Monday, June 13, 2016

How to successfully DESIGN and BUILD and IKEA kitchen ISLAND - and good ideas overall.

Chapter 1 - IKEA Kitchen Islands

[This entry turned into a total rant, skip to the end for RELEVANT Ikea island information]

So you have made a wise decision to add some functionality to your kitchen space - you've made a decision to add an kitchen island. Awesome! Great move! You have been to IKEA and have been looking at their SEKTION kitchens thinking - 'hey! there is an opportunity there! I can do some - OR ALL!! - of the work myself and save money! 

To that statement I will add the following - 

Not only will you save money, but if you follow my instructions and videos you will gain a better understanding on how to take maximum advantage of IKEA's system, optimize your design for your situation, and learn some nifty cabinet tricks* that you will be able to use in all your other woodworking projects. 

I will take you to semi-pro level! 

I've been designing and building island cabinetry all my life - no! not really! - but I've been doing it long enough [at least 15 years+] to make some good observations, gain major insight into things that work and things that don't  - and I want to share that with you. 

Keep following the blog - videos to follow.

Some portion of  calls that I get about installing or 'expanding upon' the island cabinetry, are from individuals that already had an experience of designing and assembling their own IKEA kitchen. And they are not happy about their experience - they point out all the flaws  - 'they don't like this, or they don't like that', or they 'had to compromise on this', or they 'forgot about that'.

Now, I will admit to you, I guess because I do it all the time - designing and installing IKEA cabinetry, hacking, modifying it, 'doing-it-not-by-the-book' - it feels like a second nature to me. I don't think about it - when faced with a question, cunundrum, 'cabinet-dilemma' - my mind immediately starts 'optimizing', and if it can't optimize, then I right away seek a 'hacked a solution'. It is still is the best price-point around. 

But then I put myself in the shoes of that person. And I think long and hard about this! How many times, do you think, will you ever get to design and install a kitchen, based on the IKEA Sektion system? Once, maybe twice in your life...That's it.**

These are optimized solutions. Examples like these:

So the one side of this peninsula is 3 x 30" cabinets back to back. One side is set up as a 'living room side', all with 10" drawers - that's optimum organization. And the other side is set-up as a kitchen side - built in microwave, some drawers, one box. To give that piece of cabinetry a bit more distinction - and to deal with a sloping floor [older house] I installed them higher - at 38" height to the top of the stone. The area serves as a 'transition point' - the different height 'breaks it away' from the kitchen - black slab doors and white Cesarstone countertop [the other side of the kitchen is all stainless steel tops] is a great, distinct contrast that creates a strong focal point. Nice! Other than that, that is an 'IKEA hack' corner unit. Not seen - 24" deep uppers over the huge fridge - all tucked in the corner - that's right! IKEA installers can't do that!

Also, original plan was to go with that traditional IKEA valance moulding underneath the uppers. And I was like, 'Why? It just eats away at the window that the client had put in over the sink!' See, a better solution is to use the panels - cut them down to size - and then use them to clad the uppers all around. Looks like a million bucks and you get more light!

Yea, good solutions all around. People get what people want. #TrueDat!

So, I always ask myself - you get the best of Studio Kosnik, absolutely best suggestions and best solutions for your IKEA kitchen, which by far I think is THE BEST DEAL AROUND -  is 20% more on the install portion of your project really that great? And, if you are really, really hurting for a 'custom look', then I can design you and build you some custom 'kitchen structures', panels, covers, AND DOORS too!


Or this:

These are both IKEA hack kitchens made to look 'like a million bucks'! Custom doors, custom sizing, custom countertop depths [that top pic is a 28" Cesarstone top matched to the depth of the appliance - for a seamless look.  Unless you get a designer, then the other kitchen bloke would have just done 25", cause that's what he is used to and he doesn't think much about it]. 

Here is a little point I want to share with you -

if you are planning to renovate your space, hiring me on the project will result in you making only the best, optimized decisions. Yes, I understand some decisions are costlier than the others, BUT you are already renovating, you are already spending money - spend that money wisely! You should always have a buffer built in and think long term. 

