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The Ikea Experience

If you're ordering and assembling something from Ikea, here's how to do it with as few snags as possible

Photo: Courtesy of Ikea Photo: Courtesy of Ikea

The Swedish retailer Ikea sells budget-priced contemporary cabinets designed for easy at-home assembly, but they have a reputation for being not quite so easy to assemble. I wanted to experience Ikea cabinetmaking firsthand, so I ordered a 24-in. base cabinet with a single drawer and a pair of doors and put it together.

I picked the Akurum cabinet from Ikea’s online à la carte menu (, which seemed straightforward until I got to the legs and the toe kick. Figuring out which parts went with the cabinet wasn’t easy. I had no luck with the site’s “Ask Anna” help feature, so I took a guess. Turns out I guessed wrong. Thus, the first lesson is to know exactly what you’re ordering. Call if you’re confused; on a follow-up phone call, customer service proved helpful.

Maureen Friedman, our administrative assistant, placed the order. Ikea’s email confirmation listed all the parts without explaining an “NA” notation next to some of them. When she checked, she learned those parts were not currently available and that it would be her responsibility, not Ikea’s, to reorder them. Lesson two: Read the paperwork carefully.
The tab came to $127, and shipping was another $124.24. If you live close to an Ikea outlet, you’ll save nearly 50% by picking up the cabinets yourself. When the order arrived, all the hardware and fasteners listed in the instructions were included; a good start. I did, however, end up with a half-dozen extra fasteners, which I assume would have fit the correct leg assembly.
Cabinetmaking 101. The Akurum cabinet system from Ikea is designed for easy assembly—provided you order the right parts and can decipher the pictographic instructions.Cabinetmaking 101. The Akurum cabinet system from Ikea is designed for easy assembly—provided you order the right parts and can decipher the pictographic instructions.

The particleboard parts were machined precisely. There were no misaligned holes for dowels or fasteners, and the cabinet pieces lined up properly. The kit didn’t include any drawer or door pulls, however, and there were no pilot holes to accommodate them.

Other than an introductory note, the instructions consist entirely of pictographs. I fumbled in several places, either because I didn’t look at the drawings carefully or because they didn’t include enough detail. In the end, assembly took roughly 90 minutes.

There’s nothing fancy about this cabinet, but it is functional. The melamine surface is easy to clean, but if chipped, the thin top layer could be tough to repair. Adjustable door and drawer hardware is a nice touch. In all, it’s a modest cabinet for a modest price.
For more about kitchen cabinets, read A Buyer's Guide to Kitchen Cabinets from Fine Homebuilding's Annual Kitchens & Baths Issue, #191 (Fall/Winter 2007), pp.40-45.
Photos by: Krysta S. Doerfler, except where noted
From Fine Homebuilding191 (Kitchens & Baths) , pp. 110
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