Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hacking Hemnes, Part 2

Hacking Hemnes

.... all the elements are falling into place now. 

I end the year with this beauty, a HEMNES hack, their solid wood series in whitewash finish. 

Leave it to IKEA to produce a quality product - solid wood panels. Craftsmen don't diss it, because both you and I know how expensive it is to design and build with solid wood. Leave to me produce a nice design and well crafted too. The clients opted to add a nice fabric on the back of the bookcases. I suggested to create an upholstered top moulding - to create a very rich design - the entire project has a very luxurious feel. The hardware on the desk is top quality, heavy, cast bronze. 

I took extra care with the fabric on the piece  - sourced at Ethan Allen - because of the tight pattern it was critical that backs and the crown moulding be carefully upholstered - the pattern had to match exactly on adjacent pieces. Look - 

But as much as I liked working with the solid wood, the best part of this project is the work surface - the desk. It's got a depth of only 24" at the corners, but it has got a slight curvature of +1" in the middle. It's perfectly symmetrical  [to ensure that symmetrical gentle sweep on all the work surfaces I fabricated 3 separate jigs!] and has a nice thickness, that mimics the vertical posts on the flanking bookcases. It has a very spacious feel - I wanna say it's like a deck of an aircraft carrier. It's clad in Italian ABET's super-matte laminate from their latest collection, that mimics lightly bleached wenge slab - I matched the grain [why not?]. I tell you - it's so spacious you will be able to land jets on that thing! Here - 

But you know how IKEA hacking is all about re-purposing and reusing parts of the system - whatever it may be? This is it

I made the doors for this upper unit out of the slab of the original desktop. That's right.

I first optimized the slab for largest doors that I could make out of it - the first door being right up to the grommet hole, and then I laid out the other set. Based on those dimensions I modified three AKURUM uppers to match.  For the cleanest look, I extended the doors past the bottom - leaving a nice overhang to to use for opening. It is crowned with a slab finished with the matching laminate. Awesome, smart design and the horizontally matched grain on the slab looks amazing. 

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 SEKTION 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 traveled far and wide to pick them up, those IKEA kitchens [even from Buffalo! which does not have an IKEA and why not? I speculated that it was done to prevent cross-border shopping. It would make sense to have gone across the border - and when the Canadian dollar was on par with the American dollar, buy a nice leather IKEA sofa and bring it across  - it came out to something like 20% off! But nah.... you had to go to all the way to New York City to pick one up. ]. 

AKURUM was my go-to box for hacking. It came in many size and several depths. It was matched with a very nice selection of well made doors to suit every taste and budget. The boxes were well fabricated and it was a no brainer to put them together. For the North American market they were made in the USA. They were also easy to improve upon - with my mods they made for a strong rigid box - it was perfect. When installing I would build my own kicks - for the ease of leveling and sturdiness of the project. It was a well made kitchen fir the masses - made affordable. 

AKURUM was made of particlecore - not MDF. Every time I read the review of the system, somewhere on the web, 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 particlecore. It was edged well - edged better than many cabinet shops that charge premium rate I know do.  The cabinetry was all 3/4" construction. End panels were 1/2". 

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...

*** Nah, I made that up. That's not plural. 

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 reasons 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....**edit from the future: this link will take you to the Wrestling ANTI-hero The Pencil Pusher created by me, and it's about an IKEA Sofa, give it a read!] 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!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

my first TRUE IKEA Hack - #001

Chapter 1 - my first TRUE IKEA Hack #001

I did it! I did it! My first TRUE IKEA hack! It's a big deal for me, because from now on I am officially offering that service - TRU-Hack.  

TRU-Hack is a lower price point option from my original IKEA hacking system - however - it is not always applicable. Sometimes it does not work for the space - either the geometry of the design OR structural issues [like stacking]. 

I have largely resisted doing on-site hacks because they bring their own set of challenges:

A] No mods to the cabinetry - BILLYs in this instance - the original IKEA cabinetry still gets reinforced.

