Thursday, January 29, 2015


'A thousand possibilities....'

From the new IKEA SEKTION catalogue:

'A SEKTION kitchen from IKEA lets you create literally thousands of different combinations so you're sure to be able to put together a kitchen that's just right - for you.

I completely agree with this statement. That is precisely the strength of the system. This is why I will be cutting less and instead be more efficient with the boxes - that's the change for me. And I think, it is the same conclusion that the IKEA's SEKTION designers came to - the AKURUM 'kitchen box' being so versatile worked in all situations - basements, laundry, mudrooms, play rooms - any general storage! And if you did not like the BESTA media unit, there was no reason why you could not go with a AKURUM - you just needed a creative individual to modify the system to suit your particular needs.

IKEA Etobicoke was just recently hiring kitchen planners -

Ikea Kitchen Planner Job Description

The Kitchen Planner IS tasked to assist customers or make accurate designs and layout in proper time in customer’s transaction process. Ensure that the labeling and presentation of the merchandise is accurate and clear. He/she must also be updated and knowledgeable on product features and customer selling strategies.

Ikea Kitchen Planner Hourly Salary Range: *****

The ad also listed some carpentry experience would be an asset. So the individuals who will help those millions of customers purchasing their new kitchen are there only to ensure a proper shopping experience - a successful sale. IKEA does not mention or seem to require any actual design experience from their planners - that is a weakness of their system, in my opinion. For a complex system like SEKTION - yea! I think that is a one flaw that SEKTION has, its complexity - you do need to understand how to make that functionality work for you; how to make that functionality work with your budget.

IKEA does have a 'third party' affiliated with them that offers:

A] a measuring service - self-explanatory;

B] a service that will provide you with a 'detailed layout and 3D image of your kitchen' - this is a little ambiguous to me - who are these people? are they designers? [I will find out and update this entry when I do]

C] delivery service - self-explanatory - I think they actually have pretty good prices!

D] installation services - the plastic legs are back on SEKTION! read here what I think about them, and what I do differently.

There will be two things that will be happening as a result of this overt SEKTION complexity:

A] Inefficient designs - or mistakes - I consider myself a good kitchen designer not just because I love cooking, or that I worked as a line cook in a professional kitchen [lunches was the most challenging that I did, it was still busy!]. I consider myself a good kitchen designer, because I am a schooled designer [Craft&Design diploma, Furniture Design major], but also because I have built numerous kitchens, some of them commercial [my guess would be in the vicinity of about 50?].

And when I was looking over the designs at the SEKTION booth, I was always, in my mind, trying to rationalize the decisions made. So:

A] showcasing functionality but raising cost;
B] purely for looks - significantly raises cost;
C] a functional compromise in an awkward situation - cost conscious;
D] wow! a low cost solution that works!

Like that, and there were many more. How is an average person to navigate all that without professional help? Based on my experience, designing and assembling an IKEA kitchen is not impossible - but it is challenging. I speculate that every IKEA kitchen buyer's worst nightmare is when they need to check the product count upon delivery - all 2000 pieces - awkward Swedish names; long strings of numbers punctuated with periods; no indication as to the actual size - is this item 'small' or 'big'? Often times people will have the kitchen delivered mid-reno, but actually start opening and checking a month later, things have been moved around several times. No jokes! I've seen it all! It's a puzzle that many homeowners dread.

B] Complexity of the system will result in the creative and functional potential of that system not being fully realized.

I know that it will take me some time and several projects to not only fully grasp the potential of SEKTION, but also how I can add to it - or better - in what ways can I hack it? One thing I know for sure, SEKTION will work wonderfully with customs doors and panels that I will launch for it - I will make it look like a million bucks!

For the last 2 week, I have had a major dilemma - with AKURUM being phased out, I have began to postpone any quotes that required the old system. Some doors are not available anymore it seems - put out in the AS-IS section. I will have to wait few days till the new system is released to begin using it in my designs. In some ways, I think, SEKTION will really let me showcase my creativity in designing millwork. They way I look at it - it's just a box! and needs a master. LOL.

I am so eager to get that tool in my hands - SEKTION here I come!

Monday, January 26, 2015

IKEA SEKTION launch - what's really in the 'kitchen'? + SCANDAL [part 1]

[this post was started the day of the launch - Trade Day at the IDS...]

Part 1

Today IKEA launched SEKTION - the kitchen system that replaces AKURUM - at the 2015 Toronto Interior Design Show. IKEA had another exhibitor Semihandmade removed from the show first, and then they launched.* I felt that it was a bit heavy handed on their part - they have a history of being heavy handed. If you are curious, or you have been living under a rock, Semihandmade picks up where IKEA kinda' leaves-off** - they make aftermarket doors for IKEA boxes - kitchens and wardrobes and others. By IKEA's account, they have sold 7.7 million kitchens and by Semihandmade's account they have sold over 700 door sets. Personally I don't think IKEA had anything to be concerned about - in terms of volume of sales - I rather think that the professional audience that day, might first see what a lot of people already see - beautiful modern wood grain doors [or custom paint shaker] - that fit IKEA kitchen boxes - custom look on a budget - and that market is only going to grow. 

