chimney back aptThe painting is done. The kitchens are built. The electricity is done. The floors are ALMOST done. The bathrooms are installed.


back living fireplace
The living room of the apartment facing the courtyard.

The painter, Jacques, has been amazing. Look how he did the details on the chimney above.

back kitchen sink wall
The washing machine, wrapped up on the left, goes in the hole on the right.

On the other hand, the kitchens were a nightmare. A friend who used to work for one of the fancy kitchen outfitters said that if we weren’t having custom-made solid wood cabinets (which would be crazy expensive for a rental), then we should go with Ikea, because the quality is the same as the fancy kitchen outfitters but at a fraction of the price. Indeed, we made the tour and decided to go with Ikea. We were quite happy with an Ikea wardrobe wall in our kid’s room.

front kitchen
In the other apartment, a different style.

We made plans using their online tool, but the wardrobe experience taught us that there are little astuces, or smart tricks, that their experts know so it’s worth going to the store for advice. We took an appointment with a kitchen expert–I don’t know how it is in the U.S., but in France meeting the kitchen expert costs €149. Which is worth not having problems.

Except, we did have problems.

front kitchen tile
I just love this tile.

Delivery was promised for 10 days later, July 28, with an SMS the night before to give us a two-hour window for arrival. We arranged for a carpenter to install the kitchens the following Monday–and even begged him to delay his vacation so we could get the kitchens done.

A hard-to-get, out-of-stock Dömsjo sink.

But we didn’t get an SMS. On July 28, husband waited at the apartments, but nobody came. I called Ikea, and learned that the Dömsjo sinks we’d ordered weren’t available, so the delivery had been canceled. No warning. The customer service center said, basically, tough luck. They could reschedule us for late August. Or I could go to the store myself and beg.

I wasn’t crazy about going to Toulouse–1.5 hours away each way, but likely far more in July and August when the autoroute is bumper-to-bumper with vacationers. But I REALLY didn’t want to wait that long.

back kitchen fireplace bottom
The big fireplace in the big kitchen.

The person at Ikea in Toulouse was very helpful, and spent an hour dealing with the delivery contractors to get us in earlier. We canceled the problematic sinks and planned for Tuesday, Aug. 2. Then a manager got involved and arranged for Saturday, July 29. Even better–the kitchen contractor would be able to get right to work on Monday.

I warned them that the driver needed to call us when he arrived near Carcassonne, because  the main street is closed on Saturday because of the market. Not all the streets are closed, though, and if you know your way around, you can get almost anywhere. I would guide them through the labyrinth.

back kitchen whole fireplace
Another view to show the chimney

We got our text the night before: delivery between 9 and 11 a.m. At 11:15, we got a text from the driver saying they would be there in 20 minutes. Well, we thought, maybe they would be able to slip in with the trucks of the market vendors, who would at that time be lining up to remove their stalls.

confiturier 1
confiturier, or built-in cupboard in one kitchen.

An hour later, still waiting, we texted the driver. He texted back that the police had told him the main street was closed (DUH) so he’d left! We couldn’t believe they had loaded up two kitchens and driven two hours and then not made an effort to complete the delivery.

Back on the phone to Ikea. But madame, your delivery already has been rescheduled for Tuesday, the guy told me. Promise? I asked. Promise, he sweetly assured me.

No text Monday night. No delivery Tuesday. Back on the phone to Ikea. There was no delivery for Tuesday, they told me. That other guy was wrong. But we can squeeze you in on Thursday.

Powder room

The fourth time was the charm. Kind of. The guys arrived on time. It was impossible to keep track of what was delivered, because the 17 boxes had no relation to the five-page order form. It turned out we had too many toe-kicks, a missing drawer-front (which, it turned out, had been ordered by the “expert” in the wrong size–10 cm tall instead of the 20 cm needed), and were short of feet for two cupboards–again, the “expert” counted wrong.

That meant another trip to Ikea. Actually, it took two, because it wasn’t until everything else was done that we realized we didn’t need the other toe-kick. Sigh.

