Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - What about the Billy Bookcase? - Design Festival Entry

[picture shows a Studio Kosnik designed fireplace with media on-top, /w flex-panel; flanked by series of hacked, built-in Billy bookcases, featuring OXBERG doors, custom base, extra trim and crown mouldings] 

That's my entry to the ToDo 2018 Design Festival. I put it there so it lures the eyes, hopefully. But I do think that this is a nice design - the bookcases fit well, and the fireplace is media friendly [there is a hidden cavity that all the cables run to].

But for the show I am gonna produce some free-standing pieces - more like a nice piece of furniture - a bookcase that all you would need to do is just attach it to the wall. One is going to be modern - very modern. The other is going to be 'Fancy French' - I don't know why I keep calling it that, I guess when I am imagining the final piece, it draws heavily on those rich European interiors that populate my Instagram feed. Yea, I am a definitely a fan of 'trim' - I think a nicely design trim work can elevate the space dramatically, for a comparably low cost. I make it look like a million buck$!

Chapter 1 - The on-line listing is up for ToDo2018 - check it out!

I am gonna start the countdown to the show - that’s how much time I got to prepare, on top of doing working ‘regular job’. I am not complaining - I find that I resolve great deal of design challenges while designing and building for clients - and this show is not going to be different. I am a designer, creative-mind, first and I want to showcase that within the parameteres, resitrictions, of all the work that I take on. Often times it is on the aesthetic portion of it - I sneak in my passion for furniture design into it, by experimenting, see my Instagram to see what I am talking about. But a lot of the times it is just good, practical resolutions to problems like cable management and organization, or viewing angles, or ease of upgrades, etc. Often times I make some outrages suggestions that, as I put it, ‘are only limited by the cost to execute’ - we are not talking about some super fancy designs, more like ‘this, in my opinion, would be the absolute optimum solution for the use of this space’ - and it is often the combination of the flexibility of product and price point of IKEA.

Friday, January 19, 2018, is my PRACTICAL day - I will talk about SKETION and BESTA. I will talk about why I think those two are my ‘GO TO BOXES’. You know, IKEA Hacking is so incredibly popular with the DIY crowd that there are literally thousands of good and great hacks out there - just use the great GOOGLE search engine. It proves that there are some handy AND creative people out there - but they are amateurs, even when done by pros.


I know. I know. There are countless pro installers out there, BUT it is a rare occurance that the DESIGER ALSO INSTALLS. Usually those jobs are separated. The designers will work within the very restrictive IKEA PLANNER TOOL - make sure that there are no 'red areas' and stops. The installer gets a print out and does it.  I think that disconnect is a great barrier to creativity.


I mean, think about this - how many times will an individual design and install an IKEA Sektion kitchen? How many? 2 tops! I say! Now someone like me, who works with these boxes, over and over and over again. And thinks about how to optimize them and be more flexible with them ALL THE TIME - I tend to notice things - things that work really well… I notice things that improve your experience - small things that when resolved initially will down-stream produce a great installation experience - not just that! a great design! I will tell you, that IT IS THE GREATEST pleasure when you adjust your doors or drawer fronts - as that is the last step - and all the gaps are even and balanced and the design looks flawless… It is inspirational. That’s all I can tell you. When you step away from a project and you say to yourself, ‘You know what? I am done. Done. Done. Done.’ Because there is nothing absolutely that you can add or change anymore. Everything is perfect. That’s when I walk away from the project.

I think SEKTION especially - because it comes with SOOOO MANY styles of doors and panels and accessories - is great for desiging and hacking. It means less sourcing out and more of focusing on making it look nice, NO!, making it look like a million buck$. Hahahaha! 

Yeezus! I am just having too much fun.

Chapter 2 - Yea, it is scary.

Because it is really serious. In some ways my career will be defined by these events that I put on - it all has to be top notch content. And some topics.....? Controversial...... Non-main stream. But I think it is unavoidable - some things are changing and taking on new directions and it just HAS TO BE SAID, someone has to be first.  

