Why IKEA? A Story About Quality and Custom Cabinet Doors

Dendra’s Elegante II with Onyx SuperMatte finish for IKEA SEKTION cabinets

** Updated June 16th, 2022. Originally posted December 6th, 2021.

Why do some folks shy away at the mention of IKEA? IKEA does have a wide array of product lines of varying qualities based on customer’s budgets, but their cabinets are definetly products that will last at least as long as their 25 Year Warranty suggests. Talk to customers that have had an IKEA kitchen and you will definitely hear positive stories. In this post we’ll take a look at the history of IKEA’s cabinetry and take a look at the company’s commitment to quality. We will also sit down with Dendra Doors co-founder, John Webb, to learn a bit about customizing IKEA cabinets and how Dendra Doors came about.

IKEA Quality & Pricing

Over the 8 decades IKEA has been in business they have always sought to improve their products and their role in the community. This, of course, gets more complex as they have become a large international corporation in a world where people’s standards have grown more sophisticated. IKEA has kept up and seeks to lead the way wherever they can. While their stores may not have an abundance of customer service representatives, their products speak for themselves:

Starting with Affordable – IKEA starts by selecting how affordable the product will be, then their designers and supply chain get to work on developing the highest quality product they can provide their customers.

To design a desk which may cost $1000 is easy for a furniture designer, but to design a functional and good desk which shall cost only $50 can only be done by the very best. We have decided once and for all to side with the many. What is good for our customers is also, in the long run, good for us.” IKEA founder, Ingvar Kamprad

Flat Packing – The leading reason you don’t have to pay so much for IKEA furniture is because of how much the company saves on storage & shipping with their flat packing. While you might prefer to have most of your furniture preassembled, most cabinetry, no matter the brand or quality, needs to be assembled on-site. Having skilled professionals install your cabinetry is highly recommended.

Volume – High production volume means a lower cost for the supply chain, IKEA, and their customers. This is made possible by starting with a highly efficient production processes for standardized products.

Quality Materials IKEA’s cabinet boxes are made of Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), which is increasingly common for certain types of furniture. In fact, IKEA is the largest user of MDF worldwide. Most cabinet boxes, including those made by IKEA’s top competitors, are made of either MDF or high quality plywood. Both of which are no more wood than the other. If you take a look at IKEA’s own supply chain and material quality standards it is clear that such decisions are made with care.

Guaranteed Quality The proof is very much in the pudding. IKEA’s commitment to quality and customer satisfaction is apparent by looking at the warranties they provide for their various product lines. No matter what kind of economic downturns or supply chain issues the company or the world at large may experience, IKEA is still here honoring those commitments to their customers.

80+ Years of Wisdom in Your Next Kitchen Design

IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, managed to build his world-class furniture design, manufacturing, and sales company by providing stylish, affordable, quality options for customers, but on his own terms. Those terms were based on practical philosophies: a respect for the communities he did business in, as much appreciation for his customers as he had for his designers, and a commitment to reasonable company overhead.

Without a doubt, there is a direct connection between the reasonable pricing of IKEA’s products and the fact that Ingvar Kamprad, a man that was listed as being worth 58.7 Billion, was known for only flying coach, drove an average car, ate cheap meals, and dressed in such a way that made it easy for him to go undercover in any of his stores, posing as an average customer to ensure his streamlined crews were performing well.

The Early Days of Installing IKEA Kitchens

“It’s a funny thing, I’ve been using IKEA for years. Gosh, I used it back in the late 80’s when they only had two colors (for the US Market): White & Almond (visit the IKEA Museum). And, it looked like garage cabinetry, or closet cabinetry. And, I liked how everything went together, how it rolled together, and how it was attached. I learned. We didn’t have YouTube back then, so I honestly had to learn the hard way. I wasn’t always asking enough questions.

But, they’re all modular. It all rolls around for the European Market and their limitations on square footage. The square footage per home is lower, the cost per square foot to purchase is a lot higher than it is here in the United States. There in Europe things are tighter, better planned, and they maximize their storage space. If they’re renting they bring their cabinets with them anyway, and they take them when they leave. And, they just add onto them if they need another cabinet or another area.

So, IKEA has been around for many, many years. We had a recession and IKEA is still here. They take care of everybody wonderfully. The people that work for them are conscientious and I feel that they really care. I think they really care about the environment, waste and preventing it.

They have a bad rap. People complain: “Oh it’s IKEA. It’s cheap furniture.” Well, they have some things that aren’t made as well. An, some of it’s not made to be put together and taken apart several times. I mean, if you do that and it gets rickety, you need to get glue and glue it together.

But, the IKEA Cabinets are warrantied for 25 years. And, if you consider the recession in 2008, how many companies aren’t even in business anymore? Or, went bankrupt and went off to do something else? IKEA is still here, and the quality has just gotten better.

I have an AKURUM kitchen and it went through me raising two boys that were very difficult with it. And, it still looks just as good as it did when I put it in 20 years ago. Now I’m not as much into the Birch finish. I wish I had went with something a little bit darker. But, other than that it still operates well and it’s not beat up.”

