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.