Tuesday, December 27, 2016

IKEA Hacker Symposium #2

Chapter 1

Of course, I am still working. BUT the thing that is most on my mind is the IKEA Hacker Symposium that I will do in about 3 weeks! SO I will just post some pics, just to keep the blog fresh. This is all the work that I've done this year - like a minor 2016 year in review. 

IKEA does not approve of this work. 

This has been my favourite kitchen this year - SEKTION boxes for all, all MAXIMERA drawers, put together with custom doors and drawer fronts - lowers are super-matte 1411 from ABET; uppers are rift-sawn white oak, edged in 1/8" solid.  Now, whenever I design kitchens, I pull all these elements and incorporate them into new projects [including my latest one - Black+Mint!]

[picture shows an IKEA Sektion kitchen with rift-sawn white oak, horizontal grain upper doors; and Abet laminate lower doors]
This one was a total condo reno that we reclaimed a piece of old cabinetry. If you scroll back few entries, I blog about this piece. Here, I turned it into a media unit.

[picture shows a cool heringbone tiles - Chevron Chic; and a re-purposed salvaged cabinet covered in Abet laminate]

This was a really cool BESTA media unit hack. Added some side panels, a little desk and extra shelving. The design works with the geometry of the space - I laid it all 'full size' - extra work, but all well worth it. 

[picture shows a BESTA media unit IKEA hack]

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Trim JUNKIE - how to instantly add STYLE

[picture shows a door opening with a black painted door trim]

Chapter 1 - How to instantly add style to your condo reno project. 

Unless your condominium project features a very strong, distinct style - like modernism* - I think the greatest style addition can come from carefully adding some trim elements. 

What is trim?

Trim is anything that you add to the walls or the ceiling to decorate - usually wood; or wood-based, man-made product. SO anything that is paneling, mouldings, baseboards, door casings, crown mouldings, beading, door stops, round overs, chair rails - the list is long very long. 

Good trim companies - like Brenlo, here in Toronto - my favourite trip to the sample wall - will produce multitude of mouldings that are dimensionally compatible with each other. That means that you can stack several mouldings to achieve a greater effect - they are modular in a sense [yeezus....I always keep thinking about modularity and efficiency]. Brenlo pocket-size catalogue handily lists off appropriate moulding combinations to achieve popular decorating looks - Arts and Crafts, Contemporary, etc. If you are considering re-trimming your space then it is a great treat to come and see their showroom - it's all on display [FREE SAMPLES!]  And they make matching doors too!

That modularity works for me too, but I use it in a non orthodox way. Like say, I discover on a project that the doors casings have to stay, because they are metal. But they are very plain and boring and very small - just absolutely nothing. Ha! That 'nothing' is perfect! It means that it will work with 'anything'! It's like a blank canvass! It is easy to spend at least 1 hour on each side of the sample wall at Brenlo - looking, considering, proportioning. 

After all the deliberations I settle on this one - 

[picture shows a profile of a wooden moulding - it looks fancy and will add sophistication]

It's not a very large addition, but the key is that it is proportionate. The size of your trim selection should be proportionate to the space you have and style - key take away!

To further refine the door casing design I decided add an additional element to the top of the door - but I did not find anything that caught my eye. Yes, there were couple of small mouldings that were interesting - but nothing otherwise. 

Sometimes, to satisfy your designer craving you got to go the custom route, and I am well skilled*. See, I don't want to replicate a moulding out of a catalogue  [I want to call that 'the common look'; safe, predictable, easy]. I aim for originality, unique, one of a kind looks - striking interiors, you get wow'ed! every time. 

My favourite element in trim mouldings is beading - curiously though, I have not seen any commercially available beading. I think beading has a rich feel to it and carefully layered with some flats it creates a sophisticated look. When I think of beading I think of piping on good upholstery pieces - they are rich and they are luxurious. 

[picture shows a 1/2 router bit that produces beading profile]

While picking up some blades from the sharpening, I picked up a 1/2" router bit that I intend to use to produce some interesting profiles - it's a half bead, with two different size reveals around it. Already see it using to produce variety of cuts and different effects - COOL! Will post pics once I make things!

Remember, have fun with your trim!

There are many books out there on the market about trim  - on both sides: design and fabrication. There are some basic rules for proportions and size, and a good, skilled and experienced carpenter should have some understanding of that. If you want more than just the basics - then you will have to hire a designer. They will be able to divide/proportion your space for best look; they will make suggestions on what elements will work best and what to avoid - I always think that less is more. Trim should have a purpose. Designers will also add colour to it - sometimes, black doors look really good. 

[picture shows painted black doors]


* Someone once told me that they were surprised that I - as a designer - did manual labour - as 'the big boss' I should be ordering people around - do this, do that! 'Yes,' I answered, 'it was my grandmother's dream that I wear a white collar and direct others, but I just like the work too much.' I have managed to achieve a great level of proficiency in my craft - woodworking; all sorts - and it brings me great satisfaction to execute my creations.  Plus I get paid for it. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

IKEA Hacker Symposium January, 2017 - EXCITING!

watch the video here!

Chapter 1 - I've got 2 hours to change the world - that's the other title. 

I'm ready for it. On January 22, 2017 join me for a first ever IKEA Hacking Symposium. It's going to be exciting!

Here is the link to the official listing! I am part of the ToDo 2017 Design Festival! 

Who should come? 

Anyone who shops at IKEA, and likes it there.*

You will never look at IKEA the same way. I guarantee it. 

