Friday, December 4, 2015

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - Restoring Vintage IKEA

Chapter 1 - I hate throwing away good things. 

Contrary to popular opinions some IKEA pieces can last generations if properly taken care of. This occasionally may mean that the piece needs to be restored, modernized, updated. 

Such was the case with this piece. DIKTAD was three drawer dresser complete with a baby changing table on top. The carcass [box] was still usable and sturdy [SOLID WOOD PEOPLE!]. The drawer boxes were all intact - but the original IKEA drawer slides failed - the ball bearings were trapped in plastic fittings that eventually wore out from sliding and broke down completely. 

Even though the babies outgrew the changing table [some are pre-teens already!], our family still used the dresser for storage, and actually found it quite handy. That was until one day, my youngest pulled the bottom drawer out a bit too vigorously and completely pulled the drawer slides apart. Millions of little steel balls scattered around the hardwood floor and made their way to the lowest spot in the room....[the house is old = floors uneven].

What do we do now? I went to IKEA and asked if they had any replacement slides - they always have some excess hardware kicking around in the AS-IS section - but they did not have anything. This dresser was long discontinued and hardware was not available. 

Throw it away? We considered that option...Although....

As a woodworker, and a professional IKEA hacker, I felt two little painful stings in my heart:

A] This piece was all solid wood - the carcass, drawers, feet - everything. I never throw away any solid wood! I have solid wood scraps in my shop [select scraps] that date back to my design school years!

B] I like IKEA. I hack them. I re-use them. I re-purpose them. This seemed like an ideal little side project for me. 

And so....I professionally restored it! Enjoy the video! Many more to come!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - NOT in LOVE with Veddinge

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - NOT in LOVE Veddinge, OR Kitchens are not Museums - Veddinge REVIEW

I had some trouble with Veddinge doors recently. 

[edit: great news! I will soon be posting more videos! next project: how I build my bases for IKEA kitchen islands - rock solid every time!]

[this post is long: Too long, don't feel like reading - here is summary]

From a practical standpoint - the Veddinge doors are well suited for display kitchens - the finish on the doors is the weakest of all the solid colour IKEA doors that I tested. It is not recommended that they be re-sprayed [because some people buy IKEA doors and re-spray them for different colour]. It is challenging to achieve proper clean visible cuts and joints, and the cut/ routed edge if not properly protected will becomes vulnerable to chipping; The blistering damage is very visible. It is not advisable to use them in high traffic areas that will expose the surfaces to frequent abrasive contact. Good planning must be exercised to ensure that if damaged panels need to be replaced for aesthetic reasons that they be easily accessible. 

Every product that IKEA puts out clearly has that statement - Design and Quality, IKEA of Sweden. So to be reasonable, since IKEA does set a pretty high standard for their kitchens, I felt that it would be best to test the solid colours in the IKEA family [I know, I am missing Ringhult - don't worry it is good - heat is the enemy of Ringhult] against theoretical damage - a scratch or jab, when you break the surface and expose the substrate. 

Here is an example of me stressing the finish. So these are all 'line scored' with a box-cutter blade - and then the finish was pulled off with the tape - just like in the video. 

My first impression is, that once cut through the finish, there is some great tension in the finish that is relieved and it immediately crackles along the scratch line. Because the finish is so level [flat], that crackled paint is very obvious to the eye. If you run your fingers along, it will start flaking off. 

I inspected the damaged area and the first thing I noticed was that:

A] the undercoat is clear - primer coat is clear. That means that any damage will be very visible due to high contrast with the MDF substrate; Typically, the primer is the same [or close] colour - may not be applicable in this case - given the process that IKEA uses. 

B] the undercoat has a quite a bit of sheen to it. I know that one of the most basic rules of finishing is that you never paint over a glossy surface - paints don't adhere well to glossy surfaces - you always have to abrade the surface. Running my finger over the brown reflective areas it feels very smooth - I want to say nice finish. So was IKEA in their 'efficiency' decided to skip a step? Perhaps, the process, was from the beginning designed not to include that step? Who made the decision to approve this finish and mass produce it on a the scale that it is? I've seen the predecessor to Veddinge, and it did nothing like this - my opinion, they were better quality doors. 

Few days ago I went to see an APLAD kitchen - predecessor to Veddinge - the intent was to replace them with new doors. I had also chance to witness some 'catastrophic damage' to the doors. Even though the damage was all the way to the core - with the finish punctured all the way through - badly gouged - it was still very solidly adhering to the substrate - a typical behaviour when the doors are properly lacqeured. 

I was disappointed. 

I had sneaky suspicion that I am not alone in my issues with Veddinge doors. But how do I test that theory? 