A friend asks me for an opinion - he is renovating his basement, finishing it. And he tells me that he 'doesn't want this to become money pit', outlines his reasons. And I say, 'Hold on. Any space that you intend to become usable will carry long term costs, there is no such thing as a 'net-zero' space. You need to keep it heated, and dry - at minimum - and that requires compromises. So losing 1.5" in height overall by insulating the concrete slab will result in heated floor transferring the heat up - into the room! where you want it! - as opposed to heating 'Mother Earth', which doesn't need our help in keeping hot, with all that global warming talk and all. 

Sorry got off on a rant here.

So IKEA can suck it with their install guides, because I just find them annoying. That's why my blog ranks high and gets the hits, because I provide info that IKEA misses.  

The problem with IKEA installation instruction [or lack thereof] is the fact that they are assuming 'ideal environment'. And you likely won't understand what I mean until you are already hanging/mounting SEKTION boxes against a wonky wall trying to make it in-line and level - just to realize that you forgot to include some extra clearance for the handles. 

I am greatly tempted sometimes to offer like a Saturday, 6 hours course, on how to prepare for an IKEA Sektion install. I would go over the basics [don't get too excited about having assembled all your boxes....that's the easiest part], offer suggestions, tips and tricks on actual starting and and how to do it properly; then go into how to deal with peninsulas and finally the dreaded KITCHEN ISLANDS.... 

Did you know that the walls at IKEA stores [at least that is what my source told me, a manager at an IKEA store] are custom made in a factory in Sweden and then shipped globally to all the stores? Weird eh? That means that IKEA is able to completely control their install environment for what I call 'optimum presentation'. That is what sells - optimum presentation! You are walking through a space that has been optimized for flatness, leveleness, squareness and plumbness [I am not sure if all these are dictionary words but that is what cabinetry needs to be]. Not only that, they had some creative people put together all that cabinetry for best presentation. And, you, dear reader, are loving it. Don't feel guilty! I love it too. I am still waiting for my own 'dream kitchen' - which will be the IKEA Sektion box, paired with my install and amazing custom doors that I will all build myself. 

You would not believe what conflict I have with my wife over the kitchen, that we still don't have! See, back in my young days I got to work in a professional kitchen!*** I cooked! I had the flames going! Clean up was a breeze! Sure, so some stuff spilled on the stove, screw that! you got 5 more minutes to get that meal ready! Commercial dishwasher with a 3-to-8 minute cycle! At the end of the night I would just hose off and scrub everything! You cannot imagine the pleasure of cooking in that environment! I love cooking!

But she wants 'shaker doors' and 'charming handles' and 'nice taps'....And I say - But that is not practical! What is this?! I am all about things being practical and lasting! 

Oh boy.....where is this blog entry going....this is not the end....but I got to make myself a meal in a non-practical ktichen! lol!

Hahaha! should always love what you do for a living!

* that I myself learned from an my old Chinese mentor, Peter, who studied woodworking technology in Hong Kong while it was still a city still independent of the Chinese rule! He has long retired, but I hold his wisdom, advice and criticism in great respect, as he has taught me how to build with utmost practicality. 

**This is potentially embarassing, but it is like me, 'trying to do my brakes on my car'. I'm a handy guy. I got professional grade tools coming out of the wazoo. I see 19 year old kids at at car garage doing the brakes and a lot more all the time! C'mon! How hard can it be?! don't work like that. After 6 hours of tinkering around I am back to the starting point, hoping [and praying] and I put back all the original components back on correctly and booking the next available appointment at my mechanic. Your life is on the line... 

*** Islington Golf Club, Toronto, Canada. 

**** But people will ask: 'is he really an opitmizer?' 
I am. I apply optimization to every aspect of my life, including fashion.  

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Just Pics, too tired to write.

and because ppl love before vs after pics

Chapter 1

But I've been thinking a lot - about very practical things. I will have more time shortly so will write more.  Instead for your eyes. Son-of-a-gun, I am telling you that there is no better quality and more optimizing that went into this reno. All was custom made - fabrication done with measurements taken as-it-was happening - nothing was square or plumb in that space - it  this is definitely more than your 'average IKEA kitchen hack' that I typically do, but it was required. I am not including the shots of the upper hanging units - they've got 'Best of Blume' servo-hardware - and you actually have to 'teach them' for it to operate properly - I will do a video - it's like smart cabinetry - and in this case it it is the optimum option. 