Those who will read the listing off the official site,  will recognize it to be a little sensationalist - but hey! I'm marketing myself on small screens. You got to be smart about these things! If you haven't captured their imagination right there and there, you lost them. 

It's gonna be smart and it's gonna be funny! I will show you what is possible - I will bring examples! I will open your eyes to the world of IKEA. Together we will re-live one of the greatest moments in furniture design history. Yea! For real. 
'I was blind, and now I see'. 

There is going to be a give away - that's right if you RSVP and are in the audience when your name is called than you win a cool IKEA Hack. It's a more luxurious version of the my own personal one, the first one I ever made, before I knew I was going to be an IKEA Hacker  - aren't you curious what piece of furniture you can win? 

It's gonna be performance design - like a performance art, but better! 

The venue is awesome - the Assembly Hall, North Room - in the best part of the city of Toronto, the New Toronto, right by the lake, right off Lakeshore. It is fully accessible, AND the Hipster 501 TTC Red Rocket - the 501 Queen Street streetcar - will deliver you almost to the door - how convenient is that? You have no excuses not to attend. RSVP as soon as you read this - the venue is legally rated for 65, but I can't have that many chairs set-up because I will be showing some things in the back. 

We will have Starbucks coffee and some Costco muffins - you know why? Cause Starbucks coffee is good and Costco muffins are an awesome deal! 

What else? Yea, read the listing - click the link above - it gives you some idea of what to expect. 

And if you got some extra time on your hands, or are curious about what other things I do - like my fiction or illustrations than you can click the other link there - f35.ca.

Ciao! and see you in January! 

*After the talk is finished and you had your chance to ask a question you will likely be hungry - you know what's a good place to eat that's not too far away? IKEA Etobicoke - just 9 min north of there by car, or you can take UBER. They are constantly changing up the menu - cheap and good food. 

** afterthoughts:

A] I am mentally running through all the materials that I have gathered on IKEA. My own thoughts and writing - it's my little obsessive behaviour. I have been puzzled as to why I focus so much on IKEA. Well, the first thing is that I like IKEA - it would be hard to study something that you do not enjoy. Second [to be continued...]

Friday, October 7, 2016

Hacking PAX - how to install IKEA's Fardal doors [...in a regular door opening]

Chapter 1 - Hacking PAX - high gloss FARDAL

I think I've exhausted the topic why it makes sense to hack the PAX - IKEA's closet lines - you can click 'PAX' label at the bottom of this entry and it will take you to my 'hacking PAX' stories. 

I think IKEA's high gloss white FARDAL doors are the most often requested item to be hacked. They are just nice doors - AND made in Sweden too! - Swedish quality!

Any time you want to install a PAX doors you need to create a frame that will go into the opening first. It needs to go in square and level - otherwise the door worn't work properly - they will rub and 'bump'.

Here is the frame that I built - it's pretty big - the PAX doors are big. 

[picture shows a frame the is used to install IKEA's Fardal doors]

You can watch the video too! I also talk about the importance of 'reducing quality contrast'.   WHAT?!! Yea, watch the video, you will find out what I am talking about. You will gain a better understanding why people hire me to do the work that I do.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

OMG! The IKEA bicycle!

[picture shows IKEA bicycle on display at IKEA Etobicoke]

Chapter 1 - OMG! The IKEA bicycle.

What furniture company, or any other company for that matter, in their product line-up, includes a bicycle? Yes, I know - companies do that all the time - cross brand across products. Ferrarri does matching luggage sets; Mercedes Benz does roof-racks AND [this is on the side] I know Porsche does a Blackberry phone [losers! Blackberry just got out of the hardware! Losers! You know what that means for me?! I am gonna get the BB Passport at a rock bottom price! Loser! I hear them say - nah! I think for $300 bucks it is a good piece of hardware+software and comes with a 128gig SD expansion card! Right on - I hate being gouged for extra storage on my phone! For privacy, I can take out that card and put a new one in, if I want]. 

I will say that - for having a very well designed* bicycle in their line up product is a incredibly forward thinking move. Imagine? Where does a corporation want to be? It wants to be leader - continuous, consistent growth. And where is that growth? An urban bicycle. Did you know that most Japanese youth living in incredibly dense urban settings do not see 'a car ownership' as any sort of status symbol, let alone a need for a vehicle? Japanese cities are a well developed, high density urban settings - imagine standing at the top of a very tall building and looking in all directions and seeing nothing but a city. That's the future - we just can't all own vehicles - they are inefficient. 

So I am a total bicycle moron. I inherited a very good, all aluminum bicycle, top of the line hardware - cannondale. To me it looks all the same. But I know people who are bicycle fiends - whose life is all bicycles. They almost ride for a living. They have a deep understanding and appreciation for that lifestyle - that's right - a lifestyle! 

So when I read about the IKEA bicycle - I was intrigued. IKEA knew that it has to step out of its comfort zone - it had to hire outside expertise to be taken seriously - and they chose well! A RED DOT DESIGN AWARD! I think it was a smart move - IKEA is not known for good bicycle design, they are known for their furnishings - right now they are experimenting with 'paper furniture'. Yeezus! Really? I know that it is the future, but it will be at least 2 generations before that is widely accepted - so it is coming. IKEA is smart to start musing about it now. 

But back to the bicycle. I tested in store! I just couldn't resist. I stepped in briefly to purchase some Fardal doors - will post some pics later - and there I see 2 bicycles setup right at the entrance to the store! Unisex, grey aluminum colour, cool IKEA sticker on the frame. Going back to being a bicycle ignoramus - IKEA bikes don't have chains, they've got belts. 

