Saturday, May 8, 2021

The Business of LUXURY and I prefer APPROPRIATE [.....but still cool!]

Picture shows a newly built, out-of-character for the neighborhood house in Etobicoke, by the lake, where the author of this post resides. 

Prologue: Knowledge, understanding and respect of the building process - crafting - from design to fabrication - will allow you to make appropriate choices and selection when time will come to renovate your own space. Avoid common misconceptions, social media hypes and industry myths that lead you to spend more money that you need to. 

Let's START!

Picture shows young Karol Kosnik installing hardwood flooring over a Warmboard - US-developed building technology that allows for installation of solid wood over radiant floors.

Picture shows young Karol Kosnik resting on a freshly laid-up, slip-matched, sliding ebony door for a media unit. This particular door went into the private residence of Canada's most famous lawyer. This is an 'artistic photo' from my DeStijl Days - it was a period in my life when I was obsessed with an art movement called DeStijl - I would impose some strict rules for 'living my life', not austere in any way, more like a 'creative direction' - focus was always on craft. 

Chapter 1 - Private Passions: Quality and Craftsmanship, how it started. 

I wasn't that young man - I didn't know what I wanted 'to do for the rest of my life'. I did not come from privilege and I had to work hard to pay off my student loans when I dropped out of university; I wanted to be an engineer. It was a career choice that both my parents and my grandma supported. My parents because as fresh-2-Canada immigrants - I'm a naturalized Canadian myself - they saw this as a meal ticket to a 'better life'. My grandma of course was completely enamoured with the 'White Collar' and 'bossing others around'.

Once a young man drops out of school where is he to get a job but a construction site, huh?

There were other options, of course, but the idea of spending excessive amounts sitting in front of a computer screen which I already did while taking computer programming courses [Java.....Java in 28 days.....Java in 7 days ..... Java in 24 hours....hahaha] did not entice me and I preferred jobs where I was not static. 

For first few years I cycled thru the 'entire ecosystem of woodworking' - framing, carpentry, trim-carpentry and hardwood flooring. It was with hardwood flooring that I really discovered that I enjoyed 'wood as a medium' - I was able to use wood [in all its forms] to construct practical structures that gave people shelter, provided comfort, created delight and sparked joy. In some ways it's quite intoxicating and you get a rush when you hand over that final result to the client - they love it... and they can't get enough.

When I entered flooring full time as a subcontractor I already had an extensive collection of woodworking tools and I topped it when I bought myself an older Dodge RAM 350 van. It was a short, stocky, heavy duty grey thing with an emergency lights on top - a BELL Canada van.... To this day I get a small chuckle when I write how I do 'emergency flooring' on my Instagram posts - I do occasionally do floors, mainly really nice Moncer installs, where every board matters, or I floor for friends.

As an independent contractor I worked for most reputable companies in the GTA [I always say that no.1 company in the GTA is Darmaga Hardwood Flooring for a reason] and my projects took me to some of the most prestigious locations in Toronto. I floored for the rich, famous and influential. I worked on projects where the word 'budget' did not exist. I worked in the presence of privately owned Picasso  - and a pretty big one too! Not one of those little scribbles....!

Did you know that you can turn any wood into flooring? That's right - everything from exotics to reclaimed lumber....

Picture shows a reclaimed pine siding from a demolished home re-purposed into flooring. Random widths / Random lengths. This project was a wedding gift to a really good friend and I would consider this to be my 'Peak Flooring' project. 

My wife suggested that since I enjoy wood and woodworking so much that I should further my education in 'that department'. After looking into various post secondary programs I settled on Crafts and Design program from Sheridan College: Furniture Design.  ~that was a wild ride~

I went into the program already quite skilled in technical aspects of woodworking and my focus was more on the ~design aspect~: exploring materials and forms and putting it all in the historical perceptive.  My education enabled me to contextualize and compartmentalize many of the projects I worked on in the past - I began to see decisions making process behind the choices. I began to understand - it was like 'fabrication' + 'humanity'. 