IKEA's AS-IS section should prove a fertile testing grounds - I mean, this is where damaged doors go to die, or shall I say get a second chance in life..... So I went in and carefully went through the racks filled with random doors and panels. And to my no-surprise, large portion of the scratched Veddinge doors had that blistering happening. 

Not in love with Veddinge....

Alright, so with all this negative news, is there hope for Veddinge? Are there any 'up-sides' to the door/panel style that IKEA makes?

There are, don't despair. That flat white slab is the corner-stone of all modernist/minimalist kitchens. Here they are -

--->> The first thing that you have going for Veddinge is your lifestyle. Maybe your kitchen is an oasis of calm and relaxment while surrounded by tasteful modernism. In the morning you make your coffee, tea or smoothie and you enjoy the view out of your large windows. You pet your cat. Later you setup your Macintosh computer on the sit-at marble bar-height counter-top and do some work from home. People do have lives like that, it's true. 

-->> Second thing going for Veddinge is its cost - it's relatively low. It's affordable to exchange your damaged lower drawer front [that's the 'proper' modern look]. The Veddinge drawer or door is readily available at a nearest IKEA* location, or you can purchase on-line and have it delivered right to your door. 

Say you accidentally damage the door - you are carrying groceries and your car keys at the same time; OR you are carving a large piece of meat and the big knife slips out of your hand and takes a ride on the half-open nearest drawer front; OR your little one takes a zoom  on his little cruiser-bike, 'screeeech!' against the island panels; OR your mixing dough in the mixer and it all 'jumps off' the black granite slab countertop and tragically slams against the pantry door**

Veddinge is third least expensive line of doors - if the doors were better quality - like their predecessor APLAD - and that makes for an amazing deal for your modernist looking kitchen. If you don't mind and can afford to shell out few bucks every now and then to replace a visually offending panel or a door then your are good. CAUTION: This is where superior planning and install skill come into play - while it is easy to change doors or drawers, any cladding and panels need to be easily accessible - sometimes in design you end up 'trapping' elements. If this scenario works for you - you want to plan ahead and install your kitchen or build the island assuming that at one point you may be required to do a switch over - remove damaged piece and install a new piece.

-->> Third option 

I make really nice modern laminate doors for IKEA kitchens - it's the 'Semihandmade option' they call it. Everyone that asks me to make doors for them mentions 'Semihandmade' as their inspiration. A knowledgeable client [even designers!] will want to utilize the price point of IKEA Sektion box; they will want to utilize the amazing plethora of hardware, fittings, lights and organziers [an entire kitchen eco-system people! - very well priced] and have it looking like a million bucks. The doors are custom work and are priced such - I only use ABET Laminati - Italian, beautiful product, amazing selection for accent doors and panels. AND! they are significantly more durable than the lacquered doors. 

Important point to remember with modern kitchens. It has to be very well installed - plumb, level, square. The greatest effect that can be achieved, is done with the gaps - perfectly even and level. Also, pay attention to the hinge position - make sure that the hinge side doesn't stick out more than the bumper at the front [about 1/8"] - it's the 'flapping wings effect' - I see it often on DIY installs.

Chapter 1 - Kitchens are not museums

My blog is unique in the sense that it is typically found in an 'organic fashion'. It is not promoted anywhere, it doesn't have cheerful 'share on Facebook or Twitter' buttons - it is found because individuals are searching out for specific information or services. I consider my line of work, Professional IKEA Hacking, a very enjoyable chase between me and IKEA.  I extensively gather information about IKEA's latest endavours and find myself excited when they introduce a new product that I can use to expand on the repertoire of the services that I offer. 

Launch of SEKTION was no different - IKEA made a decision to carve out a solid place for itself - along with the significant chunk of cash that it brings - in the home renovation / building business. There were several shifts happening in the construction industry that directly contributed to that success. 

First of all, gone were the days when you had to hire a 'general contractor' to do your reno. Television was chock full of very popular do-it-yourself shows that showed average folks tackling bathroom upgrades, kitchen makeovers or deck additions with the help of a handy trades people - good looking plumbers, charming carpenters or suave electricians, we are talking women here too.  The 'trade curtain' had fallen and now ordinary folk got a first hand view how things were supposed to be done. The general contractor - typically a middleman with enough connections in the construction industry to reasonable, more-or-less dependable individuals***, that also took a cut of all the expenses that the owner incurred - was beginning to feel passe. I am not going to argue whether it was a good thing or a bad thing - but there was a change - suddenly each individual trade began to have more influence over the way the project turned out - good or bad - this is why it is important to hire good trades - he or she has to care, otherwise it can be a disaster. It also means that it is now up to individual trades to make design decisions - this is a big one - think tiles and wooden flooring - not so much plumbers ****and framers. [To be continued]

* Or an IKEA Pick-UP point! Yea! IKEA knows that people travel long and wide to get those affordable kitchens. In Ontario [a province, large area], Canada, IKEA has opened up several warehouse only locations. You visit IKEA once, check out the kitchens and decide that you like them and want to use them for your reno. Measure, plan and purchase - all online - have it delivered to a pick-up location close to home. 