[to be continued]

*Red Dot Award! That's pretty serious! AND it comes with an incredible range of affordable accessories! Cutest design feature ever - the bell!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - Kallarp Door Review!

Chapter 1

I haven't installed a single Kallarp door yet! It just hasn't come up in any project so far. From a design standpoint, I think it is much easier to go with a white high gloss doors - I want to call it a very safe, clean choice - a nice reasonable choice. I think anytime you are selecting a colour door [grey don't count! - I also think grey is 'safe choice'] you are making a statement that requires greater thought around other finishes. 

Just sayin'.

Is Kallarp green? Grey? or Blue?

Here! You can watch the Kallarp door review here

[picture shows IKEA Kallarp door that has been cut across to expose the core]

Sunday, September 4, 2016

OK. So if you read the LAST POST you know that I am writing IKEA FICTION.

[this here is a work of fiction, in progress, and thus feature spelling errors, awkward grammar...etc.] I am in the process of writing it mentally - I got all the characters nailed down.

Chapter 1 How it all began.

I don't know when I am gonna write it. I barely have time to update the blog. But those days on the table saw let me think. First things first, the story is written in a pulp fiction style. Characters are true to themselves and the language and action is rated R - it's an adult feature, unrestrained but sparse and tasteful.

A fresh graduate from fancy prestigious design school- let's call him XX for now, because I don't have a name] talented but cannot find a job. He volunteers, does art shows, writes in for some free blog, finally he gets a job as a barrista at a coffee joint that has medical benefits, which is the only thing that is keeping him there. His love life is non-existent. He split from his long time girlfriend not too long ago and he's been too busy trying to launch his design career, to be seeing anyone. His lack of success begins causes him to question his career choice and he starts to have strong suspicions that the design world is set against him, and he is really tired of it. 

The Design world, it seems is rigged. Shows, awards, recognitions....are seem so arbitrary 

She, a journalist [with a  minor in sociology, 'too give her an edge'] student, in her last year of school. She knows how competitive the writing scene and she is looking for a good break out of school. While in cafeteria she over-hears two post-grad industrial design student talking/discussing a conspiracy theory that exists in the furniture design world - how it is all rigged. She senses a good story that will resonate with the young hipster, 'over-educated-for-the-economy' audiences.

Leaving another unsuccessful interview, he takes an Uber ride to his buddy's condo loft - James. James is everything that XX is not. 

James is neat and super organized. He is a gamer and spends large amounts of time playing various video games. He works as a PI fraud discovery. Athletic, but his vice is 'daytime alcohol'.  He is married to a school librarian - attractive/alterantive type girl, dark hair, green canvas jackets - she brings books destined for pulping due to age and builds a huge library at home [they have a wall of large, tall, dark wood bookcases filled with old books, and in the middle a large screen flat 4k TV]

Saturday, September 3, 2016

TEMPORARY - IKEA 40 years in Canada catalogue - REVIEW

I am working. I know the blog looks like nothing - too busy 2 update. Read all the way to the bottom to learn of the biggest betrayal in IKEA's history! 

Chapter 1 - It's a magazine now.

Yes. There is definitely a change to the IKEA catalogue - it feels more like a magazine now - a way for IKEA to reach out to its customers, and potential customers, and among many others things [almost secondary to selling] familiarize them with IKEA's ideas for improving living - it's about problem solving, in style. A smart way of doing it is by hiring top international talent in sustainable product design - IKEA wins prestigous design awards - an urban, all aluminum bicycle! for example. 

And paper furniture?  [because there is 'feature' in the catalogue on IKEA pioneering paper furniture. That's right, furniture made of paper!]. It's going to be awhile before people accept such novel concepts. There is enough talk and innuendos about IKEA furniture being of poor quality - mostly made of particlecore**** sheets wrapped in foil - for the public to jump on the 'paper furniture' bandwagon and love it. I think it mostly boils down to understanding sustainability, the concept of 'design' and how IKEA is pioneering new technologies. Paper is essentially just wood fibers, properly oriented and glued together with the right adhesives. And I am always open to exploring new ideas and concepts. 

But try to convince my old Polish grandmother, who loved knocking hard on her credenza, the solid wood piece resonating and her nodding her head in approval. 'That's furniture,' she would say, 'they don't make it like that anymore.' Well they do. IKEA features many solid wood pieces - I've seen some nice solid white oak harvest tables, like MOCKELBY for $799 here in Canada, I just got to check where it is manufactured*****.


Yea. I wrote a really dry an analytical post about the new catalogue, and it is long and analytical. It's full of marks like these, and there is a corresponding note analyzing each statement and what it means in the larger scope [yea! they got one about quality! you got to read it; they talk about luxury vehicles and how they compare to SUVs! Strange I thought; Is IKEA attempting to cast it's products as luxury vehicles or SUVs? A car analogy? 

Actually, there is a precedent to do so. An Italian friend of mine, whom I was doing some work for, was commenting on my millwork and telling me that I don't make Ferraris - luxury, quality, etc. - that I am more in a league of a Fiat - like the 126p; you know, get you around. I thought about that for a second, and then I answered, 'No, I think of my work as a Tesla' - I am about innovation - good problem solving, ready-made technology just up for grabs, smart styling and design. And last time I heard, Tesla is still less than a Ferrari - Elon Musk inspires me, hate Bezos though. 

