A White IKEA Kitchen Renovation Gets a Glossy Shine

Want to up the ante with a neutral like white? Go with high-gloss kitchen cabinets.

High gloss kitchen cabinets in a home renovation

  • Homeowners: Lee, an entrepreneur and startup founder, wanted an updated bathroom and white IKEA kitchen. He posted his renovation on Sweeten
  • Where: Midtown East, New York
  • Primary renovation: A full-scale remodel of a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in a 1920s co-op building, including gut remodels of both kitchen and bath
  • With: Sweeten general contractor

Editor’s Note: This feature, originally published in the summer of 2015, is one of Sweeten’s favorite dramatic makeovers. An overpowering closet flanking the existing galley kitchen seemed to squeeze the entry even tighter. The changes, though, were striking: the walls came down, and newly-placed high gloss cabinets took the spotlight, amplified in natural light. The affordability of this full IKEA kitchen renovation is an extra bonus. The takeaway: a bit of shiny goes a long way.

Lee Hoffman bought a 1+ bedroom, 1 bathroom co-op in Midtown East. The original kitchen and bathroom were beyond forlorn; the kitchen was hidden behind a walled entryway and was more of a hallway than a room. This might have been initially helpful during its heyday in 1978, but not ideal in an apartment that depended on the kitchen window for extra light in the living room. Lee did months and months of research on ways to update the space. He came to Sweeten to find a contractor who could change up a cramped kitchen and update a plain bathroom.

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track lights in kitchen with gray flooring and white cabinets and open to dining and living area with hardwood floors after renovation

After reviewing a selection of Sweeten general contractors in Manhattan, he chose one to re-envision the space with some nice cabinets and tile. However, the renovation turned into much more than that.

Tackling a cramped kitchen layout

Lee found himself up against one major, invisible force when he started the kitchen project: the co-op’s previous tenant had been a smoker and the original stock finishes were covered in smoky residue. The layout for the already-small kitchen didn’t work well. The space was virtually sealed off from the living room, and its big window was partially blocked by cabinetry and a fridge that had been wedged into the galley. Lee knew he could swap in new cabinets and appliances. However, when discussing options with his contractor, he learned that the dividing wall was non-load-bearing. Removing the wall would let light into the living room from two directions. He put together a lengthy list of “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves” (from wall demolition all the way down to soft-close cabinets). The same approach was used to bring light and modern appeal to the crumbling bathroom.

IKEA kitchen renovationIKEA kitchen renovation

An IKEA kitchen fit the budget

Lee took on the gut remodel of the kitchen with the determination of a tech entrepreneur. He spent a month talking to every cabinet maker in NYC before accepting that even the lowest price for a high-end, custom-built set was way beyond his budget. Even the next tier down felt costly, and the slightly more budget-friendly options at big-box retailers didn’t seem like an obvious slam dunk. After reading positive reviews about IKEA cabinets, and realizing that a whole new IKEA line was about to hit the market, he found himself psyched by the look of the white, high-gloss lacquer Sektion option.

IKEA kitchen renovation

The cost-benefit of installing IKEA kitchen cabinets for a completely new look was immediately evident: for well under $10K, Lee got a full set of high gloss kitchen cabinets and was really happy with the quality. The downside? Getting delivery right took weeks of follow-up and re-shipments to get all of the pieces on site. It was a great deal overall, but most definitely not without headaches and hand-holding.

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IKEA kitchen renovation

kitchen with marble countertop and undermount sink and white cabinets with lift-up glass doors and glass shelves after renovation

Lee’s research paid off in other parts of the kitchen. He loved the look of white marble and spent six months on the hunt for a quartz countertop with a similar feel, ultimately landing on a porcelain slab by Euro West with an almost-identical yet indestructible effect. (Don’t miss our guide to comparing countertop materials for your own kitchen!)

“Sweeten made the process super easy to get bids and ultimately find a great contractor. I’m really glad I found you guys.”

IKEA kitchen renovation

To stay on budget, Lee decided to skip a typical tiled backsplash. With the newly-opened room, and with an upper row of cabinets only on one side, it ended up being a smart choice. Lee thought carefully about cabinet placementdrawers only along the left (16″ depth to maximize open space) and a slim row of upper cabinets centered on the right. The team installed the counter-depth Liebherr fridge against the back wall and lined up all other appliances: a Samsung stove, a stainless steel Blomberg dishwasher, and a Blanco Quatrus sink on the opposite side. Their placement left plenty of room in all directions for food prep and hosting.


Starting from scratch for the bathroom refresh

As soon as Lee started this project, he knew he had little sentimental feelings about the bathroom. The plan for the bathroom was straightforward: Everything had to go. In its place, the room would receive a lot of clean, bright whites and crisp glass. He selected a touchless San Souci Kohler toilet, “designed for OCD people,” in his words, and a Kohler recessed medicine cabinet above the Fresca sink vanity. The bathroom hardware is all Hansgrohe; a full shower suite with all of its bells and whistles. Lee’s heavy research brought in one more big catch: he found a specialty frameless glass shower door from Mirage Shower Doors that eliminates the slight green aura that lots of shower doors end up with. Glassos white wall tiles were the final reflective touch.

bathroom bathroom bathroom

Thank you, Lee, for sharing your new kitchen with us!

Material Resources



Updated June 30, 2023

Renovations can be disruptive for any homeowner. Here’s how to decide whether to stay at homeor go.

Want to recreate Lee’s high gloss kitchen cabinets look for your own kitchen? Check out our comparison guide that weighs the pros and cons of IKEA vs. custom cabinets.

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