Monday, April 9, 2018

DELAKTIG is in! I repeat, DELAKTIG IS IN! - Industriell 2!

CHapter 1 - DELAKTIG has landed! 

With Tom Dixon bragging that this is the first - maybe only - IKEA sanctioned hack, I am excited to announce that I received official e-mail invite from IKEA to check out the collection. Exciting! - and that's a wee-bit understatement. Can't wait to get my hands on that product. 

Side by side, another collection has been launched - INDUSTRIELL. Reading the description had me a bit confused - so it is an 'industrial process that purports to produce hand-made results' - apparently people crave 'hand-made' and thus in order to bring that 'desired hand-made' they have a machine reproduce it.

Hmmm.... oh the tale that the marketing team at IKEA weaves.....

First of all - my understanding of 'hand-made' is 'hand-made', and I am having trouble with how to jump over that hurdle in a logical fashion. My guess is that the production process is likely not perfected - they can't produce flawless 'handmade' - because 'handmade' also has a specific quality - it's not random splatter, uneven brush strokes, or mindless marks on wood - and maybe it is also due to the intrinsic nature of the materials involved. But, given time and experience that process will become perfect [or with adjustable variability of 'hand-made' - so say, you will be able to dial just how much imperfections you can get - from 0 to 100% - and I mean how do you quantify that too!].

But I think the greatest lesson from the INDUSTRIELL collection is that - the robots are coming for our jobs. Automation is here!


Will write  more about it as I go thinking and working about my day.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The GREAT PAX hack - make it last for 20 years.

[picture shows the back of a PAX wardrobe that has been glued, nailed and screwed ensuring that it will never come off - this is the BEST PAX HACK that you can do to ensure the integrity and longevity of your new closets]

Chapter 1 - PAX Hacks and 'Peak Furnishings'.

If you have been to IKEA then like me you likely have a slight fetish for well organized and functional closets - PAX. I will not be writing about the DESIGN aspect of those closets - you know exactly what you like and how you want things to look.

The PAX system, in my opinion, is a great example of the phenomenon of 'peak furnishings' - meaning there exists a closet, which when properly designed, installed and hacked [hacked, well, because it is an IKEA product] will produce satisfactory results in 99% of the cases. AND it will last well beyond the 10 years that IKEA provides warranty for. I have been installing PAX the traditional way - free standing - or more popular, building them in, for I say 10 years, including calls to 'fix, adjust, and re-install'. And over the course of those ten years I have noticed similar challenges coming up. Two important points to remember - the PAX system is designed to be manufactured in centralized location [the efficiency reduces the cost] and then distributed; it is meant to be assembled by the end user [the actual design of the box has to be accessible to average DIY-selfer].

Why would you want to go through the process that I will outline below? I see two reasons:

A] You want to extend the life of the PAX - traditionally installed PAX [as per IKEA instructions] will last you about 10 years. Beyond that, the use of it will become cumbersome and challenging - it may start bothering you when the doors will rub against each other; the pull out drawer/tray/hanger mechanism may become annoying; shelves will sag and back may become loose OR worse come off completely; the entire box may lose its rigidity and feel 'wobbly' [that's how my customers describe the well worn out PAX box]. You may end up thinking, 'Hey! I did everything right, I followed the instructions, this is the end and I need to replace my closets.' And this point I want to stop you and say 'Wait! Before you discard that PAX, if you follow my instructions, you can breathe another 10 YEARS OF USE into that box! SAVINGS!

B] You want to build-in that box  to make it look fancy.  PAX boxes are fairly plain - they have a great selection of affordable styles of doors - both hinged and sliding - BUT that box is just SO PLAIN! As a conscious shopper, seeking good value for your hard earned dollar you want to take advantage of the affordable functionality and skip the 'custom closet route', which I assure you, is very expensive! You want to give your closets personality and flair - you want some side panels, you want some bottom trim to cover that little kick, you want a crown moulding that matches your house decor. SO, if you are going to go through all the trouble of fabricating all the custom pieces you might as well make it last. MORE - another important point to remember is the fact that when you built-in things [at least when I do] - they become PERMANENT. That is precisely the reason why I go through all hacking of the PAX that I work on - that closet is built-in and DONE. You will not be able to pull that box off the wall to fix a loose back; if that top is sagging and pulling in the doors [so they rub against each other] - there will not be an easy fix to straighten it out. The FIRST STEP in building in the PAX, is addressing all the issues/challenges that will arise during the lifespan of the closet - once those are addressed, your closet will function well YEARS beyond that 10 year mark.