All design decision were taken to maximize the space - in actuality and psychologically. That's right people - you can influence perceptions of space,
 - make it feel larger, more robust, beautiful - by carefully selecting finishes and proportioning them appropriately. Lighting is the key. 

ps. I can't wait to read this book - found at IKEA, about IKEA. 

[EDIT] The move happened! You cannot possibly fit more handmade mugs on those shelves. The selection of seamless backsplash [Italian laminate from ABET, from their new collection] gave it a really nice modern look, all backlit to visually create greater depth. 
Nice! I love it.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

IKEA Hacker's Greatest Fear + Sneaky IKEA!


See the pre-paint video - Attention 2 Details [it doesn't just happen!]

This is the entry and accent wall of a really cool loft. The ultra modern kitchen - will be immediately to the left  - design will balance the very traditional look of well done modern paneling. Sometimes when you want things done properly, you have to do them yourself. Win and win - it was so rewarding seeing that trim go up. I am very proud of the fact that I manage to pry off a security feature that we had no key for, off a steel door frame with absolutely minimal damage - #accomplished - I briefly considered an option of becoming a burglar, 'Wow', I thought to myself, 'this felt so natural.' Another trick that I know, is how to lock front doors /w manual knob, from the outside, without a key - very impressed is someone who finds out that I can do that. 'Tricks of the trade?' I want to say. 

But this interior started like this - what struck me in the first conversation we had about the space was that new owner has IKEA Ivar shelving unit that she takes on the road for showing work - a ceramicist - modern ceramics - but otherwise it would stand in the corner, right up against the paneling. And then I immediately recalled an image out of IKEA designed and produced book about interiors. This is the shot I sent her as an 'inspirational image' - it's got a 'raw wood' shelving-type situation. And I love herringbone floors - they are very classic - we did herringbone tiles, really cool. 

BUT This is how IKEA is sneaky - they furnish these incredible interiors with their own, very functional but rather low-price furniture. And those interiors are expensive to recreate. I know because I am doing one. We make smart choices - one of them is going with an IKEA kitchen that's faced with custom doors. And a whole bunch of other things. Mouldings from Brenlo -  in Toronto is where you go for great selection of mouldings. 


1. That IKEA will go after me. But they won't, not openly at least. That would not be an optimum move on their part. IKEA has accepted the fact that hacking its products is a lifestyle for some people, or just being plain smart and creative. There is now IKEA hacking at 'academic level' - students at universities do it - engineering, architecture and design. IKEA Hacking is here to stay - by retaining some influence [say, just by the virtue of letting it exist, for example] it is able to give it some direction*. 

It is rather likely to be in the form of digital rights management - intellectual property claims. Right? I think IKEA has pretty strong case on that front - IKEA felt no nostalgia when they killed off - it was an American based website - too much liability*. My own blog experienced, what I know, were some blackouts of videos and there was copyright for music violation. It's like the counter on the videos got stuck, I could not access the files, and my blog was experiencing unusual activity - listen, there are thousands of Google engineers working around the clock, around the globe to ensure the Google products run smoothly, and you are telling me the the counter on the videos broke down and I was not able to view or access the videos - sob! - for few days - that's not a coincidence. Anyhow I am preparing an academic presentation on IKEA hacking - based on all the things that I managed to accumulate for the convention that I want to host.  Of course IKEA is notorious for not giving any interviews to 'private individuals' - but hey! either they will 'lift the veil' or it is going to be written about them without their participation. 

*[I love IKEA legal! in their newly published books - which you should absolutely look through, have, I believe, a 1-sentence legal. 'Zero liability for what you see in this book.'

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

WHY kitchens FAIL - what YOU can do ABOUT it - and why IKEA is a great deal.

I've got ethics!

Firstly I want to post this pic - sorry about the coffee stain! I send it to David, oh about 6 months ago - he was thinking of hiring me because he had trouble setting up proper heights for his IKEA kitchen island - and this questions continuously keeps popping up - that's right people, doing IKEA kitchen islands IS NOT EASY! But I told David that 'it is not really efficient' for me to get hired for 2 hours a day, and that I have a minimum charge - I hope that you see it as reasonable people. 

His challenge was 2 fold:

A] he was adding to his existing IKEA kitchen; 
B] he was getting new flooring - and he was not sure what exactly it was going to be.