While at school I got a scholarship to spend my summer at Nienkamper - that's like an equivalent of Herman Miller but in Canada. I spent my days working on the floor of manufacturing plant that produced objects of impeccable quality that would be shipped all over the world. I got to upholster the base of the first ever Cloud Chair [google that beast] by Karim Rashid - it was prototyped that summer there by a visiting German craftsman.

It was fascinating to witness the birth of an icon by a modern designer - obviously there is historic context to the design but I spent more time talking to those actually working on the project. Considerations were given as to the ease of fabrication of the frame; how are we going to upholster this?; how are we going to deal with the 'warranty calls' - you would be surprised how a well meaning design turns into a production nightmare when you realize that the design has an 'excessive number of warranty calls'.  My Nienkamper Summer, as I like to call it, was truly an eye-opening experience for me - knowledge I gained; the ingenuity I witnessed; the experience I admired, yearned for and was jealous of - all that - is still very much with me to this day. 

Passion for quality doesn't go away, rather it grows stronger everyday that you focus and grow your craft.

Chapter 2 - What is APPROPRIATE and what is UNNECESSARY ?

Do you want to get philosophical?

I know, it's just interior design, but bear with me. We will start off with the following statement: I think we all have a bit of passion for interior design - at minimum for our own space, some more than others. I also want to mention that we will only be dealing and talking about residential construction as that is my forte. 

I strongly believe that the only reason for my success is the fact that Ikea Hacking is value proposition - it is cheaper to create interiors using boxes sourced from IKEA. When you compare 'how much' you can get from IKEA vs. anywhere else for the same amount of money it just makes sense. This human pre-disposition for savings is a strong one, a natural one, an 'organic one', and the proof is the roster of my past clients, repeat clients, new clients and the sheer amount of requests for quotes and requests for advice I receive. I want to highlight that socio-economic status has no bearing on demand for my services - everyone wants me to come visit their space and give them my opinion. 

Everyone needs boxes in their lives. We may have different personal aesthetics and budgets but the need is universal. 'Boxes' are used mainly to 'store stuff' and help us to organize our lives better. Vanity is a box; a closet is a box; kitchen is a series of boxes and a kitchen island is a free-standing box - you see? They are everywhere and so I ask - why not tilt the economies of scale in your favour and buy the boxes from IKEA? Yea, why not?! There is more! As a woodworker with more than 20 years of woodworking experience across industries such as residential design, hospitality, education and food service I can tell you that everybody builds their boxes the same way - this is not rocket science; we are not re-inventing the wheel here.

This need for functional boxes was further amplified by a 'Historic Design Event' on a massive scale. What happened? The exodus of office workers from their traditional productive environments and into their private residences happened. Thousands of people were forced out of the confines of their well designed, well thought out, optimized and ergonomic spaces and thrust into the middle of their living rooms, bedrooms, dens and kitchens.  'Temporary 2 weeks' turned into months and now a year and it looks like it will continue for foreseeable future.

To Be Continued....

*the Gilded Age the Pandemic

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

HAVSTORP - a new and exciting door form IKEA! - REVIEW


Picture shows a freshly launched door for the SEKTION box called HAVSTORP. 

Chapter 1 - HAVSTORP Door Review

~When I opened the HAVSTORP box..... I just saw a grey Veddinge doors.~

'Just'.... Listen up! Never underestimate the power of simple slab door in a neutral grey colour AND an at an AMAZING price point! Yea, I think I only paid $18 bucks from Click-n-Collect at IKEA Etobicoke!

White VEDDINGE doors are the cornerstone of IKEA's 'modern design' - Anything and everything goes with these simple and unassuming doors. Simplest way to accent is to use knobs or pulls - 'Who cares who made the doors or how much they cost, if each knob on that door costs 150 bucks, is handmade and imported from Great Britain?', asked a millionaire. This comparison struck me as odd, but it's very rational way to think about design - we see the 'High-Low' looks all the time, at least I do. I am actually a big fan of the 'High-Low' and use that principle in all my work. 

