What You Need to Know About the IKEA Kitchen Planner

Artist's house in Provence, France
Modern IKEA Style Kitchen. Andreas von Einsiedel / Getty Images

Whether or not you are planning to use IKEA kitchen products (namely, its kitchen cabinets), you can reap some benefits from using its online 3D Kitchen Planner.

While the IKEA Kitchen Planner is there to help you better design your dream kitchen, it doesn't always work as well as you might hope. This may sound like surprising and disappointing information about a company that prides itself on efficiency and simplicity.

Even though this software is free, you may find that it's not for you. 

Note: This tool was formerly called IKEA Kitchen Planner. The scope of the tool has since been expanded and it is now called IKEA Home Planner.

Advantages & Disadvantages of the Kitchen Planner

Online kitchen planners such as the IKEA 3D Planner are marketing devices more than they are true design tools. Kitchen designers (except for in-store designers at those particular companies) do not use these types of tools. They are light-weight, sometimes buggy, and naturally, they direct you only to products from the host company.

But that last point doesn't matter as much as it may seem. Cabinetry tends to come in standard sizes. So, if you drop in a 30" IKEA sink base, you might as well be dropping in a Merillat 30" sink base. It's about the cabinets. In fact, all of the other stuff--lighting, flooring, counters, etc.--feels almost incidental.

Once you' got the major spaces blocked out with your cabinets and free-standing items, you're well on your way.

Advantages

  • It has a clean interface–very IKEA; it's a simplistic tool that's easy to use.
  • The planner compiles a shopping list as you drop items into the plan. It is easy to switch to the itemized view and find out your running total.

    Disadvantages

    • The tool can be buggy. IKEA's planner has a strange propensity for crashing or not saving work. Finding that your project was not saved after two hours of work can be a frustrating experience.
    • You cannot "walk-through" the kitchen. You must remain on the outside.
    • Small layout area, only about 8 inches by 5 inches.
    • No way to pan the "camera" or viewpoint side to side in 3D view.
    • Often an "item" (cabinet, appliance, etc.) will refuse to be moved or deleted.
    • The 3D views do not look realistic.
    • Very limited number of non-IKEA items (floor coverings, colors, etc.).

    Tool Alternatives

    If you are dead-set on buying an IKEA kitchen, then this is an indispensable tool: it locks you right into specific IKEA items.

    But if you are not going in the IKEA direction and just need an online kitchen planner, IKEA's may be too rudimentary for your needs. You can purchase kitchen design software, thus making your kitchen planning brand-agnostic. Your plan is not tied into IKEA, Merillat, or whomever.

    There are free kitchen design options, HomeStyler by AutoDesk and Google SketchUp being two prominent examples.

    HomeStyler is about as rudimentary as IKEA's planner, but SketchUp is closer to CAD and offers infinite possibilities.