Hey! I'm offering that service for the Canadian market now! Get custom made doors for your IKEA SEKTION kitchen!

As much as their 'popular marketing' is warm and inviting - giving us that cozy feel of Scandinavian Modernism - they are brutally efficient. IKEA has the lowest market cost option - that's a statement pulled off their European produced marketing video, delivered by a woman with blond hair, very blue eyes, and a frigid gaze that pierces the soul of any competitor. 

IKEA is Blum's [the hardware manufacturer] largest customer - IKEA says 'jump!' and Blum says 'how high?'.  Their designers worked together on developing efficient and functional - optimal solutions - to the kitchen dilemma. IKEA, it seems was able to lower the production costs of hardware AND made it more functional - they did several things - keep on reading till the end.   

IKEA has a history of being able to reduce prices over the years - mainly by finding efficiencies within their system. 


LAST MINUTED UPDATE - while writing

IKEA wins BEST BOOTH AWARD at the Interior Design Show!
[why wouldn't they? they had the largest booth in a premier position [$$$]; they had the tallest booth in the premier position [$$$]; and they did have a spectacular interior design [$$$]]


They invest heavily in automation - BILLY bookcase production is fully automated, no human hands touch that bookcase other than yours [see video in this post]. The first step in production of Klippan sofas is shrouded in secrecy, no on has access - other than employees - there are no images and no video footage exists of that 'production first step'. I speculate that it has to do with the automation of the first step - there is some cleverly designed machine  that in a single 'insert' eliminates about 4 hours of skilled manual labour - there are 800 sofas manufactured bye SWEDE WOOD, in Poland, for the world's consumption every day. IKEA - along with a complete switch to LED lighting - has invested in a windfarm, in the province of Alberta, Canada, which will allow them to become energy independent. So while the rest of us will be at the mercy of the market swings - shortages, conflicts, politics - for our energy consumption, IKEA will be able to operate in total independence. And that is their goal for 2020 - total energy independence. They are also investing in their labour force, now offering a pension to any employee that has been with the company for at least 5 years - I've been going to IKEA Etobicoke for the last 15 years, and I keep seeing the same faces. It is stunning to me, the amount of foresight that IKEA has an as a corporate entity. 

Part 2

So the public got a first hand view and try of SEKTION. 

That old system AKURUM has been my 'go-to' box for a large portion of my business - I was curious how my business is going to be affected - and it is, I can already see it. I went into IDS 2015 IKEA booth and opened everything, inspected all the hardware and place of origin [AKURUM boxes were manufactured in the US; some doors were made Sweden; some parts were made in China; some parts were made in Russia!]

I also knew that there be lots of other kitchen manufacturers - large and small. By seeing all of them, by inspecting all of them - their kitchens all in one place - I would be able to better position the IKEA kitchen in the market - is SEKTION a good product? What are its strength and what are its weaknesses? 

SEKTION has definitely that European feel - at the show, each SEKTION box was full of hardware - BLUM - that optimized the interiors. Traditional shelving was banished to the upper boxes - anything above about 6 feet. Drawers, drawers, drawers everywhere! IKEA has done away with their aluminum RATIONEL slide-out boxes - nice, but still the interior walls were slanted reducing the drawer 'floor area' and thus capacity - and replaced it*** with a white, powder coated steel, rectangular slide out box - more storage, likely [I haven't gotten the specs yet, a good indication are the gauge of steel and colour of the runners on the slides] increased weight capacity. 

Here - traditional hinged doors with internal drawers

And - 

There are plastic dividers that further divide this box. 

[To be continued]

*IKEA is rewriting design history - there never was Semihandmade at the show IDS 2015. It did not exist. SEKTION is and always will be. 

** Because IKEA veneer and veneer-imitation doors are production doors there is no way to ensure that consecutive doors have matching grain. Matching grain on sequential doors and panels is usually found on high-end kitchens. 

*** Revision, the BLUM boxes still have the lower walls slanted - not as much though as before.

Friday, January 23, 2015

January is Design Week, Part 2

[this is retroactive - it was written the day of]

I did it! I did it and I am alive! The last 3 days I've been in the shop till 11 pm and going to sleep at between 1 and 2 am, because I write daily. 

Sorry, no pics. I have to download and edit - and that takes time. 

6 hours to assemble deliver and install a large platform, that had to be very accurate + floor it + edge it. 

The Dinner by Design install went really well. First of all - I got back to my roots....those beautiful floors. This time, first time ever I installed Moncer flooring product - oiled white oak, 6 inch wide, engineered, solid wood [I will write how nicely it is made and how luxurious it is in another entry!]. Just for this job I had my flooring gun serviced - it's been awhile - just so it operated perfectly - I could not risk a misfiring ruining a board - there were no extras. There were 24* rows exactly, all the boards were labeled, in sequence. There was a row A, and a row B. And between row J and K there was a special row that had the boards laid out for notches around the columns - and the columns have no bigger reveals than 3/16th - that's very small. There were special instructions that there will be no trim around those columns - that came from above. And the columns do look very clean and modern - well resolved. Hey! - I only executed someone elses vision on this one - but it was my best execution. I made this crazy looking jig, but it is crazy only because it was efficiently fabricated - 15 min - while for a more 'traditional looking' jig would have taken an hour. 