Why? Because I think I make the right observations. Maybe because I am *********. Yea! I am gonna reveal something personal about myself, which I think will be a big step forward for me, and hopefully inspire others.

I look back on my school experience with fondness, I was already a father - back when it was still Sheridan College, Craft + Design program. In my class, I met a very, very wise Indian man - he was Canadian, but born in India. I think he told me that he was a Buddhist. And he was an architect, with several years of experience under his belt, about 10 years older than me. I was attracted to his 'cool and wise' demeanour - I confined in him many times and he become - jokingly - 'my colour guru'. In his design practice he was already experimenting with 'form and colour', while I was still stuck in the 'structure and grain' phase - that's what I would call it.

AND HE TOLD ME - and that is precisely why 'Buckskin Baby Review' was created - over 120 pieces were written!; my 'de-stijl days' happened; large portion of my creative, unsold undertakings were built; this is why 'IKEA HACK' - he said - 'Karol, if it DOES NOT EXIST, and you feel very strongly about it - then you should CREATE IT.'

Yep, so here I am - 'creating'.

Hopefully it goes well. 


Monday, September 25, 2017

How to hack the ALGOT system - OPTIMIZE!

[picture shows ALGOT shelving system installed by Studio Kosnik inside a sliding-door closet]

Chapter 1 - Algot Love

It is the most annoying when an article that you want is not on sale at IKEA. Usually you can expect that a product line that you want to purchase - and thus massively improve the functionality of your space, could be PAX or Sektion or even Besta - will go on sale at least once a year. I would say do all your planning first and then purchase when the sale hits. If you need an installer, research one - when the time hits it will be a seamless transition - from the box to the wall. There! Fixed to the wall - means it is safe - done PROPERLY. 

SO with EXCITEMENT I learned that the IKEA threw a wardrobe sale. Nah, I wasn't looking at PAX - although NOW IS THE TIME TO BUY THEM. I was looking for ALGOT**. Algot is this great system that I think is only now getting the recognition that it deserves. 

What is ALGOT? - ALGOT is a wall mounted, modular, very flexible storage system. I imagine the beginnings of ALGOT in a scenario like this: IKEA designers said 'let's design the best wall mounted system that will be very cheap to produce, fairly easy to install, and will offer a great number of storage options.' And they did just that. ALGOT is sooo awesome - it is simple, and intuitive and works well across other IKEA platforms - like boxes and baskets. 

Because it is so utilitarian - it ain't a looker - it is best if it is hidden from view - like a small, maybe cramped, walk-in closet; floor-2-ceiling slidings doors closets are good candidates for it too. Walk-in pantries are a good match with ALGOT. 

A small, cramped walk-in closet transforms dramatically with some new lights and two walls of algot - this one is for 'HER'. 

[picture shows an inside of a small walk-in closet that features ALGOT shelving unit - for 'HER']

First of all notice the integrated hanging rods below the shelves. That allows you to hang your jackets, shirts, etc. - anythings that requires a hanger. Below that are the pull out baskets - think socks, and small stuff that needs organizing and you got bazzillion of. Next to it, on the bottom is a shoe rack. Got more shoes? You can always box them and store them above, right? AND that tall space? Well, that's for your 'long things' - like jackets or dresses.  

Other side is just shelves and pull out large baskets. Of course, keep in mind that those dynamic components are NOT as sturdy as a built PAX drawer, or a custom built drawer /w BLUM slides. Ahh no....   but you know what? I don't really care that much - I can put up with a bit of flimsiness when it comes at such an awesome price - check out the pricing on the combinations, it really is incredible. 

My fave portion of this closet? You know what? Surprisingly..... It's that single vertical rod with all those baskets! I think that combo is like within $60 Canadian, and you got tons of storage off a single stud! Belts, scarves, little things - pair that up with a mirror and it's an 'accessories blast' - just sooo much storage for little things. 