I always use screws in assembly - rigid. The backs get screwed on as well. The client saves money because they assemble the product themselves - according to IKEA instructions. 

The two extra plywood cleats - added at the back - keep the box rigid and square - they eliminate the need for a typically required fixed middle shelf - all BILLYs have one fixed shelf.  They also ensure that the back hooks will install properly and stay there despite years of use. 

This very much felt like an improv-design. Andrea wanted to have nice beadboard for the backs - which in turn required shortening of the shelves - to make it all fit. She also wanted to have an option of installing additional hook - higher up - the kids are only getting taller, and their jackets longer. 

We did all that. 

We used a modified crown moulding - modified because it was cut down for the proper dimension and nice fitting profile - to create a 'picture frame' design. I used a laser level to set all the hooks - it was good quality hardware, I could tell. 

To cover the gaps  between gables [sides] Andrea suggested to use nice, small, symmetric profile, solid wood moulding - I thought that was a great idea! It was good problem solving all around! 

Andrea experimented with the heights of the shelving to create the desired look - REMEMBER, it's all adjustable, change as often as you like! - and presto! 

This was a one long IKEA hacking day..... that final picture was shot at 10PM on a Friday night!* 

Anyhow, I think it turned out very nice. All that needs to be done is to do some painting. 

So how expensive is a project like this? Me and Andrea did some math and we have number - curious? e-mail me. But, I will tell you one thing - it's way cheaper than doing it using my original IKEA Hacking system. Major savings come out of the fact that you assemble the product yourself - I just strengthen it. And you are completely stuck with stock dimensions - that's the other thing you have to think of. My other system offers greater flexibility in sizing. But rest assured I always do my best to make it look like a million bucks! 

It's like it was always there!


*'What were you doing on Firday night?' 'Oh...I was IKEA Hacking.'

Monday, June 16, 2014

Confessions of a professional IKEA Hacker - IKEA vs. OR IKEA shuts down IKEAHackers!

Chapter 1 - IKEA vs. OR IKEA shuts down

Imagine that something that you love doing could make you very rich.

Like baking for example. One day you discover that you are a really good baker. You also discover that you make really awesome cupcakes. They are a hit at school sales and your friends are willing to pay you money to bake for their kids b-day parties. You are so successful that you ditch your job and start doing it full time. Later while you cater for a bar mitzvah you consult - it is a blast and you wonder if you should not start planning First Communions.... And the story goes on and on and on, in that fashion. You are rich.
I am certain that that was exactly what Jules Yap [pseudonym] was thinking - she found something that she loved doing and she was good at it. It only made sense that she turn that into a full time profession.
Eight years after launching - a wildly popular blog dedicated to hacking IKEA products in a clever and inspirational way - Jules Yap found herself on the receiving end of Cease and Desist, signed by none other than IKEA. A woman with passion for IKEA Hacking she staked out a permanent place for it on the WWW - organized, labeled it, ran contests and advice column. It became an on-line mecca for those seeking a fun and functional way to hack four narrow BILLY's into a cool looking mud-room cabinetry - on a budget - that was my last gig, I am the world's first professional IKEA hacker.
IKEA politely requested that she voluntarily transfer the domain name to them or face yet-to-be-named legal action - that is a bit of a 'strong-arm' tactic, I would say. It has been pointed out that has been around for 8 long years - whoever is in charge of watching over IKEA trademarks should be fired in my opinion, cause they were not doing their job - if it is just a trademark enforcement action, as IKEA claims.

Personally I think that Jules Yap - - has gotten too large for IKEA's comfort. Here is a woman who turned her passion for IKEA Hacks into a business model - hey! blogging is a valid profession. If you study the ads on her blog [they will soon dissappear] you will discover that there exists a large 'aftermarket' industry that manufactures and very successfully sells products to 'hack IKEA' - clearly we now know that IKEA doesn't like that.