**this one is a true story;

***it's a curse in the industry - and this is by no means a generalization - but some trades I meet are questionable folk - it's like they live out of their car. It should be a reason for pause if the trade you intend to hire has no internet presence or history - if you work in the industry you got to start somewhere - it could be just some positive feedback on a forum, a rating on a rating site, even a simple free page. I was once reading a feedback column from a plumbing company, and the writing was so terrible, full of mistakes, awkward grammar - clearly non native speakers. I inquired with the owner, he said that he always insists that the client write a rating, even if they don't speak English. Full of errors - more genuine - more business. 

****although nothing is more annoying than 'plumbing askew' - when the finishes are not parallel - toilet - or faucets. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - the Big Black 'Cover' Sticker of headache.

a one like that

I love IKEA. I really do. I believe in them. IKEA does a great job at everything that they apply themselves to. Everything except one thing - their kitchen doors return policy.  

I dread receiving an order from IKEA and finding out that several doors pieces are featuring that black sticker. 

For those who are buying their IKEA kitchens for the very first time - and I bet that there is a lot of you - that black sticker indicates that the door has been previously purchased, hand selected at a warehouse location, delivered on a cube van to a dwelling [could be up to 250 km away], handled by the installer [either self-install or a professional installer] and deemed to be 'wrong', often re-packaged; and finally lovingly delivered back to the nearest IKEA store location for a refund. 


And I buy doors from IKEA all the time. 

Doors are what makes the kitchen - that's the design element - that's your 'flair'. Purchasing a door from IKEA, getting ready to hang it and finding out that it has been damaged [some doors are more prone to damage than others; on some the damage is more visible than others] is always a slight irritant - that means that the door needs to be replaced - delay. And no-one like delays - it means a trip to IKEA [although, I don't typically mind it; it's another opportunity to interact - check out for changes - you know, maybe they changed the script, or they altered their 'talking points' - I pay attention to these things]. 

I have to give it to IKEA that they are very flexible with their kitchen returns - they are very reasonable and are very accommodating. They will really bend over backwards for you - after all they just sold you anywhere between several hundred to more than $20000 dollars of merchandise, and they want to make sure that you are satisfied. But there is a vulnerability in their system - a one that is, I am certain causes them financial losses - and they are looking into addressing some. They already took some preventive steps - keep on reading. 

Today I went to IKEA to pick up 2 doors - Veddinge - white matte slab - really nice modern look. I needed them because I had to hack them to fit a cabinet I put together. Because I wanted for the kitchen to have a really custom look, I decided to match the height of pantry to the height of a really nice Sub-Zero fridge [it's a custom solution; the IKEA kitchen planner had nothing to do with it - custom solutions, that's why I get hired]. By now, I know the drill - order upstairs; pay at self-serve; loiter for about 30 min around the store before even considering going to check if they have the order ready [mine is tiny, just 2 doors]. 

As I am loitering about IKEA, I discover a whole bunch of new things that I did not know before - like this - 

IKEA Etobicoke, stocks a selection of Swedish [or Swedish'esque; I don't believe that a novelty length gummy worms are a Swedish invention; although their length was impressive and you would have to probably go on-line to some obscure candy dealer to find comparable size gummy worms] candy! Self- serve from a bin! How wonderful! 'Where is my youngest boy, when you need him?!' I think to myself. So for about 30 min, I check out the variety, read the ingredients - is the first ingredient corn-syrup or sugar? You know things like that. I settle for this single, long roll of candy tape, and I am off to check my order of 2 Veddinge doors. 

I still have to wait for another 10 minutes - lots of big orders all around me. And then....I see it coming....Wow....they are bringing out a survivor! 


My cart is the lowest count - 2 items - cart that I can see. And the young man who is pushing it towards me is young and has a bright smile on his face. And we both look at that Veddinge pantry door brown box  that's sitting on the cart - and we both know it - it's a survivor. I keep a straight face - but on the inside I am bursting out in laughter. That box looks like it's been through a Zombie Apocalypse, survived and made it back to IKEA, and now they are trying to sell it to me. It's got that BIG BLACK STICKER on it. The box is scuffed. It is dented and scratched. It has got this 'brown paper tape' - closest colour match to the actual box - all over it and reinforcing the corners. The two 'cardboard buffer zones' - that's the part of the IKEA door box that  protects the short edges from damage - are totally crumpled**. I am not going to post a pic of that box - that would be just mean -  and I am certain that this is not indicative of the overall IKEA kitchen doors experience. Maybe that's part of 'the script' - try to sell the returns first - see if the customer accepts it - offer a discount - etc. 