Along comes HAVSTORP......!

Tomorrow when I get to the shop will do some 'hard testing' and measure the vitals - will make a YouTube video for sure!

'Like, comment, subscribe!' hahaha!


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Ikea Hacker says - Understanding IKEA's PAX warranty - how to come up on TOP

Picture shows an IKEA PAX hack that has been professionally done. It appears that a 200cm wide design was used with 4 doors. The PAX box is elevated on a platform and the bottom is wrapped in a baseboard. Side panels were applied and an oversized crown moulding installed. Large brass pulls were installed on the doors and the entire unit is painted a pleasant white shade. 

 Chapter 1 - PAX wardrobes are THE BEST DEAL IN CLOSET DESIGN;

This beauty popped into my mailbox few weeks back - straight from Jules, ~hottt~ off the press, so to speak. It caught my eye immediately - beautiful work whoever designed and executed it. Looks like Jules now has an Instagram account 'official Ikea Hackers' - CHECK it out! Some of the work is beautiful and very creative - that's precisely the type of work that I like to do. I sometimes visit her page to get inspired - designers don't work in a vacuum. We must continue to go out there and expose ourselves to ideas - 'fresh off the street' as I would like to say, because that is the only way to keep track of what is happening at the consumer level vs. corporate ivory towers**

I am certain that behind this beautiful build rests a box that is full of amazing organizers and lighting that just makes the morning routine a breeze! And I personally think that this a great build. 

Chapter 2 - a GREAT build without ~any warranty~

Whaaat....? It's TRUE. I am not making this up. As much as this is a GREAT example of an IKEA Hack, all the modifications applied to this PAX box completely void its warranty. Typical PAX box and the KOMPLEMENT system come with a 10 year warranty. Being a professional IKEA Hacker I have tended to numerous PAX boxes - everything from a fresh, baby-new box being assembled; to 'can you come and TUNE-UP this closet?' - something is not working properly, something is rubbing, the box feels wobbly...etc. I have even conducted PAX RESURRECTIONS - this is when the PAX wardrobe installed according to the provided instructions [and not always at the end of its 10-year warranty life] is failing to the point that it is being considered for curbside disposal. YES, I have witnessed this box across its entire lifespan and let me tell you that I always hope! - otherwise it's a lot of money and time to replace it new.

I am on REDDIT - active in the r/IKEA and r/IKEAHacks communities. It's a good community of people helping others - professional and cheerful. Lots and lots of PAX built-ins popping up. People are recognizing the value of that system and are choosing it over the traditional route of 'custom closets'. It's easy to make that decision when you compare the pricing on the designs - most of my work comes from people who first get a quote for a custom build and realize that they can achieve SO MUCH MORE for a lot less money!

Here is the trouble - when you are building in the PAX, meaning you are creating a custom structure that will either support, house, hide, elevate that box - whatever your end-goal is - you are removing the easy access to fix it up along its lifespan. I bet that you want to get more than the 10 years out of that box [that's the warranty]. I would argue that a good, solid run of cabinetry should last 25 years. Yes, there will be wear and tear on some elements. Yes there will be a need to occasionally adjust, lubricate or replace some components. This minor tweaking tho should be easy and accessible, including to the client so that there is no expensive call backs.

I know and understand the PAX box intimately. 

I know how it is designed and I understand how it is fabricated. This allows me to come up with solutions that when implemented will extend the life of the PAX years beyond its fairly limited warranty, in my opinion. 

If you are going to go thru the trouble of building in your PAX and you want to get a solid 25 year performance out of it then you MUST do those three simple hacks to the box. Here is the video: How to give your PAX a lifetime of performance!

To Be Coninued..... [video coming!]


**this is why I said that the DELAKTIG project was a dud - it was an artificial entity not quite suited to real life. The end of 'High Priests of Design' has come.

Monday, January 18, 2021

The case for WILLIAM - a BILLY bookcase hack OR everybody needs boxes in their life.