IKEA is an incredible control freak - I recently recall them posting ads - in Toronto, Canada - for 'full time legal counsel to be present on site during business hours.' why? - but that is typical of any corporation. No way could IKEA fully control - and being silent for any longer was not an option. So they came down hard - even though they openly encouraged it before - 2013 IKEA Canada catalog, page 207, top right hand corner, white Tanem doors - if I recall correctly. That, in my opinion is the safest hack ever - and that is as far as IKEA went.

Some suggested that IKEA should have negotiated with IKEA has the best legal counsel in the world - I am certain of that - they can afford it. They probably have their own law-school*. But that would not have worked out, as there was no way to ensure a consistent legal framework that could be extended over Remember those are self-submits that range in difficulty

- alas! did not take my submissions! too professional - and quality of execution.

I've stated before that IKEA does not over-engineer, and it is my experience that you have to be knowledgeable to produce large scale IKEA hacks that are - what I would call - 'cabinetmaker-furniture maker' quality. I hack PAX wardrobers or Billy bookcases all the time - I would not call my hacks specifically DIY jobs. Sometimes I look at a picture of an IKEA hack and knowing the way it is manufactured I see the mod as a potential risk.

IKEA lawyers went about it the gentlest way that the legal profession knows - voluntarily submit your domain to us [smooth.....good pick-up line at the bar...]. Of course it looked bad - but I doubt they wanted to set a precedent and offer Jules Yap a million dollars for the domain name - which I doubt she would take - to discourage others from hijacking 'IKEA'esuqe' names and getting paid for it. I also bet a million dollars that they would kill the site - not immediately - IKEAHackers - or perhaps gently transition it into non-existence. But why, you ask?
Well imagine that IKEA is really big. No one knows how big they are because they are not publicly traded and they don't have to report to anyone - but I know this - they consume 1% of world's wood. That is a LOT of wood, but that is just a one indicator of their might. They run their own line of hinges and slides. They are phasing out incandescent power - they are getting into renewable energy. They already phased out plastic shopping bags in Toronto, Canada. They are into sustainable farming of oceans. They are into building multi-unit dwellings - there was a condominium project, here in Toronto, Canada, at Lakeshore & Dixie; called IDEA [that they killed eventually...too bad that I don't have a photo...I'm smarter these days...]

If IKEA allowed for to exist - or encouraged it - realistically their entire People + Planet projects would be up for grabs for anyone with a case of curiosity and perhaps a Philips screwdriver! Their business model would be under attack!

This ugly spat - IKEA vs. - is now public. Few things are obvious now - but in the end it is all good news though, I believe -

A] IKEA is threatened by, by the concept of people hacking their products [past, present and future, whatever they may be]. They don't like it - as a corporate entity I don't think they ever liked it. Not sure why they waited so long. We are saved though, because IKEA is still a very ethical corporation - being a corporate good-nick has done very well for them. I still support them - they are a force for positive change.

B] They were not successful in taking the domain name. still exists and is owned by Jules! Yes, the name does contain a trademark, but put together with the term 'hacking' it now describes a 'separate, IKEA-independent activity, over which - it would appear - IKEA lost control [!!!]' - that is the only reasonable explanation why the IKEA lawyers backed off - because they were unable to execute, seize. Lawyers don't play nice, they eliminate. 

Of course IKEA is not that powerless - they are starving the beast - Jules was forced to turn the blog non-commercial - no more ads. To which she responded that she will set-up a separate domain AND do both - publish IKEA hacks and show ads.

Ahh...what a mess...

This entry was triggered by an e-mail from a friend. She e-mailed me the link and asked - 'Karol, what's your take on it?' I was concerned initially. After all, I am the world's first professional IKEA hacker - won't IKEA go after me next? No. They won't. I don't believe so. Several reasons for it - hey, might as well outline my position for IKEA lawyers when they do decide to knock on my door!

SO here it is IKEA Lawyers [subject to change, in no way complete, to be expanded]:

A] You lost a LOT of Social Capital for going after - they were your best ally! They promoted you! They championed your cause! Millions loved it - Jules' Google profile has been viewed now over 790 000 000 times. And you fucked them over. Excuse the strong language - but it is true.

