Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - Why Hack the PAX?

[this is my most popular PAX entry, and there is more - hit the PAX label at the bottom to see all PAX that I do...]

Everyone wants to have nice, good looking closets. Everyone. Even if your wardrobe is not extensive and you don't require a nice walk-in closet with some extra storage for your finer things - then you certainly own some nice pieces that could benefit from being properly stored. 

Properly stored clothing holds up much better. 

But the ugly truth is that there is a lot not-so-functional closets out there. That's right. That 'builder standard', that lonely, wrap around shelf with a rod, that is often accessed with a traditional door. In my opinion - I am a designer - I consider the above mentioned scenario to be 'the worst case' [you know that feeling when you have to squeeze yourself into that far, dark corner of the closet, your eyes straining in poor lighting, just to reach for something...]


A standardized box, that comes with a beautiful line up of doors in styles to appeal to any taste, complemented by a very practical array of interior fittings and hardware. 

Curious fact - IKEA now has enough clout to run its own line of hardware - like hinges and slides. That is NOT a small feat. See, there is only few hardware manufacturers in the world - the best of them in my opinion being the Austrian Blum - the costs and the tooling required to start a hardware operation are huge. So far, I have only encountered one [!!] Chinese start up that began distributing hinges, and they got a long road ahead of them to match the quality, versatility and ease of use that Blum offers. That's why I think, when it comes to their kitchens, IKEA does not mess around and simply orders the best.

But back to closets. It is specifically the hardware that makes the PAX so successful - everything from rods, adjustable rods, pant racks, tie racks, sliding baskets, sliding drawers, built-in drawers, shoe drawers, shoe racks, boxes, shelves! In any combination you want! I just purchased four interior drawers at IKEA the other day. Do you know how much I paid? I paid $160 dollars! And that included the slides! IKEA makes functionality affordable - I simply cannot beat their model. And since I could not beat them, I decided to join them. I started hacking IKEA - professionally. 

Now the PAX system does have its limitations, it does have its weaknesses. My opinion could be biased [just a bit] because I come from commercial millwork. And once you start building to that standard it is very difficult to 'go back'. Commercial millwork is strong and rigid. There are specific methods and ways of building. There is emphasis on quality hardware. Commercial millwork has to last. But here is the best part! IKEA PAX system nicely lends itself to that standard. When I hack a PAX box, I discard the assembly hardware - it is too delicate. Unless the box is going to be fully built it - I do away with the original backs as well and replace them with nothing less than a 1/2" thick panels. That little PAX 'kick' that also hides the leveling feet is cut off and discarded, and I fabricate a proper plywood base - that base is then screwed to the studs or the bottom plate and the box is installed on top. 

You are probably thinking - 'yea, but why so much work?' I will tell you why. My favourite part of the PAX system is the selection of doors - sliding and hinged; numerous styles and finishes. Those PAX doors are also very heavy and put quite the strain the the box. If the box is not rigid and level - if there is play, wobble, twist or unevenness - those doors will never hang properly. Sliding doors will not glide smoothly or stay closed properly. A hallmark of good cabinetmaking is having a row of doors with nice and evenly spaced gaps - for hinged doors it will be next to impossible to achieve that look if the box is not installed properly. AND I AM A PERFECTIONIST! I don't think anyone wants doors that sag and rub against each other. 

So yea,

I like the PAX wardrobes. I make them look good. Real good. 

Hey! Why don't you check out my super-lux line of hacked PAX doors that I started - it's called 'King K + Queen T'. The quality and craftsmanship is amazing! Just hit the 'PAX' label at the bottom of this entry and see my PAX galore!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

IKEA Hacking - The cure for the 'Hidden Designer'?

Chapter 1 Chris said, 'Karol you channel Candice Olson'  'Thank you Chris', I said.

Chris is a smart, first time home buyer. He bought a townhome on a 'six year plan' - he will do some strategic work on the house, let it appreciate a little, and then sell it - upgrading in the process. 