 This entry here is a part of the Toronto Design Festival 2021.

Picture shows Studio Kosnik WILLIAM bookcase prototype, a work-in-progress - a BILLY bookcase hack designed in the aesthetic called 'Accidental Wes Anderson'.  The BILLY bookcase had the back replaced with beadboard; side panels were added as well as 'face frames' and an oversized arch with a crown moulding tops the box.


Picture shows a very fancy looking BILLY bookcase hack by Karol Kosnik - the WILLIAM bookcase. 

Chapter 1 - The need for storage

People have stuff. Sometimes lots and lots of it. Sometimes they have too much stuff and it becomes a problem. 

Solution? BOXES.

Yes my friends that is most requested item on the menu at Studio Kosnik. No it is not fancy furniture design that people want [although I will often throw in some eccentric element into my design] but rather the superbly organized, well lit, beautifully functional Ikea hacks. I have found the perfect partner in IKEA - essentially they are in the business of boxes - well designed, well sourced.

In fact, Ikea's boxes are so popular that they often sell out of them. There exist shortages of their well priced boxes across many areas of United States, Canada - even European Union has its own issues [BREXIT!!]. Consumers complain of being sold a beautiful dream via the various IKEA planners, be it PAX, or SEKTION, or BESTA or BILLY or EKET..... just sooo many boxes - and then realizing that the item is out of stock and hasn't been re-stocked in ages. Or maybe they live outside of delivery area. Or maybe there isn't anyone in the area to install it - yes, there is a shortage of skilled labour.

Entry point pricing on a box that typically carries a better 'design value' - for example the design for the BILLY bookcase is resolved downright to the shelf pins! check them out! 10/10 - means that many of those boxes paired with the right designer [yes, that is another requirement...] - becomes an irresistible value proposition. How high are you holding your nose in relation to your wallet, huh?** 

What is the box that every dwelling will need? Easy, it's the kitchen box and SEKTION - which is IKEA's second version of the kitchen box; a complete re-design of their previous AKURUM system [for which by the way exists an entire ecosystem of shops making replacement doors] - is an industry leader.

I love telling this story:

So one day we were installing some really fancy fancy millwork for Canada's most famous lawyer - personal residence. I was fresh out of design school and working for a high end millwork company. This place had it all - 'a meellion dollar floor', rift sawn wenge; 'a meellion dollar' kitchen, Italian Boffi; of course there was my 'meellion dollar zebra wood' closet and media unit. The house is absolutely stunning and well designed. Soon I discovered that there was another large kitchen in the basement - an exact look-alike, except it was from IKEA. This Boffi/IKEA thing did not dawn on me right away - both kitchens were nice white high gloss; both kitchens featured great functional hardware, AND at first glance they appeared identical. That's right ~they appeared identical~. Me, quote, unquote, a professional, couldn't spot the difference at first glance. 

Much years has passed since that time - today, almost 15 years later, I've developed a more discerning eye and can spot 'designer' things easier, but this experience is deeply etched in my mind. 

~See? Who knows if you don't tell them? ~

Chapter 2 - The Pandemic

This pandemic has caused a dramatic shift to work from home for a specific demographic and now this demographic needs to be productive at home. There is a lot to be said for a comfortable task chair or a great, 'just-for-me' height desk or nifty filing storage system.  Guess what the backbone of such setups is? If you guessed boxes and slabs then you are right.

Browsing subreddits r/IKEA and r/IkeaHacks will give you an idea of the pent-up demand. Once a blessing - GLOBALIZATION - now a curse as all supply chains are upended and in shock. Geopolitical tensions are also rising and large corporations such as IKEA need to re-evaluate their long term stability of their supply chains. A good example that I always like to use is this: the more expensive and important a SEKTION door the likelier it is made in a stable western democracy. There are no doors made in China [there were!] and HAGGEBY which IKEA's plainest door is made in Ukraine which as far as my understanding goes is currently at war with Russia.