Friday, October 10, 2014

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - Designer IKEA Hacks - really good ones.

Designer IKEA Hacks

I have these two incredible IKEA hacks in the works. One is Billy Bookcase, the other one is a stunning Hemnes hack.  

Billy Hack

Oh I am gonna do a number on that Billy Hack. It's a very classic design - I want to say sophisticated and subtle. I am going completely out of my way in terms of craftsmanship. The fireplace is built like a tank - single piece front. For the facing there is a beautiful marble mosaic, that now - on the advice of a good friend and a well experienced craftsman - will be installed properly on cement board.*

The shelving on the Billy bookcases, is half open - exposing a the back wall - nice! - and thus only 1/2" backs will do on the covered side. The adjustable shelves will get solid wood strip at the back - some on top, doubling as stops for books so they don't hit the exposed wall behind. yea.

It is such a pleasure to built such high craftsmanship designs.

Stay tuned for the final reveal.

*to obtain that good piece of advice and to drop the fireplace off, for the tiling, I drove at night to a charming small town in Ontario, Canada - it was dark and stormy, the sea was angry my friends. But I rest easily knowing that it will be done properly and it will be beautiful. 

Chapter 2 -  [LOTS OF TEXT - could be boring - but makes for good shelving! - SKIP to Chapter 3 for more excitement]

One of the best things about IKEA hacking is that you are working with products and technology that is at the forefront of innovation - product design, sustainability and engineering. 

When I made world's first Billy Bookcase unboxing video* - (!!!) watch it, it's at the bottom of this post - one of the coolest things I noticed were the new shelf pins. 

Yea! New shelf pins! Here - 

That is a very clever design - it's strong and it is very safe. I feel kind of silly getting excited talking about shelf pins, but hear me out - I'm a hardware junkie and good hardware makes for excellent and functional cabinetry.

In the good old days a shelf pin was just a straight pin that would go into a hole - and that's it - the shelf would just sit on top. This was not optimum because it was easy for the shelf to slide forward, off the back pin - say during pulling a large heavy item off the shelf, and not necessarily a book - and it would result the in the shelf crashing down below. To address that issue, IKEA product designers decided to notch the shelves for the pins - with that improvement the risk of the shelf just 'rolling off' the pins was virtually eliminated. You actually had to tilt the shelf up to pull it out.  That was a good and simple solution.

Now, enter, what I call the IKEA 'cup pins'! This is a brilliant solution! In my opinion - the way IKEA designed their shelf pins - the dynamic, adjustable, floating part of the bookcase - the shelf - becomes a structural element adding rigidity and strength. 

First there is what I call 'the cup' portion of the pin - you guessed it - looks like an inverted design for an  North American large size travel coffee mug - I know I drink lots of coffee on the go! You know how your over sized coffee mug fits in your cup holder in your car - how the bottom portion is tapered? Same idea! Each IKEA Billy Bookcase shelf is drilled with four 2-stage holes - a larger hole which then tapers to a smaller hole. This ensures that the pins always center properly and are locked securely. 

Second part is the foot of the pin - the part that gets inserted into side of the bookcase. IKEA made them slimmer and introduced two 'teeth' to the design. Under load, the tendency of the 'foot' is to tilt up - that's when the the two 'teeth' start biting and ensure that there is no way that the pins slide. Clever!

Third part is the 'support' - SO MUCH design packed into that little shelf pin! - IKEA included a little lip that helps stabilize the entire pin under load. 

Conclusion - with their new shelf pin design, IKEA manages to address all the deficiencies of old shelf pin designs. And while you would normally have to reach out to specialty suppliers to get similar shelf pins - if say, you are a cabinetry connoisseur - IKEA includes them with every Billy bookcase they sell. That's Deomcratic Design! With this shelf pin design each shelf becomes an integral, structural part of the bookcase - the more you load that shelf, the harder that little pin works!

Chapter 3

One of the funnest parts of designing and building IKEA Hacks is that the clients come to me full of awesome ideas for their cabinetry. They want lights, they want crown mouldings, they want fabric or wallpaper on the backs - they want no backs at all! - open shelving! They come prepared with images, and even videos! With the vast resources available on-line - like - they have done their research and they know what they want. 

In this case the client asked that units be open - have no backs - leaving the wall behind exposed. It's a very good decision as the space is tall but fairly shallow - extra visual depth is always good. 

