Monday, February 2, 2015

IKEA's SEKTION - The Good, the Bad and the Functional - REVIEW part 2

Chapter 1 - First Impressions*  - the installation.

*without all that glitz and glitter of the IDS show. 

It was a dark and stormy night in Toronto. On February 2nd, IKEA's SEKTION public launch, the city woke up to cancelled school bus routes, closed schools and un-plowed roads - lucky IKEA Etobicoke has a underground parking garage - but their top level parking lot was clear, in anticipation of the crowds.

It was also an exciting day for IKEA co-workers, still setting up, still putting up signage, and there were already eager customers trying out IKEA's new kitchen planner software. IKEA spared nothing, including upgrading their playlist - more youthful, hip - I heard Weezer, Buddy Holly song! There was cake and non-alcoholic champagne for first guests! Look - 

I had some cake and cookies. 

The first kitchen I stumbled across was 'the new Lidi' called 'Bodbyn' - who comes up with those names? - I guess it is that 'Swedish Charm'. This time around the doors are again manufactured in Portugal - most likely the setup was just re-programmed. 
[ ASIDE Ha! Barenaked Ladies on the playlist in IKEA! I'm writing the review at the store...]

IKEA installers - under the direction of the designer - did the best of that standard limited decorative moulding - some nice detailing that I am sure to copy - and maybe expand? I think there could be nicer, more impressive top mouldings - IKEA uses the same moulding for all application.

All the kitchens featured quartz countertops - with matching profiles - but they do add significant cost - can come close to the price of the cabinetry. I like that IKEA is upfront about that cost, and offers a lower price point. Look - 

But the biggest, 'Ah! Ha!' moment came for me, when I tested the first kitchen island! For real! It was wobbly! I could not believe it! I recorded a video of it, just so that nobody accuses me of fabricating stuff! This is how I test all my cabinetry - I stand at one end of the island, firmly grab the ends and give it a shake - try to wobble it [!!!] - my cabinetry is SOLID, like a rock! - shot with my Blackberry* - Look - 

Now, I know that it was the first kitchen island that I encountered, and that I tested all the kitchen islands - and some were sturdier than others, probably due to geometry - and that IKEA now offers a 'kitchen island stabilizing kit', that I am yet to get my hands on and test it. Look - [A]

IKEA did come out with hardware to accommodate mounting island cabinets back-to-back, or mounting the large panels - I am looking forward to trying out that piece of hardware. 

[EDIT: March, 2015] - IKEA has not had the hardware for mounting the panels in the store yet! I cannot believe that they would launch their kitchens without that. On several occasions, the bracket for mounting the back panels was omitted from the design [!!] - I had to improvise with L-brackets, 1/4 ply to join the panels, proper length screws so they don't puncture the panel. Or IKEA associate would substitute the pieces for the 'stabilizing kit'. Yea, I was angry - but in my defence I will say that the sea/lake Ontario was angry too, nasty weather that day! - I went to IKEA, because I was doing an island install and I specifically asked for the hardware, tapped my index finger on the image - this one please! - pay for it, wait 20 minutes in the line-up - just to receive the 'stabilizing block'! What?! And then another 20 minutes wait to return the block....Oh IKEA, how much I love you....Anyhow....I am waiting for that piece of hardware to arrive so I can use it and write about it. 
[end EDIT]

VERDICT: So as much as I love their boxes and their hardware, IKEA's kitchen islands still remain a weakness of the system. Upon closer inspections I noticed some awkward hardware creeping into the cabinets; the much touted 'new base mouldings' felt awkward and there was very little flexibility. You really should get me to design and build you an IKEA kitchen islands - my system eliminates all those deficiencies - it is a custom solution, that will open up possibilities. 


So once you get past the well made SEKTION box, once you get past the super functional hardware and organizers [they truly are amazing!], you get to the doors. The doors and the panels are where you make your true design statement about your kitchen. Right off the bat, I will disclose my 'conflict of interest' - I am a professional woodworker and a finisher, and I have built and finished some pretty impressive doors and panels in my career. I know how to gauge the quality of a door by its built and by the quality of the finish - I am a perfectionist - my previous employers and my past clients will attest to that.  

So, how do IKEA doors stack up? Let's start:

A] they are production doors - there are millions of these being made, and for the sheer volume produced the quality it excellent. A lot of the doors run on an automated line - no human handling - and such any defects are 'the robot's fault' - if there is ever an issue, you can always take it back to IKEA and they will exchange, no questions asked - that has been my experience - I have had some doors with minor damage that were replaced immediately - you just have to make a trip to IKEA and have a receipt handy. 

B] they are production doors - upon closer inspection I can immediately spot where a bit of 'human hand'*** involved in the process might have produced a better result. This is especially obvious on the lacqured doors - the MDF end grain is a little bumpy - this would not pass under my watch - I recall spending significant amount of time in the finishing room sealing the end-grain with two-part filler, to ensure that the sealer coat would go on equally smooth - face and edge are of the same quality. That's the 'custom' vs. 'production' door dilemma.  

C] their high gloss slab doors are good - for production doors they are nice, flawless and glossy. 

D] wood grains or wood grain imitation - well....that's a different story. There are several wood grain scenarios: 

Scenario A - the doors are 'shaded' with stain - to even out the 'tone'. It's a professional finishing technique, where stain/colour is mixed into the top-coat, and applied over already sealed wood. This results in wood-grain doors that are consistent in their overall 'colour' and 'tone' - but wood grain ends up looking 'muddy' - personally, I don't like that look. That's how you get IKEA's 'white ash' doors, that's how you get their 'black grain doors' - the grain is completely obscured by pigment. 

EXAMPLE - look - shaded doors. 

Scenario B - the doors end up-looking a patchy. Again these are production doors and there is no way to ensure consistent matching grain from door to door.  Look - 

Scenario C - best looking wood grain doors, in my opinion, are simply 'clear coated' - they showcase the wood's natural grain and beauty. 

Remember, IKEA's doors are meant to appeal to widest possible audiences; satisfy the most popular looks; provide widest possible price-point spread; give best possible quality under automated production settings, and if those are the criteria that we are judging them, then yes, they are successful.**

[To be continued...]

*shameless plug - I love my Blackberry phone. 
** remember, you can always hire my to design and build you some IKEA doors and panels -  it is one of the services that I offer.
*** Yep, I am a professional finisher....way back throw back...