B] I am the world's first professional IKEA Hacker. I am a designer by education - Furniture Design 2006 [some could argue 2007]; Sheridan College, Craft & Design Program, one of the top schools for Design in North America; I design interiors - interior design field, decorating - using modified IKEA products, which are readily accessible and reasonably priced - whether it is by NOT following your instruction manuals; modifying your assembly methods, or outright 'hacking*' your products. And I BLOG ABOUT IT.

*IKEA Hacking refers [but NOT EXCLUSIVE] to a world wide movement of modifying, altering, 'moving-beyond', 'not-sticking-to-the-manual'; decorating in non-structural and in some instances structural way, of IKEA products. Since you do require most of your products to be assembled by the 'end user' you must accept the reality that IKEA Hacking was born out out a mistake of one assembler OR or cleverness of another!

**Professional IKEA Hacking - refers to making a living out of doing everything listed in * [single star; above] PLUS, modifying some products in structural ways. Since you, IKEA, already state that any mods render the warranty useless - indicating that you are no longer interested in them - I want to point out that I pick up where YOU left. My IKEA hacks are covered my Studio Kosnik warranty - Canadian commercial standard. No worries, all you need to do for a claim is to e-mail me and say that I personally did your hack. That's all - my customer service is impeccable! People love me! I remember all my clients - personally! I have a heart.

I am gonna keep on doing what I do best - IKEA Hacking. My bible is the annual IKEA catalog. It is like a candy store for me - what do I hack next! Ha! Ha! Ha!
I love it. My name is Karol Kosnik, and I am the world's first professional IKEA Hacker!


IKEA backtracked! They are looking for a 'new way forward'. They also like the idea of people being excited about their products!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - The TRUTH or The Ethics of IKEA Hacking

Chapter 1 - Even Designers are doing it....

Everyone is doing it.....Everyone....

I remember the first time I met Derek - he was jointing [a woodworking term for machining lumber square and true] a big board of North American white oak. My first thought was, 'what is that young boy doing with that big slab of wood....' - and I was applying for my first fine cabinetry job fresh out of design school. By that time in my career I was very well versed with wood - I had laid down over 300 000 sq feet of hardwood floors and I was looking for more WOOD ACTION! 

I did get the job - builtwork design [don't let the crappy website fool you - Kent Agus, the owner, is an uncompromising craftsman - everything I learned about really fine, high end design I learnt from Kent! respect!] - and me and Derek spent the next few years working together - and we had SO much fun! We were both young and ambitious, full of design ideals - we wanted to change the design world*! When Derek was getting married I gave him a gift certificate for great floors - I was still poor and paying off my student loans, and in my cultural background  [Polish] you don't show up to a good friend's wedding without the equivalent of.... like.....2 cows or a small motorcycle. 

Eventually Derek left [ah, what sad day that was...we all shed single tear - me, Freyja, Wiesiek, Kent - and am certain that threw a party in the building and drank good beer till late hour.] to pursue adventure in furniture design - Derek McLeod Design. He is professionally successful, has taught a younger generation and hacks IKEA himself. 

This is a really nice example of well planned out IKEA hack. Derek has a beautiful house, well designed, no arbitrary decisions. Those are AKURUM cabinets with white Tanem doors designed fit into a wall cavity.

If you have that option - a blank wall - than this is what I do best - build it in. Sometimes it may be drywall, occasionally I make use of panels - I match the IKEA doors to Abet Laminati laminate - over 700 colours in stock, in Toronto, everyday. 

It ends up looking like million bucks - everytime!

CHapter 2 - the Ethics of IKEA Hacking

Coming Soon...


* Derek organized the first and only design competition in our building, produced the only entry. Me and Andrew Miller declared him the winner - 'on the edge' was the title of his entry.