He had the kitchen doors professionally refinished. Changed lighting fixtures himself, and did the backsplash in a nice stone with the help of his father-in-law. Selected a cool grey for the wall colour, paying attention that the paint be easy to maintain. He bought the required linear footage of nice MDF crown moulding and painted it proper white. 

As an ambitious individual, he considered doing an IKEA Billy Hack himself - learning as he went along. It was then he contacted me asking me to come look at his space. The space - his living room - had bulkhead that was 15" deep [and as bulkheads are usually built, with a laser I found that it was waving 'in-and-out' and 'up and down'], which almost matched the depth of the deep Billy bookcase. He had that space filled with IKEA Expedit units in dark brown. In the center there was an electric fireplace. He did not like the look. 

See, what Chris did not know, was that he suffered from an incurable condition - something I call the case of 'a hidden designer'.  My experience is that, often, the client leaves most design decisions to me - they trust me. Chris was different because he paid attention to all details - I felt that I had very little wiggle room. He was very specific about what he liked and required help in realizing his vision. I have to say, that I feel I was successful, as in collaboration we achieved savings [we kept the original fireplace] and were able to nicely expand on the design without raising too much end costs*. 

Instead of creating a wall of Billys [the original image that he showed me**, I believe, is the most widely circulated image of an IKEA Billy hack on the web, I see it all the time], we opted to create some 'voids' in the design. Chris has a plan to put some fancy wallpaper/fabric on the back and accent it with lights. We deleted the fourth Billy on the left, shortening the space to a 24" wide countertop, and thus gaining valuable width for the fireplace and a nice TV.  Chris plans to introduce the paint to the MDF - a matching white - and then do a natural stone arch just above the electric insert. Whoa! I said, that is ambitious!

Chris' favourite part of the built-in  -  that floating panel on the back is removable - makes for cabling upgrade on the TV a breeze. Here:

Chris said, 'Karol you channel Candice Olson'
'Thank you Chris', I said. 

That's right! I am not a interior designer - but the one thing that I do real good is a mean design for built-ins - professional IKEA hacking! Great designs done on a budget!

** Here is the image, it's by this really crafty lady - - and her 'hack', in my opinion is totally legit. If you follow her instructions you will be able to create built in like these. It is a simple hack - base and crown with covered gables. While it does work for this space, odd dimensions would create an awkward look - the covered gables [verticals] would keep getting wider and wider as needed to fill in the width. I am sure someone who attempts this hack will find out exactly what I mean. 

My IKEA hacks are seamless - they become part of a larger design. I hope it shows. I hack IKEA for the combination of functionality and price. All hacks are assembled to commercial millwork standards - my background is in commercial millwork. And I can make them look any way you want - I can do very modern, classic, arts and crafts, shaker, 'fancy french', even bauhaus. My IKEA Hacks are custom millwork - very well priced. 

To my knowledge I am the first professional IKEA hacker. Virtually all my designs and millwork are based on IKEA products - it being so vast and varied. I have developed a system for creating professional looking designs. Some of IKEA product lines are of such high quality that I decided to hack them to create my own line of super-luxe hacks - KingK + QueenT  - a combination of high end manufacturing with some fancy woodworking techniques.

* in the end it came to a vigorous fencing match and a draw, at which point we agreed on one-to-one barter - your workday for my workday. 


Chris painted it!
Here it is! Nice! Ready for Christmas!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Chilly November [well, almost]

Chapter 1

First, the real sad new - the official IKEA Hackers site will not take images of my work. That is apparently, because the work is too professional. 

That's right - the work is deemed too professional. 

And that is exactly what you get. 

Chapter 2

Oh it is getting chilly here in the city of Toronto, Canada. Still sunny, but I did get the chills when I walked the kids to school this morning. The cool weather, I noticed, brought in more questions about fireplaces - mantles and whether I build them [I do! really nice ones too!] - gas? electric?  And I agree, there is nothing nicer than a warm glow of a fireplace and mug of hot coco [or maybe a glass wine if you are that way; I am not a wine drinker myself, an unfortunate, youthful mistake of single night over-indulgance].