Chapter 3 - Are you ready? Boring technical stuff... that you need to know.

PAX gables are super light. That is not a sign of any deficiency - opposite, that is a sign of high-end design. That vertical is a high-end sandwich - torsion box - designed to be light weight and perform as intended - the joinery on the box is strong, it will resist bending and twisting AND it will allow for great many hardware changeovers that you may desire over the lifespan of the closet. There are no benefits of using a solid core panels....unless you want you closet to be heavier.... but that never really enters into the closet equation. I've never heard anyone brag about 'how heavy their closets' are, BUT, I did hear people bragging about how functional their closets were! 

Chapter 2 - The BOX

Monday, March 26, 2018

PAX Reboot - get 10 MORE YEARS out of the closet.

pssst!.... I think a PAX sale is coming up.

[picture shows IKEA's PAX wardrobe being hacked - squared and reinforced, glued in and screwed in backs - plywood cross pieces being installed]

 Chapter 1 - A GREAT CLOSET at an amazing PRICE

PAX has been around for awhile now. In fact it has been around long enough that it has gone through some major technical re-designs BUT without changing its overall appearance.

Like what you say? Well, back in the day, PAX was made the old school way, with the IKEA's custom laid-up panels [organic closets! - I used to joke around], cut up, and edged. It was easy to hack back then, because you could easily cut them up into desired dimensions, or 'split them' [I did that!] - I would take the deep PAX and cut it in half, put some custom backs on in and had a 2 sided closet.  

But that was then. Now PAX gables [the verticals] are a high end custom sandwich with cardboard core, particle core strips for strength [where required - so at 'pin locations', tops and bottoms] - you really need to understand how it is manufactured to properly 'hack it'. And I do it. 

But every now and then, I am called to a home where PAX is already installed and has been aging gracefully for 10 years or so. 10 years is that magical number when IKEA's PAX warranty expires and issues start popping up. I want to point out that wear and tear is not covered by IKEA's warranty! The client was so frustrated with her closets that she was ready to throw them out and purchase new ones! I said, 'STOP!', all they need is a little bit of TLC, some hacking, few improvements and they will be as good as new! Of course it helped that the place was going through a total reno and we were able to pull them off the wall, and break them down a bit - but they were totally re-built!

The next post was a long time coming, but I think it will be my most valuable PAX post yet. Warning, it may be long and somewhat technical but it is necessary. If you are thinking of having those PAX closets last longer than 10 years; if you are renovating or new-building and are thinking of doing away with traditional closets and just going with built-in PAX, then this is written for you. I will not be going in to the design aspect of it, simply because that could be a chapter in its own. 

Onto the NEXT POST!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - DELAKTIG, you had me at 'HELLO'

Prelude - this is what 'Peak Furnishings' looks like according to Karol Kosnik -

[picture shows Studio Kosnik designed IKEA Section hack - modern, geometric design that is based on the SEKTION box; Forbattra panels which complete the look, highlighted in RED; and Karlby countertop that was cut down to create 'wood voids' in the design]

Chapter 1 - You had me at HELLO

Delaktig had at me at 'hello' - it was IKEA's answer to IKEA Hacking. The story, for me, first appeared in the IKEA Catalogue - 'get involved' was a call to action - and the word 'hacking' was mentioned as an inspiration [but just once! and in italics, as if it was an 'oddity'].  It was a collaborative effort is seems, Tom Dixon's students were involved in conceptualizing 'Delaktig' - which when you use the power of the machine - aka google - translates to 'involved' from Swedish. OK.....

But there was another reason to delaktig in the utopian vision - 'peak furnishings' - a term I first read about on one of those popular websites covering 'what's fresh and hot' in design, and coined, it seems, by IKEA themselves. Certainly a collaboration between a world famous designer and IKEA - world's leader in sustainable corporate philosophy - would be something to celebrate, but what? 

Do you know what 'peak furnishings' is? Is it when you have too much stuff inside your dwelling, that you find it challenging to store it properly, let alone organize it. Is 'peak furnishings' - when you start throwing away personal things that are still useful but old, to make room for new, shinier things? I mean, that is the definition of wasteful society. 

