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]

Monday, June 13, 2016

How to successfully DESIGN and BUILD and IKEA kitchen ISLAND - and good ideas overall.

Chapter 1 - IKEA Kitchen Islands

[This entry turned into a total rant, skip to the end for RELEVANT Ikea island information]

So you have made a wise decision to add some functionality to your kitchen space - you've made a decision to add an kitchen island. Awesome! Great move! You have been to IKEA and have been looking at their SEKTION kitchens thinking - 'hey! there is an opportunity there! I can do some - OR ALL!! - of the work myself and save money! 

To that statement I will add the following - 

Not only will you save money, but if you follow my instructions and videos you will gain a better understanding on how to take maximum advantage of IKEA's system, optimize your design for your situation, and learn some nifty cabinet tricks* that you will be able to use in all your other woodworking projects. 

I will take you to semi-pro level! 

I've been designing and building island cabinetry all my life - no! not really! - but I've been doing it long enough [at least 15 years+] to make some good observations, gain major insight into things that work and things that don't  - and I want to share that with you. 

Keep following the blog - videos to follow.

Some portion of  calls that I get about installing or 'expanding upon' the island cabinetry, are from individuals that already had an experience of designing and assembling their own IKEA kitchen. And they are not happy about their experience - they point out all the flaws  - 'they don't like this, or they don't like that', or they 'had to compromise on this', or they 'forgot about that'.

Now, I will admit to you, I guess because I do it all the time - designing and installing IKEA cabinetry, hacking, modifying it, 'doing-it-not-by-the-book' - it feels like a second nature to me. I don't think about it - when faced with a question, cunundrum, 'cabinet-dilemma' - my mind immediately starts 'optimizing', and if it can't optimize, then I right away seek a 'hacked a solution'. It is still is the best price-point around. 

But then I put myself in the shoes of that person. And I think long and hard about this! - How many times, do you think, will you ever get to design and install a kitchen, based on the IKEA Sektion system? Once, maybe twice in your life...That's it.**

These are optimized solutions. Examples like these:

[picture shows SEKTION cabinet hacks, installed as a regular kitchen, this look cannot be achieve by standard installation] So the one side of this peninsula is 3 x 30" cabinets back to back. One side is set up as a 'living room side', all with 10" drawers - that's optimum organization. And the other side is set-up as a kitchen side - built in microwave, some drawers, one box. To give that piece of cabinetry a bit more distinction - and to deal with a sloping floor [older house] I installed them higher - at 38" height to the top of the stone. The area serves as a 'transition point' - the different height 'breaks it away' from the kitchen - black slab doors and white Cesarstone countertop [the other side of the kitchen is all stainless steel tops] is a great, distinct contrast that creates a strong focal point. Nice! Other than that, that is an 'IKEA hack' corner unit. Not seen - 24" deep uppers over the huge fridge - all tucked in the corner - that's right! IKEA installers can't do that!

Also, original plan was to go with that traditional IKEA valance moulding underneath the uppers. And I was like, 'Why? It just eats away at the window that the client had put in over the sink!' See, a better solution is to use the panels - cut them down to size - and then use them to clad the uppers all around. Looks like a million bucks and you get more light!

Yea, good solutions all around. People get what people want. #TrueDat!

So, I always ask myself - you get the best of Studio Kosnik, absolutely best suggestions and best solutions for your IKEA kitchen, which by far I think is THE BEST DEAL AROUND -  is 20% more on the install portion of your project really that great? And, if you are really, really hurting for a 'custom look', then I can design you and build you some custom 'kitchen structures', panels, covers, AND DOORS too!

[picture shows SEKTION hack with floating shelves above it and seamless Italian laminate backsplash]

Or this:

[picture shows SEKTION hack with built-in Subzero and Wolf appliances] 
These are both IKEA hack kitchens made to look 'like a million bucks'! Custom doors, custom sizing, custom countertop depths [that top pic is a 28" Cesarstone top matched to the depth of the appliance - for a seamless look.  Unless you get a designer, then the other kitchen bloke would have just done 25", cause that's what he is used to and he doesn't think much about it]. 