So, yes, I do build nice fireplace mantles. They are usually flanked by some storage, but not always. The mantles are custom pieces. For storage I hack some IKEA piece - usually Billys, or a PAX box if I need more depth. 

Style? Well, you get exactly what you want. I am a modernist, so, I am all about slabs - both vertical and horizontal - with some some subtle 1/8" reveals. And I build them large and strong - it's all about engineering. But I can do a nice, what-you-might call, a contemporary look that is topped with nice custom made beading [I want to say I give it a nice 'Fancy French' look]. I make my own beading because as it is easy to find a nice, small, subtle crown moulding profiles that I can incorporate into a stacked design*, I haven't found nice, commercially available beading. And so I make my own. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - Retro Wednesday

I remember when....

in Toronto, Canada....long long time ago**....just over the Queen Elizabeth Way, IKEA used to have SEKSIG MAT events for couples - or singles - I believe in Swedish it meant, something like 'Sexy Wednesdays'. For $8.95 of Canadian dollars you could have gotten a 'three course meal' - salad or soup, main dish [usually meatballs or chicken with potatoes/fries] and a desert, ALL while listening to live [that's right! live!] classical guitar music. Placato - the name of the band, would set up their gear, all dressed in black and white - maybe even with bow-ties....can't recall exactly - and played gentle classical hits of the baroque [maybe rococo?], sometimes Mozart, occasionally Beethoven...I remember yelling out 'Encore!' and 'Bravo!' while the restaurant was filled with the sound of clapping...Placato gently bowed in acknowledgment and would plunge into another classical one-hit wonder....

I tell you people....single tear streaming down my cheek.

Me and my wife felt so sophisticated, attending every week. It almost felt like the opera - with the advantage [!!] that you could bring a toddler to the event, because we already had my first son. So even thought the baby would yell out for more food - sometimes, or wave his spoon splattering the organic carrot puree around, we were never shusshed [shhh!!!!] by other lovers of classical music covers done on a guitar....who usually had brought their own babies to the well.

Good times...Good times...

Does anyone else remember this? Did you attend? Was it a world-wide IKEA phenomenon? Or were we blessed living here in the good city of Toronto? let me know...I'm curious. 

More, in fact I am assembling materials for an IKEA memoir - hopefully it will be published one day....

**not that long time, 10 years to be exact.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Official Launch - 'KingK + QueenT' - line of super-luxe IKEA Hacks

Chapter 1,

'Hey! I make it look like a million bucks!'  [c] studio kosnik

I am officially launching my line of luxury hacks - specifically hacked IKEA doors. The quality of their top-of-line doors is incredible - made in Sweden, made in Italy. It's called KingK + QueenT.

Check it out!

More great KingK + QueenT doors pics coming soon!

BTW - that is a PAX wardrobe that's been hacked to fit a 12" deep alcove. A really high-end linen closet [it's on the way to a home office...all of YYYn's  clients will walk by and say, 'WOW! Looks like a million bucks!]

Chapter 2

IKEA has an extensive line of cabinet doors - they are production doors. This is not of particular issue if you are ordering cabinet doors in solid colours - they are all identical and of superb quality. BUT - if you are ordering any of those modernist slab veneer doors - it is a patchwork! Being an IKEA no.1 fan and a designer, I will argue that it does create a unique look, well suited to some environments. 

But what if you are an architect/designer that is looking for an 'on-the-budget' solution that is a little more 'quiet', 'less-busy' - say rift sawn, horizontal grain, white oak or walnut doors, with the grain tracking across the entire project? Like this for example - 

The IKEA model can't do that. But I can! - and it will be an 'on-the-budget' solution AND totally compatible with the 'IKEA standard'. Ask a question, get a quote. I do that free of charge! That's right! Advice if free, I start charging when I have to take out my hammer. It's like getting custom doors on sale at 50% off [well, maybe more like 33% off - but still an awesome deal!]