Here is the mantle piece, that will be flanked by double Billy hacks. The insert is really nice - it is an electric model, suitable for heating up to 400 sq. feet. It's also safe, as the front glass does not get hot. Rather, heat is generated by a heating mechanism - very quiet - and the hot air is forced through a recessed grill, that cools off quickly, once fireplace is switched off. Another nice safety feature is the fact that the fan remains running until the heating element is completely cool - there is a built in sensor switch. The mosaic is marble with beautiful sheen - it's almost sparkling in bright light - stunning material. 

Everything is ready for an install on Monday.....

Chapter 4

It happened - the install....It looks really good. 


This is my directorial debut, so please be kind - many influences to unite, tried giving it a bit of early Woody Allen.


*I hope that it will go viral! No one has done an 'unboxing video for Billy Bookcase!' Oh the drama, and anticipation.... But the curious fact remains that I am the first human to touch those pieces, as BILLY bookcase production is entirely mechanized and runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. About 40 tons of BILLY bookcases get made a day. They are stored in a fully automated robotic warehouse.

pps. Wow! It's already being loaded! 

Nice comments I got:
A] The shelving is nice and deep! Even largest books fit well.
B] The shelves felt very solid.
C] Awesome!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - 75 greatest reason for loving IKEA and IKEA Hacking - OR - Karl Marx would be so proud....of IKEA.

CHapter 1 - 75 Greatest Reasons for loving IKEA

If the title drew you in than, 'Good!', it worked. It was an experiment whether I can lure readers with a promise of a ridiculously and exhaustive list - lists are apparently 'the thing' to have on a blog - a count down - with the rule being that the no.1 be a some sort of 'self-realization' point. 

I will try my best, and, yes this entry does it does end with a self-realization.

I am still thinking about IKEA coming down on IKEA Hackers. After the initial uproar, IKEA quickly realized their error and backtracked. In a legally beautiful language - clinical and ambiguous - they said nothing except that taking up negotiation with Jules Yap - the  IKEA has a very purposeful, well managed social media footprint - it showcases the best of their ideas implemented in an excellent fashion.

A well organized social media campaign by a disciplined group can easily knock several % points of any brand's stock value and cause any board of directors to crumble. In IKEA's case - in my opinion - their only corporate bungle - IKEA vs. - vapourized tons of Positive Social Capital. I tweeted @IKEACanada in outrage! 

Read my post about here. 

IKEA noticed.
IKEA cared. 

Jules Yap played her cards well. She threatened to move the entire collection of IKEA hacks - thousands of them - onto a new, 'yet-to-be' named domain name that was devoid of the name IKEA. This would certainly satisfy IKEA's legal team, but this though would be a slap-in-the-face for thousands of IKEA Hackers worldwide - that is anyone whomever purchased an IKEA product and cleverly repurposed it, or decorated it, or modified it - AND THEN with pride submitted it online for the ENTIRE WORLD TO SEE at 

Because that is where you go if you want to see the best of IKEAHack selfies! -people doing all sorts of crazy things with IKEA products!  

Jules Yap - clever lady that she is - sought out a legal opinion before going public with the dispute. If she could not win in the court of law, she would certainly win in the court of public opinion. And she did win. And now, after her win, I would say that the act of 'IKEA Hacking' is now viewed as a 'god-given-right' by anyone making purchases at IKEA! Just 2 [two!] minutes ago, I saw an image of someone who turned an IKEA wooden salad bowl and and 'IKEA cord with a lightbulb' into a neat lamp. And all it took is drilling a hole in the bottom of the bowl and feeding the electrical cord through. Assuming that the cord can support the weight of salad bowl [which I am pretty sure it can] - hey! a clever new product! I can just imagine the pride of the hacker who submitted their hack to IKEA Hackers website [that's mouthful of 'hacks', eh?].

And dawned on me! 
I got it!
I got it!
I yelled out. 

This is 'Democratic Design'! IKEA Hacking is the finest example of Design in the hands of masses! IKEA Hacks are products that are a direct result of people wanting to be creative. It is an example of people being liberated from Mass Production and taking charge of their lives. In society that very much feels repetitive and conformist, IKEA -  unknowingly, probably not intentionally -  created an avenue for one to reconnect with their own creative labour and the fruits of that creative labour! Karl Marx would be so proud....of IKEA.