'This door has been to hell and back,' I think to myself. 'Initial here, please,' asks a young lady that checks my order and paid receipt. Keeping my cool, in a very casual tone, I make an observation that the box appears to be 'damaged' and before I sign my life away on these doors, I would like to check them. 'No worries,' I am informed and shown to not to distant - the 'inspection table'. 

And so went the process. They offered me 'as-is' discount on it, but I did not take it - even with cutting them down to size and re-hinging I was not able to cut around the damage.

People check your doors, when you first get them. 

So I did return it for a new one. I got to give it to the 'IKEA return' people that the damage was very slight - it was nothing like the box would suggest - it was a series of easily missed small dents on the long edge, opposite of the hinge side. But I could clearly see them, and eventually the client would notice them too.* 

So what's the lesson? 

You should always check your purchased or delivered doors for damage - especially the ones that feature the BIG BLACK STICKER of headache - that's the vulnerability - and make a claim right away - either in-store or with the delivery person. 

Oh, but this kitchen I'm working on will look real good. 'Like a million bucks!' Building in big fridges - designing them into the millwork - is what I do best. 
If you want a really nicely designed IKEA kitchen - hire me. Also visible are the extra pieces that go into every 'hacked' SEKTION box. A lot of the times if I need modify a box, or the design calls for a 'more ambitious placement' of the box, I will reinforce the box with additional cross-member - it drastically strengthens the box and looks good. 

*Veddinge doors blister. Bodbyn doors dent* - I have video that I made - it was surprising even to myself. 

**Crumple zones on a IKEA SEKTION doors box. If they are gone, then there is a good chance that the doors are damaged. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - the book that IKEA did not want you to see - Review

[edit:this post is terribly written - needs editing and expansion; but I've been sick like a dog, and needed to get this thing off my chest before this plague I have makes me forget it all]

['s the one on the right]

So I am doing my usual rounds at IKEA - you got to keep it fresh. I had a purpose in mind. I needed a very functional pitcher/jug - extra large capacity. I wanted for it to be light weight - plastic - but non-toxic [none of that PCB stuff...] - cooking for the kids is like cooking 4 different dinners [ughh!!] - but everyone can agree on a delicious smoothie - almost a gallon of it a day, and I needed a handy container to store it. And I was certain that IKEA had a product that would satisfy my requirements. And they did have it. 

The first book that IKEA published and made available here in Canada - that I am aware of - was a stiff book of Swedish recipes -  you know, them Swedes eat differently than us here, Canadians. And by stiff I mean: formal, to-the-point, rigid - there was very little flair. It was IKEA-blue, hardcover, the size of a notebook, and it was just recipes. I bought that book and I gifted someone with it - 'here', I thought, this is kind of what I do for a living, my obsession. And while at it, I also solved another of that family's problem - how to store plastic shopping bags - instead of stuffing them into a lower cupboard - I installed 2 Variera, those plastic half-tubes with holes, on the door of that cupboard - everyone should have one of those. 

Today, IKEA fully recognizes what kind of sway it has on modern society, and takes full advantage of its dominant position. If you, as an individual were ever curious as to what humanity needed for existence - on a household level, than the easiest way to witness those needs satisfied at a very reasonable cost, while being good for the environment and humanity, would be to go to your local IKEA store. 

[the book, right there...]

I have been thinking long and hard - observing IKEA - analyzing IKEA - because unless you are an IKEA insider [I almost did become an insider - a carpenter for the IKEA North York location, good story there] than the only way to gain insight into the corporate monolith is by observing their actions and decisions, and deconstructing them. Before anything changes at IKEA, vast sums of money are spent on research - I am certain that only optimal and ethical solutions are reached. Professionally, nothing brings me greater pleasure than reverse-engineering IKEA* - I love hacking IKEA. 

'Every Day Counts' is IKEA's latest release. It's a cool book, hardcover, and it comes with post cards in the back [for some odd reason, people tend to like IKEA post cards]. Printed in Italy, no single author, just a publishing house. There are pictures that feature IKEA products heavily - almost exclusively - there is text and stories and a message - there are recipes. It is not for me to summarize all that for you, it would be unfair - I think everyone will read it differently**. I would call 'Every Day Counts' an IKEA lifestyle book - if such genre exists - I think my blog is an example of an IKEA lifestyle, I think. It is an attempt at IKEA to 'normalize the IKEA experience' - all brands - especially luxury brands - produce their 'lifestyle publications' - they show the consumer consuming in an appropriate way. 