You know, it is kind if existentialist when a company says that it has designed a product, that will outlast it - the corporate entity. This is going to be the 'heirloom piece' for IKEA. Probably the first one, with more planned. DELAKTIG, made of aluminum - the cross section of the extrusion reveals channels which greatly add to its strength AND I saw a student proposal, because it is so modular, that it become 'infinity seating', and with its commercial potential, it could, say, replace Herman Miller* brands at the airports. This modular seating, according to IKEA's intentions, would be passed along, from generation to generation; a well cherished items gifted gracefully and received with excitement. A tall order for Ikea, I say. 

I googled 'heirloom furniture' because I wanted to see what does the totality of, I think, Western human experience sees as 'heirloom' pieces. And then when looking at hundreds of images I tried to identify common elements amongst them. As you can imagine, the form was all over the place - organic shapes; rigid geometric shapes; weird shapes; some very decorative and some very austere. I am a furniture designer and a maker, I have great curiosity for the process of fabrication, and I can say with certain degree of confidence that I know how they make furniture. And, surely enough, a very strong indicator was the amount of 'hand labour' that each piece received - sometimes simplest forms require large amount of labour. People like hand-made things. Of course 'hand-made' has been spun in so many different ways to make the sale, that it is almost sickening sometimes. Our attraction to 'hand-made', in my opinion, has made it 'cheaper' in some ways, because labour in developing countries is so much less expensive, so every single manufacturer wants to move overseas. So the origin of the 'heirloom' piece is also important.** 

Another thing is that I also make heirloom pieces. I take rough beams and surface and square them. I work with precious veneers and can do marquetry. I can execute fancy dovetail joints - even though I cannot make a living doing it. I can build challenging geometric forms that require complex interior structure that is often totally NOT seen and appreciated, but required nevertheless. I do metal inlays using 'red metals' - copper, brass, aluminum. AND I even LOVE steel. 

Of course I don't build a lot of them simply for the reason that you can get a lot more achieved via an IKEA Hack as opposed to one Kosnik heirloom - because they are of comparable costs.  

And another silly observation - I am not an elitist. It is of greatest satisfaction when I can deliver designer, superior quality solutions to average ordinary people via IKEA 'peak furnishings' products - on a budget. Because, if you think about it - there can only really be one Krenov, one Wendel Castle - I am often torn between my desire to be unique, one of a kind, original - and providing real life working solutions. Maybe I think about it too much...

I once desinged a chair, and I called it 'the Lightest Chair ever'. It dates back to my college years and my obsession with 'extremes'. I designed and built a chair, which I thought would be revolutionary. It was made of 1/4" top grade Baltic Birch plywood [so a hardwood plywood; many, many layers of AA veneers] - and it weight a mere 2lbs! AND! The SEAT WAS NOT STRUCTURAL - so what happens when you design chairs, often times, the seat plays an integral part of the structure of the chair - without it it would break, collapse, seize... AND so my chair, you could have grabbed the seat, take it off and put on a....say... a cutting board and IT WOULD STILL WORK. I had that chair dynamically tested [torture, I cringed!] to 300lbs, and it was fine. 

But it was NOT a successful chair. Do you know why? BECAUSE IT WAS TOO LIGHT! People were not comfortable using it! They feared that it would break, that it would not support their weight. My arguments - look at this, I am stress torturing it - did not work at all. As if a 'hive mind' was at work - the chair was NOT accepted. 

That experience was an eye-opener. It made me realize, that as much as INNOVATION and novelty is a key component of design, there is great inertia that resists all things new in FURNITURE. YES, maybe that chair would have been adopted by some 'design radicals'; YES, maybe that chair would have been welcomed by individuals who easily afford the financial hit of breaking/destroying a 'high value design object' and having it replaced on a whim - but that is not general rule - BECAUSE RULE NO.1 is SALES. I am always reminded of de Stijl, a design movement that I am still obsessed with today, that was so rigorous, so unwilling to bend to 'real life' that it self-extinguished. Yes!, I was greatly attracted to the arbitrary rules and regulations, completely inapplicable to real life of average citizen - BUT do I want to live [continue making and designing] OR do I want to die [stubbornly pursue my rigid and rigorous vision]? Do I make obscure pieces and die like Kafka? Or will I exert greater influence on the Furniture Design field if I pursue IKEA Hacks?

To be continued....

*NO! Nothing can replace Herman Miller at the airports, as long as architects design them!
**there is a great furniture store in Toronto called, 'the modern furniture knock-off store', and all they sell off-shored replicas of Eames, Scandinavian Modern, etc.