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 great filing storage system. 


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

the 2020 FRIHETEN sofa reupholster project - pandemic edition;

Picture shows FRIHETEN pullout sofa bed 3 seater with an optional chaise on the right. This is the model that I had re-upholstered. Arrows point to the chaise on the left and the hidden/stored away pull out section. 

Chapter 1 - FRIHETEN sofa - IKEA's entry level sofa;

Entry level sofas are there for a reason - to capture the largest market share - and I am certain that IKEA has been successful there. People hate this couch tho. It has a very poor rating - only 2.2 stars [out of 5] - and that includes on the IKEA's own website. I am here to change your mind - the poor rating comes from the wear and tear that occurs during the lifespan of the couch. There are number of elements of the couch that directly contribute to the comfort that the user experiences - the springs, the backer fabric cover, the foam, the batting and finally the fabric cover itself - when these elements break, wear out or shift the discomfort starts. 

Picture shows a well loved, heavily used, fully unfolded FRIHESTEN sofa that had the pull out section deconstructed - the upholstery, the batting, the foam and the backer fabric has been removed to clearly illustrate the softwood frame. 

We've had ours for 6 years now with daily use, including sleeping and vigorous jumping by children [to the point that I thought it is going to break, me, as a furniture maker was worried about labour hours required to fix things]. 2020 with the lock downs has had us stuck at home for a lot longer than we liked, and since the couch is also part the gaming center it has received significantly more use. Then a spring broke - leading to the foam collapsing - and the sofa become uncomfortable.

How long should sofas last? 6 years? 10 years? I would say that our sofa received above average usage, high usage, heavy usage - no two ways about it. Look at this pictorial - this is the anatomy of FRIHETEN sofa -

Picture shows a cross section of IKEA's Friheten sofa clearly outlining each element of the design. Arrows point to the three elements that I recommend upgrading and replacing - batting, foam, back cover fabric;

This is essentially the anatomy of any 'modern sofa' - I know I am generalizing, but you get the picture - 'squarish seats, sides and back + puffy pillows for back rests and side rests' look PLUS whatever legs you get.  It's soft and supportive where most of your butt hits, got some flexible back support and it is comfortable enough that you can fall asleep on it. 

When I was in Design School I got a scholarship to work for Canadian equivalent of Herman Miller - Nienkamper. I spent two months working the floor across various departments - I met some incredible, creative, inventive craftspeople! My favourite department tho - hands down! - was the upholstery. They do some really, really nice stuff - designer stuff too - there is only so many recipes for for modern sofas. 

Theoretically I could have re-created a high-end version of FRIHETEN - built a 'proper hardwood frame', make up better legs [the original are cheap plastic, but the do the job]. And then sell it for a million dollars to the consumer - that's how it works in the high end sofa business. 

But why? For what reason? If this FRIHETEN has not collapsed so far - I completely agree with the designers making the right choices when it came to materials - what would be gained if functionality is not affected? The upholstery frames were European softwood, but well selected for straight grain with minimal warp. The finger joint was strong and stapled properly, adhesive likely used - thumbs up. The torsion boxes for the sofa were rigid and strong - baltic birch for greatest loads, moving onto organic 3/4 particle core for structure with some 1/4 mdf for non-load bearing skins. If I were to optimized a production costs for a 100 000 sofa run I would make the same decisions - nothing in structural integrity is compromised. 

As to the complaints of it 'squeaking', run-aways and 'general wobbliness' - it's all tied to loose hardware. Grab your Allen keys periodically and adjust all fasteners - wood gets compressed and loses that 'tightness' - 1 full turn can work wonders. This is just a function of the incredible modularity and flexibility of the design. If I knew that this FRIHETEN sofa is never coming apart I'd just throw in some silicone beads in the right spots ~and you done~


Picture shows a newly re-upholstered FRIHETEN sofa bed, without cushions, fully unfolded. The sofa looks clean, and plump and the original fabric - which was washed and air dried before being re-installed - looks brand new with minimal wear. 

Something had to be done. We either buy a new sofa or ...... what? How do you go shopping for a sofa in the middle of a pandemic lock down? You tell me. We don't really trust a lot of reviews - point being our FRIHETEN, we loved it, and now love it even more that it is practically ~luxurious~. 

I have to say that my butt has the final say on any piece of 'seating' in my house. So any on-line purchases were OUT.

I knew exactly what to expect from FRIHETEN - it was utilitarian cheap entry model that worked well for us. Can I repeat its success? Can I improve on the design? Can I fix all the flaws that were annoying me, and it seemed a whole bunch of other FRIHETEN owners? 

I know basic upholstery principles of slabs - that all this IKEA sofa is - what if I replace the worn out foam with something that is top-line? Since the original upholstery fabric must have stretched over the years of usage, I figure I can cheat and use 1" thick, quality batting vs. the original 1/2" 'cheap thing'. The synthetic backer over the springs has been worn out - what if I replace it with some heavy heavy gauge cloth that will further provide support and protect the foam from wearing out against the springs? YES to all. 

Picture shows the replacement batten, foam, and the backer fabric all laid out on a bench next to the bare FRIHETEN frame. I am overdressed because I just stepped in from the the cold. 

