September 15, 2015

DIY Custom Kitchen Cabinets

Thank you for your sweet responses about the kitchen reveal.  It is such a central spot in our home and it turned out pretty much exactly as I envisioned.


When we were planning out the renovation, we decided two rooms would be our main splurges: the master bathroom and the kitchen.  But just because we were planning to put some high end finishes in these two spaces didn’t mean we wanted to spend a fortune on every single thing.  The cabinets were an area we knew we could save.

Jon and I have been though a lot of custom homes– beautiful houses with really gorgeous finishes.  We have really studied these homes and analyzed their finishes to figure out exactly what we wanted to do in ours.  What we’ve discovered is that very, very few homes have actual “custom” cabinets.  Most custom cabinet companies will essentially design your space using their products, rather than build something specifically for your house.  Most cabinet boxes are pretty much the same.  It’s the doors that make a difference.

There are some really talented cabinet makers and they are worth paying for, but that just wasn’t in our budget.  I started doing some research and came across this gorgeous kitchen.  My jaw dropped when I learned they weren’t custom cabinets.  Instead, she used a company called Semi-Handmade.

Essentially, they build custom cabinet doors for Ikea cabinet boxes.  We have really examined Ikea kitchens and have used them in our rental properties before and the boxes are actually really great.  They are good quality and have a lot of great features.  We weren’t in love with any of Ikea’s door options/colors though, so this seemed like a great solution.  It’s more expensive than a straight Ikea kitchen, but not as expensive as a complete custom kitchen.  They are based in California so shipping is pretty affordable.

Working with the company was pretty easy.  We designed our kitchen using Ikea’s kitchen planner (if you’ve never used this before, a couple tips: the online version kinda blows.  It’s worth going into the store and working on it there.  Just don’t do it right before closing time because at the stroke of nine, the computers literally turn off and you will lose any unsaved work.  Yep, we learned this the hard way).

Once the kitchen was pretty much designed, we then emailed Semi-Handmade.  They reviewed the plans and made some good suggestions for simple changes.  Once it was finalized, we just placed the order for the doors and floating shelves (we went with the DIY Shaker style) and waited for them to go into production.  They were shipped directly to our home and from there, they just needed to be painted and installed.


We set up a sort of painting booth in our garage and taped the entire thing off so everything could be sprayed.  It took several days to prime everything, let it dry overnight, spray the first coat of paint, let it dry again, spray the second coat, let it dry, then do the other side.  But if you want it to look custom, you’ve got to do it right.


We used Benjamin Moore Advance in Super White and Hale Navy.  This paint is my favorite for cabinets, btw.  I’ve used it for years and it never fails to give the perfect, professional finish, even when brushed.

While we went through the paint process, we installed the boxes and our countertops, light fixtures, and backsplash went in.

A tip for the floating shelves:  Semi-Handmade’s floating shelves are installed with a steel u-shaped piece that does not come pre-drilled.  You’ll need a drill press (a specialized piece of equipment) to do this the right way.  Luckily Jon’s brother is somewhat of a specialized tool junky and had one we could use.  Also, it’s a good idea to map out studs or even install the steel piece before tiling your backsplash, if it goes behind the shelves.  Yep, we learned that one the hard way too.

Installing doors just takes some patience to get them even and level.

And there you have it.  DIY custom kitchen cabinets.



Love it when a DIY doesn’t look like it, don’t you?

*In case you missed it, you can read about the full kitchen reveal and some products here.


  1. Julia@Cuckoo4Design

    September 15th, 2015 at 4:56 am

    So good! I want new fronts for my cabinets in the worst way.

  2. Jen

    September 15th, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    thank you, sweet Julia!

  3. Daisy

    September 15th, 2015 at 8:41 am

    Hi Jennifer,

    Your kitchen is stunning and by the way I thought in your last post you mentioned that your cabinets were painted in simply white?

  4. Jen

    September 15th, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    thank you! yes, that’s correct.

  5. Daisy

    September 15th, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    Hi Jenn,

    so you used simply white and super white for your cabinets because you mentioned both colors.

  6. Jen

    September 16th, 2015 at 12:06 am

    Forgive me. We only used Super White, not Simply White. Sorry for the confusion. My brain wanted to say Super White but it came out Simply.

  7. Sarah

    February 22nd, 2018 at 10:20 am

    What finish did you use for the cabinets? Matte? Semigloss?

  8. Jen

    March 4th, 2018 at 5:51 pm

    Hello! We use semi-gloss for all cabinets and shelving.

  9. Sarah

    September 15th, 2015 at 11:04 am

    Cannot believe these are DIY cabinets. They fit perfectly and look amazing. Great job on doing it yourself! And I’ll definitely be referencing back to these tips when we do our kitchen.

    xo, Sarah

  10. Jen

    September 15th, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    thank you so much, Sarah!

  11. mindy

    September 15th, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    what paint finish did you use for the cabinets?