I had to put this in. Originally I wasn't going to; I was going to leave out the literary quality critique - but I decided against it. See, I am a writer - or think that I am -  and English is my second language. And because of that language acquisition I am very sensitive to it's nuances - oral and written. I also continuously self-study the mechanics of language - if you read my blog you hopefully will notice that I like to have fun with language - occasionally I intentionally put in mistakes or invent words - but that is just to jot your reading a bit - throw you off the track - no word is arbitrary and everything counts. 

So you can imagine how piqued my curiosity was when I learned that IKEA has a 'verbal identity advisor'? When I read that, it sent shivers down my spine. Which company do you know of,  oh-so carefully manicures its sterile image down to its 'verbal identity'? Does this mean that the book was originally written in Swedish and then translated? 

For the little amount of actual text content present, it appears that the book was conceptualized/designed in another language and then written by a non-native speaker. Don't get me wrong - it's all properly written and there are no errors, but the 'flavour' of the language seems foreign - a little 'pale'. Some phrases and word combinations seem slightly 'unnatural' - as if there was an attempt to translate a concept.  Some nice play on words. 

[End EDIT]

To suggest that, for example, you could throw a successful wedding reception, using all IKEA products - in a nicely designed way - you could probably do it yourself even - if you got some design skills. It would probably be cheap to do - read cost-conscious. But that would be outrages! or maybe not. I recently staged a house with IKEA products - found the right room and copied their display - including linen arrangement - item for item - and it worked. 

But what about that other book? The one IKEA did not want you to see?

I am a furniture maker. I can build anything out of wood and I've built some crazy things***. But when I need to get some furniture built for myself, or maybe I need some components/parts of furniture - my first thought is IKEA - what can I hack? Perhaps a MALM dresser? 

Or maybe a Billy bookcase?

'Remake IKEA' was a published collection of IKEA hacks, sourced from Yules Yap's website It was do-it-yourself hacks - amateur hacks - everything from surface decoration -  such as staining, painting, all sorts of applique - to more ambitious hacks that involved power tools and modest carpentry skills. 

Since cats are all the rage on the Internet, here is an example of a cat litter-box solution using IKEA's kitchen cabinetry - FAKTUM - the predecessor to METOD. 

As the book progresses some IKEA hacks get quite complex and structural. It is obvious that people were putting a lot of thought and effort into them, but in their attempt to be creative they were often breaking some fundamental woodworking rules [for example you should never be cutting into IKEA torsion boxes - those lightweight panels used on the LACKs, for example; the structural integrity of that panel depends on the fact that all exposed edges have solid edge - that cardboard honeycomb interior has no strength without it; also, it is only the edge that will hold any fasteners or glue]. 

I don't blame IKEA for getting nervous on that issue and shutting this thing down - safety is huge in design - and eventually going after IKEAhackers. `

Just few days ago I get a call from someone who wants to use the BESTA media unit in their office - why not? They are nice boxes, they stack well and can be wall mounted. I ask for a picture of the design - the sketch shows additional work-surface spanning few vertically stacked boxes. But they also want to add a full-extension 'proper filing drawer' - at the top. Two things set off red flags in my head right away - heavy drawers fully extending - that is a recipe for disaster. And all they need is the filing drawers made to fit the BESTA - and they are willing to pay when I tell them that everything about that box needs to change - upgrade the slides, sturdy drawer box, proper 'filing' hardware, etc...But it did not feel comfortable just making the boxes - what if something happens? Huh? Like a tip-over because the drawer is overloaded? Or this thing comes off the wall because not every steel stud was 'caught'. Yes, things do happen! 

Did you know that IKEA issued a warning - not a recall - a warning - about their MALM banks of drawers because they would tip over occasionally and crush children? Yes, go to IKEA and pick up a free wall anchoring kit for your MALMs, and actually some other cabinetry as well. Safety first!

And so I quoted the project with my install - I would ensure that the design be reasonable. Office walls are typically hollow with thin drywall and steel studs - and when you are installing, you want to ensure that you hit every one of those studs [ideally twice and use PL500]. It would be solidly built, for a reasonable cost, and that thing would never come off the wall - unless with the entire office, but that's another story altogether...

I don't want to have my name attached to a Christmas office party fatality. 

Neither did IKEA. 

And so they killed the book. 


*I have this stupid obsession with their SEKTION kitchen boxes - I try to figure out which way the panels are cut [clockwise or counterclockwise] and for example they edge some of the panels before cutting - saving a step in manufacturing - cheaper for the consumer. 

**not trying to be 'deep' here. I think people genuinely like IKEA, and for many reasons.  


Monday, September 28, 2015

Everyone is waiting for that fall SEKTION sale, IKEA!