A note about the ORIGINAL FABRIC:

It is great. It held up incredible well over the years - even with all the spills and messes. It held up to to all the vacuuming, spot cleaning and 'wash-downs'. There were no snags, tears or rips and the joints were all solid - this is why it made sense to re-use the upholstery. All staples were removed with care to ensure that no damage was done to the fabric - that was probably my least favourite part of the job - long, tedious, and requiring care. But you got to do it.

Picture shows a close-up overhead shot of a staple removal by carefully lifting it with the blade of a flathead screw-driver. Once the crown was lifted, I used basic pliers to gently pull the staples fully out. 

To Be Continued.....

Monday, December 28, 2020

The 2020 Wrap up + THIS IS THE FUTURE

Chapter 1 - 2020 Wrap Up

2020 was not an easy year. I am always a value shopper, so when I found myself among the hordes, before the pandemic was officially announced, on the floor of Costco my first instinct was to head out for Personal Protective Equipment - gloves mainly then a jug of sanitizer, masks are second nature to me in the shop. Since that time I've gotten used to lines and ordering more on-line - but it is a burden. Safety first is my mantra - I don't want to get Covid-19, I don't want to give it to my family or clients. Stay safe out there and get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available. We are all in this together.

I still have a job. Pretty much work every day, as mix of thinking, writing, and 'computer work' and shop time. I love 'shop time' - I am in charge of my own designs and I build them to the quality that I personally desire, as if I am building for myself. It may appear that Ikea Hacking is this glam thing that I do, and I love being a 'fancy designer with my clickity-clack shoes' [it's the sound of the heel on a fancy shoe when it hits a hard floor at an empty skyscraper lobby at night] I think of myself more of a 'life optimizer'] - and it is - but a lot of behind the scenes work is boring, repetitive and monotonous and no artist or writer brush can paint it in any other terms. But the fruits of the labour are rewarding, clients love the quality of work. 

Marketing?  AI does it for me - the future is AD-less my friends and I will write more about it. I declare the year 2021 to be the YEAR OF LESS. Content again is king and nothing is going to replace that. And by the way, Jules - from - is doing god's work.

What do I mean by Year of LESS - oh, I mean LESS of everything. There will less money to go around starting from design, purchasing, fabrication and building. Budgets will achieve less. It is PERFECT time for IKEA Hacking. Over the course of this year I will show you some really, really nice IKEA Hack kitchens - IKEA Hack kitchen is a kitchen that is taken out of the IKEA Kitchen Planner language. Hey! did you know that Architectural Digest - probably world's fanciest interior design magazine; $$$$$ we are talking big big money here] - did a little write up about an IKEA hack kitchen? Yea! For realZ - read it here. It's a very cute story. 

'It's not going to look like you have another kitchen in your living room', I say to a every client during the consultation - 2021 is going to be the year of the SEKTION box. One metric of that, I will say with confidence, is the fact that IKEA is running out of room on the wall for their doors! There is just SO MUCH CHOICE! But which doors are the best? Which are the most durable? Which will resist scratches and kitchen accidents best? Which ones are easy to clean and to maintain? I promise I will do another JUST DOORS post where I will give you an overview of what it means to own IKEA doors and I will give you a personal reflection of owning IKEA doors myself. 

To Be Continued....

Thursday, November 26, 2020

SHAMELESS - IKEA Hacks for the rich** + The End of High Priests of Design - SHOW

 Chapter 1 - The SHOW --> GIVE AWAY -  this piece

Yes, I am doing a give away. This is one of the coolest Ikea Hacks that I have ever done. It's very professional and features Design History my friends! The top, sides and the legs are covered in a vintage Italian laminate - ABET Diafos - that laminate has a lot of depth; it's like ice except coloured. 

I think it will end up as a virtual 2 hour presentation.

RSVP - to me here --- >

Will keep you posted further:

Here is the link to the actual event:



The last bastion of Good Taste has fallen - Architectural Digest publishes a story on a cute IKEA Hack - a clever design by a budget-humbled architect. It reads like a Design Fairy Tale: a creative individual used to absolute luxury in terms of budgets, suddenly faces the hard realities of 'tiny-budget' - I think it is actually his own place! 

If you don't know about Architectural Digest then I don't blame you. I have been aware of Architectural Digest for quite some time yet I never felt inclined to pick up a copy for myself - it's really out of my league; Elegant Opulance is not my style; Casual Elegance is. I did try to psychoanalyze thus dilemma, including allowing the possibility that I would never be able to afford such interiors - TRUE. I guess the saving grace in all this 'psychoanalysis' was the fact that I, as a craftsperson, have in the past built for the rich and the ultra-rich and are familiar with their world thru that experience. I have extensive experience making super-rich and influential comfortable - because it is essentially down to 'comfort' - that is the ultimate luxury.

Now, what if....... YOU WERE ABLE TO CREATE EXACTLY THE SAME LEVEL OF COMFORT BUT FOR YOURSELF......? What if you were able to educate yourself on your 'design personality' and based on that acquire 'small skills' that would let you execute improvements in your own life? Huh? SERIOUSLY CONSIDER THE RAMIFICATIONS. 

This concept, I consider, to completely blur the lines between the rich and 'the poor' - aka 'people with budgets'. 

To be continued!

Picture shows well designed and well executed IKEA Hack kitchen on the mobile site of Architectural Digest.