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!

Friday Night @10pm, Charles' place

hackers, engineers, designers, 'pool hustlers' - optimizing world class prototype engine, machining metal, drinking non-sophisticated beer and eating self heating military rations*

*so you can see if you can survive on them.

Just another Friday night at Ultimate Workshop, it's really cool shop next door to mine. Charles runs it. I was just there drinking beer. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

How to 'accent' when you are 'accenting' - pictures! pictures! pictures!

Chapter 1 - Good advice on how to select the right custom door OR accent doors for your IKEA Sektion kitchen ALSO KNOW AS Spend your money wisely

Since I started offering custom made doors for IKEA Sektion box - and I mean really custom doors; you can have anything you like and it will come with design matching panels, bulkheads or valances - it has generated an interesting pattern of queries and requests. It turns out that having custom options for your IKEA Sektion boxes is an exciting option for a homeowner who is looking for a bit more of 'designer look'. This especially true when the owner is investing in better looking, professional appliances.* He or she wants to know that the custom options they select will match their purchase seamlessly. 

But don't fret, it can made to 'look like a million bucks' without going that route - purchasing designer appliances - if you hire me, I will make sure that it 'all flows' - I make wonders with fridges - LOL - fridges are tough cookies occasionally. 

And since I can make really nice slab doors out of any species of wood - I get sheets laid up - you can really get some interesting, one of a kind looks, and people are really considering interesting opportunities. But on several occasions I had dissuade people from pursuing that course of actions. Hey! I made a list of things you should consider when accenting! Way down there below!

So now that you have settled on an IKEA Sektion kitchen for your reno - you've done all the research and you know that SEKTION is a great value, superior functionality and great flexible design. Now, the value of the kitchen is so amazing that you consider giving it some custom flare, take it a bit away from the standard IKEA kitchen look [oh there is something like that!] - great! IKEA kitchens were meant to be customized. 

*I make IKEA kitchens not look like IKEA kitchens. 

The modular design of the SEKTION system yields itself nicely to custom production runs of doors and panel styles - something like Semihandmade doors does, except they are about $1000 dollars away in California.**  Don't fret thought, it seems that the 'number of manufacturers that are working with homeowners' in producing custom doors is getting ever larger - you just got to google who makes 'custom ikea doors' in your neighbourhood.  Chances are that if you live in a large metropolis, or near one,  then you will find someone who claims they do it. The trouble with those places though is that while they may offer door styles that IKEA doesn't produce, there is very little that they are able to give you in terms of non-IKEA look - you are still limited by the installation methods and creativity of your installer. 

This is where I shine. Most of the time I get hired for my creative solutions - don't get boxed in by the IKEA kitchen planner!

*I can make you any door that you like. And it will fit the IKEA Sektion box. 

It is an exciting time in any homeowners renovation journey - the selection of door style. There are several key factors to consider - your design should showcase that extra expense well - there are many things to consider, you will have to trust someone's advice and I want to say that should be me.

You will hate me for saying this, but after this many years of woodworking and seeing kitchens slowly fail - laminate doors are best choice for lowers. The laminates I work with, from ABET Laminati, offer an incredible choice of colours and textures that can easily be beautifully matched across a whole series of doors. Laminate doors look best for years. FOR YEARS. The quality of the finish does not diminish. It is a very durable hard wearing surface and you can even use nail-polish remover to clean up stubborn surface stains - that's right, I said Acetone! Just try doing that on a regular door....[hint: it will ruin the finish, just sayin']

Laminate doors also have the preferred durability when you have an eat-at area - like a bar or a breakfast counter. People will kick and scuff those lower panels or doors. It happens - some of those scuffs and nicks are easier to get out than others. So what do you do? 

You do laminates - they rock! - they are very durable. And same story - very wide selection of finishes and textures. Often times those areas will not receive as much light - because of the overhang of the countertop - you want to make sure to select, what I call a 'higher grain contrast selection' or go for lighter solid colour. No one will appreciate the subtlety of rift-sawn wenge [because I had a request like that] buried deep below somewhere by your knees - and wenge is a beautiful, exotic hardwood that is also very expensive - all everyone will see is just dark brown doors, and you should not have to pay a premium for dark brown doors. 

Wood grains? Best place to showcase nice wood grain are the uppers with some good lighting. At eye - level, well lit, you or any of your guests will be able to notice the beauty of natural wood grain. Match the grain across all doors, edge it in 1/8" inch solid and it's a winner I say. 

I produce doors in matching sets - all are custom measure - wood grains and Italian laminates. Looks like a million bucks, every time. 

Pictures first! Sometimes amazing doors for IKEA kitchens need to be documented - very well made and gorgeous looking. First, this baby - I wanna show it off - these doors were designed specifically to work for this space. Rift sawn white oak, eight inch solid, matched across all door - appropriately lit - no pull - longer @ 42" in length. With the horizontal solid blending in at the top and the bottom, it's the verticals that introduce that nice vertical element. The eye is drawn to that contrast between the grain running in perpendicular. Just really nice doors. 

For the laminate fans, I want to say that ABET's Diafos is by far my favourite laminate so far - it's a classic that is going away. After 30 years in production  ABET will stop running the press. Check out these 2 pics - Diafos has translucent properties - those light lines are the edges of the cabinet and the doors. The surface of the laminate 'gathers' the light and it releases it at the edge - acrylic sheets behave the same way. Nice.

*just this past Saturday, I went to Caplan's in Toronto to see the appliances 'in-person'. I wanted exactly see how they 'intersect' with the millwork - it has to look best. The client invested in really nice, very clean, very sharp looking professional appliances - very minimal looking. I want to make sure that, that aesthetic is reflected in my design - it has to be effortless blend. 'The appliances were meant to be there'.

** Semihandmade actually went through a quite a few changes to their line up and I don't think we quite compete. John does one thing and I do something else - hey! I say we complement each other. Cheers John!