Thursday, September 27, 2018

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - The FUTURE of furniture PART 2

[picture shows proud Karol Kosnik kneeling next to a rear wheel of a dark minivan, holding in his hands used break pads that he just changed. There is a large 3 ton car-jack on the ground as well. While I have your attention here - consider this question - how much is your own labour worth to you?]**

Chapter 1 - IKEA Hacking is the future of custom furniture 

Here is a little video I made - I am going to try to convince you to the truth of this statement!

IKEA Hacking is the future of custom furniture - oh what a sacrilegious statement! I can just hear those hundreds of students eagerly studying across countless of fine woodworking schools with super high aspirations handcarving dovetails hollering at me. I mean, why as society we would let people study craft - a skill - that they will not be able to find a demand for? Not yet at least - not in our current form of societal structure - but UBI will come, I am certain of that [read my back posts if you curious as to my views on society and design. Hey! I even put on shows and talks!]. 

About 10 years ago I was an eager craft/design student hard pursuing my love of woodworking. I already had a 'post-secondary education failure' - I went to U of T for I don't know what - and I was determined to be successful this time around. I recall my design school pieces to be overtly technical, but I was hoping that having balanced it with a solid, pleasant design, that 'technicality' would be lost when the viewer - or more importantly the user - would get to experience the piece. That's the attraction - making other people's lives better, I think that's very noble. 

Usually, education like that is paired up with some academic studies - history, culture, technology, the future - I want to assure you, we've all been there - to give the woodworker a great, more meaningful understanding in what they are doing - I do believe in 'woodworking ethics'. It is also during this phase that the hidden potential is unlocked - some people will discover that they have a natural predisposition for furniture design and what it entails. I assure you that it is most interesting to see a professional at work! Whether it is my shop colleague who is prototyping a solid wood chair [it is very time consuming!] or witnessing the prototyping of the Cloud chair [that was my lottery win! While on a scholarship at Nienkamper plant in Toronto I witnessed the birth of the Cloud chair! More! I got to upholster the base for it!!!!! I can't believe I got to do that - Thanks Monny and Dan!! Monny and Dan were a husband and wife team, leads for the upholstery department - that was my favourite]. But designer furniture like that, custom furniture is not common - in some ways, the inaccessibility was one of the criteria for its success. That will not survive the future, or rather the sales will become diminishingly small that it will not matter anymore.  

[BREAK - there us a portion missing here - it is important and I need to word it well, so took this out for now]

But until this dramatic shift happens - hopefully sooner than later - there is one fundamental that we can all count on - SALES MATTER - meaning things that don't sell die a slow commercial death.  Products that prove to be popular [such as SEKTION or PAX or Billy for example] become more cost effective and even more accessible - hey! some of them even are made in NORTH AMERICA! When I am able to use those boxes to construct not just kitchens or closets but many other traditional and non-traditional pieces - storage, tables, credenzas, chests of drawers, beds - we are talking countless of ideas that float around our shared experience that we call the Internet - virtually all 'inspirational images', because that is what I ask for when people reach out to me, are all IKEA Hacks. Occasionally I have to vet the designs for practicality or safety but you'd be surprised what people have built with IKEA parts!

Ask yourself this - what is CUSTOM furniture? I think most of us think of some sort of fancy piece that involved a highly skilled craftsperson and a designer. But what if I told you that CUSTOM furniture could be as simple as having a dining table fit properly in your own space by cutting down something that is ready made? Or extra storage that you purchase at IKEA, assemble yourself, maybe do some minor hacking, that fits under your bed and suddenly dramatically improves your life - it organizes it better - you immediately notice improvements in your daily routine, for example. That is custom furniture too! Improved functionality, great looks - something you love - that's CUSTOM FURNITURE! 

Yes, there might be a need one day for you to hire a professional like me to design and build you something that you cannot do yourself - maybe you lack the design skills, maybe you lack the technical experience, maybe you do not have access to a workshop. But NEVER underestimate your own ability to DESIGN - be inspired, be creative, to organize, to direct someone like me. Never underestimate your own craft skills [and IKEA makes it easy!] - to assemble, to install, to hang up, to do a makeover on a piece! 

