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....

Sunday, August 30, 2015

IKEA 2015 Catalogue - REVIEW + some thoughts on Craftsmanship.

The IKEA annual catalogue is something that I look forward to every year. What a surprise - just as I cam back from vacation** - IKEA releases their catalogue! In Canada, IKEA delivers their annual catalogue to virtually every household in the city of Toronto. Toronto itself has 4 large IKEA stores - North York [which was the first one in Toronto; I have a picture of myself in that store when I was 13 years old], Etobicoke, Vaughn and Burlington. My favourite is the Etobicoke location - maybe because I know that store like the back of my hand and have been going there for their $1 breakfast for the last since they were introduced years ago*.

The IKEA catalogue, I find, is an interesting study. Yes, on one hand it can be seen as a simple shopping tool - a handy quick guide when you don't feel like booting up your favourite device to browse the selection at But the way I view it though is larger scale study of society and global trends. 

How? Allow me. 

It has to be recognized first and foremost that IKEA is a corporation, an artificial entity designed purely to generate profits for the owners [regardless how multinational lawyers have structured the IKEA model - it currently does its taxes in a tiny duchy of Liechtenstein, last time I checked]. 

There are two ways of achieving profits: 

- first the positive way - by investing in renewable resources - by being more efficient - a force for positive change;


- the negative way -  by investing and encouraging acts that have destructive effect on the human eco-system;

Examples are:

- Chinese government recognizing that coal is not the option, invests heavily renewables - they want to become the industry leaders, and maybe export that technology to the West? and how about just growing their economy in a sustainable, more efficient future?

Canada, on the other hand, is currently in recession because the government made an erroneous decision to heavily invest in fossil fuels. The province of Alberta is experiencing a dramatic economic decline. We've got political upheaval people! We've got pinko-commies voted into power! 

IKEA seems to be making all the right moves. While many other corporations are making questionable decisions when it comes to the larger global picture, IKEA makes it easy for their consumers to influence global production practices with their purchasing power. 

And consider their moves so far:

- largest retail investor in wind power in Canada - corporate, global, energy independence by 2020 - of which I am sure they will achieve; 

- IKEA purchased almost 34 000 hectares of forest in Romania - I assume that they want to have a better control over their sourcing. 

- IKEA designed and will produce modular, flat-pack shelter for refugees from Syria - mass produced they will be able to provide a hard-bodied shelter that costs around $1000 dollars - far superior to any tents - the design specs for a refugee shelter are numerous. 

- Even little things, like that they already improved their SEKTION kitchen line that was just launch this year - I was installing some really good looking cabinetry and noticed something different - look - these are new and improved clips for the backs - 

Imagine that IKEA, in their efficiency, already made improvements to their most important product line - their kitchens. It is how you put on the clips that made the original design more challenging - you typically put on the plastic clips first - then flip down onto the back. Old clip for comparison - 

The IKEA catalogue is also the medium by which the company directly reaches out to the consumers to convey their philosophy and goals. The catalogue makes it obvious that IKEA spans the globe and is a leader in sustainability and a model for efficiency. 

This year -  with the introduction of the new line, IKEA strongly pushes its kitchens. It's a big moneymaker, especially here in Canada. If you read this blog you know how versatile that SEKTION box is. 

'A dream? Only until you make it come true.'

How many market researchers sat on this final line? Boy, that's poetry in motion, right there! 

What a great play on words, that last line is! 'Only until you make it come true.' I know for a fact that there exist people who secretly stash their remodeled kitchens on throw-away e-mail accounts at That's the one thing that is great about the IKEA kitchens - being able to render your dream kitchen using their software, on your own time.  It gives you a price too, so you will know how much it will cost. It's a dream. 

And I got to give it to IKEA - what a versatile kitchen system - $800 buys you a great pantry. The range of styles and designs is incredible and they are very economically accessible. 

Chapter 2 - on Craftsmanship

This is my current project. 