Dendra’s Level doors in light grey acrylic for IKEA kitchen cabinets

Learning How to Customize IKEA Kitchens

“We started doing all custom work so I started doing my own custom overlays. Custom doors, custom panels, the same as IKEA, that go over the cabinets. They were just specialty, a few here and there. But, we’re custom builders, so we make anything anyway. Anything!.

If we can’t buy it we make it. And the nice thing about IKEA is that the boxes are all a certain size. And, we modify them to make them anything you want when we’re doing custom panels and sizes. It’s always a good base that you can go and buy tomorrow, right off the rack, and get going. If you wanted to order cabinet doors and they didn’t have something you wanted, that’s something you can do.

As things progressed over the years, IKEA went to SEKTION, a new cabinet line, and they discontinued the AKURUM. The parts doubled. So lets say AKURUM had 2000 parts, SEKTION has 5000 parts. So, that means 5000 options. With drawers-in-drawers and slide-outs and sizes and how they’re stacked together. They simplified how they’re installed, the boxes are still nice, they have really nice German hardware, soft closes, and a good base price. All of which you could get tomorrow. And, you could buy all their drawers. Some of their doors I feel are a better quality than other.

The old solid wood butcherblock countertops were really good. Some of their things have gotten a little thinner and some of their countertops are not as well made. And, I’ve tried all of them. I have some in the house that are the laminate. And, we use those – they’re a nice thick cabinet counter. You just learn to seal things. You have to prepare. You have to think farther ahead of what could happen. And, you seal edges if your cutting with particleboard because water will damage it. But, the old solid wood butcherblock countertop was really quite nice and it was really well priced.

Everything they have it really just gets better. It’s thought out. Sometimes it’s simplified a little bit. You know, I like some of the doors better than the newer doors. I mean, I think that it’s a little bit of the appearance. And, after so much time I can tell how it’s all lasted, how it’s going to be more timeless and still looks great after all these years. I always get a little nervous when I try some of the new stuff. Is it going to hold up? I’ll try new products all the time in our own properties. Just to see how they wear and tear. I’ve had really good luck.”

Creating Custom Fronts for IKEA Kitchens

“With all the custom stuff we build and design, and gear towards whatever the client’s wants and needs are, we started a door company called Dendra Doors. A partner and I started it back about 10 years ago. We make doors and finishes exactly any way you could possibly imagine. You know, from any kind of metal, to any kind of wood, to any kind of laminate, to the new kind of SuperMatte laminate – the sky is the limit. Anything you want we can come up with and figure out how to do.

So, the door company wraps IKEA cabinets. So, that’s a viable business now. It runs on it’s own and it seems to grow a little bit every year. We’ve got a pretty good clientele on the Dendra side.

Even so, if you were to go on our website, most any kitchen you see on there is an IKEA Kitchen, with Dendra Doors finishes on them. You might not think that they’re all IKEA, but most of them are. Or, they’re boxes that we’ve altered or changed and made into whatever we, whatever our clients wanted.

People do freak out a little bit when you start doing things to an IKEA product, that they’re not warrantied. You know a melamine box is a melamine box. You know, as long as you seal it and cover your cuts, when you do things right, you should never have any problem with them. We haven’t had any. But, then again we’re, we’re custom builders. We’re custom craftsman – we don’t think anything about it. It’s kinda nice to have something ready to go. If we have to alter it a little bit, it’s simple, instead of starting from scratch.”

Quality & Timelessness - IKEA with Dendra Doors

“All the Dendra Doors stuff is really nice. When I think of timelessness though, I always think of wood. And when I say timeless I think of things as far back as, you know, when my Grandma was around. Stuff from back then that’s still in use today and still looks good. It’s timeless, it’s the test of time. So when you look at wood, you know it’s timeless. Stone is timeless.

I think that our really popular one right now is the Shaker Slim – that seems to be a hot product. It’s really handsome, it’s just got a smaller frame on the Shaker. And it’s a little cleaner, more modern look. But, it can go into something more traditional also, when you’re staying in the woods.

I always think of low maintenance. Whatever you’re going to do, it’s low maintenance you don’t want to have to repaint it or repair it, or whatever. So, I always think of finishes that way.

Wood, you know, you can dent, but I think of handsome old things as a kind of patina of use and age. You know it’s used – it could be a hundred years old, but it’s still a handsome piece of furniture or handsome cabinetry, if it was planned and built well.

And when you start thinking about lets say, the painted surfaces, now they have a SuperMatte which is a totally covered door, that’s flat, that kind of repairs itself. You can, honestly, wash it hard and use a scrubbie on it and it’ll take any marks and whatever else, and it snaps back leaving it looking just like it was brand new. So, these products are getting pretty sophisticated these days.”

Dendra’s Shaker Slim doors with a classy Midnight SuperMatte finish
Stratus SuperMatte Shaker Slim doors for upper cabinets and custom Slab Rift White Oak doors

Written by Todd Zimmerman

Producer of the John Webbccast

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