Alright, so OK - ALGOT is awesome. So where is this ALGOT hack? What is this awesome hack that you speak of Karol? 

OK- here is the greatest ALGOT Hack of all times - hahahaha! -  so I was doing a pantry one day - small, windowless room, right next to the kitchen - about 36" wide by about 7 feet in length. I don't know where you shop 4 food, but one of MY favourite stores to shop for food is COSTCO. And as you can imagine, COSTCO sells COSTCO size packages of food. 

- 32 cans of club soda? [i think, check!]
- giant bags of dog-food - I got a dog; small, but it still eats;
- rice bags - 50lbs;
- boxes of cans, etc. 

So think, that part of the solution will have to involve moving, big and heavy bags and boxes on and off ALL THE TIME. That is what I call a dynamic load - and you know what? - drywall ain't the best for holding fasteners that are used to attach the vertical rails of the ALGOT system. Eventually they will fail, and when that happens, I know - no, I am certain - that I will get a call back. Call back along the lines - 'Yea, hi Karol, the shelves you mounted are NOT sturdy....'. And you know what? - I don't want that. SO while it easy to plan to catch SOME of the verticals on the studs [every 16" or 24"] but you can't catch them all.... or can you. 


[picture shows a diagram of ALGOT shelving unit with backing strips installed] 

Grab a sheet of 3/4" Douglas fir ply, good-1-side - that means that the sheet has one nice face - that's gonna be the visible face. Rip it down [cut it lengthwise] into 3" strips. Install those strips horizontally on the wall - the top strip should mark the top of the vertical rod, and the bottom strip should mark the bottom of the vertical rods. Space the other two strips equally between the top and the bottom. Use adhesives on the back of those strips [I ALWAYS us adehsives - PL500 is my favourite] and screw them to the studs [or drill them into concrete if you have to]. Wait one day for the adhesive to set - those strips will be ROCK solid!

NOW proceed to install the ALGOT vertical rods! With the nice looking [that's why 'good-1-side'!] plywood as your back-up for screws you do not have to worry about the holding power of the screws in drywall OR the spacing!  Use #8 woodworking screws and it is solid. 

Just as a side note - when I was done with that pantry, I did some calculations - totally maxed out those IKEA Algot shelves - 3600 lbs!. 3600lbs of food could safley be stored on those shelves! Too bad I don't have pic of that project - lost my data to a computer crash - BECAUSE my computer was not connected to the cloud at that time.... 

** it is with greatest disappointment I learned that ALGOT is not part of 'wardrobes, but HOME ORGANIZATION?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Designer - Karol Kosnik - but a Maker and Hacker too.

[picture shows an outline of a built it taped out on a wall - part of  Karol Kosnik's  design process]

Chapter 1 - Thoughts on furniture design. 

This is it  - you either make it or you don't - is there a demand for your vision of the world or not?

I do think that every product designer that graduates from a design school - and by 'product' I mean specifically things that people will interact with directly or in-directly - hopes that they have a unique vision - they have 'the' vision for something that will change the world.  And nothing could be further from the truth than furniture designers. 

We all need furniture. We also know well what a good chair feels like, what comfortable sofa is like, what a handsome credenza functions like - in some ways it's the universality of the human experience - our quest to surround ourselves with objects we find beautiful. 

Right now, this weekend it's the ICFF - International Contemporary Furniture Fair - or at least that's what I think the acronym stands for. People I know, contemporaries, friends are there right now, in New York City, presenting their products and ideas to an audience of industry people - architects, designers, people interested in good design. 

I am religiously following the hashtags on Insta - successful furniture in some way is purely visuals - if you are not captured by it visually you are unlikely to explore it further - I've never been attracted to ugly furniture, and had no desire to really test them, UNLESS, they were in a category that 'it's-SO-Bad-that-its-GOOD [things like that do exist, I believe]. Yeezus, some of the designs are good, and I really like some of them, and some I saw thought were just mediocre [so execution is flawless - some people get trapped in that often, focusing on the skill rather than the design; once you are a master of some skill  it is important to still grow and challenge yourself - one way to do it is to design withing your expert field]. 