I admit, I felt the pressure. For this successful execution under these conditions, absolutely every detail had to be thought out in advanced and an optimum solution achieved. Like, it turns out the the sprinkler system at the Design Exchange might be triggered by the fine dust that results from cutting or using the router. I had to pre-cut every line of flooring to within a 16th of an inch - in the 200k square feet flooring career, I have never done that. When they said - 'no cutting' I was like - 'So how the hell am I gonna do it?'




But you know what the really cool and very rewarding part of this project was?

I got to work with this really cool and fun team from KPMB Architects. Because other than for the base, flooring, metalworking, they still needed to setup the graphics, wire all the fancy lights, someone had to make tough calls - all under the 6 hour deadline. What a great team! They complement each other so well!  So much fun to work with them! I found it incredibly humorous, when one of them, with a very serious tone and face expression assured me that 'they are a serious firm', they don't consider themselves 'a fun office' - which immediately brought an image of a 'trendy, brick walled loft filled with hipsters on Macintosh computers' to my mind - 'it's about the work'. I was chuckling on the inside for so long. Such a good dynamic and camaraderie - no wonder that KPMB produces such nice architecture - no detail left out - even the envelope that I got with the deposit was really nice and had a watermark [!]. 

I was so impressed with that envelope - it really set the standard.

Any time there was an issue, they always had a solution. Like, where do we find a parking for a big truck? Hey! There is an open lot, just behind a new condo building - fits there*! - and it just around the corner! - so I don't have to drive across the city, as was suggested, and walk back - downtown Toronto, tall truck parking is an issue. Routing** the flooring planks for the columns and the flush-trim bit slices the electrical cord rendering the tool useless - my carelessness - IDIOT! - one of them just goes back and re-wires it so the by the time I get around to the second column - it's all done. I felt as if I had personal assistants on this job - everything was ready for me, passed to my hand - the floor, all million individually labeled pieces, almost laid itself. And it was needed - those 6 hours flew by - success!

Hey! - I Loved being part of their team. I was honoured to work with such a talented, eager and handy bunch of architects and one interior designer. 

I want to do jobs like these. 

At the end of the day - late evening - when I emptied the truck of tools and put them away, adjusted the heat, shut the lights off in the shop - I sighed, looked up at the frozen sky and said to myself - 'This is life. I love it! I'm a fighter and that's the best chance I've got!' Then I snuck into Charles' shop, next door - he was still tinkering with something - said goodnight to my friend and headed home to sleep it all off....Tomorrow is another day...

*we were charged double the money 'because it is a big truck'
**I routed in an adjacent storage room

Monday, January 12, 2015

January is Design Week

Chapter 1 - I'm fabricating the KPMB Architects Dinner by Design Exhibit!

Exciting things are happening - if it was not for IDS in January, it be boring. It's the Design Week - professionally it is always exhausting but fun. Tons of good shows, great openings and awesome work - top Toronto design talent out-does itself. All the big names are doing something - there are many platforms, everything from the big commercial Interior Design Show, to the the independent TO.DO - Toronto Design Off-Site. There are some good parties. You get to meet all your friends all in one place.  Careers are made like this. 

The Design Exchange - a venue for showcasing what is considered good design - right now they have Jeanne Beker's Politics of Fashion - is hosting Dinner by Design - it's a fundraiser.  Ten individual designers - top city talent - great range - different styles - get to design a dinging space. With great pride I report that I am working on the design for KPMB Architects! It has to be well engineered - it's a combination of wood and steel - just on my side. There is going to be some incredible lighting and furniture. And of course food! The insane thing is that it has to get setup within a 5.5 hour timeframe - platform, flooring, canopy, graphics - all on Sunday - I don't know how that's gonna happen... all I know is that is has to be super efficient. 

Otherwise, I am excited for two things - IKEA's SEKTION, their new kitchen being launched at the IDS - you know that is has to be amazing and more efficient. At the same time Semihandmade - the company from California - that manufactures custom doors for IKEA boxes - will also be there. Now that I offer this service - I make custom doors for IKEA boxes  - I want to check them out. See the quality of the product, inspect the edge-banding, see the clarity of the lacquers they use, how dimensionally stable is their bamboo line, what brand of laminates do they use - I have built and finished many really fancy doors** - wood grain and solid colour. My work has gone to museums!* 

Put that together with the falling Canadian dollar - how low can it go? - that and it will make more sense to save on shipping - it's like 4500 km from California! 

You get a flawless designer look, you get the Studio Kosnik quality, and you get a good price. It will be especially important on the SEKTION! That system has a million pieces! 

In the meantime....

long days and nights till the Design Week begins...

*for the bases, not the pieces. 


**fancy doors - from my rebellious youth - 
slip-mached ebony, laid up on a MDF torsion box; sliding media unit door; iPod for scale.