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.