I just had this crazy idea - that if you can ask about your creation - is it reasonable? and if the answer is 'yes' than it is not art. I think art needs to have an unpredictable component.

But back to ICFF. No way I am ICFF ready. I don't think I have enough of a strength in my ideas just yet, to show, and be very successful. I don't want to sound cocky or anything - but I do want to sound confident. It's been like 10 years since my first show - the first Radiant Dark - we showed Jackie Treehorn, that table that was stolen from me - check my Instagram for that story and the visuals, if tickles your fancy. I remember sneaking some liquor to the opening party that time - and what audacity - we re-used original plastic LCBO bags, they were great and people re-used them for other things too. Why? What artist/designer would sneak some liquor to their own opening? I don't know - I can't remember - I was young and stupid - I can't answer that question, but I am assuming that there was a perfectly logical and reasonable explanation for that. It was a blast! It was a good party! - that's what I remember!

It was a bit overwhelming this Design Week - I did not anticipate such an amazing response, but it only makes me thirstier for another great show. Yea, I had some good and great ideas, but nothing of enough of a calibre to make a serious dent on scene such as New York - that's real big leagues. And I dare not even phantom Milan - yeezus! that is like at least 5-8 years away. But people are doing, so why not?

Chapter 2 - In the mean-time.

When I don't design and build furniture I attend to projects like these. 

[picture shows PAX boxes being installed within a wall cavity]

I am gonna spare you the write up on why I like the PAX - I've written on it extensively [hit the PAX label on my blog]. But the critical key to a successful PAX is the install portion. Plus if you want to make it look like a million bucks than you definitely need to hire me. If your house has gracefully aged - like this one for example - to straighten it out would require tremendous effort, in the process completely wrecking a lot of the finishes  - like old marble floors, built-in cabinetry - which also nicely settled. 

This one is a rescue, the installation already happened - but it was so grotesque [that's the only word that came to my mind; like a bad clown] - that it just needed to be rescued. This portion of the project is just an exercise in keeping things plumb, level and square. The next step will make this project 'pretty' - I am considering how to 'make it look like a million buck$' - ain't nothing wrong with that. Plus there will be some nice custom bookcases to the left. 

*edit: people are upset that I wrote that it is a 'rescue install' - let me state that there are wonderful trades out there who do an awesome job - but cabinetry [which includes IKEA cabinetry] is a special trade. You have realize that in order to install cabinetry properly - for it to not only look good but function properly - YOU DO NEED TO INSTALL it PLUMB, SQUARE and LEVEL. If you won't do that it will not work properly. Sometimes it means having to hack the cabinetry, OR doing some small OR major tricks to get it to sit properly. I've been making IKEA cabinetry look good for ages now - I know what I am doing, I know what is required. IKEA cabinets were not meant to be installed by everyone, yea, sad truth. 

Once I am finished I will upload some pics.

I think it's gonna look really good. 



Client sent in some finished pics. Here they are. She is still hoping that I will be able to hide that horrible slope in the floor [as referenced to the cabinetry]. And I do have some ideas on how to do it!

Remember, regardless of whether you want just install, build it in, or 'make it look like a million buck$' - PAX  closets are THE BEST DEAL AROUND! And the flexibility of hardware, fittings, shelves, organizers, boxes, baskets, 'hanging-things' means that once the box is installed it can be customized by the end user - no need for expensive call-backs!