And you know, I think the laminate doors that I make - Abet Laminati, stunning selection of finishes that you cannot imagine could exist, until you see them - slap something like that onto your kitchen - there, your fine Italian connection right there.  And it was John who convinced me to leave my friends with 'Ciao!'. He said 'Karol, you are not Italian, but it fits you.' I end all my YouTube videos with 'Ciao!'.
[picture shows a table with a computer laptop, a coffee and a marked up IKEA 40th anniversary catalogue]

It's fun - but it is no-where ready, and I can't wait to write about it any longer.

So here is a substitute for now! A temporary review! In-lieu of the long, more in-depth, academic one! 


The one thing you have to try is the salmon burger - it's delicious. No IKEA, salmon is not the new pork - but salmon farming is likely far more sustainable than pork production. Have you ever experienced taste that suddenly brings back old memories of something? Taste can be a powerful trigger. Well, I had one! I remember eating a similar 'pulled fish' when I was very young - I lived not too far away from the Baltic Sea, there was always fresh fish - Poland is a large supplier to IKEA. Some sofas are made in Poland; the entire LACK - you know, the 'cardboard sandwich' - collection is sourced in Poland. 

[picture shows IKEA's new 'Pulled Salmon' burger, as being served in the IKEA restaurant, overlooking the entrance of IKEA Etobicoke]

NEW Door for SEKTION! 

Finally IKEA catches on that people want doors other than high gloss white - Ringhult, which is now cheaper than last year. They named it KALLARP - I don't know who the hell comes up with these names, but who cares! These door are made differently than Ringhult**. They are more like the doors I make, square edge - resulting in a much crisper shadow line. I got a KALLARP door in the shop waiting for me to cut into it an see how they make it and how durable it is. Stay tuned a review is coming for the KALLARP doors!

[picture shows IKEA kitchen island, with a clever designed void, equipped with lights and covered with a stone countertop,  all covered with IKEA's new KALLARP doors and panels]

Curiosity though - the choice of colour. First look this room in the IKEA Etobicoke, Toronto, Canada, showroom - the lighting is a little different - but -
[picture shows an IKEA showroom accent wall, decorated with simple panelling, and hanging plates; the colour is almost an exact match to the IKEA's new KALLARP doors]

Similar colour, eh? Is this the new 'It colour'? Is IKEA committing to produce these doors until the death of SEKTION? And then there are these accent doors- 

[picture shows IKEA's KALVIA, new graphic accent doors for their SEKTION kitchen boxes]

A very graphic, accent doors for SEKTION, nice....They appear random, but if you look closely at the image there are 2 distinct patterns - outside doors are one, and the pair 'inside' is another. Hey.....hold on? Is there a market for some funky doors that you can easily slap on SEKTION box? Semihandmade, has been doing this for awhile - funky doors for SEKTION box. And of course I make some nice doors too - I am contemplating transitioning to a 'web-site' model - with like galleries and images and inspiration - but I just find it a little static - blogs are quick and easy to update, they are more personal - easier to express an opinion, do a write-up analysis, etc. Blogging, I find is the right medium for me.****** That and YouTube! I love making videos - but I find that even though I record tons of video, I am very selective in what I put out there for the world - I am my own worst critic. 

IKEA, please....please...just stop torturing this machine. 

[this picture shows my daughter next to a furniture testing machine at IKEA Etobicoke store, applying stress that mimics the use of the POANG chair by average human being. Look at that wooden butt pressing hard on that chair! Beckie would go crazy!] 

People. Let me be clear - wood is by far the best material that resists stress tests like these! Any metal, or composite [known to me, I don't know, we could be developing some super-space age materials there] would have failed! I once considered building a sailboat [silly young man!] and was reading insatiably about it, and I read a study where they stress tested masts on sailboats - wood, aluminum, composite, and I think there was even steel there. Now you know that boats rock side to side a 'million times over' and that flexes [aka. stresses] the mast in all directions. And after like a 100 000 cycles of flexing they analyzed the masts - all except wood showed signs of micro-fractures, which would eventually lead to failure! So I say just stop torturing this poor machine! I hear it creaking ['crying' my youngest says, when I explained to him this awkward situation], shedding aluminum shavings, pistons are barely working.....JUST STOP IT! 

Wood! You win!

Check out this pic...... - 

[picture shows IKEA cabinet that is filled with Swedish language books]

I purchase virtually all the books that IKEA publishes - it's a way for IKEA to tell their story in an organized and controlled matter. But what I want to know, is who supplies all the Swedish books to IKEA stores?! It's all Swedish! I looked through them - fiction, non-fiction, travel, academic, fine literature, teen fiction? Who is behind this?! C'mon! I want to know! 

AND for the final betrayal by IKEA! 

IKEA is attempting to re-write history, yet again! Or.....maybe the story was not true to begin with.....? Maybe it was IKEA marketing department that came up with it....? Where does the truth lie? What am I talking about? 

I call it - 'the myth of the flat-pack'!

