might get lucky with your local autobody shop...but you might get a lot of gruff rejections instead.)

I have Ikea kitchen cabinets in my apartment (and I've worked with them in clients' apartments) and I cannot recommend them highly enough. The soft-close mechanism works like a dream. But the standard front options do scream Ikea-- even if I do love me some Abstrakt. The rise of custom fronts for Ikea cabinetry is a major game-changer in the kitchen design world!

Do you know of any other Ikea-oriented companies? Tell me if I missed any!