Friday, November 20, 2015

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - NOT in LOVE with Veddinge

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - NOT in LOVE Veddinge, OR Kitchens are not Museums - Veddinge REVIEW

I had some trouble with Veddinge doors recently. 

[edit: great news! I will soon be posting more videos! next project: how I build my bases for IKEA kitchen islands - rock solid every time!]

[this post is long: Too long, don't feel like reading - here is summary]

From a practical standpoint - the Veddinge doors are well suited for display kitchens - the finish on the doors is the weakest of all the solid colour IKEA doors that I tested. It is not recommended that they be re-sprayed. It is challenging to achieve proper clean visible cuts and joints, and the cut/ routed edge if not properly protected will becomes vulnerable to chipping; The blistering damage is very visible. It not advisable to use them in high traffic areas that will expose the surfaces to frequent abrasive contact. Good planning must be exercised to ensure that if damaged panels need to be replaced for aesthetic reasons that they be easily accessible. 

Every product that IKEA puts out clearly has that statement - Design and Quality, IKEA of Sweden. So to be reasonable, since IKEA does set a pretty high standard for their kitchens, I felt that it would be best to test the solid colours in the IKEA family [I know, I am missing Ringhult - don't worry it is good - heat is the enemy of Ringhult] against theoretical damage - a scratch or jab, when you break the surface and expose the substrate. Here is an example of me stressing the finish. So these are all line scored with a box-cutter blade - and then the finish was pulled off with the tape - just like in the video. 

My first impression is, that once cut through the finish, there is some great tension in the finish that is relieved and it immediately crackles along the scratch line. Because the finish is so level [flat], that crackled paint is very obvious to the eye. If you run your fingers along, it will start flaking off. 

I inspected the damaged area and the first thing I noticed two things:

A] the undercoat is clear - primer coat is clear. That means that any damage will be very visible due to high contrast with the MDF substrate; Typically, the primer is the same [or close] colour - may not be applicable in this case - given the process that IKEA uses. 

B] the undercoat has a quite a bit of sheen to it. I know that one of the most basic rules of finishing is that you never paint over a glossy surface - paints don't adhere well to glossy surfaces - you always have to abrade the surface. Running my finger over the brown reflective areas it feels very smooth - I want to say nice finish. So was IKEA in their 'efficiency' decided to skip a step? Perhaps, the process, was from the beginning designed not to include that step? Who made the decision to approve this finish and mass produce it on a the scale that it is? I've seen the predecessor to Veddinge, and it did nothing like this - my opinion, they were better quality doors. 

Few days ago I went to see an APLAD kitchen - predecessor to Veddinge - the intent was to replace them with new doors. I had also chance to witness some 'catastrophic damage' to the doors. Even though the damage was all the way to the core - with the finish punctured all the way through - badly gouged - it was still very solidly adhering to the substrate - a typical behaviour when the doors are properly lacqeured. 

I was disappointed. 

I had sneaky suspicion that I am not alone in my issues with Veddinge doors. But how do I test that theory? 


IKEA's AS-IS section should prove a fertile testing grounds - I mean, this is where damaged doors go to die, or shall I say get a second chance in life..... So I went in and carefully went through the racks filled with random doors and panels. And to my no-surprise, large portion of the scratched Veddinge doors had that blistering happening. 

Not in love with Veddinge....

Alright, so with all this negative news, is there hope for Veddinge? Are there any 'up-sides' to the door/panel style that IKEA makes?

There are, don't despair. That flat white slab is the corner-stone of all modernist/minimalist kitchens. Here they are -

--->> The first thing that you have going for Veddinge is your lifestyle. Maybe your kitchen is an oasis of calm and relaxment while surrounded by tasteful modernism. In the morning you make your coffee, tea or smoothie and you enjoy the view out your large windows. You pet your cat. Later you setup your Macintosh computer on the sit-at marble bar-height counter-top and do some work from home. People do have lives like that, it's true. 

-->> Second thing going for Veddinge is its cost - it's relatively low. It's affordable to exchange your damaged lower drawer front [that's the 'proper' modern look]. The Veddinge drawer or door is readily available at a nearest IKEA* location, or you can purchase on-line and have it delivered right to your door. 