Here is a little point I want to share with you -

if you are planning to renovate your space, hiring me on the project will result in you making only the best, optimized decisions. Yes, I understand some decisions are costlier than the others, BUT you are already renovating, you are already spending money - spend that money wisely! You should always have a buffer built in and think long term. 

A friend asks me for an opinion - he is renovating his basement, finishing it. And he tells me that he 'doesn't want this to become money pit', outlines his reasons. And I say, 'Hold on. Any space that you intend to become usable will carry long term costs, there is no such thing as a 'net-zero' space. You need to keep it heated, and dry - at minimum - and that requires compromises. So losing 1.5" in height overall by insulating the concrete slab will result in heated floor transferring the heat up - into the room! where you want it! - as opposed to heating 'Mother Earth', which doesn't need our help in keeping hot, with all that global warming talk and all. 

Sorry got off on a rant here.

So IKEA can suck it with their install guides, because I just find them annoying. That's why my blog ranks high and gets the hits, because I provide info that IKEA misses.  

The problem with IKEA installation instruction [or lack thereof] is the fact that they are assuming 'ideal environment'. And you likely won't understand what I mean until you are already hanging/mounting SEKTION boxes against a wonky wall trying to make it in-line and level - just to realize that you forgot to include some extra clearance for the handles. 

I am greatly tempted sometimes to offer like a Saturday, 6 hours course, on how to prepare for an IKEA Sektion install. I would go over the basics [don't get too excited about having assembled all your boxes....that's the easiest part], offer suggestions, tips and tricks on actual starting and and how to do it properly; then go into how to deal with peninsulas and finally the dreaded KITCHEN ISLANDS.... 

Did you know that the walls at IKEA stores [at least that is what my source told me, a manager at an IKEA store] are custom made in a factory in Sweden and then shipped globally to all the stores? Weird eh? That means that IKEA is able to completely control their install environment for what I call 'optimum presentation'. That is what sells - optimum presentation! You are walking through a space that has been optimized for flatness, leveleness, squareness and plumbness [I am not sure if all these are dictionary words but that is what cabinetry needs to be]. Not only that, they had some creative people put together all that cabinetry for best presentation. And, you, dear reader, are loving it. Don't feel guilty! I love it too. I am still waiting for my own 'dream kitchen' - which will be the IKEA Sektion box, paired with my install and amazing custom doors that I will all build myself. 

You would not believe what conflict I have with my wife over the kitchen, that we still don't have! See, back in my young days I got to work in a professional kitchen!*** I cooked! I had the flames going! Clean up was a breeze! Sure, so some stuff spilled on the stove, screw that! you got 5 more minutes to get that meal ready! Commercial dishwasher with a 3-to-8 minute cycle! At the end of the night I would just hose off and scrub everything! You cannot imagine the pleasure of cooking in that environment! I love cooking!

But she wants 'shaker doors' and 'charming handles' and 'nice taps'....And I say - But that is not practical! What is this?! I am all about things being practical and lasting! 

Oh boy.....where is this blog entry going....this is not the end....but I got to make myself a meal in a non-practical ktichen! lol!

Hahaha! should always love what you do for a living!

* that I myself learned from an my old Chinese mentor, Peter, who studied woodworking technology in Hong Kong while it was still a city still independent of the Chinese rule! He has long retired, but I hold his wisdom, advice and criticism in great respect, as he has taught me how to build with utmost practicality. 

**This is potentially embarassing, but it is like me, 'trying to do my brakes on my car'. I'm a handy guy. I got professional grade tools coming out of the wazoo. I see 19 year old kids at at car garage doing the brakes and a lot more all the time! C'mon! How hard can it be?! don't work like that. After 6 hours of tinkering around I am back to the starting point, hoping [and praying] and I put back all the original components back on correctly and booking the next available appointment at my mechanic. Your life is on the line... 

*** Islington Golf Club, Toronto, Canada. 

**** But people will ask: 'is he really an opitmizer?' 
I am. I apply optimization to every aspect of my life, including fashion.