[picture shows built-in, add-on bookcases - design meant to blend in with the existing fireplace]
[picture shows a built-in PAX wardrobe with IKEA doors painted to match the trim; the best; best part is the entrance door to the room swings within 1/4" of the decorative side panel and crown. ]

[picture shows PAX wardrobes installed on an un-even, sloping floor]

** there were no arbitrary decisions here. When the door closes on that closet it comes within a 1/4" of the end panel. Yea...there was a lot of planning on how to make it look good. And I think I am successful. Screw off HomeStars!!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How to build a base for an IKEA kitchen ISLAND - will make a VIDEO too.

Chapter 1 - PLANNING is your BEST tool.

You already know the advantage of doing an IKEA's Sektion for the kitchen re-model - addition of a kitchen island. 

Island additions are an amazing opportunity to increase functionality and flow of your kitchen work - smoother and better. It also offers a great opportunity to make a nice design statement - IKEA offers wide range doors and you can get pretty creative with the island geometry with the availability of the large panels in matching finishes - you can now make large surfaces look professional!


I saw London Grey from Cesarstone in the showroom at IKEA Etobicoke! Yea....I got to say - Frosty Carrina and London Grey are my two favourite stones. These are 'premium stones' and if IKEA has them means that they can get you probably the best deal around - and you get an amazing discount [max 20%, with 3 appliances - kitchen event ON NOW].

Chapter 2 - HOW do I build my IKEA SEKTION ISLANDS

*EDIT: Here is the VIDEO LINK!

The advantages of my system are as follows:

A] Flexibility! of where you want to install - over any materials. ALWAYS check the floor if you are going to be drilling into it - cables? wiring? piping? YEA! IMPORTANT!

B] Simplicity! Once built, setting your cabinets is a breeze! And knowing that your levels are already established, you are able to focus your efforts elsewhere - like making things nice. Once the base is installed, the 'leveling portion' is done. Use a laser level on runs more than 4 feet. 

C] Creativity! - with my system you can focus your creative energy on interesting kitchen island geometry - open up any fancy Italian design magazine and using the structure you can copy those!

Win! Win! WIN! - that's all I say!

Chapter 3 - the Drawings

A] I am attaching 3 drawings - they are progressive - I hope that they are clear enough - BUT I will supplement with videos - today or tomorrow. 
Let's start with this - 2 boxes side by side. This is a fairly common combination - PLUS I am partial to the 15/15 split - I just think it looks the cleanest PLUS you save on hardware [hardware can get expensive - as much as a SEKTION box! - $50!]

[please note - I omitted the front piece for clarity]

B] The secret of this system is that - IT IS ALL MADE FROM THE SAME DIMENSION plywood piece. Use 3/4" construction grade ply - try picking a nice flat sheet, but don't sweat it if there is some kinks in it. The way the base is built - ORIENTATION of the pieces IS THE KEY - it is SELF SQUARING! 

C] Here is the detail section - so the top portion is actually 'floating' over 'fixed points' - there is a reason why it is done this way. First reason is that this is super easy to execute - build the base and level the four courners - THEN you further secure it to the subfloor. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Toronto Design Week - ToDo Symposium - Reflection & Review - American Perspective

here he is! Mr. American, Ivan McCuistion

Chapter 1TODO 2017 Reflection: Work Culture, Well-being and Seeing the unseen

Red cup in tow, a half-flight of white steps led up into my momentary heaven at the DO Festival 2017 in Toronto.

“Remember Tomorrow?” a brand poster asked, before cascading deeper into eloquent paradoxes. Marrs Brand Future, even the name rang true! Hasn’t the planet Mars long been an icon of the future, yet riddled with uncertainties and failures?

Looking deeper into the white-walled gallery, the divergent handcrafted housewares furthered my perception of the thesis: question our implicit promise of the future. What do we assume and is it so? The Marrs Brand Future exhibit acted as a portal for inquiry into the Unknown-unknowns(1), as Jamer Hunt would present two days later at the DO Symposium Talks.