This is such a nice project. First of all, people, if you are on the market for a Moncer floor install than I want to do it - no one will do a nicer job, I guarantee it. It is such a nice floor - and  - on this project every board was 2.4m in length. At that size every board that is laid down makes a difference. And I wanted to have a complete control over this. I first of all found myself sorting the wood - all the boards were sorted into AAA, A, B, C and Ds. I even found a nice pair of book matched boards - will upload pic, look pretty good.

 At the end I had the board lined up against a wall, so I could make decisions at a glance - this was optimizing at its best. These were to go by the wall, under the kitchen cabinetry. They had more colour - but they were also great, say, near the island when you needed to spice up that bunch of AAAs which looked too bleached out, too pale. Equal opportunity people for the boards! There is this really nice spot, also around the island [notice the trend...around the island....that's where the 'action' is going to be] where I transitioned two boards - offset, one darker, clearly dominant next to a soft grain, full size, that goes from amber to blond. Even, Arthur, who did an amazing job on the large marble tiles, noticed those two boards, pointed them out and told me that 'the floor grew on him'. Hell yea! Nice wooden floors, I say!

Flawless floors are not the nicest - people think they are. But the problem with flawless floors is that they look very fake and lack character. If it is too flawless than it begins to look like a laminate floor - nothing wrong with laminate floors, they are good floors and they have their uses and advantages - AND there are designer laminate floors. With bright spotlights the effect can be magnified. So what do you do?

Floors supposed to tell stories - 'stories of wood grain'. Humans, I think, I naturally drawn to wood - it is a nice, warm inviting material that we've been using for utility and beauty forever.  A thoughtful selection of large flooring planks will create flow between different rooms - it will naturally direct traffic and suggest furniture placement - it will create spots where your eyes will naturally rest and appreciate the beauty of the floor. Typically nice floors are paired up with nice stone - you want to make sure that any 'flooring decision' that you will execute will play up the two materials.

Here is an example that you can wrap your head around it - same thing - optimizing, averaging and still making it look good. This is a decorative wall - from the Abet showroom made of samples. The man who completed the project went mad [that's the urban legend at Abet, each sample had to have a precisely drilled hole, a hook screwed into it and an appropriate coloured sample put on...] - it was an incredible feat of patience, accuracy and art. I believe it is only 4 colours of laminate chips. 


When installing I always strive to showcase the best that the client has - that includes their appliances - which are often a big chunk of the overall reno cost. 
This is the 'vent cabinet' - it is has been significantly modified and strengthened to allow for simple install and good looks. 

Upon studying the mounting instructions I realized that if I was to follow them exactly, it would completely ruin the design and the look that I was aiming for - flush with the fronts, integrated with the valance - seamless, effortless look - 'like a million dollars!' I silently chuckled in my head, because Derek - my shopmate, who is well experienced himself - when he saw me cutting this thing from the IKEA box said 'that's not going to hold together!'. 

Well, it does hold, is very sturdy and will make the install a breeze. It will look really nice - outside AND inside - AND be functional. 


*I actually often reinforce the backs in other ways too. 

Which supplier would not bend-over backwards to supply to IKEA? I read some statistics that IKEA suppliers are growing their businesses every year. 

*for comparison - a McDonald signature Big Mac meal is around $7, I believe - and definitely not that healthy. 

** our annual vacation takes us always to the same spot we love - Bruce Peninsula, Ontario, Canada. The frigid, deep waters of the Great Lakes - which hold 20% of the world's fresh water, by the way - are gorgeous deep blue. There are over 120 shipwrecks in the area, dating back at least a 100 years. A scuba diving paradise, world UNESCO heritage site. It's is just absolutely gorgeous. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

People Want Pictures

Chapter 1 - People WANT pictures. 

I've received that some feedback recently on the UX [that's 'fancy Internet' for User Experience] - from a professional.  And apparently my blog lacks two [2] things: 

A] Pictures and more pictures - kitchens in particular. 
B] Homestars reviews;

As for A] - here, I am adding pictures; 

People want to see more pictures of kitchens. 
Not enough pictures of kitchens! 
Where are the pictures of the kitchens?! 