This is undocumented, but I read this urban myth before, that it was Ingvar Kamprad, the Great Founder himself that came up with the concept of flat-packing to save money. The story goes like this - 

'It was a dark and stormy night. The Baltic Sea was angry my friends. Waves crashed upon the Swedish shore with great thunder and fury. On that particular night, young and inexperienced Ingvar, from here on referred to as the Great Founder, was attempting to save money yet again. In his entrepreneurial, cost-savvy ways he struggled hard to make a delivery of a table to an eagerly waiting customer. Whether it was the inclement weather - we now know that moisture is an enemy of furniture - or the Great Founder's lack of good straps, it was simply not possible to secure the table to the roof of the car. A feeling of sadness descended on the Great Founder....is he going to have to pay a proper delivery service charge? 'Oh Freyja*******,' he shouted raising his fist against the dark, moist sky 'why must you be so cruel!'. But the Great Founder knew better than to be at a fickle of a Norse goddess, and he had to seek his own mortal solution. He wiped the beading water off his glasses, pulled back the hood of his waterproof, made-in-Sweden parka and took a long hard look at the piece of furniture in front of him. 'Think Ingvar.....think hard....'. And then it happened. Noone really knows what, or how, or why....but Ingvar, the Great Founder, took the legs off that table and managed to fit the table top and the legs inside the car, flat. And the rest, as they say, is history.... 

Today untold number of children expect their beds to come in a large, flat brown box, to be assembled by their handy moms or dads with a strange L-shaped metal tool. Adults in America eagerly stuff their compact SUVs with brown flat boxes full of little and medium size panel, that in turn, they will use to assemble most functional kitchen island cabinetry, after plenty of reading on 'how to install Ikea kitchen island' on a page of blogger named Karol Kosnik. And finally seniors will eat the $1 breakfast on a slow, lazy, summer weekday knowing that they can browse the IKEA showroom, and excluding the largest items, they can easily purchase a piece such as a lounge chair, a better reading lamp, or maybe even a silly play kitchen for their grand-kids and still take it home the same day. 


But IKEA, after years.....years... of perpetuating this myth suddenly does a 180degree turn and posts this.....c'mon! Don't ruin the dream!

[picture shows a page out of IKEA's 40th anniversary Canadian catalogue, that attempts to falsify the urban legend that Ingvar Kapmrad tried to perpetuate for so long....]

The end

**Ringhult is like a wrapped sausage, to use the German analogy, then cut to size and the cut edge has edging applied to it, trimmed and buffed. 

***someone told me once that they did not like the laminate doors because 'they had sharp corners' - that is because they were not filed - laminate doors required quite a bit of filing on the edge - the edge should feel soft and rounded; added bonus is that the doors are less likely to chip. I make nice laminate doors. 

****want to learn about 'particlecore'? you should read my SEKTION - their kitchens - ultimate review, where I talk about how things are made at IKEA. Good or bad? I will let you make a an informed decision. 

*****Yea, personal opinion, but it kind-a pisses me off, for example, when manufacturers take Canadian timbers, ship them to China, mill them there and send the finished product back here. 

****** I once had person call me and tell me that they read my blog, and they loved it, but before they hire me for the install they want to see more pictures. And I was like, 'You want to see pictures of IKEA kitchens? Use Google - they all look the same! There is not much variety there - Ringhult kitchens, Bodbyn kitchens, Tinsgryd kitchens. All look the same - not everyone hires me for some fancy-schmancy work. Sometimes people just want a straight up quality install with no compromises, good honest craftsman advice,  and not care too much about the design!

******* 'Freyja' is the Norse goddess of love, war and gold. Because isn't running your own business a 'labour of love', but it is also a constant 'war with your competition', and you end up reaping the rewards of #gold?  

******** Silliest! I am a writer. And I love writing fiction. Can you imagine, dear reader, that I have written IKEA fiction?! 

It's a story of a young, ambitious designer that tries to penetrate a furniture making cartel [aka. IKEA]. He accidentally uncovers a great conspiracy - a powerful furniture conglomerate that manipulates and controls the world's design market. He is helped by a young, eager, female graduate of School of Journalism who is onto her first big break into investigative journalism.  

They have to attend a party for 'Allan Garb' [an acronym.....], a furniture tycoon, who  they discover is a fictitious creation of 2 individuals - a ruthless American billionaire businessman and a very flamboyant European homosexual designer, who lives in a house called the S.U.N. OMG! 

With a little bit of help from his friends - a private financial investigator and a Big Data nerd/ real-estate writer - he pieces together a tale of intrigue, mystery and municipal politics. 

Party is a modern update of this - the original Here it's in the style of this. 

'It was almost morning, and the sun began to rise over the bay. Both barefoot - it's easy to lose your fancy shoes at a fancy party - they made their way down the winding, narrow street flanked by multi-millionaire mansions.  The city was just waking up to another, run-of-the-mill Monday. They slowly walked, holding hands, enamoured with each other, looking into windows of the homes around them, and seeing them furnished with products from ****.  

Children were just waking up in their reasonably priced, but safe Ukrainian made cribs and cried for attention. Young lovers lifted their still heavy with sleep eyelids, and stared at one another with pleasure; he  whsipered 'yea, I'm in it for the long haul, I really liked assembling this bed with you last night' and she smiles and they kiss gently. The elderly were in no rush to wake-up at all - yea their Chinese-sourced latex foam mattresses were comfortable and the store opened at 9:30 for the $1 breakfast, no rush...' Yep, this was the reality. Everyone owned pieces from ****, everyone. It wasn't their fault either that they all fell for it. Yea? in 3 years...who knew, who could have predicted? 3 years to save the world? Nah...they had plenty of time. 

The upside was that they owned well designed, reasonably priced, often made over-seas pieces of furniture. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

C of IH - the great Canadian MALM recall, part 2 - Good Design and Common Sense

Chapter 1 - why I think IKEA's MALM chest of drawers is great design;

IKEA is not going to like this one - people are now talking about the quality and the design of their products. I've been scouring the web reading up on the subject. I read an opinion that for North Americans, attaching furniture to the wall, such as MALMs [I call that 'to fix something to the wall', permanently] is not intuitive. I read that traditional 'American furniture' - I presume locally made, organic stuff - is heavier and sturdier, holds up better with moves, 'doesn't tip over'.*** 

I am glad these things are sorted by reasonable people and lawyers, otherwise the court of public opinion would have IKEA disassembled. 