Chapter 3 

I love IKEA Hacking!

Here is a nice, hacked, totally built-in, 'floating', PAX wardrobe with sliding doors. As far as I can tell, I am the first one to offer hacked sliding doors on IKEA's PAX [it really is experimenting - developing the right methods and techniques!] How far can I push this IKEA hacking? I am a very ambitious individual, PLUS, I've entered into a professional rivalry with another creative individual - all good times, good times....but you know how these things can get out of hand...]

Chapter 4


All the work that is featured on the pages of this blog is fabricated using modified IKEA products - doing so totally voids the IKEA warranty, but don't fret, Studio Kosnik extends that warranty by another 20 years [minus wear and tear in legal jargon++].

 The author/fabricator is a well experienced, professional woodworker + designer, with access to professional tools and equipment. Some of the methods/techniques shown are being pioneered [I feel like sir Edmund Hillary scaling the IKEA Everest...]**, and require intimate knowledge and understanding of industrial production methods. IKEA hacking is a popular and a world-wide phenomenon - I scour the web for those. Small things are a-OK! 

Occasionally though I cringe - properly hacked seating means that one anticipates that there may be two grown adults standing on it at one point [like, changing a light-bulb for example...] and a cardboard honeycomb, light density lamination sandwiched  between two 4mm skins is inadequate for that purpose; children's hacks are an issue sometimes - 'I got four of me own babies' and they push the things I build to the MAX!; heavy modified doors require solid supports in specific sections! Be cautious when hacking heavy, structural elements. Exercise that common sense muscle.

A very important philosophy that I have integrated into my business model is the Principles of Democratic Design - that's the foundation that the IKEA monolith rests on, affordable design for all! Occasionally, I give out free advice! Sometimes a project is simple enough that instead of me charging YYY for the project, instead of a quote I will e-mail back saying something like -

'Consider this, all you need is a cricular saw/jig saw. Make a template out of 1/8" masonite, because cardboard is too fragile, clamp things securely, and then....'

You will not get an extensive essay - as those take time - more like a quick point-form guide. People love it! It's not always applicable though, I only do that if I deem the project fits a my own rigorous [read: safe] rules and I feel that there is really no need to hire me. Of course, please remember, you can always hire me if you want. 


** Yes, I feel like sir Edmund Hillary climbing the IKEA Everest. Ha! If I only had my sherpa - Tenzing Norgay... Studio Kosnik is different - people don't work for me, they work with me. I expect ambitious creativity and dedication - the individuals that I occasionally hire exhibit excitement and passion in their line of work. I expect to be challenged and questioned on my decisions [which are final, but reasonable and well thought out]- that's the only way we deliver great results.

In my professional career I keep track of individuals whom I encountered and whom have made a personal, positive impression on me [I have been awed professionally several times...]. There have been three so far - all young, energetic, driven, ambitious do-goodnicks - and they all refused my offers to work with me - for now, I'm very stubborn.

One spends his days building homes [with a government grant] in native communities in northern Ontario, Canada - 'he's staying there till the money runs out, it's personally rewarding work' he says. Another one is agressively expanding her father's non-woodworking business - a natural born businesswoman - but she studied woodworking in college and she loves it! I know it! She's got a small shop in her father's garage - very creative. She refuses out of stubbornness, that I would not let her be in charge of projects - we've worked together in the past. The third, the 'wild card', left Canada and is currently 'traveling the world to find himself'. I told him - 'Listen, traveling the world and finding yourself is expensive, you will need a job when you get back'.

Ahh...youth...cut your hair, get a job!
 best if you get a job with me. 
- that's my line, and you can quote me on that.