  12. Jen

    September 15th, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Mindy, we used semi-gloss.

  13. Jen

    September 15th, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    It’s semi-gloss

  14. tom

    September 16th, 2015 at 5:08 am

    can you do a video on spray painting?

  15. Jen

    September 16th, 2015 at 8:41 am

    Hi Tom, I’ve been thinking about ways to do it. It’s hard to film something like spraying because it gets all over everything. I might just do a tips video, rather than showing the actual spraying.

  16. Stephanie

    September 18th, 2015 at 7:25 am

    You have a gorgeous kitchen! I have been searching for Ikea kitchens on the Internet and stumbled across yours. What are the dimensions of your kitchen? I am completely in love! Also, do you intend to add crown moulding of some sort to the upper cabinets or just leave it open?

  17. Karmen

    September 27th, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    What brand paint sprayer – painting out cabinets but also painting the exterior of our house.

  18. Vicky

    October 9th, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    This kitchen is gorgeous! We are seriously considering using semi handmade, but are worried about the painting process. Other than the doors, toe kicks and side panels, was there anything else that you had to paint? We will be adding moulding to the ceiling, so we will also have to include that. I just want to make sure we aren’t missing anything before we make a decision!

  19. Jen

    October 10th, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    Hi Vickey, thank you so much! There’s not anything else we can think of. If you have any questions along the way though, feel free to ask! Good luck!


    October 11th, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    I love your kitchen! So many elements I’m hoping to use in my own upcoming kitchen reno. I’m curious if you can tell me what type of wood flooring you have? I have been looking for a species like this to get this rustic type look but am struggling to know exactly what to search for. Is it a hickory maybe? Any help would be appreciated! Thanks for your time.

  21. Jen

    October 13th, 2015 at 6:41 am

    Thank you so much, Brittany! You can read all about the wood floors here:

  22. Vikas

    October 29th, 2015 at 8:53 am

    Great remodel Jen! I know you used Benjamin Moore Super White in Semi-Gloss for the cabinets, but what color did you paint your walls in the kitchen? Is that Super White as well? What finish – flat, eggshell?


  23. Jen

    November 3rd, 2015 at 1:02 am

    Thank you so much! It’s also Super White, walls in Satin. Hope that helps!

  24. Classy Glam Living

    November 6th, 2015 at 8:29 am

    What a beautiful DIY kitchen! I love Hale Navy and have been wondering where I can use it =)
    That waterfall island totally works for the kitchen! Great choice!

  25. Jen

    November 8th, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    Thank you so much!!

  26. Cara

    February 5th, 2016 at 6:59 am

    How is the quality of the DIY shaker inside panel? Does it feel solid. I know if the panel isn’t thick enough is has a hollow sound when you tap on them. What are your thoughts? Your kitchen is beautiful by the way!!!!

  27. Jen

    February 10th, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Hi Cara, it’s pretty good quality. I wouldn’t say it’s solid, but it’s not flimsy like many others we’ve seen. We are really happy with them. Hope that is helpful!

  28. Lindsay

    February 8th, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    Great kitchen! I am purchasing the same DIY shakers from Semihandmade that you’ve used and I’m wondering what type and of spray gun and what size of spray (ex: 1.3mm, etc.) you used.
    Thank you – I was so happy to come across your post.

    PS – Any other DIY tips regarding these cabinets and painting them would be very welcome.

  29. Jen

    February 10th, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Hi Lindsay, thanks for following along! Because of our time crunch, we hired a great painter to paint the cabinets for us and he had a high quality spray gun. Sorry I can’t be of more help this time around! Other tips: I really suggest hiring a painter, and if you don’t, you need to have an area that is completely free of dust. Get plastic and section off an area. Thanks for reading!

  30. Stacy Murphy

    July 1st, 2016 at 8:15 am

    We are using your kitchen as inspiration and I have a quick question about the semi-handmade base panels. It doesn’t look like you sprayed those, did you just hand paint it once it was installed? I am about to contact a painter and am leaning towards just getting the drawer fronts sprayed. Thanks!!

  31. Jen

    July 6th, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Hi Stacy, we didn’t paint the insides or the panels. Just left them the stock white. On the island it wasn’t an issue because the waterfall edge covered any side panels. On the white cabinets, we used cover panels and painted them white. Does that answer your question? If not, let me know and I’ll take another stab!

  32. Deb

    August 30th, 2016 at 10:12 am

    Just found you via Pinterest— love the kitchen! Was wondering how big your island is and the opening. Wasn’t sure how much space you need to fit 4 stools comfortably like you have.

  33. Jen

    November 28th, 2016 at 12:47 am

    Hi! Thanks for following WithHeart, and for your question. Our island is 93.5 in. long and 52.5 in. wide. We have loved the size! Good luck with your kitchen project!

