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.