Do you know what the weakness is? 

People don't follow instructions. 

The instructions are clear - attach to the wall. And as IKEA and all other regulatory bodies agree - if your MALM dressers [or several others dressers affected by the recall] is fixed to the wall - it is safe. Use it. A MALM that is attached to the wall is awesome. 

But people don't follow instructions. 

Every single little [or big] thing that you will buy at IKEA will come with instructions, and from now, I want to you to think about those instructions as a contract between you and IKEA - if you want to have IKEA's back on your purchase, you got to follow those instructions. You need to fulfill your end of the bargain for it to work properly - because IKEA has a vested interest that it work properly - IKEA's survival depends on you completing their design. I never thought about it that way, but IKEA's business model - end user assembles the product - saving on the labour costs - is actually quite a weakness of their model - liability. 

But there is such thing as common sense, right?  There is - it would appear to me, and it apparently appeared to IKEA as well, since they produced millions of these units - BUT -  the product is only as good as the assembly job done. And it is a fact of life that some people are better at it than others. 

I have not read a single well qualified opinion out there* about the design of the MALM, and arguments put out were just non-arguments - no need to point at fingers around the web. But you know what, I am qualified to express an opinion - I am a furniture designer by education. And I will tell you, that I love the MALM chest of drawers, I think it is [or was....] a very functional, incredible value, well designed piece, that was well suited for IKEA Hacking. 

Plain a simple, MALM chest of drawers, is not an exercise in expensive good taste - if one could purchase such - it's a functional buy, modern and minimal - you can't really have a more pared down design for a dresser.  You buy the MALM [from here when I type MALM it means the chest of drawers specifically; because MALM is an IKEA furniture line that carries specific design detail] it is because you need to increase your organization of small things - it has only 1/8 bottom so you cannot load up those drawers too heavy****. This 1/8 bottom also an advantage because - and this is a speculation on my part - because the bottom is likely to give out under the weight of the dynamic load, before the unsecured piece tips over. The other advantage of the dresser were the slides - they were those nylon rollers in steel channels - they last [all my other IKEA dressers with the precision ball bearing type have failed, I recently restored an IKEA dresser of that type - you can read couple of issues back, I even gave it a trendy paint-job - really good hack]. The beveled top edge of each drawer face served as the pull - cleanest look of all. It came in a selection to satisfy any taste - white, light wood, dark wood; but there were some other colours that came and went. 

I think it was that minimal look that really yield itself well to being 'hacked' - 'IKEA Hack'. If one googles the IKEA MALM dresser hacks - there are numerous examples of dressers painted, surface application of vinyl and decals, or even examples of trim put on. And the sheer number of them sold would indicate that it was a successful design. I have been reading forums, comments sections of websites, personal blogs, and the consensus seems to be that people enjoyed it. There are numerous on-line tutorials that show how people turned that dresser into IKEA hack.

So why the failure? Why the recall?

Only IKEA is able to do something like this - a massive furniture recall. Try to understand, dear reader, that IKEA is attempting to do something that has never been done before - they are essentially 'nullifying' their entire product line and by doing so they are eliminating a multi-million dollar liability. I am still trying to grasp the size of this - imagine that this is on par with a car company recalling AND destroying their most successful iconic design - Honda recalling and destroying their Civics; Dodge removing every Grand Caravan off the road [I own one, and I love it! so versatile and amazing value! it's my work van/swagger wagon]. What went wrong?

I think I know. It all boils down to IKEA's business model - I think they unintentionally died by their own sword - it was IKEA's advantage that turned against them - unanticipated outcome of customers lack of understanding of safety in design, put together with a results-oriented government agency [an easy, actionable item]. When I heard about the recall - my first thought was, 'only 6  deaths in the history of 30 million or so MALMs? I bet more kids die each year from falling TVs?!'

 But nobody legislates against or recalls TV stands that let TV units fall on children.

So I will come out and say it, if there is a reasonable chance that this thing may tip over and fall, then fix it to the wall! Common sense!

*and if you do send it my way, I want to read it. 
** geopolitics will start entering into the equation though....large manufacturers are contemplating how to deal with China's aggressive stance on South China Sea, and that even includes Apple with their iPhones....
*** Which immediately got me thinking about these American Masters from Fine Woodworking, or Fine Homebuilidng - two fine publications which do nothing but scar people with unreasonable standards which are very challenging to execute. Do they build ASMT compliant dovetailed chests of drawers? 
****This is where I kind of surprised myself, after restoring that dresser from IKEA, with all the mods I did to it, how much sturdier that piece was - an heirloom piece people! heirloom!


