Friday, December 12, 2014

IKEA Virgins and the end of AKURUM

So this is what the end looks like, eh? At least here in Canada - so the good old AKURUM is going away. The old kitchens are being torn down, cabinetry sold 'as-is' at ridiculous prices. Inside scoop reveals that the official reveal in Toronto, Canada, will happen February 1st, 2015. 

The METOD is coming. That is IKEA's new kitchen system. The sales on AKURUM already started.

I will miss AKURUM -  I hacked it often. I was very comfortable using it.  Time to reminisce...Re-kindle the old memories...Time for a...>>>>

AKURUM eulogy

AKURUM was a good kitchen system. It was one of us - beautiful and functional. A creation of the IKEA designers - most likely many -  it anchored the lives of many families around the globe. Complemented by the RATIONELL system made by BLUM Austria,  it proved, to North Americans everywhere - in glitzy metropoliae [plural of metropolis]; subdued sleepy suburbia, and small cheeky towns - cause people travelled far and wide to pick them up, those IKEA kitchens [even in Buffalo! which does not have an IKEA, why?]. 

AKURUM was made of particle.core - not MDF - in a plant somewhere in the US. Every time I read the review of the system I always cringed at reading that - MDF - it meant that the review was not written by a professional.  Yes, some, very few, parts were made of MDF [and I am certain, that IKEA did that on purpose] - mainly stretchers. But all gables and tops+bottoms were particle.core. It was edged well. The cabinetry was all 3/4" construction. 

To be continued.....

alsmost forgot:

IKEA Virgins  - a term coined by me and my wife in reference to people who are not familiar with the IKEA model - mainly getting trapped in the store. It has only been the last few years that IKEA made provisions, shortcuts, alternate route labeling to make their stores more navigatable to those not familiar with their store layout. 

IKEA stores are all about 'the experience' - the actual 'walk-through' - IKEA has made it their trademark that they make you walk through the entire store before exit. 

I like it though...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hacking Hemnes!

Chapter 1 - Hacking Hemnes!

I really like the IKEA Hemnes line - it's their solid wood line of everything from bed frames and bookcases to side tables and desks. My personal favourite is their white-wash finish - it's got that elegance and sophistication with just a hint of grain peeking through. 

Hacking Hemnes is challenging - my hacks are professional designer hacks. All the Hemnes hacks I've seen are just assembled pieces with baseboards thrown on. Yea, IKEA hackers won't take mine because, you know what?, mine are just too professional..... 

The one I am working on right now is just that. Here is the modified bookcase - commercial millwork standard - 

It's all modified, screwed, glued and assembled, waiting for the fabric that will go on the back. The white finish on the solid wood is so nice - it just shows off the grain enough. The legs were cut off to make room for the set back, custom kics. The plywood bottom rails were dado'ed and glued in [woodwroking term for strong joinery] into the legs, as they will carry the load down to the floor. 

Can't wait for the fabric!

Here are the kicks - 

3/4" exterior grade plywood, glued, nailed and screwed together. Made in one piece to ensure that the bookcases will sit level with the desk, and also stronger and easier to level. 

It is superior craftsmanship at its best. Can't wait for the fabric! It's gonna be so nice. 

Here are the desk pieces. Waiting for their action....

Nobody does such fancy hack work! Nobody!
My hacks are Designer Hacks!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - Designer IKEA Hacks - really good ones.

Designer IKEA Hacks

I have these two incredible IKEA hacks in the works. One is Billy Bookcase, the other one is a stunning Hemnes hack.  

Billy Hack

Oh I am gonna do a number on that Billy Hack. It's a very classic design - I want to say sophisticated and subtle. I am going completely out of my way in terms of craftsmanship. The fireplace is built like a tank - single piece front. For the facing there is a beautiful marble mosaic, that now - on the advice of a good friend and a well experienced craftsman - will be installed properly on cement board.*

The shelving on the Billy bookcases, is half open - exposing a the back wall - nice! - and thus only 1/2" backs will do on the covered side. The adjustable shelves will get solid wood strip at the back - some on top, doubling as stops for books so they don't hit the exposed wall behind. yea.

It is such a pleasure to built such high craftsmanship designs.

Stay tuned for the final reveal.

*to obtain that good piece of advice and to drop the fireplace off, for the tiling, I drove at night to a charming small town in Ontario, Canada - it was dark and stormy, the sea was angry my friends. But I rest easily knowing that it will be done properly and it will be beautiful. 

Chapter 2 -  [LOTS OF TEXT - could be boring - but makes for good shelving! - SKIP to Chapter 3 for more excitement]

One of the best things about IKEA hacking is that you are working with products and technology that is at the forefront of innovation - product design, sustainability and engineering. 

When I made world's first Billy Bookcase unboxing video* - (!!!) watch it, it's at the bottom of this post - one of the coolest things I noticed were the new shelf pins. 