Say you accidentally damage the door - you are carrying groceries and your car keys at the same time; OR you are carving a large piece of meat and the big knife slips out of your hand and takes a ride on the half-open nearest drawer front; OR your little one takes a zoom against your island on his little cruiser-bike, 'screeeech!' against the island panels; OR your mixing dough in the mixer and it all 'jumps off' the black granite slab countertop and tragically slams against the pantry door**

Veddinge is third least expensive line of doors - if the doors were better quality - like their predecessor APLAD - and that makes for an amazing deal for your modernist looking kitchen. If you don't mind and can afford to shell out few bucks every now and then to replace a visually offending panel or a door then your are good. CAUTION: This is where superior planning and install skill come into play - while it is easy to change doors or drawers, any cladding and panels need to be easily accessible - sometimes in design you end up 'trapping' elements. If this scenario works for you - you want to plan ahead and install your kitchen or build the island assuming that at one point you may be required to do a switch over - remove damaged piece and install a new piece.

-->> Third option 

I make really nice modern laminate doors for IKEA kitchens - it's the 'Semihandmade option' they call it. Everyone that asks me to make doors for them mentions 'Semihandmade' as their inspiration. A knowledgeable client [even designers!] will want to utilize the price point of IKEA Sektion box; they will want to utilize the amazing plethora of hardware, fittings, lights and organziers [an entire kitchen eco-system people! - very well priced] and have it looking like a million bucks. The doors are custom work and are priced such - I only use ABET Laminati - Italian, beautiful product, amazing selection for accent doors and panels. AND! they are significantly more durable than the lacquered doors. 

Important point to remember with modern kitchens. It has to be very well installed - plumb, level, square. The greatest effect that can be achieved, is done with the gaps - perfectly even and level. Also, pay attention to the hinge position - make sure that the hinge side doesn't stick out more than the bumper at the front [about 1/8"] - it's the 'flapping wings effect' - I see it often on DIY installs.

Chapter 1 - Kitchens are not museums

My blog is unique the sense that it is typically found in an 'organic fashion'. It is not promoted anywhere, it doesn't have cheerful 'share on Facebook or Twitter' buttons - it is found because individuals are searching out for specific information or services. I consider my line of work, Professional IKEA Hacking, a very enjoyable chase between me and IKEA.  I extensively gather information about IKEA's latest endavours and find myself excited when they introduce a new product that I can use to expand on the repertoire of the services that I offer. 

Launch of SEKTION was no different - IKEA made a decision to carve out a solid place for itself - along with the significant chunk of cash that it brings - in the home renovation / building business. There were several shifts happening in the construction industry that directly contributed to that success. 

First of all, gone were the days when you had to hire a 'general contractor' to do your reno. Television was chock full of very popular do-it-yourself shows that showed average folks tackling bathroom upgrades, kitchen makeovers or deck additions with the help of a handy trades people - good looking plumbers, charming carpenters or suave electricians. The 'trade curtain' had fallen and now ordinary folk got a first hand view how things were supposed to be done. The general contractor - typically a middleman with enough connections in the construction industry [To be continued....]  

* Or an IKEA Pick-UP point! Yea! IKEA knows that people travel long and wide to get those affordable kitchens. In Ontario [a province, large area], Canada, IKEA has opened up several warehouse only locations. You visit IKEA once, check out the kitchens and decide that you like them and want to use them for your reno. Measure, plan and purchase - all online - have it delivered to a pick-up location close to home. 

**this one is a true story;

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - the Big Black 'Cover' Sticker of headache.

a one like that

I love IKEA. I really do. I believe in them. IKEA does a great job at everything that they apply themselves to. Everything except one thing - their kitchen doors return policy.  

I dread receiving an order from IKEA and finding out that several doors pieces are featuring that black sticker. 

For those who are buying their IKEA kitchens for the very first time - and I bet that there is a lot of you - that black sticker indicates that the door has been previously purchased, hand selected at a warehouse location, delivered on a cube van to a dwelling [could be up to 250 km away], handled by the installer [either self-install or a professional installer] and deemed to be 'wrong', often re-packaged; and finally lovingly delivered back to the nearest IKEA store location for a refund. 


And I buy doors from IKEA all the time. 