I promptly insisted two friends arrive at the Marrs exhibit for discussion. They did, and we quickly found ourselves debating the unprecedented personal security that individuals in developed countries enjoy—a gift born of the future. Yet are we suffering with self-inflicted isolation? Going deeper, we wiki’ed national suicide rates and asked ourselves, at what threshold of discomfort is suicide warranted? What is the mark of a greater civilization, lower indexes of violence or lower indexes of self harm?

As a society we need more space for this, as Erika Bailey spoke of it, we need more real-talk. I agree wholeheartedly with Jamer Hunt’s concluding keynote at the Do Symposium. In design, and more broadly in all creation we need to adapt tools and culture for more discourse in our work. Perhaps our capacities for creation have grown far larger than our collective bandwidth for discourse. But Hunt probed the audience to think of this as an integral part of the design process. It isn’t enough to be retrospectively critical, as was done in his Design and Violence collaboration(2). Designers must leave space for unforeseen consequences to arise in their process and actively address them. Yet my personal experiences with intense focus and isolation leave me wondering if there is a conflict between corrosive cultures and the state of mind necessary to see the unforeseen.

I could not have marveled at the Marrs Brand Future exhibit if I were under the pressure that some organizations still praise or demand. Fortunately work culture is evolving, and Erika Bailey of The Moment provided clues on influencing these cultures in her talk. She cautioned us of the complexity and challenge of changing culture, yet offered striking quantitative results. “Invite the unusual suspects!” Bailey proclaimed, and Jamer Hunt too reinforced the value of the unexpected perspective in design discourse.

Bailey described culture like an iceberg, with our customs and artifacts seen above water but supported by dense histories of behaviours and belief systems below. She emphasized it isn’t only the elements of culture that are key, but being aware of the language that is used around those elements.

Rejecting the notion of a work-life balance, Bailey offers a holistic approach where the whole person is welcomed into the workplace. Rather than balancing a scale, she advocates for respectful and meaningful integrations of work and life. “You must care,” Bailey implored us. At every step proposed towards changing culture, Erika Bailey challenged us to get real in our conversations, intentions and reflections on progress. Throughout the process we need to give time and persevere, 12-18 months in her workplace examples.

This is a challenge I want to continue to develop, let’s get real about our well-being, our workplace culture and our culture of creation. Bring yourself, your whole self—known and striving towards wellness—into conversation. Let’s ask each other if we are creating recklessly, let’s define that, and even dare to ponder broader impacts. Let’s ask what did the future promise and what it will promise. We need to ask not only if our civilization is great, but what have been our unintended consequences. We’ll be discussing our iceberg, but let’s develop an awareness of our language in process. In doing so we may prime ourselves for cultural changes and possibly see a bit deeper into the unforeseen—the unknown unknowns.

Respectful, honest and challenging conversations are a necessary tool in evolving culture, whether in the workplace or in creation. To recapitulate Jamer Hunt, where do designers go for philosophical criticism of our work and process? Who is helping us see the unseen, and how do we see it sooner, before a product is launched? Are we leaving space for this discovery in our working process, in our culture?

Yet this isn’t enough either, as Bailey points we’ll need to address multiple points in the culture to affect change. While this is reaching beyond my present knowledge, it seems obvious that our creative capacities have outstripped our ability to educate each other, share and conviene. Do we need more regulatory control or broader—likely competing—design tribes that share insights. Maybe these tribes function like competing academic networks, and put the person first, not the brand or marketing.
Together we need to be more open to criticism of our discipline, our process, even ourselves. Beyond continuing to raise these ideas, I believe Erika Bailey’s talk offered insight into improving our own well-being, and thus primes us to reach higher, and look deeper.

1 – Derived from a Donald Rumesfeld quote

referencing Johari Window heuristics

2 –

TO DO Talks Symposium –

Jamer Hunt –
Erika Bailey –

Ivan McCuistion –
Ivan is an American new to Toronto. He studied Industrial Design at the University of Cincinnati–DAAP and is currently freelancing at The Station, while seeking contract and full-time design opportunities in the area.