Yes, CUSTOM furniture is those one-of-a-kind, 1900 hours+ of labour with French polish - but it is also the fruit of your own labour! Something that is unique, and personal, and totally you!*

And thousands of personalized unique interpretations vs. 1 rare piece? - yea, I will say it again - SALES MATTER. 


*the first thing that I always put in when I answer e-mails is 'BELIEVE in your own skills!'

** I put that picture up there for a reason - I am not a automechanic and I am not too crazy about getting myself covered in grease [that's why I love woodworking, it's a very 'clean profession' - I will sometimes wear nitrile gloves as not to get any sweat or oils onto a freshly sanded piece of wood] BUT if I did not do this job myself then:

A] I would be out of a vehicle for at least a 1.5 days - and I use my vehicle every day;
B] it would be an expense that I would have to pay for;
C] I know that the job is done right, with the right parts, just the way I like it - no shortcuts; 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - The FUTURE of furniture.

[the picture shows a screengrab from website. It is a picture of a discarded desk lamp with a dark burgundy shade sitting on the sidewalk, ready to be picked up by the garbage collection people]

Oh I do believe that IKEA will achieve the goals that it sets out for itself. So when they write about - the FUTURE of FURNITURE - my ears naturally perk up. There is enough of talent working at IKEA - actually, dream positions. Dream position to develop a project like DELAKTIG - this was the first time that the design process was opened up like that, to the public [yea, I guess the intent was big and honourable, but it proves that synthetic, artificial design doesn't do it - it is not always successful. Sometimes it is important to start the research at the bottom, in an organic natural fashion].

The DELAKTIG experiment reinforced my long held view that successful furniture doesn't start on a rendering software. Why? Because it takes great deal of understanding how to construct furniture - like physically build and assemble and glue together. To design furniture means to understand the human body, the human body language, the human psychology. I follow an Insta account, and it just so randomly happened that for part time job [?] she does furniture renderings - often times the burden of designing will fall onto her shoulders 'by nature'. And she does a pretty reasonable job of it, but occasionally I see conflicts, or the solution is not optimum - woodworkers frown upon 'not optimum solutions' - mainly costs [times + materials] - and that translates to losses. And when you are competing against IKEA, trust me! - you have to deliver top notch work. Why would people want to hire you? What is so special that you deliver that I can't get out of IKEA? 

When IKEA uttered that word - 'Peak Furnishings' - I was immediately hooked. I already knew that thousands of renovations in Toronto were based on the SEKTION box AND that lots of people came for expertise and advice to my blog. And what about PAX? Last night - a PAX text came in late - that's sign of Peak Furnishings - when you have a system that satisfies 99% of situations - yes there is 1 super custom kitchen constructed for every 99 Sektion design sales.

Is IKEA the future of furnishings? I think so. I think their new catalogue is a testament to it. I have had several strong urges to write a proper review - but it eluded me every time - YEA! This catalogue feels different - there seems to be a more pronounced turn, a departure from previous years [my favourite was 'Think CUBIC' - do you remember that one?]. Is the BILLY destined to become the bookcases for the masses? And look how ease it is to customize! - never underestimate the lure of a good Billy hack [easy to do!]. 

IKEA Hacking is the future of custom furniture - there I said it. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

IKEA Hacker ASKS - how much is YOUR OWN WORK worth to you?

[picture shows IKEA hacked Sektion box re-made into a bench, with a single Grimslov drawer face attached to a Maximera drawer; sitting on a custom base kick that was built according to instructions found on Kosnik's blog]

Chapter 1 - The Future of WORK - how much is YOUR OWN labour worth to you?