Never the less, I am still currently searching for a sherpa... If you read this blog, and live in Toronto, Canada, and in your mind your are saying 'Holy COW! Sounds awesome! I want to be part of IKEA hacking! Than don't hesitate - 
send me your basic resume + a minimum 50 word essay on why you enjoy woodworking. And we will go from there. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker

It is really nice that the company is growing. IKEA hacking is very popular, very popular. I am discovering that I am getting an increasing number of inquiries from the professional crowd - designers that design with BESTA [media], architects renovating and using the AKURUM [kitchen series], lawyers who want a PAX wardrobe built-in. 

And when I tell them that what I can with the cabinetry - give it a totally custom spin. 

'I make it look like a million dollars', is the phrase I use. To start off, IKEA makes it very easy. Few facts:

A] the white IKEA PAX boxes are made in Italy. That's right, when you hack a PAX box, that's all Italian quality. I theorize that the foil finish on the parts requires a highly dedicated technology + good skill to produce it and the quality control must be well above average. A $1 savings on the box would have shifted the production to China. 

B] Their top of the line, high gloss, hinged doors are made in Sweden, IKEA's fascinating and picturesque homeland - hey! everything I learned about Sweden I learned from IKEA. While hacking these high gloss doors into a super-luxe hack - they really do look like a million dollar doors! - I had the pleasure of cutting into them. The quality of the manufacturing process is superb. They are post-formed doors - the core is light density particle core [I assume it is organic**, will say more about that later]; the laminate is best described a very smooth, fluid like, and very thick. Again, I can only speculate that the technology and skill to make these doors must be best in Sweden.

C] A curiosity - their short Billy bookcases are made in Sweden, while their tall Billy bookcases are made in Poland. This may seem trivial, but NOT to an IKEA hacker. This was a quite a detriment on a job once - cabinetmaking is a profession that thrives on consistency and accuracy. A minute manufacturing discrepancy between the producing country resulted in a 1/4" error over a row of cabinets, resulting in a time delay and wasted materials - I had to remake a large number of MDF face-frames as they ended up being too narrow. 

All this experience and knowledge of the product line allows me to create modern designs that easily command double the price.  As I see it, IKEA hacking is a philosophy of being smart with the way you spend money - no reason why IKEA cabinets, appropriately arranged, properly installed, a customized pre-fab, can't look like a very high end custom cabinetry that you'd expect from a custom Italian manufacturer AND more!

Of course the Chinese can't be beat on some things - like lighting and LED strips for PAX wardrobes. But that is OK - the decision to manufacture such elements in 'low'er" wage country makes them affordable. To add, the IKEA shopper should never feel [or even consider] ethical dilemmas, as IKEA spends a lot man-hours [or woman-hours] to ensure that their design is top notch and produced in an environment that is 'fair trade' [to borrow from the 'hipster, good coffee' terminology]. IKEA is the finest example of Democratic Design that I know - affordable good design. 

I can help.
Call me. 

** the Europeans have, especially the Nordic countries have such a strict environmental standards that I bet you could add that 'green core' to your meal in the morning, and there - your two servings of fruit/vegetables for breakfast out of the way!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

On Modular building of IKEA hacks - the smart way.

Chapter 1

When building large millwork pieces it is important to consider building it in a modular fashion. What that allows for is seamless changes - just in case the client changed his mind...

[shhh...those are three PAX boxes below, with some upgrades]

Chapter 2

Some custom work...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

More good IKEA Hacks + Bryn's Boxes

Chapter 1  Bryn's Boxes

I am an avid Kijiji'er - I scour the ads religiously looking for interesting woodworking project. The add simply said that there is a need for  a woodworker to build 10, maybe 15 pieces of furniture. 

And that is how I met Bryn. She was looking to replicate a particular box - a Japanese tea box used for shipping, that her parents brought from Japan.

Through the project I learned that pretty much up to the early 90's tea in Japan was being shipped in specific type of wooden boxes, that were lined with tin. Being handy and practical in size, the empty boxes were re-used for storage of other things around the house. 