Yea! New shelf pins! Here - 

That is a very clever design - it's strong and it is very safe. I feel kind of silly getting excited talking about shelf pins, but hear me out - I'm a hardware junkie and good hardware makes for excellent and functional cabinetry.

In the good old days a shelf pin was just a straight pin that would go into a hole - and that's it - the shelf would just sit on top. This was not optimum because it was easy for the shelf to slide forward, off the back pin - say during pulling a large heavy item off the shelf, and not necessarily a book - and it would result the in the shelf crashing down below. To address that issue, IKEA product designers decided to notch the shelves for the pins - with that improvement the risk of the shelf just 'rolling off' the pins was virtually eliminated. You actually had to tilt the shelf up to pull it out.  That was a good and simple solution.

Now, enter, what I call the IKEA 'cup pins'! This is a brilliant solution! In my opinion - the way IKEA designed their shelf pins - the dynamic, adjustable, floating part of the bookcase - the shelf - becomes a structural element adding rigidity and strength. 

First there is what I call 'the cup' portion of the pin - you guessed it - looks like an inverted design for an  North American large size travel coffee mug - I know I drink lots of coffee on the go! You know how your over sized coffee mug fits in your cup holder in your car - how the bottom portion is tapered? Same idea! Each IKEA Billy Bookcase shelf is drilled with four 2-stage holes - a larger hole which then tapers to a smaller hole. This ensures that the pins always center properly and are locked securely. 

Second part is the foot of the pin - the part that gets inserted into side of the bookcase. IKEA made them slimmer and introduced two 'teeth' to the design. Under load, the tendency of the 'foot' is to tilt up - that's when the the two 'teeth' start biting and ensure that there is no way that the pins slide. Clever!

Third part is the 'support' - SO MUCH design packed into that little shelf pin! - IKEA included a little lip that helps stabilize the entire pin under load. 

Conclusion - with their new shelf pin design, IKEA manages to address all the deficiencies of old shelf pin designs. And while you would normally have to reach out to specialty suppliers to get similar shelf pins - if say, you are a cabinetry connoisseur - IKEA includes them with every Billy bookcase they sell. That's Deomcratic Design! With this shelf pin design each shelf becomes an integral, structural part of the bookcase - the more you load that shelf, the harder that little pin works!

Chapter 3

One of the funnest parts of designing and building IKEA Hacks is that the clients come to me full of awesome ideas for their cabinetry. They want lights, they want crown mouldings, they want fabric or wallpaper on the backs - they want no backs at all! - open shelving! They come prepared with images, and even videos! With the vast resources available on-line - like - they have done their research and they know what they want. 

In this case the client asked that units be open - have no backs - leaving the wall behind exposed. It's a very good decision as the space is tall but fairly shallow - extra visual depth is always good. 

Here is the mantle piece, that will be flanked by double Billy hacks. The insert is really nice - it is an electric model, suitable for heating up to 400 sq. feet. It's also safe, as the front glass does not get hot. Rather, heat is generated by a heating mechanism - very quiet - and the hot air is forced through a recessed grill, that cools off quickly, once fireplace is switched off. Another nice safety feature is the fact that the fan remains running until the heating element is completely cool - there is a built in sensor switch. The mosaic is marble with beautiful sheen - it's almost sparkling in bright light - stunning material. 

Everything is ready for an install on Monday.....

Chapter 4

It happened - the install....It looks really good. 


This is my directorial debut, so please be kind - many influences to unite, tried giving it a bit of early Woody Allen.


*I hope that it will go viral! No one has done an 'unboxing video for Billy Bookcase!' Oh the drama, and anticipation.... But the curious fact remains that I am the first human to touch those pieces, as BILLY bookcase production is entirely mechanized and runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. About 40 tons of BILLY bookcases get made a day. They are stored in a fully automated robotic warehouse.

pps. Wow! It's already being loaded! 

Nice comments I got:
A] The shelving is nice and deep! Even largest books fit well.
B] The shelves felt very solid.
C] Awesome!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - 75 greatest reason for loving IKEA and IKEA Hacking - OR - Karl Marx would be so proud....of IKEA.

CHapter 1 - 75 Greatest Reasons for loving IKEA

If the title drew you in than, 'Good!', it worked. It was an experiment whether I can lure readers with a promise of a ridiculously and exhaustive list - lists are apparently 'the thing' to have on a blog - a count down - with the rule being that the no.1 be a some sort of 'self-realization' point. 

I will try my best, and, yes this entry does it does end with a self-realization.

I am still thinking about IKEA coming down on IKEA Hackers. After the initial uproar, IKEA quickly realized their error and backtracked. In a legally beautiful language - clinical and ambiguous - they said nothing except that taking up negotiation with Jules Yap - the  IKEA has a very purposeful, well managed social media footprint - it showcases the best of their ideas implemented in an excellent fashion.