Few years back I attended a symposium organized by the Ontario Crafts Council [Toronto, Canada] titled - Craft and the New Economy.  Basically it was an event at which various speakers talked about various aspects of 'making things by hand' - from purely practical aspects of running a craft business all the way to academic explorations of the theoretical. I even wrote a review of it, it's 'cheeky' - Here, you can read it on my Facebook blog, Buckskin Baby Review. For a whole day a listened to various people talking about the positive feelings of self-empowerment, creativity, re-connecting to 'economy-long-gone'. There was tons of materials and ideas, but the one awesome idea that I walked away with was this great line from Maria-Elena Buszek - she's an Associate Professor of Art History, from Univeristy of Colorado - 'Labour is my Medium!' She shouted that line while raising her fist in the air! I was stunned. 

I was stunned, because I consider myself a 'Maker' - a maker of things, a maker of IKEA Hacks. It's my profession. But there are millions of people in the world that are not 'Makers' in the true sense. They have 'other jobs' - equally important; they make the world go round and round. But maybe they've got 'desk-jobs' or are 'pencil-pushers' [that's my favourite anti-hero, no disrespect to 'pencil-pushers' know who you are....] and their work does not allow for their creativity to manifest itself in a physical fashion that beautifies their living environment. And along comes IKEA Hacking! 

A Short story of IKEA Hacking, Chapter 1

You go to a store. You buy a box that is full of parts - wooden or metal or plastic or a combination thereof - that also has a picture of a promise of what the final product will look like if you correctly connect all the pieces. But you also know that there exists an alternate universe of these such products that even though start off in the same way, through some sort of clever modification gain a new look or perhaps a new function or BOTH! The adventure begins.....

The end is unpredictable at best.

See how easy it is! 

I get swamped with requests for quotes - I developed a system to deal with the shear volume of them. But I feel compelled to share something with you dear reader.  Sometimes after sending out a quote - sometimes it is days later, sometimes it is weeks later, sometimes it is months - I get an e-mail back saying that the person did it themselves! Usually it was a timeframe - they wanted or needed it done now [I need some lead time]; sometimes it is the cost - who wants to pay for half-a-day of labour [I do have a minimum rate] to assemble a product that should not take more than 2 hours to put together with a Philips screwdriver and a hammer? People write me, or send me pictures and proudly boast that they did it themselves! And I always write back - Bravo! well done! - the e-mails brim with pride and self-satisfaction. Some pictures of hacks are very impressive, look very professional. Well done! Power to the people! 

I know that my work helps people  - read this anyway you want to...
But I always hope that my work also inspires people - read this anyway you want as well....

With IKEA Hacking, people, Labour is YOUR MEDIUM TOO! 
Be creative!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

my first TRUE IKEA Hack - #001

Chapter 1 - my first TRUE IKEA Hack #001

I did it! I did it! My first TRUE IKEA hack! It's a big deal for me, because from now on I am officially offering that service - TRU-Hack.  

TRU-Hack is a lower price point option from my original IKEA hacking system - however - it is not always applicable. Sometimes it does not work for the space - either the geometry of the design OR structural issues [like stacking]. 

I have largely resisted doing on-site hacks because they bring their own set of challenges:

A] No mods to the cabinetry - BILLYs in this instance - the original IKEA cabinetry still gets reinforced.

I always use screws in assembly - rigid. The backs get screwed on as well. The client saves money because they assemble the product themselves - according to IKEA instructions. 

The two extra plywood cleats - added at the back - keep the box rigid and square - they eliminate the need for a typically required fixed middle shelf - all BILLYs have one fixed shelf.  They also ensure that the back hooks will install properly and stay there despite years of use. 

This very much felt like an improv-design. Andrea wanted to have nice beadboard for the backs - which in turn required shortening of the shelves - to make it all fit. She also wanted to have an option of installing additional hook - higher up - the kids are only getting taller, and their jackets longer. 

We did all that. 

We used a modified crown moulding - modified because it was cut down for the proper dimension and nice fitting profile - to create a 'picture frame' design. I used a laser level to set all the hooks - it was good quality hardware, I could tell. 

To cover the gaps  between gables [sides] Andrea suggested to use nice, small, symmetric profile, solid wood moulding - I thought that was a great idea! It was good problem solving all around! 

Andrea experimented with the heights of the shelving to create the desired look - REMEMBER, it's all adjustable, change as often as you like! - and presto! 