  34. Amanda

    September 24th, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    Your kitchen turned out so gorgeous! We’re considering going the Semihandmade/Ikea route for our remodel since we’re way over budget in so many other areas. Just wondering – did you put any kind of protective clear topcoat on the doors?? It seemed like you just did primer + 2 coats of paint – have you had any issues with the paint finish chipping easily? Thanks!!

  35. Jen

    October 13th, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Hi Amanda! Thank you so much! No top coats, we just did multiple coats, used a really high quality paint, and let it dry completely for a couple of days on each coat to make sure the paint was really hard. We haven’t had any issues with paint chipping. Hope that is helpful!

  36. Jemma

    October 11th, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Your kitchen is beautiful! Can I ask what tiles you used for the backsplash? They look like they have a really lovely sheen. Thank you!

  37. Jen

    October 13th, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Thank you! They are just basic subway tiles from Home Depot.

  38. Ish

    December 31st, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    what is the material and name of the color of the countertops? looks great!

  39. Jen

    January 4th, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    It’s Super White Quartzite

  40. Christine

    October 20th, 2017 at 10:50 am

    Hi Jen – your kitchen is absolutely gorgeous! We are seriously considering using Ikea/Semihandmade for our upcoming remodel. We are torn between going with the Supermatte doors they have that are already white with a Thermofoil finish and the DIY Shaker option. My husband is concerned about the Thermofoil finish and thinks we might be better off buying them unfinished and having them painted as you did. Can you share why you went this route as opposed to the prefinished option? It would be so helpful! Thanks a million!

  41. Jen

    October 30th, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Hi there! I’m not familiar with the Therofoil finish. We went with DIY Shaker so we could select our own color. Hope that is helpful! Good luck!

  42. Christina

    October 4th, 2018 at 4:56 am

    Lovely kitchen!! Can you tell me what range hood you used? I really like that one!

  43. Administrator

    October 14th, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    Thank you so much! It’s Viking!

  44. Melissa

    March 4th, 2019 at 5:43 am

    Beautiful kitchen, Jen! We are about to redo ours using SemiHandmade doors and adding a big island too. Just wondering how much space you left between the island and cabinets. My gf and I are currently in a battle about how much room is necessary without it feeling cramped. Thanks!

  45. Administrator

    March 5th, 2019 at 11:36 pm

    Hi there! Let me find out the distance for you!

  46. Christine

    April 14th, 2019 at 10:58 pm

    Hi, love your kitchen! I’m getting my diy doors from semi handmade this week and am still unsure what paint to use…which primer did you use?

  47. Administrator

    June 4th, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    Hi there! No primer– just Benjamin Moore Advance paint

  48. Whitney

    May 31st, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    Melissa, we have 44” between our island and our perimeter cabinets – plenty of room to move around each other. My parents have 42” and it works, too. The comfort would also depend on the size of the users. For reference, we are within normal weight ranges and my mom is tiny.

  49. Whitney

    May 31st, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    (I hit post too fast on the reply to help Melissa)
    Jen, your kitchen is beautiful and such an inspiration! We are leaning toward using Ikea, but here in Dallas everyone we say that to is surprised. I don’t think the quality of the boxes has been proven enough here and it’s nerve wracking. Thanks for showing me a gorgeous option!
    We are fearless DIYer’s, too, but my husband only has so many hours and so much energy so I shot down his idea of building the kitchen from scratch! He could do it (he just built a gorgeous walnut vanity for a bathroom remodel), but we would be without a kitchen for TWO YEARS (or something like that! LOL).

  50. Administrator

    June 4th, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    Hi there! I say go for it! I’m pretty sure all Ikea boxes are created equally and they’ve held up great! Be a trendsetter!

  51. Emily

    September 12th, 2019 at 11:09 am

    Hi! This kitchen is beautiful!! I have 2 questions: 1) Is there any issue with the painting floating shelves and wear and tear from placing things on and off the shelves? 2) We just painted our walls in Benjamin Moore Super White – is this a huge mistake? We used the Aura brand because we were told it’s more durable and washable? Thank you!!

  52. Administrator

    September 24th, 2019 at 9:30 am

    Hi there! We haven’t had any issues with wear on the shelves. That paint dries really hard. Super White is one of my favorite whites. Good work! And I love Aura too. I think you’re good!

  53. Laura

    October 1st, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    Hello! It looks like you have had this kitchen for awhile now…I’m curious how you feel things have held up? Any chipping paint? What about the door quality? I would love your honest opinion as I am in the decision making process right now!

  54. Administrator

    October 9th, 2019 at 11:00 pm

    Hi! We have loved them, and haven’t had any issues with chipping or scratching!

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She’s Jen. He’s Jon. We’re believers in the power of home, fearless DIYers, and eternal optimists who know with a can-do spirit, elbow grease and some guidance, you can create a home you love. We love a good project—or 20. Stick around and we’ll have you pulling out the paint brushes and fluffing throw pillows in no time.

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