Friday, January 22, 2016

I met John, from Semihandmade and it CHANGED my life.

[edit: this post was written at 2 am in the morning, after I came back from a party]

I think we both hate our pictures taken, but it had to be done. I met John McDonald of Semihandmade today - at the Toronto Interior Design show - and it changed my life - in a business sense. John McDonald is a great American businessman. This is a story of good design, innovation and great entrepreneurial spirit. I have been watching the Semihandmade story unfold over the last few years - IKEA has been hard on Semihandmade. 'IKEA can't pretend that it is cool when it comes down hard on people like us,' says John, 'there can be a real disconnect between what is happening at the street level and the corporate.' His marketing strategy - 'Instagram, we put it out and see how much we get back' - Semihandmade looks real good on Instagram - 'Ah,' I say, 'it's Insta-worthy'. It is clear that social media plays a large role the marketing of the product - but that is the way of the future, or now, actually.  In some way a large and loyal following gets to decide which product goes to the market. And the thing about IKEA kicking them out of the Interior Design Show? 'I think it was all a big misunderstanding,' says John. He used the words 'the Perfect Storm' - first, IKEA has the biggest booth and they are launching their brand spakin' new kitchen system, IKEA logo prominently featured on every piece of paper handed out, and then they saw him and freaked out. IKEA since apologized and paid all his expenses, and he is back this year with even better line-up - great designer collaborations. What strikes me about him is how straight forward and honest businessman he is - he just wants to do his thing. And IKEA not being here this year? 'They probably just don't care,' he says. Suddenly my strong suspicion that IKEA threw a hissy fit and not showed up evaporates - John is likely right. IKEA knows it's got the market cornered. It doesn't really need IDS anymore. 

'Any advice for me?' I ask. 'Stay true to yourself,' says John. And we chat even more. I get an autograph and we snap a picture. 'Keep it rockin' in the free world, John!' I say as I walk away. I like America. 
ps. He wanted to be a screenwriter before he did Semihandmade. 
pps. He says that he's done his share of 'innovating' and 'sleeping on the couch', right now he just wants to run a successful business. 
pps. I think John paved a way for a lot of us IKEA Hackers that make a living out of what we do,  and respect must be paid. 

'Keep it rockin' in the free world!'

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

January is Design Week - again - WITH pictures!

Chapter 1 - Location, Location, Location!

This is to put people minds at ease that there is work happening in the shop. Yeas, I work. Always. Work is always produced. Here is the location of my next project - people who live in Toronto, Canada, will recognize that landmark instantly. 

And here is the picture of craftsmanship that is going into this project. When I design kitchens - IKEA Hack kitchens - I take the design through a 'mental review' and I identify 'areas of first aesthetic failures' - so areas of you millwork that will experience conditions that will affect the 'first initial awesome look of your kitchen' first and I implement solutions that will greatly delay that sad occurrence in the life of any millwork.... And the grey form ABET, from their Super-Matte collection, is just stunning - I said it before, in my video - it's just like working with pure colour. It's really, really nice.

See, so for example all the panels that go to the floor have piece of exterior grade ply at the bottom, and are then post-laminated. That the penetration of moisture - which always occurs - is virtually reduced to nothing. Millwork looks best for years. 

Chapter  2 - TO DO festival opening party. 

If it was not for Design Week, then January would be just another long, cold month in Canadian winter. Last night was the festival opening, a hot Monday night party* - opening of TO DO Festival - at Shopify offices on Spadina ave. Hey! you cannot get more hip as a tech startup success when your work space is used as a venue where people dress in black [industry colour; I break that mould though, I wore green pants with a grey cashmere v-neck AND my work boots], talk design, see their friends, drink and dance. But occasionally you spot the wild-cards, like this guy [I told him, 'it's gonna go on the blog, people will see it,' and he's like 'I'm cool with that' ---->>

He was a young artist and he was rocking the most awesome non-traditional moustache and cool 90's original Adidas sweat-top. He stood out - man is living a dream I say. That's why I always say that you should love what you do for a living - it is like living a dream, always, everyday.  

If you check out the TO DO Instagram page, you will see the ridiculous line up outside and it was freezing - a venue of apparently rated for 350 folks received 1200 RSVPS! It's good I RSVP'ed earliest possible - I want my name on that list! 

 I think it is also indicative of how much the festival has grown. I remember, and wrote about it, when it was just like 7 dynamic - leaders, I say - creative individuals who said 'let's put on a show'....and it has just blown up since then. Another curious difference that I noticed between the TO DO festival and the big Interior Design Show, is the youthful ignorance and youthful arrogance present in the crowd - good qualities I say. While waiting 40 minutes in line to get in, I managed to overhear tons of 'youthful talk' - big designer dreams, artsy and risky challenges taken on, speculative pieces that no one will buy made - but that is the advantage of being young and inexperienced. I was like that once too** - I kind of feel old and experienced now, and I don't really take big risks any more - rather, my experience allows me to execute carefully scripted narratives and decisions which have a rather low risk of failure and often carry long term, 'professionally-positive' implications [Yeezus! no young person ever writes like that!] Not every one will make it in this group. [Group A]

IDS on the other hand is has a very confident vibe - it's the best showing - it's for people people who already sell or have solid chances for selling - commercially [Group B]. Best and good work - but it is just a different vibe. 