This was a one long IKEA hacking day..... that final picture was shot at 10PM on a Friday night!* 

Anyhow, I think it turned out very nice. All that needs to be done is to do some painting. 

So how expensive is a project like this? Me and Andrea did some math and we have number - curious? e-mail me. But, I will tell you one thing - it's way cheaper than doing it using my original IKEA Hacking system. Major savings come out of the fact that you assemble the product yourself - I just strengthen it. And you are completely stuck with stock dimensions - that's the other thing you have to think of. My other system offers greater flexibility in sizing. But rest assured I always do my best to make it look like a million bucks! 

It's like it was always there!


*'What were you doing on Firday night?' 'Oh...I was IKEA Hacking.'

Monday, June 16, 2014

Confessions of a professional IKEA Hacker - IKEA vs. OR IKEA shuts down IKEAHackers!

Chapter 1 - IKEA vs. OR IKEA shuts down

Imagine that something that you love doing could make you very rich.

Like baking for example. One day you discover that you are a really good baker. You also discover that you make really awesome cupcakes. They are a hit at school sales and your friends are willing to pay you money to bake for their kids b-day parties. You are so successful that you ditch your job and start doing it full time. Later while you cater for a bar mitzvah you consult - it is a blast and you wonder if you should not start planning First Communions.... And the story goes on and on and on, in that fashion. You are rich.

I am certain that that was exactly what Jules Yap [pseudonym] was thinking - she found something that she loved doing and she was good at it. It only made sense that she turn that into a full time profession.

Eight years after launching - a wildly popular blog dedicated to hacking IKEA products in a clever and inspirational way - Jules Yap found herself on the receiving end of Cease and Desist, signed by none other than IKEA. A woman with passion for IKEA Hacking she staked out a permanent place for it on the WWW - organized, labeled it, ran contests and advice column. It became an on-line mecca for those seeking a fun and functional way to hack four narrow BILLY's into a cool looking mud-room cabinetry - on a budget - that was my last gig, I am the world's first professional IKEA hacker.

IKEA politely requested that she voluntarily transfer the domain name to them or face yet-to-be-named legal action - that is a bit of a 'strong-arm' tactic, I would say. It has been pointed out that has been around for 8 long years - whoever is in charge of watching over IKEA trademarks should be fired in my opinion, cause they were not doing their job - if it is just a trademark enforcement action, as IKEA claims.

Personally I think that Jules Yap - - has gotten too large for IKEA's comfort. Here is a woman who turned her passion for IKEA Hacks into a business model - hey! blogging is a valid profession. If you study the ads on her blog [they will soon dissappear] you will discover that there exists a large 'aftermarket' industry that manufactures and very successfully sells products to 'hack IKEA' - clearly we now know that IKEA doesn't like that.

IKEA is an incredible control freak - I recently recall them posting ads - in Toronto, Canada - for 'full time legal counsel to be present on site during business hours.' why? - but that is typical of any corporation. No way could IKEA fully control - and being silent for any longer was not an option. So they came down hard - even though they openly encouraged it before - 2013 IKEA Canada catalog, page 207, top right hand corner, white Tanem doors - if I recall correctly. That, in my opinion is the safest hack ever - and that is as far as IKEA went.

Some suggested that IKEA should have negotiated with IKEA has the best legal counsel in the world - I am certain of that - they can afford it. They probably have their own law-school*. But that would not have worked out, as there was no way to ensure a consistent legal framework that could be extended over Remember those are self-submits that range in difficulty 

- alas! did not take my submissions! too professional - and quality of execution. 

I've stated before that IKEA does not over-engineer, and it is my experience that you have to be knowledgeable to produce large scale IKEA hacks that are - what I would call - 'cabinetmaker-furniture maker' quality. I hack PAX wardrobers or Billy bookcases all the time - I would not call my hacks specifically DIY jobs. Sometimes I look at a picture of an IKEA hack and knowing the way it is manufactured I see the mod as a potential risk.

IKEA lawyers went about it the gentlest way that the legal profession knows - voluntarily submit your domain to us [smooth.....good pick-up line at the bar...]. Of course it looked bad - but I doubt they wanted to set a precedent and offer Jules Yap a million dollars for the domain name - which I doubt she would take - to discourage others from hijacking 'IKEA'esuqe' names and getting paid for it. I also bet a million dollars that they would kill the site - not immediately - IKEAHackers - or perhaps gently transition it into non-existence. But why, you ask?

