How The Duo Behind "Chris Loves Julia" Made a Super Luxe Looking Kitchen with IKEA Cabinets and a $99 Rug

Semihandmade cabinets, fresh hardware, and a whole lot of creativity.

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Chris Loves Julia

Picture it: Your current kitchen is outdated, dark, and not in line with your family's current lifestyle...so your friends, who happen to be insanely popular design bloggers, hijack your renovation and turn your tired traditional kitchen into a fresh, modern one—all in about a month and for a surprisingly low price. This may sound like a literal design fantasy, but for the Fullmer family, it was a reality.

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The Fullmers happen to be pals with Chris and Julia Marcum, the couple behind the blog (and the associated which boasts 285,000 followers). Chris and Julia were just beginning a renovation of the kitchen at their own cabin when it tragically caught fire and burned down. Luckily, no one was hurt, but the couple was forced to put their renovation plans on hold.

"We were kind of in a dark place just because renovating is, you know, our job, but also kind of like our mental therapy," Julia tells CQ. So when they found out their friends and neighbors the Fullmers were itching to renovate their own kitchen, they stepped in—in the best way possible. "We asked if we could take over the renovation and kind of help their vision come to life," Julia explains.

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The Fullmer kitchen before.
Chris Loves Julia

And come to life it did—all in the matter of a few weeks. But the most shocking part about the warm, modern space, which the couple unveiled earlier this month, is that it was made using an Ikea kitchen.

You see, the reason Chris and Julia had been planning a reno on their cabin was to show off their new line of cabinet fronts for the brand Semihandmade, which manufacturers cabinet fronts, drawer fronts, and paneling made to retrofit several Ikea models, enabling users to hack the Swedish retailer's offerings in a—you guessed it—semi-handmade way...and save big in the process (after all, the average cost of an Amreican kitchen renovation is more than $20,000).

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Julia and Chris, right, with the Fullmers in their new kitchen.
Chris Loves Julia

The collaboration with Semihandmade came about a few years ago, when Chris and Julia found themselves in a time crunch on another project.

"It was a six day kitchen renovation. And we wanted it to look, you know, high end, of course, but we were on a budget," Julia explains. So, they turned to one of Semihandmade's models. When the resulting reno went viral, the company asked them to design The couple opted for warm woods in three tones: a slate gray, reddish brown, and light-washed brown, the third of which the couple used in the Fullmer kitchen.

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Open shelves allow space for pretty accents, while less attractive necessities are stored in the Ikea cabinets.
Chris Loves Julia

"They really wanted it to feel warm and bright," Julia explains of the Fullmer's dream kitchen. So Chris and Julia mixed their lightest Semihandmade cabinets with the company's matte white model to create a kitchen that blends modern and traditional, all while feeling bright but still warm.

Custom open shelving and reclaimed wood beams echo the wood undertones and add additional texture to the kitchen. "I love the idea of open shelves, but when you have kids, you have things you don't want out," reasons Julia of the mix. "So we gave them plenty of closed storage too and then the shelves for things they want to display. It felt like a good balance."

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Light wood Semihandmade panels and a Loloi rug keep the space warm.
Chris Loves Julia

Another functional must for the Fullmers? "They really wanted casual seating," Julia says. So, she and Chris designed an island, which they covered in Semihandmade paneling in the same finish as the cabinets.

Devising the perfect layout around that was a breeze using Ikea's planning tool, Julia says. And, since the Semihandmade fronts can go right on the Ikea cabinetry, the Marcums could use all of their more specialized cabinetry, like drawers with multiple compartments, and still achieve a uniform look with the Semihandmade fronts. Once a user devises their Ikea kitchen using the planning tool, they simply upload the plan to Semihandmade and the brand will ensure they're ordering the correct number and type of fronts.

Larkin Bin Pull
Rejuvenation rejuvenation.com
$20.00

In addition to the Semihandmade upgrade, Chris and Julia upped the custom factor for the Fullmers by swapping in new hardware, an unlacquered brass by Rejuvenation. A brass light fixture, also from Rejuvenation, draws the eye up.

Meanwhile, the Fullmer's mandate of "airy and bright" is further achieved with Bedrosian's Cloe tile, a riff on classic subway tile that has a bit of a sheen. "I describe it as kind of a grown up subway tile," says Julia, who decided to swath the hood in it to continue the light, bright palette all the way to the ceiling.

For the floor, though, Julia wanted to go warm: "I love a vintage rug," she says. "But I would never recommend like putting a you know, $1,200 rug in your kitchen." So, she sourced this $99 (!) one from Loloi which adds the same look for a fraction of the price.

"I think having something softer in a space that you spend so much time is something you'll appreciate for years," she explains. We think the same can be said for the whole kitchen.


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