Those copper lamps are his as well. They look nice. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hacking Hemnes! + #BB4Life


I am a Blackberry user 4 LIFE. #BB4Life

When my phone goes off and I am working, in an instant I step away from the saw and reach into my pocket to pull out my Blackberry.  I read the e-mail and in the next 3 minutes I bang out a well crafted essay - a quote - all without having to take my work gloves off. The quote goes through. I am the world's first professional IKEA Hacker and I love my Blackberry. 

Chapter 1

Did it -  my first Hemnes Hack. I feel more confident now, as it looks like there is a much larger in the works for late summer. Oh it is going to be beautiful! It's a combination of bookcases, a desk, a  really nice Abet Laminati* work surface , solid wood slab doors - all hacked and repurposed. All accented with some nice luxurious touches - fabric. 

It was a conversion of a desk into a make-up vanity. The owner let me design it for him - he already selected the tiles. Since I  already decided to use the White Hemnes desk I wanted to offset it with something. 

IKEA made a mistake - yea! IKEA makes mistakes! [but shhhh....don't tell anybody, OK?] - and for the kitchen downstairs they delivered a wrong size AKURUM - a 36" lower unit that I was going to reuse for vanity. I like their high-gloss white doors and their cool, modern look would contrast well the softness of the whitewash solid pine of the desk. 

The white Hemnes is my favourite - a very nice pastel finish. I had a friend -  another designer/maker -  fooled into thinking that I did it - I am a pro-finisher. But I did finish the solid wood drawers that come with nice BLUM slides with a water based finish - 2 things - the finish really brought out the nice grain of the drawers AND drawers are easy to clean, water base will resist nail-polish remover better. Hey! it's a quality product. 

I was really impressed  with the quality of their solid wood panel - it was surprisingly thin, only 1/2". I can hear some purists argue that it's too thin. Nah - it takes good skill to produce a well made solid wood panel at that thines and such large size. Plus, with IKEA consuming 1% of world's wood - they source from all over the world - they make that panel any thicker and the forrest behind your house will be gone.**

Looks aside, from the technical point - I was challenged. While I have the BILLY bookcases system nailed, and PAX is just real nice design to hack - they are sheet goods designs. You can put a screw anywhere you want. Hemnes is different - it's all solid wood. All the fine craftspeople will tell you that building with solid wood is expensive and difficult - especially when you got large surfaces to cover.  That's why I like the Hemnes design - the frame-and-panel design allows to cover acres of space! That is important when you are building storage, bookcases, desks, doors. Solid wood, even though cut down, machined, milled, sanded and finished is still a living product that reacts to the environment - mainly moisture. Frame-and-panel designs date to, oh, JC and Joseph at least! Modern woodworking technology managed to improve on production time - BUT solid wood is still is the master of its own domain. 

And this is why, when I first opened the Hemnes box and I inspected the various parts and elements of the Hemnes box I decided to take the rest of the day off. Yea! A day off! You know why? Cause I had to think and brainstorm. I had a coffee first. I walked around and looked at all the pieces. I handled them and tested them for strength. Then I had another coffee and did more of the same. Then 5 o'clock hit and I cracked a beer. Then I lured Charles - who is a hacker in his own domain - Ultimate Workshop - with a promise of a beer so he could comment on the project. Then Tom and Alistair came by - both designer and woodworkers. We had some more beverages. It ended up being a free-for-all Hemnes hacking party! Everyone does IKEA hacking. Everyone. 

I first decided to finish the drawer boxes and the backs of the  drawer faces. Oh the grain on the solid wood just popped up - I really liked the look. The water-based finish in semi-gloss is an excellent, durable, easy-to-apply finish that is hardwearing [trust me, good story there....] and will resist harsh chemicals such as nail-polish remover aka acetone MUCH better than any solvent based finish. 
I reasoned that if the lady of the house was going to use this as a make-up desk/vanity it was very likely that some beauty product - like nail-polish or mascara was going to end up on the drawers and will need to be cleaned up.