We checked all the hardware/plumbing stores to find sinks. We found a farmhouse sink like the Ikea one by Villeroy & Boch for €600. You have to hand it to Ikea that they do good style at a decent price (Ikea’s was €125). I suggested we look at, which is a French kind of craigslist. Husband was skeptical, but we were desperate. And….we found the exact same sink near Perpignan, at half the Ikea price. New, too–the seller had decided to remodel differently.

kitchen back
Missing drawer under oven not shown….

We then stopped at a last hardware store. We didn’t want stainless steel or some kind of plastic amalgam, which were the only choices under €600. That hardware store was the kind of mom-and-pop place where they don’t throw out merchandise if it doesn’t move. We got a ceramic sink for the other apartment at the same price as Ikea’s.

front sink
A hard-to-find ceramic sink.

The appliances were delivered and installed, and it’s all taking shape. Now comes the fun part: decorating!

So: Ikea yeah or nay? Were our mix-ups exceptional or typical? Share your stories!

43 thoughts on “Renovation update

  1. Beautiful!!!, love all the original detailng and love those tiles!!

    WE have bought from Ikea, but only one off stuff we can take away so can’t comment, would probably say that it’s maybe a French thing more than an IKEA thing but don’t want to offend anyone out there! We had some exemplary service last month from Carrefour re white goods for apartment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely beautiful….looking forward to seeing more.

    Regarding IKEA….only ever picked things up. Where we live …they don’t deliver. You have to use a delivery service and hope the person that you hired to put the kitchen together is competent. It’s a long way back to the store. The joys and woes of living on an island.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. The kitchen at our place was the single most stressful room. We trawled all the kitchen specialists and couldn’t figure out what they were offering at 4 times the price that was any better than Ikea, so we went with Ikea. We didn’t have delivery, so can’t comment on that aspect. We didn’t go with Ikea appliances, sink, or bench top, but have their cabinets. We used their planning tool, but it wasn’t overly useful as our kitchen is an odd shape (sort of a truncated wedge). We had an appointment with the ‘expert’, which didn’t cost us anything. We didn’t have any bits extra or missing that I recall. We were impressed that a Swedish company working in France could sort out an Australian’s kitchen, and figured their system must work OK.

    We had no problem putting the cabinets together, but the independent guy who claimed to be a kitchen specialist who installed them was a cowboy. We subsequently got someone else to redo them. He confirmed our opinion that Ikea is as good quality if not better than the kitchen specialist shops.

    The granite bench tops we ordered through a company who dealt directly with the quarry in Portugal, and two Portuguese fitters delivered and installed them. They were fantastic and said they were very used to installing on Ikea cabinets.

    The Ikea kitchen tap for the sink we bought second hand from friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They didn’t charge you! Lucky! I used their planner, but I didn’t know about “fillers” and such. We did something similar in our house–it isn’t Ikea but Fly, a French company. Basic stuff, same as anywhere, not as good as solid wood but not nearly as expensive either. And we did the countertops in the local marble. We love it.


  4. Everything looks beautiful and I’m sure you are giving a sigh of relief. No experience with Ikea deliveries as our home was ‘Ikead’ prior to our purchasing. Certainly Ikea is well priced and one can count on them for good design. I can only imagine how frustrated you were with the deliveries and time lost driving, etc….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. All so gorgeous already!! I love Ikea- have several things from them – you definitely cannot beat their prices- but I haven’t had anything delivered from them yet -so no help there. I have to say- the details on your over mantel… sigh…In.Love. I just received a gorgeous mirror with similar decoration that I can hardly wait to get up – will be sharing soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have some gigantic mirrors that go above the mantels. The previous owner included them because they had been selected to go with the carvings at the tops of the chimneys. They’ll be going back up soon. I have to do some before/after posts.


  6. Haven’t used Ikea, and now I’d be disinclined. Had to re-do the entire first floor a couple of years ago — city plumbing disaster, don’t ask — and lots of furniture and decorative places near, so my contractor told me which wholesalers to see. Still, I got the $600 kitchen faucet on eBay for $250.
    Love love love those tiles, especially the Catalonian-looking blue and gold. The entire project looks wonderful — more pix, soon, please.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jacques is a marvel and I love your tiles..and style.
    Never had anything delivered by Ikea but after buying a bookcase and driving an hour home only to find it was damaged, I now inspect any furniture purchases before leaving the shop. Customer services were less than helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your apartments look gorgeous and the hard-to-find sink is my favorite part. The tiles are pretty fabulous too. Do you plan to sell the apartments or rent the apartments? Vacation rentals or yearly? Just curious about your plans now that the masterpiece is complete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely vacation rentals. The smoke alarms will be installed soon, and after that and the decorating, we’ll have them inspected by the city to be official holiday rentals. We’ll put them on AirBnB and some other sites. Beware: not everybody on those sites goes by the rules!