I explain that all the projects that I do are nice - and not all my projects are kitchens - I do a great variety of things and my focus is not on volume, but rather variety. The posts that are put out are meant to educate, raise awareness, inspire - they are not a propaganda tool for IKEA kitchens. If one wants to see examples of nice IKEA kitchens it is enough to use the Google search engine and select images. Not everyone has access to my services - I believe that I offer a unique service - but everyone has access to the information that I offer - that's another reason that I try to put out quality, informative posts. It's about the possibilities of IKEA. 

B] Homestars annoys me. People are not understanding that it is 'strong-arming', and that they are paying for it. Essentially HomeStars is like YellowPages, the printed edition. Remember those big, yellow, heavy bricks? Remember the alphabetical listings - the quad 'AAAA' just to get that coveted first listing? Like that but with an added component of Social Media mixed in. YellowPages went out of business, because times have changed. They have been replaced by HomeStars - and I, as a contractor am continuously bombarded with offers to sign up for various 'rating sites' - rateMyCarpenter, rateMyThis...rateMyThat....All this is designed to do is to generate traffic, sell adds and sell advertising space. 

Want to know something curious? -  HomeStars has an escalating price point depending on how much you want to eliminate the ads put out by 'your competition' - they offer that service - you can pay your way through crappy work [a large value Boston Pizza gift card and a 'tear-jerking' phone call from the owner of the reno company is all it takes, apparently]. And crappy work annoys me. And I refuse to pay them. But there are companies, or individuals paying thousands of dollars to be prominently featured. 

In our digital economy, it is easy to find out about others, especially about the people that you intend to pay good chunk of cash in exchange for some excellent labour. And as long as HomeStars runs their 'ranking' site - for which they charge a good chunk of cash themselves - the picture will remain skewed and I don't intend to pay into it.

See, the Internet allows for great things - like sharing of information and experience. The concept of 'General Contracting' has changed dramatically - individual with strong management skills can educate themselves and often choose to act as their own 'general' - planning, organizing, choosing their finishes and hiring trades. The 'IKEA kitchen system' makes perfect financial sense and the 'no-lead time' requirement is a great advantage. 


as promised

So this dog snuck up on me during the install - the owners went to a baseball game with their kids, and in the rush forgot to crate the dog.  It's big and pretty scary looking, American bulldog - it looks like a half-albino?  - but it is a 2 year old rescue - and very very cheerful. It's only dangerous because of its size when it is happy - I can see this dog trashing the kitchen in a fit of happiness - that's risky. 

Always quality. Things are screwed and glued where they need to be. Glue adds great strength and rigidity to any project. And it's cheap. 

If you are installing an IKEA kitchen, you need a laser level - it's a must. The model that I have - a DeWalt self-leveling - you can now price match to $148 at Home Depot. Setting heights and keeping things level over long distances is a breeze. I can say with confidence that you can be less than an 1/8th of an inch over the entire project.

Here is an IKEA Hacker Pro Tip - a great way to strengthen your PAX wardrobe unit is to add a 2" solid lip under the edge of each adjustable shelf - like this - someone asked about this. 


ps. THIS IS SERIOUS - IKEA reminds people to fix their MALM dressers to the wall at the back. 

pps. The job before the one I'm doing now was this - good little story there. 
This was institutional cabinetry - done really old school way - no screws - just nails and glue. It was surprising how well it stood up to the test of time. 

Relocated, re purposed, increased functionality - top of the line hardware - went over the budget on hardware - it can be expensive - it turned out that there was a better hinge/plate combo with integral soft-close - even smaller footprint -  than I quoted. And so I upgraded - you only live once. 

Check out the solid edging on those doors - that's 1/4" hard maple. Nobody builds like that anymore - some exceptions. See how that top right door seems to be 'in' a little bit - the advantage of good hardware is that it offers great range of flexibility and adjustment. To adjust this was a breeze. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Why should you let me design and install your next kitchen.