One of the reasons why I fabricate and install - I adhere to the best practices, if I can improve it, I always do - the way that I do, is not only because I enjoy executing great craftsmanship, but also because it makes it safer. There always is a back-up to the back-up. I am insured for catastrophic events, but I rest easy knowing that build well. If I am 'hacking' - what I do is essentially re-size the pieces, at the same time keeping all the work done by IKEA - like the edging, pre-drilled shelf supports, etc. - and then the pieces get assembled to a commercial standard. Billy bookcases are easy - they are essentially 'sheet goods' and I throw in a sturdier back, through which I can fix the unit to the wall + a base+ top; and it looks good.  That's why HEMNES hacks are expensive, because they are all solid wood and any fabrication involves executing solid wood joinery. LIATORPs are hopeless, you cannot do anything with it - it's just a dressed up BILLY, and you actually have quite the flexibility at that point - you can make those BILLYs look fancy. BESTA units - go with custom doors on those, that's always my advice - modern Italian laminates done well - looks like a million bucks. I like SEKTION for ...kitchens and they need doors, so go with custom doors - IKEA kitchen with custom doors and elements, like large design elements - panels, cladding and columns - I like doing modern, and give preference to 'modern projects'. 

And my first instinct is to always go with panels from IKEA - you can get one 3' by 8' in any finish, but not all of them cut well - some I just avoid, because it is difficult to execute clean cuts, on professional equipment. If you are trying to merge 2 different systems - like SEKTION for lowers and BESTA for uppers - you will need a transition point - like a nice, thick horizontal slab, add element of curvature if you can, even 1" over 12 feet 'is felt' . You can achieve a good finish with paint - I use foam brushes, Benjamin Moore paints with an extender and paint flat then install. All the things I am mentioning you can see images of if you read the blog back - my work is exactly what I write about.

There are limitations to what I can achieve with IKEA hacking and I observe a specific standard. To overcome that problem I also do custom work. I recently launched a an offshoot of my design practice called 'film cabinetry' - so I reproduce the furniture or built-ins, or even interiors, from your favourite movies. 

How efficient is IKEA Hacking? It's the most efficient method of building cabinetry and millwork- I use it to build for myself [and a very busy family of 4 kids]. Any need that I require for furnishings or organization  I am certain that IKEA can at least partially satisfy, and do it in an efficient, affordable, environmentally sensitive way - I just have to adapt for my functional needs and my aesthetic requirements. But I am certain that the same principle can be applied to your situation - whether you do it yourself or you hire me to do it. 

I once received an 'inspirational image' of my own work, without the sender realizing that it was my work. 

And always best practices observed. 

I decline jobs which I feel the clients asks to compromise on design safety - they may not even realize where the risk might be. But it is my job as a designer and craftsman to identify those risks and eliminate them by suggesting solutions; typically that's where the increased costs lie - more work is required to achieve the desired effect in a safe manner. I really anticipate the un-anticipateable - I mentally run the project through worst case scenarios - I imagine the unreasonable - and I design accordingly. 

You really can't predict how your product will be used or instructions followed. 

I once built, as a design exercise at school, 'lightest chair ever'. When finished, it weighed a believe about a kilogram, I want to say - definitely no more than a 2kg bag of sugar.  I used a 1/4" Baltic Birch to construct the structure with 3/8" by 3/8" poplar fillet to increase bulkness of the corners, where the plywood met - I should upload a pic when I find one. I stress tested the chair extensively, and if I may add, the seat did not contribute to the strength of the structure, it was un-attached. Anyhow, most people did not enjoy the chair, because they found it to be 'too light' - it was a psychological barrier. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - the great Canadian MALM recall

[picture shows the best MALM chest of drawers hack]

these are my two favourite MALMS in the world..... mine. They are hacked, have some nifty 'media-unit' mods, because  I have a TV that sits on top [no worries, both the MALMs and that TV is very secured...]

*edit: there was a question how these were 'hacked' - well - I added some cross pieces to the back to make it more rigid; I installed leveling feet at six points along these 2 dressers - 4 corners plus middle; I screwed together the drawers and glued in the bottoms; both units are screwed together; there was a 'countertop' that was fabricated /w backsplash that was installed on top with a hidden channel for running the cabling; the faces and the countertop were covered with a vintage Italian laminate from Abet Laminati [from their Serigrafia collection - google it; it was so pretty!], matching and wrap-arounds.....AND I secured it to the wall.  It is a solid piece of custom funriture, people!

Chapter 1 - the great Canadian MALM recall

When the news hit that IKEA was recalling their MALM chests of drawers - due to possible risk of death or injury to young children I was shocked. The number that was put out was 6.6 million Canadian MALM units in existence, possibly used, possibly not properly anchored to the wall, possibly a risk of death to a young child, a possible class action lawsuit... And everyone owns a MALM chest of drawers - I personally own 4; I love them; so functional; design oh-so-so - it would be incredibly easy for anyone to join in, and win on multiples. If IKEA's legal decided to put forth a recall, they must have assumed that there existed a good chance of this happening and succeeding - I am not a lawyer, but from what I hear, the US is much more litigious and a successful US lawsuit launch could spark similar action here in Canada. I have no experience to assume how much 'payout per MALM would have been' but it was clearly out-weighted  by some very specific benefits that IKEA will reap out of this - legal, financial, creative, and social capital.


I read the IKEA official legal release very carefully. I love reading IKEA legal, it is so beautifully written - clean and accessible - just like their furniture. This recall puts IKEA at strongest legal position to defend themselves. IKEA is very specific on what it is recalling - 

"unattached chests of drawers that do not meet the free-standing stability requirements of the ASTM standard"

Ok. Have you bought a chest of drawer from IKEA in the past few years? Did you follow the assembly instructions? Even though they are only 'picture-beings' [don't want to offend anyone with 'it's a man or woman or gender-fluid or ...' as that can turn into a minefield; let's focus on the piece of furniture], you have to follow them exactly - it is a contract between you and IKEA. If you skipped any steps then IKEA could argue that you have nullified your rights and their obligations - that is why 'IKEA Hacking' is so troubling for IKEA. 

