Interiors: Igor and the IKEA magical kitchen elves
The best in design and decoration for your home
Have you got designs on a new kitchen? Eleanor Flegg talks to Irish suppliers and takes a look at the Ikea range
Q: What's under your kitchen cabinets?
A: Dust bunnies, a mousetrap, a long-lost wooden spoon . . . and a fair bit of wasted space!
In most kitchens there's a good 10 centimetres of unused space between the bottom of the cabinets and the floor – usually hidden by a plinth. Most of us just ignore it. But not the Scandinavian design boffins at Ikea – they've been on the case for years.
Here's the Ikea kitchen elves solution to those frustrating centimetres of wasted space – it's called the "Metod" kitchen.
One of its features is that, by increasing the height of the frame units to 80cm and dropping the base of the interior space towards the floor, a lot of this wastage is eliminated.
Changing the height of a frame unit sounds like a small detail. Actually it's a big deal. Because the Metod kitchen departs from the industry standard height for frame units (70cm) so it won't be compatible with Ikea's existing Faktum kitchen, which it replaces. If you have a Faktum kitchen already, there is a two-year window to buy replacement parts before the line is discontinued. Get your skates on!
The Metod kitchen is an exercise in extreme modularity. It has to be. Ikea owns and operates 349 stores in 43 countries. To design a single kitchen range for countries as various as Sweden, China, North America, and Japan is no mean feat – people in different cultures use their kitchens in very different ways.
"The kitchen is the heart of the home all over Europe," says Igor Valigura, native of Slovakia and interior designer with Ikea in Dublin, "but Ireland is the only place I know where people actually run their businesses from the kitchen, in the middle of everything else!"
On a personal level, I'm in two minds about Ikea. There's something terrifying about this clear bid for world domination – the slogan "one world, one kitchen" springs to mind. But there's also something very likeable about the company's egalitarian Scandinavian ethos. And the designs are really very good.
The Metod range offers 25 different door fronts in nine colour options, with an additional four accent colours. There's a huge amount of choice in functionality within the units and absolutely everything is compatible with everything else. "The style doesn't determine the function," says Daniele Hertel, one of Ikea's kitchen designers. "You can have any of the fittings in any of the cabinets – it's all designed in 20cm modules."
The kitchens come with all sorts of attention to detail, like inbuilt task lighting and the facility to charge USB devices through the lighting units. Plus the construction and mounting of the units has been revised to make them physically stronger. If you've ever dropped an Ikea unit during construction you'll understand why this was necessary.
One of the big challenges of buying from Ikea is that their items come flat-packed. And, while putting a bookcase together can offer an afternoon of family fun, not everyone will want to assemble their own kitchen. It's a big job.
Apart from the in-store service, Ikea offer planning, delivery and installation services via approved partner companies.
It costs between €100 and €150 (depending on how far your home is from the store) for a kitchen planner to visit your home, take the measurements, and advise on your choice of kitchen.
To have the kitchen delivered costs €95 (unless you live in Clare, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Leitrim, Limerick, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo or Tipperary, in which case the delivery charge is €120). Installation costs are based on the per-unit cost of each individual kitchen.
For example, a Metod Veddinge Flädie kitchen (€1,035) would cost an extra €1,297 for installation. The larger Metod Ringhult Herrestad kitchen (€2,585) would cost €1,390 to install. Add to this the cost of travelling to and from the Ikea stores in Ballymun or Belfast as many times as it takes you to make your decision.
If this is all looking a wee bit complicated then, its worth looking at Irish companies that offer a bit of minding along with their product.
"A kitchen isn't a purchase you make in one visit," says Niall Cuthbert of Cash and Carry Kitchens.
"We find that people generally come back to the store about three or four times. We have it organised so that you'll always be dealing with the same person, so you have that continuity."
Cash and Carry Kitchens have 15 showrooms nationwide and the units come ready assembled from their East Cork factory.
"Ultimately, a factory-assembled unit is always going to be a better product than a flat-pack one," Cuthbert explains, "and because our factory is local we have a very quick turn around and a lot of flexibility.'
A kitchen in their High-Gloss range, for example, might cost €4,800 including delivery and installation.
Other companies import factory assembled units from elsewhere. "We bring in kitchens from Germany because we believe that the Germans do it best," says Orla McNally of Kube Kitchens, an Irish family business that sells mid-range German kitchens. The average cost of a kitchen from Kube is €4,900 (€5,500 including installation).
www.kubekitchens.ie; www.cashandcarrykitchens.ie; www.ikea.com