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

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

– Lee Hoffman, Manhattan homeowner

Editor’s Note: This feature, originally published in summer 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.

  • Homeowners: Lee, an entrepreneur and startup founder, posted his IKEA kitchen and bath 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
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Lee Hoffman, the CEO and founder of the photo-sharing app Memoir, 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: more of a hallway than a room. This might have been initially helpful given its 1978 vintage, 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 give some serious attention to this unloved little kitchen and bath pair. He brought in this Sweeten general contractor to help re-envision the space with some nice cabinets and tile. However, the renovation turned in to much more than that.

Tackling a cramped kitchen layout

Lee found himself up against one major, invisible force: 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, but when he learned that the dividing wall was non-load-bearing, he began to picture taking down the wall to let light into the living room from two directions. He put together a lengthy list of updates (from wall demolition all the way down to soft-close cabinets,) and took the same approach to bring light and modern appeal to the crumbling bathroom.


Lee took on 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. The cost-benefit of going with IKEA for his kitchen renovation 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. A great deal overall, but most definitely not without headaches and hand-holding.

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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 Sweeten’s guide to comparing countertop materials for your own kitchen!) Lee compared the slab side by side with marble at Mark and Benneton in Brooklyn and never looked back. 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.

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“Everything had to go” for the bathroom refresh

Lee felt entirely unsentimental about the bathroom. Everything had to go; and in its place, lots 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.

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KITCHEN RESOURCES: Porcelain slab countertop: Euro West. Sink: Appliances Connection. Stove: Appliances Connection. Dishwasher: Appliances Connection. Fridge: Leibherr. White, high-gloss cabinets: IKEA Sektion.

BATHROOM RESOURCES: Toilet: Appliances Connection. Sink vanity: Appliances Connection. Shower panel: Mirage Shower Doors. Hardware: Hansgrohe.

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.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.

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