When the family found out that the wooden boxes were being phased out, they bought the last batch of them. When they moved back to Canada, they brought the boxes with them. The boxes proved to be a good fit for the Canadian cottage life.

The new boxes - made of knotty pine - are an exact replica of the old ones, and Bryn has some ambitious plans for them. 

On the dock...
The beauty of Georgian Bay....and of course the boxes.
Some carefully planned details, no arbitrary decisions here. 
I am curious and will surely will follow this project. 

Another craftist is born....

If I may add, I am the founding member of the Secret Craft Society. 

Chapter 2 - More great IKEA hacks.

John is a great client - he gave me a carte blanche. The scope of his project is very nice and it just begs for some creative work. 

And I always think of how incredibly practical the IKEA PAX system is....
I took 3 deep PAX wardrobes, split them in half. Threw in a 1/2" back on both sides - that's how they do it in commercial millwork. I cut the shelves down to fit the bookcase side. The 3 doors were fashioned from a single tall PAX Tanem door. Good planning all around!

John and his wife selected a real nice, directional, plastic laminate from Abet Laminati for finished surfaces, and I took full advantage of that beautiful material. 

What a nice project! And how reasonably priced!

Chapter 2 

Chapter 2 - Thoughtful Design

Check out how awesome the lights look - yea, they are from IKEA [PAX lights]. The cabinet is still needs to be organized and filled - it's John's office.

Thoughtful design:

A]  the lights are mounted under the second row of shelves from the bottom - this prevents the sitter from being blinded by the direct light. Instead, the lower position gently illuminates the desk. There was some extensive experimenting in getting the lights to angled just right - for best results.

B] These are some deep shelves [14" deep - hey, allows for a printer to fit in nicely!]. To prevent that 'cavernous feel' of the bookcase, the shelves were cut slightly short in the back allowing the light to fully illuminate the entire box, all the way to the top.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Chapter 1
First look up IKEA Hacking page on top.
Then look at the picture below - that's the end result.
IKEA Hacking is the way to go!

Chapter 2
Another way to build drawers.


Baltic Birch is hardwood plywood made in the Baltic region of Europe [Finland, Estonia]. Even though its thin [1/2"] it's very strong and durable because it is made of many layers [many more than typical North American plywood]. The wood itself has more texture than Canadian maple, but the colour is very similar. Once lacquered it acquires a warm yellow tone. Just a beautiful wood. And hey! it makes for great, strong drawers!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Chapter 1

Here is a good IKEA Billy Bookcase hack

So, take two Billy bookcases [with doors], add 2 1/2 sheets of MDF, mix in a designer/maker and you end up with beautiful millwork - on a budget.

Chapter 2  - To design or not to design...

IKEA hacking is a very popular endavour these days - considering that a 'woodworking shop hour' can rival that of a 'car garage shop hour'. As a designer and a maker one of my favourite things to do is to browse the IKEA's 'as-is' section - which I always do - and see what I could build with the available pieces. My 'designer mind' wanders from piece to piece, while the 'maker' in me jigs those pieces together for a coherent look and practical function...

I personally admire the IKEA model - there is no other like it in the world.  

Democratic Design all the way!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Kitchen Benches - I Like

[Chapter 1]
I am a particular fan of kitchen benches. They are just so practical. In my household – I've got four kids of my own – children seem to be coming and going all the time, and not just my own. Before I built the bench, there was a chronic shortage of seating space at the kitchen table – meals, homework, games, you name it. When a clean up at the shop turned up an old, 1930's solid wood, drafting table top – 1" thick American basswood, made in the town of Two Rivers, Wisconsin – I decided to give it a new life. 

I designed the bench around '1950's American Kitchen Charm', the colour scheme meant to integrate into our kitchen.

Being a bench for kids, I designed it in a way to get the young ones involved in the making. Safety first – they only participated in the assembly and painting, and did a great job!

Now, there is never a shortage of space at our table – in an emergency, four kids will squeeze in just fine.

[Chapter 2]
Another Project...