The next challenge was of engineering type - I had to strengthen the structural integrity - the frame itself, in my opinion, was too weak to appropriately carry the weight of the stone, given the fact that I intended to have the kicks set back significantly and quite high. I had to find a way to transfer the weight in a safe and sound way down to the base. On the drawer box, this was done by the means of the two vertical solid pieces that support the slides. This was not an option on the cabinet side - it all visible on in inside; why have obstructions? - I opted to add plywood strips [I buy a premium aspen plywood for that]. 

All the visible elements on the make-up desk are made from solid wood - I made extensive use of the extra parts. The visible filler on the left side was cut off from a front support that I did not use in the design. The very visible, high kicks are clad in really nice solid wood - for that I cut down the from the desktop. 

The addition of a generous back stretcher ensure that when screwed to the wall the box would not flex and would remain square. The additional blocking on the wall ensured that the front of the desk was co-planar with the other side of the vanity - smooth, seamless design. I think it is nice. 


Favourite 'not-seen' detail - the front stretcher is a clever joint - a nice strong, stiff L-section that is combination of 1" wood with a 3" wide strip of quality Aspen ply, all glued, nailed and screwed. That stone top is going to be rock solid!

*my favourite laminate manufacturer - they are the best
**IKEA is very ethical. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - Why Hack the PAX - part DEUX;

Chapter 1 - PAX Hacks

So it started like this. 

At the end of last year, I was contacted by ******a. In her e-mail she said she was doing her entire house in IKEA. I replied that it sounds like A LOT of IKEA. She responded with 'Yes, she thought so too'.

******a and her husband were building their dream house. As a professional woman she was used to managing projects, and building her dream home felt like a natural extension of her skill-set. Her husband remained working and she  managed the project - it only makes financial sense. She picked a builder that she liked and put the wheels in motion. 

When I first met ******a, she walked me through her freshly framed house, it was still not closed up properly and it was a frigid day - we had a very severe winter here in Ontario, Canada, this year.  She found me through my single add that I run on Kijijii [spelling?]. She called me because she just received a quote back from the millwork place - she wanted to have nice custom closets for all the bedrooms - and she had grand plans for her walk-in closet. 

Yea, her walk-in closet was nice - it was large, it had a window. The moment I came in I visualized a nice, upholstered bench under the window- a bench that would also feature a little side table for accessories and jewelry - I don't know, my mind just works like that - when I look at a space I immediately see solutions - IKEA hacks solutions. 

The quote that ******a got came out BIG. I know it did. I got enough experience to say that her walk-in closet was probably on the verge of 16 to 20 grand. And then between 3 to 5 grand for the other smaller closets. I assumed that she was getting some nice functional hardware - imagine opening a well equipped PAX wardrobe at IKEA. In my mind I saw around 40K worth of millowork - THAT IS A LOT OF MONEY. 

That 40k was the reason why I was there that day - cause I KNOW that I can do better than that AND 'I make it look like a million bucks'! [trademarked].

But here is the painful part though - I kind of felt for  ******a - she was really nice lady - she made me tea and gave me cookies on our first consultation.  She talked about her kids having their own bedrooms and their own closets, and them having dedicated study room - where they can do homework, crafts and big school projects [those are nightmare for the parents! 'cause who ends up cutting, collage'ing, gluing and assembling into the wee hours of the morning - THE PARENTS!]. 

The challenge was that she already had everything framed - the design of the house called for traditional - in my humble opinion - not functional closets. The framers already framed the house; the carpenters built the boxes; electricians ran the wiring for the lighting and the switches; the closet doors were ordered. And that is ALL EXTRA COST on top of the cabinetmakers who were going to charge a million dollars for the closets. 



Are you an interior designer?
Are you an architect?
Are you a homeowner who is renovating?

Are you looking for nice, very functional closets?


Here is the downlow - 

Instead of paying the framer, the carpenter, the drywaller, the taper, the trim-carpenter, the painter, the cabinetmaker - and perhaps some other trades - save money. I will take a wild guess and say the cost of labour of those individuals combined + materials IS MORE than $2500, for which I say you can get a really, really nice closet designed and hacked by me. It will be a very well equipped PAX box that will look totally custom. 