Cause you know why? I care. Imagine that every job that I do is my little pet project and I want for it to come out looking best. Best.  There are no arbitrary decisions. Everything is thought out. Yea, everything. I think about every detail and how it will play into the larger picture. I will not list all the things that I think about when designing a kitchen - I assure you that the list is long. And more! - I learn something new on every job - a ha! must remember that for next time. All that experience carries with me to the next job, and the next job. 

I am not a 'fleet installer' - I don't have anybody standing over my head telling me to hurry up. I am efficient. Cabinetry is a great trade because you can't really 'hurry up'- all you can do is work at an efficient pace and pay attention to details - it's the detailing that makes for a nice looking kitchen. Anyone can assemble the box - but that box has to be positioned right; it has to be lined up in the right way; it has to be detailed the right way - PEG doesn't do that - in fact a large portion of this project would not be able to be assembled by PEG installers - too many IKEA planner exceptions. Planning is an essential part of any project - there is no point executing anything if it is not planned well - no profits are realized in fixing mistakes. 

Boy! Today they installed the countertops - that island slab was massive - easily 400 pounds - 4 strong men carried it. When they leaned that beast against that island cabinetry - in my mind, if I did not build that island well - if that island was mounted on those plastic legs, I was just waiting for them to snap. They 'heaved-and-hoed' that thing into position - I could tell that there was a lot of stress on the cabinets during the positioning of the stone - very nice Ceaserstone.

On a humorous note - well, I found it humorous, because I've been told the same thing by virtually every single client - the client told me today while we were checking the fit of the stove - it had to be quite the precise fit - only 1/8" was allowed as tolerance - that I looked serious - almost stressed - and I was like, 'Yea, we're landing the Titanic here'. I guess, I would say the thing that causes me the most stress is the fact that I cannot do all the jobs myself - that I have to rely on others for a successful and accurate completion of the project. Whether it is the carpenter, the drywaller, the taper, electrician, plumber, tile guy, hardwood floor installer. You know who never causes me any headaches?

The Painter.

Hats off to you, Picasso!

The project looks good - finishing stretch now. 

This fridge is massive - deep and wide. But, taking advantage of the already awkward geometry and some careful planning I was able to completely integrate it into the 'pantry' side of the cabinetry. It looks really good. 

Planning! Good, thoughtful planning is the key to a nice execution! When you see me standing there, looking at the wall or the boxes - that's not me being idle - I'm planning my next move. 

I am particularly happy about this corner - it took a lot of planning for it to look like that. We are waiting in the glass doors for the uppers. You can see a bit of under-structure under the cabinets. The corner unit was hacked, because there was a depth limitations - you still have 10" interior - will still function well and looks like a million bucks. 

If you are going to pay someone to install your kitchen, they might as well do it really nice. 

[Next EDIT]

We were waiting on the glass doors! They look good. Notice how even the gaps are? That's the key - even gaps - balanced look - your boxes have to be installed flawlessly - plumb and level.  After the pic was taken the client lowered the visible shelves in-line with the glass dividers and adjusted her glassware collection accordingly - looks really good. The main level is painted with really strong, saturated colours which offsets the cabinetry very well. 

YOLO. It's true, and this applies to my work as well. There was plenty of researched done by the client to ensure that everything was a good fit. One of the last few things to go one was the side panel on the fridge - we were aiming for a specific look. It turned out that the fridge is vented on the side - bit of surprise. 

 Here it is! The big-*ss fridge fully built-in! And you know what?! It was a total fluke. There is some serious carpentry hidden behind that built it. It was like a maze - it all had to fit seamlessly. I got to say that there was tons of math just to make it look like it did. Those pantries sit on a required-box AND still I was able to squeeze 81" between it and the beam above - champion! - cause that 81" gave me enough room to level two 80" IKEA pantries*. That and provide enough room for the fridge to be flush with all the doors. 

Because the fridge vents to the side and I didn't want to ruin the design with some stock vent - I custom built this one - it wasn't in the quote, but YOLO, and I wanted for it to look like a million bucks!

*IKEA pantries - when well equipped - are one of the most functional kitchen pieces that you can have. I have not seen a better solution at that price. I have looked at some ridiculous piece of hardware too - I was not too convinced.