And a positive thing is that some people will move from Group A to Group B. That's how it works. 


*hot Monday night parties, I would say, are for young-'er' people. You can't party hard on a Monday night and have a clear head on Tuesday morning. Ha! but that is why I planned ahead and reduced my workload to make sure that I can fit some late night events, and I will be attending a symposium on the topic of 'Good Design', on Saturday - a rather academic event and will write about it. I greatly enjoy the academic and philosophical aspect of Design. 

** this was one my speculative pieces...I also recall rejecting a rejection letter - I applied to participate in a show and they said 'NO'. And so I wrote in telling that I am rejecting their rejection letter and why they should put me in the show - but they still rejected me. Hahahaha!

***But I did do something 'youthful', 'rule-breaking', something which I rarely do. After the party ended at 11:30, I went back to the shop to help a friend build his table - cause it was like due yesterday and it's got to go into a show that I will see and write about on Friday! Boy....I am tired today!

1:30 am in the morning leaving shop...tired.

[edit: I went to see the UMBRA's Living Small show last night - kind of philosophical and really blew my mind. We are spoiled here in the Toronto Metropolis]

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

SEKTION up for review - prices WILL go UP in 2016.

People, this is your last chance to take advantage of the remnants of the 'higher Canadian dollar'...

Take advantage of the IKEA Surprise Winter Kitchen event, because prices are only going up from here. 

Watch the video! - prices rising in 2016

Chapter 1  -  SEKTION up for review - IKEA will have to revise the price

Yes, no one saw the global oil price plunge - not even China, which invested huge sums of money in the Canadian Oil Sands. The Canadian dollar - once on par with the American dollar - has now plunged to barely above the 70 cents mark. That means anything that we ship into this country has become more expensive, and that means for everyone including IKEA Canada. The world has gotten a lot less stable ever since than - regardless how nicely IKEA wants to paint it. Want it or not - geopolitics will start entering into the sourcing equation. 

Look, I went to replace some broken cups at IKEA - different colour marks 'different generation' in our household - the sticker hasn't come off in the wash yet - and IKEA already switched suppliers!

It has been exactly a year since IKEA launched their new kitchen system -SEKTION - with great fanfare at the Interior Design Show 2015. IKEA typically publishes an annual catalogue for their products which marks 'highest price' for that year. Than twice [typically] a year they will have a sale on a specific line - so a PAX wardrobe sale, Kitchen event - people wait for those sales!

People will plan their renovation around those sales. Here is a little insight for those not in the design/build profession - the general state of the renovation industry is clearly correlated to activity on my blog. That means there are times when people 'plan their renos'- I will see a spike in readership of specific blog entries. Then there is the amount of emails that I receive - questions, inquiries, requests for quotes, etc.  - right now, during the IKEA Kitchen Event, the blog is peaking! That's why I try to stay current, that's why I blog - relevant fresh IKEA news! I know how IKEA

But back to SEKTION - yes there is a group of components that are made in the USA - that includes their SEKTION boxes, that includes some of their plastics - those items are all priced in US dollars. So what's IKEA going to do? Lower their profits and pass the savings on to us - their customers OR will IKEA maintain their enormous profits and raise their prices

I chuckle when my wife - who reads my blog - tells me 'but you are hurting IKEA with your blogging' - no I don't. Here is another insight, dear reader - IKEA does not have friends, they only have customers.** Yea, let your soft hearts fall to the floor with a fleshy thud - it's true. IKEA is a corporation that has 'making money' as their main objective - they might be doing it in a more ethical way, BUT lowest cost is still king. I have a cousin, in Europe, who works a global sourcing position for a large corporation - you know the lifestyle, travels all over the globe, eats at fancy restaurants and stays in hotels that have 'infinity pools' - and he is familiar with IKEA sourcing situation. He uses the Polish word 'zylowac'* - which roughly translates to 'stretching their muscles' with a slightly negative connotation. 

And that is what IKEA will have to do.

Chapter 2 - Matching grain on doors and cabinets ....what's that? 

oh...forgot....someone was asking, 'what do you mean by matching the grain on cabinetry?' This is an example of ABET Laminati work I've done, notice how the grain matches all around.... -> It's a PAX hack.......'But where is the PAX?' someone asked. 'Exactly,' I said. You don't see it. It's custom cabinetry.

This is a very nice PAX Hack. Only nice designs coming from Studio Kosnik!

*IKEA's entire LACK series is produced in Poland, along with  tons of upholstery. 

** IKEA does have a brilliant Social Media strategy though! Good job IKEA!