Just leave the closet wall empty and get in touch. I will design a nice IKEA PAX hack that will fit seamlessly with your decor. We will take the best of IKEA - it is all very well priced, very well ethically made in Europe and I will make it 'look like a million bucks!'


I ended up not doing the project - I only partially quoted it - there was just so much stuff. There were delays and I had to keep myself busy - another project went through. 

I am so curious as to how that project turned out. I am wondering if it would be it good taste to get in touch with ******a and ask how her closets turned out...

Chapter 2 - BILLY bookcase hack

While on the topic of renovation. 

Here is a built in BILLY bookcases + an extension,  that I did - its got 1/2'' back, custom kick to match the trim height, a build-up at the top for a crown moulding AND it fits seamlessly [it's got scribes....quality, I say] into a bulkhead and a corner box that had to be there. All it need is for the carpenter to do the crown moulding, the floor installer to come with plank right up to the kick and then the trim-carpenter to cut the cladding to proper height and set it down right on the hardwood. 

It looks like a nice and clean custom design. Yea, that is a BILLY - hack.

Chapter 3 - IKEA in Art

So just about two weeks ago I went to see a painting that featured an IKEA Stefan chair and child.

Girl with Chair by Amanda Immurs - you can see more of her work on her Facebook page - just look her up.

As with all iconic chair designs, the imagery eventually precipitates into art.  The case for the Stefan chair in art can be made on the basis of its ubiquity due to its affordability - I own one, and I paid the higher $25 price on it. It only costs $20 now. 

It is the perfect starter chair if you want solid wood, and it comes in several colours and they sell very large quantities of them globally. 

I will now start looking for IKEA designs in art - it's bound to start popping up. Will report

Chapter 4 - Stuff coming.

I am working a wood detective story. It will feature intrigue and dishonest wood traders. I promise it will be entertaining and informative.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

How to install an IKEA kitchen island. Properly. PART 2


Hey! Home and Garden Television likes me!

                 'HGTV Kosnik'

Chapter 1

As someone who used to fabricate commercial millwork, I consider the plastic legs on IKEA kitchen cabinets to be - in my opinion -  a major weakness. Well, not a weakness - more of a compromise. 

Remember, the IKEA AKURUM [their kitchens] is a universal system that was designed to work around the globe - anywhere where IKEA sells. That means it has to work on floors that are concrete, plywood, tiles, linoleum, stone and on anything else that the potential client might have in their home. And IKEA does a good job 'compromising' on their design for the kitchen cabinet legs. 

Personally, as a designer, I consider the system quite brilliant for what it manages to accomplish - sell identical kitchen, thousands of units, around the world. 

[The next may seem a little technical, but bear with me, dear reader]

Kitchen cabinetry experiences loads and stress in many ways - I wrote about that in my previous post. There are static loads [things that don't move - like stacked plates and cups and pots and pans, blenders,  juicers and whole bunch of other things that our kitchen industry managed to create - useful or useless, you be the judge, I know I made some questionable purchases of kitchen products that were supposed to 'revolutionize' the way I cook...]. These are, what I call, direct loads that transfer from the shelves [or bottoms] onto the gables [cabinetmaker term for the sides of cabinets] and down onto the AKURUM legs and into the floor. An IKEA kitchen cabinet that has the AKURUM legs properly installed and is FIXED [like completely static] to the wall will take the load very well. I believe the load limit on those legs is around 1000 lbs - that is 300 kg of plates - that is a really big number, LOTS of fine china. 

The IKEA drawer boxes [made by Austrian BLUM - they are the standard in the industry - in Austria]  present a different load - a dynamic load - a moving force. Again, it will work - if the AKURUM box is FIXED to a wall. Larger BLUM drawers - like the ones used for pots and pans - feature heavier duty slides - thicker gauge steel, heavier duty runners - the details are there if you know what you are looking for. 