C'mon....we are all waiting....when is it?

while we wait....we might as well nourish our bodies....

EDIT [End of October 2015]

There is not going to be a another IKEA kitchen sale, ever [likely]. The first kitchen sale of the new system - SEKTION - that they did was so overwhelming and IKEA was so understocked that I was hunting for missing pieces of for 8 weeks following the initial purchase. People were furious, renovations were scheduled....babies were born to incomplete kitchens....It was a disaster.

There are still certain doors/drawer fronts that are are out of stock - continuously. What can you do? You just wait for them to show up and quickly snatch what you need....

IKEA....I love you.

[BIG EDIT: December 7, 2015]

They did it! 
They DID IT!

IKEA does their second annual kitchen event!
2 things:

A] Right before Christmas....smooth move...Who in the right mind will renovate their kitchen 2 weeks before Christmas? How are you gonna secure a trade, like plumber? or an electrician? or even a kitchen installer? 
B] it's a short sucker only till January 11, 2016. Timing it such as they did means that it will be an underwhelming one - no big sell outs, no running out of stock like last time. Unless the plan is that people will pre-purchase their kitchens for the January/February season.....that could be a strategy here....

Sunday, August 30, 2015

IKEA 2015 Catalogue - REVIEW + on Craftsmanship.

The IKEA annual catalogue is something that I look forward to every year. What a surprise - just as I cam back from vacation** - IKEA releases their catalogue! In Canada, IKEA delivers their annual catalogue to virtually every household in the city of Toronto. Toronto itself has 4 large IKEA stores - North York [which was the first one in Toronto; I have a picture of myself in that store when I was 13 years old], Etobicoke, Vaughn and Burlington. My favourite is the Etobicoke location - maybe because I know that store like the back of my hand and have been going there for their $1 breakfast for the last since they were introduced years ago*.

The IKEA catalogue, I find, is an interesting study. Yes, on one hand it can be seen as a simple shopping tool - a handy quick guide when you don't feel like booting up your favourite device to browse the selection at But the way I view it though is larger scale study of society and global trends. 

How? Allow me. 

It has to be recognized first and foremost that IKEA is a corporation, an artificial entity designed purely to generate profits for the owners [regardless how multinational lawyers have structured the IKEA model - it currently does its taxes in a tiny duchy of Liechtenstein, last time I checked]. 

There are two ways of achieving profits: 

- first the positive way - by investing in renewable resources - by being more efficient - a force for positive change;


- the negative way -  by investing and encouraging acts that have destructive effect on the human eco-system;

Examples are:

- Chinese government recognizing that coal is not the option, invests heavily renewables - they want to become the industry leaders, and maybe export that technology to the West? and how about just growing their economy in a sustainable, more efficient future?

Canada, on the other hand, is currently in recession because the government made an erroneous decision to heavily invest in fossil fuels. The province of Alberta is experiencing a dramatic economic decline. We've got political upheaval people! We've got pinko-commies voted into power! 

IKEA seems to be making all the right moves. While many other corporations are making questionable decisions when it comes to the larger global picture, IKEA makes it easy for their consumers to influence global production practices with their purchasing power. 

And consider their moves so far:

- largest retail investor in wind power in Canada - corporate, global, energy independence by 2020 - of which I am sure they will achieve; 

- IKEA purchased almost 34 000 hectares of forest in Romania - I assume that they want to have a better control over their sourcing. 

- IKEA designed and will produce modular, flat-pack shelter for refugees from Syria - mass produced they will be able to provide a hard-bodied shelter that costs around $1000 dollars - far superior to any tents - the design specs for a refugee shelter are numerous. 

- Even little things, like that they already improved their SEKTION kitchen line that was just launch this year - I was installing some really good looking cabinetry and noticed something different - look - these are new and improved clips for the backs - 

Imagine that IKEA, in their efficiency, already made improvements to their most important product line - their kitchens. It is how you put on the clips that made the original design more challenging - you typically put on the plastic clips first - then flip down onto the back. Old clip for comparison - 

The IKEA catalogue is also the medium by which the company directly reaches out to the consumers to convey their philosophy and goals. The catalogue makes it obvious that IKEA spans the globe and is a leader in sustainability and a model for efficiency. 

This year -  with the introduction of the new line, IKEA strongly pushes its kitchens. It's a big moneymaker, especially here in Canada. If you read this blog you know how versatile that SEKTION box is. 

'A dream? Only until you make it come true.'

How many market researchers sat on this final line? Boy, that's poetry in motion, right there! 