Doors are what makes the kitchen - that's the design element - that's your 'flair'. Purchasing a door from IKEA, getting ready to hang it and finding out that it has been damaged [some doors are more prone to damage than others; on some the damage is more visible than others] is always a slight irritant - that means that the door needs to be replaced - delay. And no-one like delays - it means a trip to IKEA [although, I don't typically mind it; it's another opportunity to interact - check out for changes - you know, maybe they changed the script, or they altered their 'talking points' - I pay attention to these things]. 

I have to give it to IKEA that they are very flexible with their kitchen returns - they are very reasonable and are very accommodating. They will really bend over backwards for you - after all they just sold you anywhere between several hundred to more than $20000 dollars of merchandise, and they want to make sure that you are satisfied. But there is a vulnerability in their system - a one that is, I am certain causes them financial losses - and they are looking into addressing some. They already took some preventive steps - keep on reading. 

Today I went to IKEA to pick up 2 doors - Veddinge - white matte slab - really nice modern look. I needed them because I had to hack them to fit a cabinet I put together. Because I wanted for the kitchen to have a really custom look, I decided to match the height of pantry to the height of a really nice Sub-Zero fridge [it's a custom solution; the IKEA kitchen planner had nothing to do with it - custom solutions, that's why I get hired]. By now, I know the drill - order upstairs; pay at self-serve; loiter for about 30 min around the store before even considering going to check if they have the order ready [mine is tiny, just 2 doors]. 

As I am loitering about IKEA, I discover a whole bunch of new things that I did not know before - like this - 

IKEA Etobicoke, stocks a selection of Swedish [or Swedish'esque; I don't believe that a novelty length gummy worms are a Swedish invention; although their length was impressive and you would have to probably go on-line to some obscure candy dealer to find comparable size gummy worms] candy! Self- serve from a bin! How wonderful! 'Where is my youngest boy, when you need him?!' I think to myself. So for about 30 min, I check out the variety, read the ingredients - is the first ingredient corn-syrup or sugar? You know things like that. I settle for this single, long roll of candy tape, and I am off to check my order of 2 Veddinge doors. 

I still have to wait for another 10 minutes - lots of big orders all around me. And then....I see it coming....Wow....they are bringing out a survivor! 


My cart is the lowest count - 2 items - cart that I can see. And the young man who is pushing it towards me is young and has a bright smile on his face. And we both look at that Veddinge pantry door brown box  that's sitting on the cart - and we both know it - it's a survivor. I keep a straight face - but on the inside I am bursting out in laughter. That box looks like it's been through a Zombie Apocalypse, survived and made it back to IKEA, and now they are trying to sell it to me. It's got that BIG BLACK STICKER on it. The box is scuffed. It is dented and scratched. It has got this 'brown paper tape' - closest colour match to the actual box - all over it and reinforcing the corners. The two 'cardboard buffer zones' - that's the part of the IKEA door box that  protects the short edges from damage - are totally crumpled**. I am not going to post a pic of that box - that would be just mean -  and I am certain that this is not indicative of the overall IKEA kitchen doors experience. Maybe that's part of 'the script' - try to sell the returns first - see if the customer accepts it - offer a discount - etc. 

'This door has been to hell and back,' I think to myself. 'Initial here, please,' asks a young lady that checks my order and paid receipt. Keeping my cool, in a very casual tone, I make an observation that the box appears to be 'damaged' and before I sign my life away on these doors, I would like to check them. 'No worries,' I am informed and shown to not to distant - the 'inspection table'. 

And so went the process. They offered me 'as-is' discount on it, but I did not take it - even with cutting them down to size and re-hinging I was not able to cut around the damage.

People check your doors, when you first get them. 

So I did return it for a new one. I got to give it to the 'IKEA return' people that the damage was very slight - it was nothing like the box would suggest - it was a series of easily missed small dents on the long edge, opposite of the hinge side. But I could clearly see them, and eventually the client would notice them too.* 

So what's the lesson? 

You should always check your purchased or delivered doors for damage - especially the ones that feature the BIG BLACK STICKER of headache - that's the vulnerability - and make a claim right away - either in-store or with the delivery person. 

Oh, but this kitchen I'm working on will look real good. 'Like a million bucks!' Building in big fridges - designing them into the millwork - is what I do best. 
If you want a really nicely designed IKEA kitchen - hire me. Also visible are the extra pieces that go into every 'hacked' SEKTION box. A lot of the times if I need modify a box, or the design calls for a 'more ambitious placement' of the box, I will reinforce the box with additional cross-member - it drastically strengthens the box and looks good. 