Kitchen islands though are DIFFERENT - they experience different stress - torsion and shear [hey! I know that those are terms used in physics, but don't fret dear reader, I got a 'C minus minus' in my university physics class...I was just a mediocre physics student, 'sad face emoticon' - the truth was that there were people who were much better at it than I was; they probably went onto build like....rocket ships to explore Mars or maybe the moon....I chose to design and build cabinets...]. 

Torsion refers to the force of twisting - in the industry we say that 'there is a twist'; used to reference cabinets, solid lumber etc. - likely to occur during install, or perhaps when somebody overloads a corner of a cabinet. 

The other force is shear - that is when there are two forces within an object that act in opposite direction - example being someone pushing or a leaning against a kitchen cabinet. Shear - in my opinion - is the bigger issue for an IKEA kitchen island. Shear - or someone leaning, or pushing on or introducing repetitive motion to the cabinetry causes the AKURUM legs to 'tip off' [I am working on proper illustrations....will update the entry later] and - when not fixed properly to the floor - the cabinets to go tumbling down. This could be accelerated with heavy loads - like a granite/marble countertops. And if doesn't topple over, than it will have a 'wobbly feel' - I read it all over the web - people's AKURUM islands having a 'wobbly feel'. 

My AKURUM islands are rock solid. 

I have a 'almost teenager' son - his friends are already 'texting and dating'. One night we were watching a movie - totally appropriate - and these two 'older teenagers got it going on', on the kitchen island [just kissy kissy...]  He kind of blushed and looked at me uneasy, to which I answered, 'Son, you see there? That is a sturdy, well installed kitchen island. And two, these things you are witnessing right now, they don't happen in real life - only in movies.' I think he bought it, for now.....


To be continued....

PS. DO NOT USE 2x4's for building anything that will even stand close to cabinetry [other than walls or blocking that will be drywalled]. 2x4's are dimensional lumber that twists and warps and cups and checks and splits [all woodworking terms for defects in wood; just look at a pile of 2x4s at Home Depot ]. Think about this - if a lumber mill can't make a log into nice clean pine/spruce boards that can be used for millwork on paneling or anything else that is 'nice' - they will make a 2x4 or a 2x3 out of it....yea - and that is NOT acceptable in cabinetry - I say, I got rigorous standards. The craftsman that I learned commercial millwork from - Peter, a Chinese-Canadian, who studied woodworking technology in Hong Kong 30 years ago!- taught me like this - the acceptable error on the cabinetry that you build should be less than 1/16''. Once I completed a project he would come over, take out his measuring tape and measure. And if it was OVER a 1/16" he would give me 'a look'. The cabinetry still went out, but the reason he did this was that he wanted to instil a philosophy of 'accuracy'. 

In a construction/renovation scenario, cabinetmaking is the most accurate trade.

Wanna know a curious fact? 

Framers work to within what I call  a 'strong 1/4"' - that's precisely because dimensional lumber like 2x4 or 2x8 or 2x12 are never straight - they always warp or bow - it's perfectly acceptable - solid lumber is a living product that reacts to the environment. There are woodworking practices that have been developed to counter and actually harness that wood movement for a good purpose. 

Carpenters work to within an 1/8" - you still need to be as accurate as possible, but once you start doing trim and you need to install a tall baseboard against a wonky wall you will immediately realize the challenge. Again, techniques have been developed to deal with on-site challenges, and professionals make it look effortless - years of experience. 

Cabinetmakers are like rocket scientists - nothing over 1/16" is acceptable. We have the tools and materials to make it so and there is no excuse for being sloppy. Or it could be that the fabricator was inexperienced - OR - in my opinion - the worst - when you have another trade trying to do the work of a cabinetmaker. I assure you, from practice - it never works out. 

It's like this one quote I did - a carpenter offered to build a row of upper kitchen cabinets - and he did not realize that plates come in size 'large' - the largest serving plates were too large in diameter for the doors to close completely. 'Wow', I said to myself, 'for a cabinetmaker that would have been an 'epic fail' -worthy of a YouTube short.

Hire the right person for the job - that's what I say.