So I think that as a purchaser of IKEA Malm, if you bring it back to the store for a refund, you acknowledge that it is 'un-attached' and that weakens your legal position... After the recall notice went out I immediately checked all the Malms that I owned - the oldest ones do not feature the sticker that warns you about the importance of anchoring to the wall and the danger of tip-over. I sure did violate my contract with IKEA on that piece...I bought it at the AS-IS section few months back.

Then comes the ASTM standard - read this carefully - 

'that meet the voluntary North American ASTM standard requirements on free-standing stability

That's right, that standard is voluntary. By doing the recall IKEA has not altered their argument  that they believe that safest way for free-standing chest of drawers is that they 'be anchored to the wall with the hardware provided' - but is it 'free-standing', by definition though, right? And also, by choosing to follow the ASTM standard IKEA reduces/shifts the risk for the safety of the design. Smart move - that's why people get insurance for their businesses - things sometimes happen - you want to protect yourself. 


I will argue that the recall cost here will be quite insignificant. Follow my reasoning on this one. This is the least expensive way of dealing with this problem - yes, it will cost money, but this method minimizes the cost. The number of units for which the refund or store credit will be issued will be tiny. Number one, I will assume that reasonable people followed the instructions and anchored their tall dressers to the wall as instructed - say only X numbers will be un-anchored and thus represent financial liability. That number is further reduced by the number of people who are willing go right now to their dressers and empty their fully functional Malms of all their contents - socks, shirts, underwear, etc. - dump it on the floor, ie. make a giant mess - and haul it over [as you do not need to disassemble it to get a refund; ha! that would be cruel!] to IKEA. And THEN find matching replacement dressers - with category to satisfy being volume of storage and style. 

That number of people who are willing to do that, I think, is very slim. 

Then the 'financial cost of the recall' is further reduced as not all dressers qualify for a refund - some get partial store credit. Read - 

'Chests of drawers manufactured prior to 2002 will be eligible for a partial store credit.'

And then, FINALLY, any reasonable individual who is genuinely concerned with this recall and the state of their un-anchored MALMs will likely chose the much, much easier route and just pick up a free wall anchoring kit - part of IKEA's 'Secure it' campaign - at a store OR IKEA can have it delivered to you dwelling go home and just attach it to the wall. And what if you are not do not possess the skills necessary to do so? Well IKEA provides a number that you can call, and - read - 

'and we will work with them to find out what the best resolution is for that customer.'

That number is 1- 800-661-9807. I will call that number and find out exactly where it leads, and will report back. 

Final thoughts on 'Financial' - so? how much is it gonna cost? Not that much as the number '6.6 million' would suggest. It's gonna be much, much less. Much less than the cost of a successful lawsuit. 


Hey! IKEA will use this as a great opportunity to design and launch with much fanfare [!!] - read - 

We are also working on new products that will meet (or exceed) the ASTM standard and our solutions will be shared with the whole industry without charge.

a whole new line of ASTM compliant chests of drawers! If this is not a great opportunity to not only be creative but also to 'sock'em rock'em' your 'competition' [I put that last word in quotations marks, as the question begs 'does IKEA really have competition?'] than I don't know what is. Think about all the other furniture manufacturers and importers that will suddenly find themselves in the spotlight for being 'non ASTM F2057-14 standard compliant'. I know that if I ever design, mass produce and release to the public a chest of drawers, than I will surely spend that $44 to purchase all the info associated with ASTM F2057-14 standard, to ensure that it is compliant. 

And finally;

Social Capital!

I love IKEA. Everyone does. And I love them even more, now, that they are so pro-active and want to save themselves some coin so they can keep lowering the prices for us ordinary folk - although I caught millionaires shopping at IKEA! 

They are being honest, straight forward, upfront and easy to understand. They are taking a lead on this one - they will be the ones narrating this story. They will be the ones creating the dialogue and pushing it where they want it. They are showing leadership and corporate responsibility. Even blemishes like these, which could potentially turn into nightmares, IKEA turns into an opportunity to shine. Watch this video, 

this is IKEA Canada president, Stefan Sjostrand, talking about the challenge that they are facing with this recall. Mr. Sjostrand should not quit his day job - he is not a 'natural YouTuber' - the video - all taken in a single shot monologue; a Woody Allen specialty- is somewhat painful to watch, with the awkward body language, punctuated with the occasional 'pronounciation slip-ups' - good lighting though; 'no tie, get things done' attitude and with the top-button undone on a non-descript dress shirt, he comes across as genuine and caring, in his reserved Swedish way. 

IKEA comes across as genuine and caring, in its reserved, legal, Swedish way. 

Because they are. And so what if they are making billions doing so?
IKEA really is going to change the world. 

*another one my IKEA Hacks. So I actually design and build free standing or free-hanging furniture pieces. I recently launched a brand called 'film cabinetry', which does furniture styled after a movies - you can have anything that you want, I particularly enjoy modern design based on IKEA hacked pieces. I style my apartment after Woody Allen movies. 

I love laminates. I have access to some vintage Italian laminates -  I use them extensively - and I am sitting on some really pretty ones - I have one from Diafos collection - I wrote about this piece before. Another I am turning into a piece of art. This piece I called the 'Canadian Iceberg', Diafos white from ABET - not available anymore - the quality of the surface is that of the ice. Stunning. 

[pictures shows a hanging SEKTION hack clad in exterior luxury Italian laminate]