*Veddinge doors blister. Bodbyn doors dent* - I have video that I made - it was surprising even to myself. 

**Crumple zones on a IKEA SEKTION doors box. If they are gone, then there is a good chance that the doors are damaged. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - the book that IKEA did not want you to see - Review

[edit:this post is terribly written - needs editing and expansion; but I've been sick like a dog, and needed to get this thing off my chest before this plague I have makes me forget it all]

['s the one on the right]

So I am doing my usual rounds at IKEA - you got to keep it fresh. I had a purpose in mind. I needed a very functional pitcher/jug - extra large capacity. I wanted for it to be light weight - plastic - but non-toxic [none of that PCB stuff...] - cooking for the kids is like cooking 4 different dinners [ughh!!] - but everyone can agree on a delicious smoothie - almost a gallon of it a day, and I needed a handy container to store it. And I was certain that IKEA had a product that would satisfy my requirements. And they did have it. 

The first book that IKEA published and made available here in Canada - that I am aware of - was a stiff book of Swedish recipes -  you know, them Swedes eat differently than us here, Canadians. And by stiff I mean: formal, to-the-point, rigid - there was very little flair. It was IKEA-blue, hardcover, the size of a notebook, and it was just recipes. I bought that book and I gifted someone with it - 'here', I thought, this is kind of what I do for a living, my obsession. And while at it, I also solved another of that family's problem - how to store plastic shopping bags - instead of stuffing them into a lower cupboard - I installed 2 Variera, those plastic half-tubes with holes, on the door of that cupboard - everyone should have one of those. 

Today, IKEA fully recognizes what kind of sway it has on modern society, and takes full advantage of its dominant position. If you, as an individual were ever curious as to what humanity needed for existence - on a household level, than the easiest way to witness those needs satisfied at a very reasonable cost, while being good for the environment and humanity, would be to go to your local IKEA store. 

[the book, right there...]

I have been thinking long and hard - observing IKEA - analyzing IKEA - because unless you are an IKEA insider [I almost did become an insider - a carpenter for the IKEA North York location, good story there] than the only way to gain insight into the corporate monolith is by observing their actions and decisions, and deconstructing them. Before anything changes at IKEA, vast sums of money are spent on research - I am certain that only optimal and ethical solutions are reached. Professionally, nothing brings me greater pleasure than reverse-engineering IKEA* - I love hacking IKEA. 

'Every Day Counts' is IKEA's latest release. It's a cool book, hardcover, and it comes with post cards in the back [for some odd reason, people tend to like IKEA post cards]. Printed in Italy, no single author, just a publishing house. There are pictures that feature IKEA products heavily - almost exclusively - there is text and stories and a message - there are recipes. It is not for me to summarize all that for you, it would be unfair - I think everyone will read it differently**. I would call 'Every Day Counts' an IKEA lifestyle book - if such genre exists - I think my blog is an example of an IKEA lifestyle, I think. It is an attempt at IKEA to 'normalize the IKEA experience' - all brands - especially luxury brands - produce their 'lifestyle publications' - they show the consumer consuming in an appropriate way. 

I had to put this in. Originally I wasn't going to; I was going to leave out the literary quality critique - but I decided against it. See, I am a writer - or think that I am -  and English is my second language. And because of that language acquisition I am very sensitive to it's nuances - oral and written. I also continuously self-study the mechanics of language - if you read my blog you hopefully will notice that I like to have fun with language - occasionally I intentionally put in mistakes or invent words - but that is just to jot your reading a bit - throw you off the track - no word is arbitrary and everything counts. 

So you can imagine how piqued my curiosity was when I learned that IKEA has a 'verbal identity advisor'? When I read that, it sent shivers down my spine. Which company do you know of,  oh-so carefully manicures its sterile image down to its 'verbal identity'? Does this mean that the book was originally written in Swedish and then translated? 

For the little amount of actual text content present, it appears that the book was conceptualized/designed in another language and then written by a non-native speaker. Don't get me wrong - it's all properly written and there are no errors, but the 'flavour' of the language seems foreign - a little 'pale'. Some phrases and word combinations seem slightly 'unnatural' - as if there was an attempt to translate a concept.  Some nice play on words. 

