Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Confessions of an IKEA hacker - Vintage IKEA

Whoa! It is already second half of January and the blog is starting to get stale. NO NEW POSTS!

SORRY, NO PICS YET - I got to edit them first, and no time to do that right now.


Chapter 1

My most recent favourite client is none other than my older son - Jake. He is 10 years old and he's got an extensive LEGO set collection. Jake is very meticulous with his LEGO - all the blocks are sorted according to function and are stored separately. Some sets - like the Jack Sparrow's Black Pearl or certain Star War sets have been built once and are now part of his 'permanent collection' never to be disassembled - the inside joke between us, a one that mildly annoys him, given his slight OCD - he inherited that from his mother - is that eventually we will build black Spongebob Squarepants out of the Black Pearl and use the sails to sew together some shorts for him. Jake does not entertain that idea. 

Jake's collection is always and fresh and new, as he constantly experiments and builds new designs. In my opinion, he does a great job at curating his collection!

Ha! But a youthful and vigorous wrench has been thrown into Jake's smooth LEGO operation.  A little brother, almost ten years his junior - Felix [aka -  extrovert so much that he should have been the only child - too bad he's got three siblings!] who everyday grows stronger and more agile, allowing him to climb and reach places that were out of bounds just a month ago. If the parents are not watching, the little man will climb the chair, than on to the desk and from there, standing, he can reach virtually all of Jacobs prized designs. As a father I felt that it was necessary to remedy this situation before things got out of hand - shouting/hollering matches were becoming a common occurrence. 

Quite some time ago, we bought, from IKEA, the 'now-or-never' sale, a large storage unit, about 7 feet wide, about 7 feet tall, maybe about 12 inches deep. It sits in Jacob's room and functions as the main storage for toys, games, and other things that need to be stored. It features a series of fixed vertical dividers, 1/2¨ thick, and number of adjustable horizontal shelves of the same thickness. 

Ha! this unit is now so old, and so out of production that I can't even remember its IKEA name! Shame! in my household we refer to all the IKEA furnishings by their product name - like the Stefan chair, or the Billy bookcase, etc. I believe that this particular design was the precursor to the current EXPEDIT line - makes sense, as the EXPEDIT is infinitely more re-configurable than the inflexible behemoth that sits in Jake's room.  

So I looked at this beast, and it turns out that is has a line of symmetry! - it was my wife who suggested that solution. We emptied all the cubies, purging as we went along. We split the unit in half - the lower, easily accessible, all open will be reserved for Felix. As for the upper half, we decided that the small cubies are ideally suited for displaying Jacob's LEGO collection. To prevent any unauthorized access, I decided to build some nice doors to restrict the accessibility to the top half. The plan was simple enough - since Jake's half of the cabinet will be used for display, I will build a sturdy frame door and fit a piece of clear acrylic for the center panel; slap on some of those good-ole' fancy 125 European cabinet hinges [they swing open a nice 125 degrees and are adjustable in every possible way- it is not a luxury, I say, it is a necessity], install a nice keyed lock on and presto! - function AND beauty. You know what I call that? I call it a good old fashion IKEA hacking! With a retro throwback! 

I bought $50 worth of acrylic and some other things that I could not scrounge around for in the shop. I set a firm ['don't get carried away honey' - is my wive's favourite line] 6 hours budget for labour and got busy.

It did not work out the way I planned at all.

I will not divulge how long it took me to fabricate these doors - it is ridiculous - I got carried away. Let's just say that they are NOT commercially viable - no one would pay YYY for a pair of doors like that! They are really nice though - I'm a designer.  The doors are strong and solidly constructed. They are covered in beautiful, pure white, high-end plastic laminate [that's right ABET Laminati! the Italians know what they are doing] for ease of maintenance and lasting beauty that won't fade away. Style-wise, they are well proportioned modern beauties with a splash of Steam Punk. They fulfill their function wonderfully - they are completely Felix-resistant. It feels like a gallery space there now. 

One more thing on my mind, while we are still reminiscing about discontinued IKEA product lines - Vintage IKEA. Vintage IKEA sounds like an absurdity. See, IKEA does all their designing around their own internal company philosophy - IKEA's People+Planet is a good recent example. 

IKEA's main design constraint is the price point - it has to be affordable  [some might call it 'cheap']; it has to ship flat; theoretically any individual on this planet should be able to assemble any of their products with a single allen key [occasionally a Philips screwdriver or a hammer might come in handy]. 

IKEA does not over-engineer their products** [over-engineering is expensive; I always over-engineer - pro bono] - meaning if the manufacturing specs fit, than the sourced material will do. I know, I can hear a muted chorus in the background singing a sad song for all the IKEA furniture pieces that did not endure the second move. But remember friend, next time you are purchasing a BILLY bookcase, the money you paid for it, will in no way cover my costs for materials to fabricate a bookcase of similar size. 

The truth is that IKEA furniture was not meant to last for generations. No IKEA piece will ever become a 'family heirloom' - lovingly cared for and maintained, passed down the family tree. Rather, for the price you paid for it, it will serve you well, bring you joy, function properly, beautify your environment - until your second move. Somewhere I read - it could be a conspiracy theory, don't quote me on it - that IKEA's secret plan is to make it affordable for you to replace your furniture every three [3] years. Whoa!

Personally, I don't know about that one though. I own a Stefan chair [for which I paid 25 dollars! the new lower price is only 19 dollars!] that I bought together with my wife when we first moved in together - long time ago - yea the finish is not holding up well; it's the green one, the discontinued colour; it's soft pine and I got four kids so it is dented all over. But I will tell you that I am very fond of that chair, and that I will never throw it away, and in fact I plan on restoring it to its former glory when I will have more time on my hands when I will be an old man.

I also own [picked it up in the as-is section, talk about luck!] a 30th anniversary BILLY bookcase - the white/black edition. It's so charming - it's got Shakespearean love lines scribbled all over it. As I recall, the high contrast graphics that cover the sides attracted the attention of all my toddlers. They would stand there, right next to the Billy and just stare at it, or poke it with their little fingers. When strangers came by our house and they saw a small kid looking at a side of a bookcase, I would say, 'they are reading Shakespeare.' [TRUE!] 

hey! if music be the food of love - play on [Shakespeare; read straight off the right side of the BILLY] 

Chapter 2

The IKEA Lamp - Vintage IKEA

I can't believe that I bought that lamp from IKEA in the 90's. 
I no longer own.