Well imagine that IKEA is really big. No one knows how big they are because they are not publicly traded and they don't have to report to anyone - but I know this - they consume 1% of world's wood. That is a LOT of wood, but that is just a one indicator of their might. They run their own line of hinges and slides. They are phasing out incandescent power - they are getting into renewable energy. They already phased out plastic shopping bags in Toronto, Canada. They are into sustainable farming of oceans. They are into building multi-unit dwellings - there was a condominium project, here in Toronto, Canada, at Lakeshore & Dixie; called IDEA [that they killed eventually...too bad that I don't have a photo...I'm smarter these days...]

If IKEA allowed for to exist - or encouraged it - realistically their entire People + Planet projects would be up for grabs for anyone with a case of curiosity and perhaps a Philips screwdriver! Their business model would be under attack!

This ugly spat - IKEA vs.  - is now public. Few things are obvious now - but in the end it is all good news though, I believe -

A] IKEA is threatened by, by the concept of people hacking their products [past, present and future, whatever they may be]. They don't like it - as a corporate entity I don't think they ever liked it. Not sure why they waited so long. We are saved though, because IKEA is still a very ethical corporation - being a corporate good-nick has done very well for them. I still support them - they are a force for positive change.

B] They were not successful in taking the domain name. still exists and is owned by Jules! Yes, the name does contain a trademark, but put together with the term 'hacking' it now describes a 'separate, IKEA-independent activity, over which - it would appear - IKEA lost control [!!!]' - that is the only reasonable explanation why the IKEA lawyers backed off - because they were unable to execute, seize. Lawyers don't play nice, they eliminate.

Of course IKEA is not that powerless - they are starving the beast - Jules was forced to turn the blog non-commercial - no more ads. To which she responded that she will set-up a separate domain AND do both - publish IKEA hacks and show ads.

Ahh...what a mess...

This entry was triggered by an e-mail from a friend. She e-mailed me the link and asked - 'Karol, what's your take on it?' I was concerned initially. After all, I am the world's first professional IKEA hacker - won't IKEA go after me next? No. They won't. I don't believe so. Several reasons for it - hey, might as well outline my position for IKEA lawyers when they do decide to knock on my door!
SO here it is IKEA Lawyers [subject to change, in no way complete, to be expanded]:

A] You lost a LOT of Social Capital for going after - they were your best ally! They promoted you! They championed your cause! Millions loved it - Jules' Google profile has been viewed now over 790 000 000 times. And you fucked them over. Excuse the strong language - but it is true.

B] I am the world's first professional IKEA Hacker. I am a designer by education - Furniture Design 2006 [some could argue 2007]; Sheridan College, Craft  & Design Program, one of the top schools for Design in North America; I design interiors - interior design field, decorating - using modified IKEA products, which are readily accessible and reasonably priced - whether it is by NOT following your instruction manuals; modifying your assembly methods, or outright 'hacking*' your products. And I BLOG ABOUT IT.

*IKEA Hacking refers [but NOT EXCLUSIVE] to a world wide movement of modifying, altering, 'moving-beyond', 'not-sticking-to-the-manual'; decorating in non-structural and in some instances structural way, of IKEA products. Since you do require most of your products to be assembled by the 'end user' you must accept the reality that IKEA Hacking was born out out a mistake of one assembler OR or cleverness of another!

**Professional IKEA Hacking - refers to making a living out of doing everything listed in * [single star; above] PLUS, modifying some products in structural ways. Since you, IKEA, already state that any mods render the warranty useless - indicating that you are no longer interested in them -  I want to point out that I pick up where YOU left. My IKEA hacks are covered my Studio Kosnik warranty - Canadian commercial standard. No worries, all you need to do for a claim is to e-mail me and say that I personally did your hack. That's all - my customer service is impeccable! People love me! I remember all my clients - personally! I have a heart.


I am gonna keep on doing what I do best - IKEA Hacking. My bible is the annual IKEA catalog. It is like a candy store for me - what do I hack next! Ha! Ha! Ha!
I love it.

My name is Karol Kosnik, and I am the world's first professional IKEA Hacker!


IKEA backtracked!
They are looking for a 'new way forward'.
They also like the idea of people being excited about their products!