  9. You are so patient, I would have cancelled my Ikea order after the second failed delivery attempt. But that’s probably because I’ve lived in the US for a few years now, and you can always threaten to block the charge on your credit card to get what you want here, haha!
    Your space looks really beautiful, I miss the charm of older buildings and high-ceiling apartments.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Gorgeous details. The powder room sink with its tiles behind looks very au courant and rich indeed. Love all the tiles. Good for you for matching wits and determination with Ikea. There must be a Swedish word for that!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Well I’m lucky to be 2 miles (or a 15 minute drive) from the nearest IKEA. But I made myself a totally original problem in spite of that. I was planning out my kitchen right when they were getting ready to discontinue the AKURUM cabinets and roll out the SEKTION line. And they advertised the new line as being more modular and flexible than the old line, so I figured I’d wait because they don’t make all the sizes I want. I also framed out my ceiling to expose the slanted joists with soffits that are square to meet the cabinets. And then the new line of cabinets came out and did not include the widths I wanted, and they were 3 inches deeper so they wouldn’t line up right with the soffits I just built. The sales person there suggested that I redo the soffits, which were the most tedious and complicated framing job in the whole house. I panicked and bought AKURUM cabinets while they were still in stock and after considering having fronts made, I’m making them all myself out of birch plywood.

    2 relevant posts:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no!
      I have to ask, though: why soffits? I would make cupboards go to the ceiling. No? Even if you need a ladder.
      I looked longingly at solid wood cabinets that people were ripping out and selling on the French version of craigslist, but it was just too complicated for people who don’t want to DIY. Was that ever an option for you?


      1. With the exposed beam ceiling it would be impossible to have the cabinets go all the way up. The soffits I put in wrap one joist on the sink side and I believe come about an inch lower than the lowest point on the joist. That means that they only enclose dead space. I did it that way because the joists aren’t square to the walls or level to the tops of the cabinets and in the end I thought making one beam disappear was the best way to play down all the weirdness without completely obliterating it. I suppose I could have used wood trim that matched the cabinets instead and run it straight up to wherever it hit, but it would have made some really weird angles. Vintage cabinets would have been kind of great but it’s hard because most older kitchens had big double sinks and I needed a 24-inch sink base to get the layout I wanted. And then 1950’s houses have 8 foot or lower ceilings and I wanted really tall wall cabinets to take advantage of my ceiling height, and I wanted as many drawers as possible in the lower units. I may have been more flexible if the kitchen were bigger but my goal in this small space was to get all the storage and work space that I could shoehorn in.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The other funny/annoying thing about the soffits is that they would have been a good space to run the exhaust fan vent through, but the space between the joists is blocked with supports for an abandoned chimney that vented the original stove, so instead I had to vent it out through the other cabinet.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Definitely ‘nay’ to a kitchen from Ikea – I’ve seen them mess up too many times on their deliveries. A friend across in our village had to wait two months for the countertop, which the so called planner had forgotten to order. If I ever do a kitchen again, I’ll be going to a reliable kitchen company (not cuisines Schmidt, they mess up pretty much every time too!), and get them to do everything.
    But your end results look very good – well done for persevering!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think their quality is as good as any other kitchen that isn’t solid wood. But I expected that their logistics (not just the delivery fiasco itself, but them not knowing that the sinks were out of stock, and their site showing that the sinks were in stock) and customer service would be better.


  13. The Kitchen always seems to be the part that can hold up a renovation. I’m already dreading it for our renovation. Your story has confirmed that I will definitely be staying away from an Ikea Kitchen! Despite how organised you might think you are… it always requires at least two additional trips to Ikea – the stress!! Well done though! It looks wonderful. I love the tiles!

    emma @

    Liked by 1 person

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