With the Design Festival deadline fast approaching I have been pondering a submission to present some of my work at the TO DO Symposium. SO every year the organizers put on an event where they invite professionals - designers, thinkers, scientists - to share their work, their research, their philosophy, their views with the audience. This year they are asking about 'The future of WORK'. 
For me the question rather seems - How do we see the future of LABOUR

I say it because a large portion of what I do - IKEA Hacking - involves creation of physical objects and thus my own physical labour.  More, it involves creation of physical objects that improve people's lives - so not only I fabricate but I also design. A firm believer in Democratic Design, I do not hoard my knowledge, but rather spread it, making it publicly available on the Internet - how do I hack the Billy bookcase? How do I extend the life of a PAX wardrobe? how do I free the SEKTION box from the rigid planner? Yes! - it is all available free of charge on my blog! 

I will save my best arguments for the actual presentation, but I will leave you with these thoughts - all linking to the idea of IKEA Hacking! - 

True STORY - 'IKEA is killing it'  - a quote from another finish-carpenter/cabinetmaker who decided to move from St. Catherines [so a small city well within reach of IKEA delivery or pick up...], ON to a remote village in the cottage country, just south of the beautiful Algonquin park. He says since the move his small shop has not stopped running building kitchens and vanities and closets. What does that indicate? And how would that small community react if suddenly IKEA kitchens became accessible in that region - how would the work dynamic shift in the region for all those cabinet making shops?

And most curious - I told him about how much a '10 feet  by 10 feet' kitchen costs to purchase at IKEA, including all the fancy doors. He was stunned because he never shopped at IKEA before. I told him - 'design your kitchen, rent a van and bring it all up here - you've got the skill to make it shine!' I knew that he was intrigued!

An anecdote - a friend tells me about an older co-worker who decided to quit his job and build his retirement house. Why? He has the skill to do it - a skill he acquired as a young man - and the savings of him taking 2 years off his work to build and manage the project far outweigh the costs of him hiring a professional builder to construct his dream retirement. Think about it - it is cheaper to quit and build [if you got the skill] then to pay someone to do it. Those are the realities. 

Observation - true luxury is being able to construct your own environment exactly to your liking - without it costing 'a million dollars'. Hmmm.... suddenly being a designer/maker is not such a bad gig at all... There are just so many things that you can personalize! DO a makeover on! Make it your own!

You know, I had a show few months back that I called 'Handy is the NEW COOL' - and I wasn't on the telly only because I was parking my car and the TV crew had to move on to deliver the content. 

Anyhow.... keep reading the blog - it's e-mails like these that make my day! - read on - from an actual e-mail - they hail from the most famous of New York City! - I love the BIG APPLE - I gave them some PAX advice - 'internacjonal'

'Hi Karol,

Sorry for the slow reply, we have been busy with a baby, but thank you so much for sending all of this! Very much appreciated and useful advice. We have been looking at some of your blog posts and it's really insightful - we're still doing our due diligence on the options but we might use your info quite closely.

Anyway, wanted to say thanks again and wish you were in the neighborhood to help us!

Cody and MK'


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Confessions of an IKEA Hacker - Was DELAKTIG a DUD?

Chapter 1 - I wanted to DELAKTIG

I've always been active on the Toronto design scence [about 10 years now], more often than not my name was not listed in credits. That's OK, I think it is important to recognize that volunteering is an integral part of our society - everyone has some skill that they could volunteer to better the world around them.

Anyways, more and more I've been attaching my name to events that I organize, direct and deliver. They mostly focus on IKEA Hacking - read my blog back and you will discover it - because other than paying the bills, it also is an interesting snapshot of our society - oh I am talking PEAK FURNISHINGS here! - and IKEA is a force to be reckoned with. 

So I have to secretly admit that I was excited for the 'Officially sanctioned IKEA Hack' - DELAKTIG - Tom Dixon + IKEA collaboration. I was going to buy it and make it my own - I was going to hack it! MORE! I was going to submit for a Toronto Design Offsite Festival - YES! - this was Democratic Design at its finest.


Since its launch I have not been able to encounter a DELAKTIG in the wild - not in the store, ZERO reviews....crickets. Lots of fawning over the concept on-line - articles abound - excitement, pomp, cutting-edge. And yet it doesn't seem to be selling well at all. And nobody seems to be doing any hacking at all?

Watch the my video - reasonable commentary on the subject, if you ask me.