[End EDIT]

To suggest that, for example, you could throw a successful wedding reception, using all IKEA products - in a nicely designed way - you could probably do it yourself even - if you got some design skills. It would probably be cheap to do - read cost-conscious. But that would be outrages! or maybe not. I recently staged a house with IKEA products - found the right room and copied their display - including linen arrangement - item for item - and it worked. 

But what about that other book? The one IKEA did not want you to see?

I am a furniture maker. I can build anything out of wood and I've built some crazy things***. But when I need to get some furniture built for myself, or maybe I need some components/parts of furniture - my first thought is IKEA - what can I hack? Perhaps a MALM dresser? 

Or maybe a Billy bookcase?

'Remake IKEA' was a published collection of IKEA hacks, sourced from Yules Yap's website It was do-it-yourself hacks - amateur hacks - everything from surface decoration -  such as staining, painting, all sorts of applique - to more ambitious hacks that involved power tools and modest carpentry skills. 

Since cats are all the rage on the Internet, here is an example of a cat litter-box solution using IKEA's kitchen cabinetry - FAKTUM - the predecessor to METOD. 

As the book progresses some IKEA hacks get quite complex and structural. It is obvious that people were putting a lot of thought and effort into them, but in their attempt to be creative they were often breaking some fundamental woodworking rules [for example you should never be cutting into IKEA torsion boxes - those lightweight panels used on the LACKs, for example; the structural integrity of that panel depends on the fact that all exposed edges have solid edge - that cardboard honeycomb interior has no strength without it; also, it is only the edge that will hold any fasteners or glue]. 

I don't blame IKEA for getting nervous on that issue and shutting this thing down - safety is huge in design - and eventually going after IKEAhackers. `

Just few days ago I get a call from someone who wants to use the BESTA media unit in their office - why not? They are nice boxes, they stack well and can be wall mounted. I ask for a picture of the design - the sketch shows additional work-surface spanning few vertically stacked boxes. But they also want to add a full-extension 'proper filing drawer' - at the top. Two things set off red flags in my head right away - heavy drawers fully extending - that is a recipe for disaster. And all they need is the filing drawers made to fit the BESTA - and they are willing to pay when I tell them that everything about that box needs to change - upgrade the slides, sturdy drawer box, proper 'filing' hardware, etc...But it did not feel comfortable just making the boxes - what if something happens? Huh? Like a tip-over because the drawer is overloaded? Or this thing comes off the wall because not every steel stud was 'caught'. Yes, things do happen! 

Did you know that IKEA issued a warning - not a recall - a warning - about their MALM banks of drawers because they would tip over occasionally and crush children? Yes, go to IKEA and pick up a free wall anchoring kit for your MALMs, and actually some other cabinetry as well. Safety first!

And so I quoted the project with my install - I would ensure that the design be reasonable. Office walls are typically hollow with thin drywall and steel studs - and when you are installing, you want to ensure that you hit every one of those studs [ideally twice and use PL500]. It would be solidly built, for a reasonable cost, and that thing would never come off the wall - unless with the entire office, but that's another story altogether...

I don't want to have my name attached to a Christmas office party fatality. 

Neither did IKEA. 

And so they killed the book. 


*I have this stupid obsession with their SEKTION kitchen boxes - I try to figure out which way the panels are cut [clockwise or counterclockwise] and for example they edge some of the panels before cutting - saving a step in manufacturing - cheaper for the consumer. 

**not trying to be 'deep' here. I think people genuinely like IKEA, and for many reasons.  


Monday, September 28, 2015

Everyone is waiting for that fall SEKTION sale, IKEA!

C'mon....we are all waiting....when is it?

while we wait....we might as well nourish our bodies....

EDIT [End of October 2015]

There is not going to be a another IKEA kitchen sale, ever [likely]. The first kitchen sale of the new system - SEKTION - that they did was so overwhelming and IKEA was so understocked that I was hunting for missing pieces of for 8 weeks following the initial purchase. People were furious, renovations were scheduled....babies were born to incomplete kitchens....It was a disaster.

There are still certain doors/drawer fronts that are are out of stock - continuously. What can you do? You just wait for them to show up and quickly snatch what you need....

IKEA....I love you.