RULE #1 - regardless of who installs your kitchen island, which-ever way they do it - mine or IKEA's - the island has to sit on a 'fixed' subfloor. It can be concrete, it can be wood, it can be ceramics - BUT IT HAS TO BE STATIC! So do not set your island cabinetry on something that will be 'settling' - any floating floors are out. Uneven settling will cause stress to be introduced at variable rates to different areas of the cabinets - that 'settling stress' will translate to function of the cabinetry. Worst case scenario your soft marble slab - that has been reinforced with inlaid metal underneath - where you don't look at all - will crack [that will never happen] OR you will notice water running off you laminate countertop. It is very unlikely that it will be catastrophic - but best practices should always be observed. That's my philosophy. 

RULE #2 - If you are matching heights - that you have to compensate for appropriate heights - and the picture above will help you with that. 

Cheers! and Happy Island Installs People!

Chapter 2 - WHY kitchens FAIL - what YOU can do ABOUT it - and why IKEA is a great deal.

I've been watching kitchens fail, oh.....for about 20 years now...yup....20 years now.* This has come to me through various experiences. I started in this business just like anyone else - working for someone - right at the bottom of the ladder - doing demos - lowest cost labour. But with time I gained more experience and was trusted to do other things - moved up and someone else did the demos. But I was still watching and taking mental notes - there has to be a better way!

When cabinetry gets demo'ed [removed] there are 3 possibilities - 

A] Reuse
B] Re-purpose
C] Trash

Those are your only choices. Let's start with the ugliest of them all - 

C] TRASH IT!! - I've seen my share of old, mouldy, damp cabinetry, that was falling apart in your hands when you picked it up - and it was immediately tossed into a bin - I was always wearing protective equipment in those instances! And if that is your case you should too! It would be a risk to do anything other than to trash cabinets like that. Typically if you notice that the cabinetry is 'soft and puffed up' - than it is very likely that dampness has caused mold and rot to propagate in that area. This situation poses a health risk and it should remedied - if it is minor it could be as little as properly scrubbing and washing it with some appropriate harsh cleaners and then once clean, painting with a proper primer - talk to the staff at your local paint store - I am certain that they field questions like that all the time. If it major, than you should have a professional look at it. 

A] Re-use - this is when cabinets are good, structurally sound and 'healthy' - yup! RE-use them - take that kitchen cabinet and put it in the laundry. Or put it in the garage - if it is what I call a 'non-fussy' use then that cabinetry will serve you until the hardware fails or it starts annoying you. 

B] Re-purpose - this is my favourite. 

Many times it happens that you can give an old kitchen cabinet a new interesting take on life. Usually it involves some work - but often times you can do it yourself - no need to hire a professional.  Like this piece that was pulled out on a 'silent demo night'**. When we first pulled out it out it was just set aside with other cabinets. But then, when we took a break, we all ended up sitting on our 'new bench'. And it served that purpose for the next few days, long enough in fact, that we have plans for it to turn it into a real bench [we kept all the hardware and the doors].

So the moral of the above 'demolition story' is that the primary culprit in kitchens failing is moisture.  Now that is a no-brainer - kitchens are all about water - cooking with it and cleaning with it and whatever else you do in your kitchen with water. 

So what can you do about it? Well, if you are a DIY-selfer - like the majority of readers of this blog - than you should read more of my blog. The experiences I write about, issues I encounter and solutions I suggest are based on extensive professional experience, genuine curiosity to make things better and last longer and a strong, ethical commitment to my craft***. It annoys me to do crappy work and that is clearly reflected in my quotes - I have never found myself to be the lowest bidder on any project so far - I know what is required for a properly designed and installed kitchen - functional, beautiful and superior results that will last, and I price it as such - my install is not the standard IKEA install.***

*Crap! Saying that makes me feel old....middle age...macarena~

** that's right people, I was breaking rules, I was conducting a demolition on the weekend in a condo building - I was very quiet, did not use an impact-driver [that's the cordless drill that makes that lout 'ra-ta-ta-ta-ta' noise but is superior] choosing instead to use regular cordless drill, and there was no power cutting - if I had to cut something, it was done by hand. It was a success - no noise complaints in the condo. 

*** I've built bigger!