What a great play on words, that last line is! 'Only until you make it come true.' I know for a fact that there exist people who secretly stash their remodeled kitchens on throw-away e-mail accounts at That's the one thing that is great about the IKEA kitchens - being able to render your dream kitchen using their software, on your own time.  It gives you a price too, so you will know how much it will cost. It's a dream. 

[edit] People, use the planner to design your kitchen. Paper designs are great, but the planner - for the dinosaur [@IKEACanada] that it is, will give you good feedback on your design. Don't try to cheat - unless of course you are hiring me - because it will not look as good as it should and the IKEA installers will have trouble completing it in 'good-looking' way that IKEA intended for. 
[end edit]

And I got to give it to IKEA - what a versatile kitchen system - $800 buys you a great pantry. The range of styles and designs is incredible and they are very economically accessible. 

Chapter 2 - on Craftsmanship

This is my current project. 

This is such a nice project. First of all, people, if you are on the market for a Moncer floor install than I want to do it - no one will do a nicer job, I guarantee it. It is such a nice floor - and  - on this project every board was 2.4m in length. At that size every board that is laid down makes a difference. And I wanted to have a complete control over this. I first of all found myself sorting the wood - all the boards were sorted into AAA, A, B, C and Ds. I even found a nice pair of book matched boards - will upload pic, look pretty good.

 At the end I had the board lined up against a wall, so I could make decisions at a glance - this was optimizing at its best. These were to go by the wall, under the kitchen cabinetry. They had more colour - but they were also great, say, near the island when you needed to spice up that bunch of AAAs which looked too bleached out, too pale. Equal opportunity, people, for the boards! No discrimination here! All wood is beautiful! There is this really nice spot, also around the island [notice the trend...around the island....that's where the 'action' is going to be] where I transitioned two boards - offset, one darker, clearly dominant next to a soft grain, full size, that goes from amber to blond. Even, Arthur, who did an amazing job on the large marble tiles, noticed those two boards, pointed them out and told me that 'the floor grew on him'. Hell yea! Nice wooden floors, I say!

Flawless floors are not the nicest - people think they are. But the problem with flawless floors is that they look very fake and lack character. If it is too flawless than it begins to look like a laminate floor - nothing wrong with laminate floors, they are good floors and they have their uses and advantages - AND there are designer laminate floors. With bright spotlights the effect can be magnified. So what do you do?

Floors supposed to tell stories - 'stories of wood grain'. Humans, I think, I naturally drawn to wood - it is a nice, warm inviting material that we've been using for utility and beauty forever.  A thoughtful selection of large flooring planks will create flow between different rooms - it will naturally direct traffic and suggest furniture placement - it will create spots where your eyes will naturally rest and appreciate the beauty of the floor. Typically nice floors are paired up with nice stone - you want to make sure that any 'flooring decision' that you will execute will play up the two materials. 

The nicest marble has already been mined. Today's stone is of lesser and lesser quality. This is why I think this is such a great example of marble - it's a 1937 [?] marble fireplace that was reclaimed from a demolished library in Belville, Ontario.[?]. Put Together by Arthur, it looks amazing. The flooring had to match - proportionally framed. With great satisfaction - craftsmanship wise - I report that I cheated the eye, by 9mm over 62" - the mitre-angle on the joint was worked out geometrically - it looks best. 

[Brain Tease]
Here is an example that you can wrap your head around it - same thing - optimizing, averaging and still making it look good. This is a decorative wall - from the Abet showroom made of samples. The man who completed the project went mad [that's the urban legend at Abet, each sample had to have a precisely drilled hole, a hook screwed into it and an appropriate coloured sample put on...] - it was an incredible feat of patience, accuracy and art. I believe it is only 4 colours of laminate chips. 


When installing I always strive to showcase the best that the client has - that includes their appliances - which are often a big chunk of the overall reno cost. 
This is the 'vent cabinet' - it is has been significantly modified and strengthened to allow for simple install and good looks. 

Upon studying the mounting instructions I realized that if I was to follow them exactly, it would completely ruin the design and the look that I was aiming for - flush with the fronts, integrated with the valance - seamless, effortless look - 'like a million dollars!' I silently chuckled in my head, because Derek - my shopmate, who is well experienced himself - when he saw me cutting this thing from the IKEA box said 'that's not going to hold together!'. 
Well, it does hold, is very sturdy and will make the install a breeze. It will look really nice - outside AND inside - AND be functional. Here are the shelves  for  

that box- because I hate under - utilized cabinetry.


*I actually often reinforce the backs in other ways too. 

Which supplier would not bend-over backwards to supply to IKEA? I read some statistics that IKEA suppliers are growing their businesses every year. 

*for comparison - a McDonald signature Big Mac meal is around $7, I believe - and definitely not that healthy. 