A well organized social media campaign by a disciplined group can easily knock several % points of any brand's stock value and cause any board of directors to crumble. In IKEA's case - in my opinion - their only corporate bungle - IKEA vs. - vapourized tons of Positive Social Capital. I tweeted @IKEACanada in outrage! 

Read my post about here. 

IKEA noticed.
IKEA cared. 

Jules Yap played her cards well. She threatened to move the entire collection of IKEA hacks - thousands of them - onto a new, 'yet-to-be' named domain name that was devoid of the name IKEA. This would certainly satisfy IKEA's legal team, but this though would be a slap-in-the-face for thousands of IKEA Hackers worldwide - that is anyone whomever purchased an IKEA product and cleverly repurposed it, or decorated it, or modified it - AND THEN with pride submitted it online for the ENTIRE WORLD TO SEE at 

Because that is where you go if you want to see the best of IKEAHack selfies! -people doing all sorts of crazy things with IKEA products!  

Jules Yap - clever lady that she is - sought out a legal opinion before going public with the dispute. If she could not win in the court of law, she would certainly win in the court of public opinion. And she did win. And now, after her win, I would say that the act of 'IKEA Hacking' is now viewed as a 'god-given-right' by anyone making purchases at IKEA! Just 2 [two!] minutes ago, I saw an image of someone who turned an IKEA wooden salad bowl and and 'IKEA cord with a lightbulb' into a neat lamp. And all it took is drilling a hole in the bottom of the bowl and feeding the electrical cord through. Assuming that the cord can support the weight of salad bowl [which I am pretty sure it can] - hey! a clever new product! I can just imagine the pride of the hacker who submitted their hack to IKEA Hackers website [that's mouthful of 'hacks', eh?].

And dawned on me! 
I got it!
I got it!
I yelled out. 

This is 'Democratic Design'! IKEA Hacking is the finest example of Design in the hands of masses! IKEA Hacks are products that are a direct result of people wanting to be creative. It is an example of people being liberated from Mass Production and taking charge of their lives. In society that very much feels repetitive and conformist, IKEA -  unknowingly, probably not intentionally -  created an avenue for one to reconnect with their own creative labour and the fruits of that creative labour! Karl Marx would be so proud....of IKEA.

Few years back I attended a symposium organized by the Ontario Crafts Council [Toronto, Canada] titled - Craft and the New Economy.  Basically it was an event at which various speakers talked about various aspects of 'making things by hand' - from purely practical aspects of running a craft business all the way to academic explorations of the theoretical. I even wrote a review of it, it's 'cheeky' - Here, you can read it on my Facebook blog, Buckskin Baby Review. For a whole day a listened to various people talking about the positive feelings of self-empowerment, creativity, re-connecting to 'economy-long-gone'. There was tons of materials and ideas, but the one awesome idea that I walked away with was this great line from Maria-Elena Buszek - she's an Associate Professor of Art History, from Univeristy of Colorado - 'Labour is my Medium!' She shouted that line while raising her fist in the air! I was stunned. 

I was stunned, because I consider myself a 'Maker' - a maker of things, a maker of IKEA Hacks. It's my profession. But there are millions of people in the world that are not 'Makers' in the true sense. They have 'other jobs' - equally important; they make the world go round and round. But maybe they've got 'desk-jobs' or are 'pencil-pushers' [that's my favourite anti-hero, no disrespect to 'pencil-pushers' know who you are....] and their work does not allow for their creativity to manifest itself in a physical fashion that beautifies their living environment. And along comes IKEA Hacking! 

A Short story of IKEA Hacking, Chapter 1

You go to a store. You buy a box that is full of parts - wooden or metal or plastic or a combination thereof - that also has a picture of a promise of what the final product will look like if you correctly connect all the pieces. But you also know that there exists an alternate universe of these such products that even though start off in the same way, through some sort of clever modification gain a new look or perhaps a new function or BOTH! The adventure begins.....

The end is unpredictable at best.

See how easy it is! 

I get swamped with requests for quotes - I developed a system to deal with the shear volume of them. But I feel compelled to share something with you dear reader.  Sometimes after sending out a quote - sometimes it is days later, sometimes it is weeks later, sometimes it is months - I get an e-mail back saying that the person did it themselves! Usually it was a timeframe - they wanted or needed it done now [I need some lead time]; sometimes it is the cost - who wants to pay for half-a-day of labour [I do have a minimum rate] to assemble a product that should not take more than 2 hours to put together with a Philips screwdriver and a hammer? People write me, or send me pictures and proudly boast that they did it themselves! And I always write back - Bravo! well done! - the e-mails brim with pride and self-satisfaction. Some pictures of hacks are very impressive, look very professional. Well done! Power to the people! 

I know that my work helps people  - read this anyway you want to...
But I always hope that my work also inspires people - read this anyway you want as well....

With IKEA Hacking, people, Labour is YOUR MEDIUM TOO! 
Be creative!