** our annual vacation takes us always to the same spot we love - Bruce Peninsula, Ontario, Canada. The frigid, deep waters of the Great Lakes - which hold 20% of the world's fresh water, by the way - are gorgeous deep blue. There are over 120 shipwrecks in the area, dating back at least a 100 years. A scuba diving paradise, world UNESCO heritage site. It's is just absolutely gorgeous. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

People Want Pictures

Chapter 1 - People WANT pictures. 

I've received that some feedback recently on the UX [that's 'fancy Internet' for User Experience] - from a professional.  And apparently my blog lacks two [2] things: 

A] Pictures and more pictures - kitchens in particular. 
B] Homestars reviews;

As for A] - here, I am adding pictures; 

People want to see more pictures of kitchens. 
Not enough pictures of kitchens! 
Where are the pictures of the kitchens?! 

I explain that all the projects that I do are nice - and not all my projects are kitchens - I do a great variety of things and my focus is not on volume, but rather variety. The posts that are put out are meant to educate, raise awareness, inspire - they are not a propaganda tool for IKEA kitchens. If one wants to see examples of nice IKEA kitchens it is enough to use the Google search engine and select images. Not everyone has access to my services - I believe that I offer a unique service - but everyone has access to the information that I offer - that's another reason that I try to put out quality, informative posts. It's about the possibilities of IKEA. 

B] Homestars annoys me. People are not understanding that it is 'strong-arming', and that they are paying for it. Essentially HomeStars is like YellowPages, the printed edition. Remember those big, yellow, heavy bricks? Remember the alphabetical listings - the quad 'AAAA' just to get that coveted first listing? Like that but with an added component of Social Media mixed in. YellowPages went out of business, because times have changed. They have been replaced by HomeStars - and I, as a contractor am continuously bombarded with offers to sign up for various 'rating sites' - rateMyCarpenter, rateMyThis...rateMyThat....All this is designed to do is to generate traffic, sell adds and sell advertising space. 

Want to know something curious? -  HomeStars has an escalating price point depending on how much you want to eliminate the ads put out by 'your competition' - they offer that service - you can pay your way through crappy work [a large value Boston Pizza gift card and a 'tear-jerking' phone call from the owner of the reno company is all it takes, apparently]. And crappy work annoys me. And I refuse to pay them. But there are companies, or individuals paying thousands of dollars to be prominently featured. 

In our digital economy, it is easy to find out about others, especially about the people that you intend to pay good chunk of cash in exchange for some excellent labour. And as long as HomeStars runs their 'ranking' site - for which they charge a good chunk of cash themselves - the picture will remain skewed and I don't intend to pay into it.

See, the Internet allows for great things - like sharing of information and experience. The concept of 'General Contracting' has changed dramatically - individual with strong management skills can educate themselves and often choose to act as their own 'general' - planning, organizing, choosing their finishes and hiring trades. The 'IKEA kitchen system' makes perfect financial sense and the 'no-lead time' requirement is a great advantage. 


as promised

So this dog snuck up on me during the install - the owners went to a baseball game with their kids, and in the rush forgot to crate the dog.  It's big and pretty scary looking, American bulldog - it looks like a half-albino?  - but it is a 2 year old rescue - and very very cheerful. It's only dangerous because of its size when it is happy - I can see this dog trashing the kitchen in a fit of happiness - that's risky. 

Always quality. Things are screwed and glued where they need to be. Glue adds great strength and rigidity to any project. And it's cheap. 

If you are installing an IKEA kitchen, you need a laser level - it's a must. The model that I have - a DeWalt self-leveling - you can now price match to $148 at Home Depot. Setting heights and keeping things level over long distances is a breeze. I can say with confidence that you can be less than an 1/8th of an inch over the entire project.

Here is an IKEA Hacker Pro Tip - a great way to strengthen your PAX wardrobe unit is to add a 2" solid lip under the edge of each adjustable shelf - like this - someone asked about this. 


ps. THIS IS SERIOUS - IKEA reminds people to fix their MALM dressers to the wall at the back. 

pps. The job before the one I'm doing now was this - good little story there. 
This was institutional cabinetry - done really old school way - no screws - just nails and glue. It was surprising how well it stood up to the test of time. 

Relocated, re purposed, increased functionality - top of the line hardware - went over the budget on hardware - it can be expensive - it turned out that there was a better hinge/plate combo with integral soft-close - even smaller footprint -  than I quoted. And so I upgraded - you only live once. 

Check out the solid edging on those doors - that's 1/4" hard maple. Nobody builds like that anymore - some exceptions. See how that top right door seems to be 'in' a little bit - the advantage of good hardware is that it offers great range of flexibility and adjustment. To adjust this was a breeze.