Sunday, July 18, 2021

IKEA Hacker says - understanding Ikea's QUALITY + what to do about it. [PART 1]

[picture shows a series of large flooring wooden planks lined up and leaning against the wall during a flooring installation. This was done for the purpose of quick visual assessment of their suitability for installation and placement; every board matters - at this scale of plank it almost feels like building a large scale tabletop - it has to look amazing]

Chapter 1 - Understanding QUALITY - the SHORT of it

Quality comes in 2 parts, as I always tell my clients:

A] quality of the build - this one is NON-NEGOTIABLE;
B] quality of the user experience - there is some WIGGLE room here;

Because 'The Quality of the Build' is an 'inelastic expense' this is the one that causes most challenges. In a typical renovation 'inelastic costs' - may include building walls, stiffening the subfloor, upgrading electrical and plumbing, sound insulation OR wiring for sound... Right? Some things MUST be done in order for your project to be successful. 

Oftentimes I find that the homeowner is not convinced that the project needs the work that I am advising - well then, I ask, 'How can I offer you a warranty on this project, if I know that it will fail within 2-3 years...?'. Right - it takes about 2-3 heating / cooling cycles for your project to show its true quality built. 

** One year warranty is NOT ENOUGH **

Chapter 2 - What happens during those heating/cooling cycles? ------> Movement happens <--------

That actually can be accelerated if you have things like heated floors, which are very popular right now - and rightfully so as they are wonderful, but just need to be done right. 

When a product is first installed it usually is installed rigid - nailed, screwed down, glued in place, PL-ed in place OR Silicone'd in place, cemented in place... lots and lots of ways to mount products these days, and each method has a particular advantage and disadvantage. Often times you can combine for added durability or whatever other effect you are anticipating and expecting - I do this all the time to increase the durability of the product I designed and am fabricating; I am extending its lifespan; I am extending the peak performance that typically you only get in the beginning with other methods of installation.

It is EXPECTED today that products last longer - I am pushing for a shift where interiors function better, longer. Or how about this - interiors function best for the lifespan of 'the product' - YES, maintenance is always expected but it should be minor and not expensive*.

*let's get straight to the point. I could have written 'accessible' but the first initial cost is always the biggest barrier.

When a wooden floor is first nailed down, a seasoned installer will easily sense the 'new tension' in the subfloor. Every piece is nailed by being pounded with a rubber mallet, a long and serrated cleat plunges down and pulls the board tight against all the other boards - thousands, tens of thousands.... Over the next few days - we always tell that to the new owner - the floor will 'relax' and adjust to humidity and sometimes you will hear creaks and cracks happening at night - no worries its just the wood relaxing. The best thing you can do for the floor to maintain that initial rigidity is to keep the humidity constant at a value that minimizes that movement ~45% - 60%, whatever you find comfortable. I recall client once told me that they said they noticed a rare gap every now and then - during winter - by the doorstop molding and they just had a baby too! 

You know what my reaction was...? - too dry! Unhealthy dry! That means that large span of floating floor was experiencing massive jump in humidity during the heating season UP to a point that it was unhealthy! That's like 10% humidity! Unhealthy for humans to live in. 

Anyhow, you see how important every element is and how important it is to have an understanding - a big picture overview - of the process. This was just one example. 

Chapter 3 - Where is IKEA in all this?

[picture shows a display cubby at IKEA Etobicoke that is labeled 'Design for Everyone'; underneath text: Democratic Design brings good design to the many people by providing well-designed home furnishing solution and products, with great form and function, high quality, built with a high focus on sustainability and at an affordable price.]

Ha! Good question! The picture above is a good overview of IKEA corporate mission - woven in-between the lines is a lot of HARD FACTS that I will unpack for you. Ikea is middle of the 'bell curve' sales with simplified installation and assembly, again, to be done by the middle of the 'bell curve' population. So, is IKEA any good at it? YES - they are genius at it. I wrote, couple of posts back, about the 'IKEA'fication of Interior Design' and 'Task Rabbitazation of Labour'  and this entry builds on the linked post - give it a read if you are curious. Now, what do you get in that brown flat pack...? Is there a hidden value that most miss or refuse to acknowledge...?

Chapter 4 - Let's BREAK DOWN Ikea into 'puzzle pieces'.

'Puzzle pieces'....? Yes. 

The first puzzle piece is the Creative Potential of Ikea. Absolutely cream of the crop, top global talent works on product development at IKEA: seasoned Furniture Designers; Top Notch Industrial Designers.... the list is long-long. 

[picture shows a display cubby at IKEA Etobicoke labeled: FORM. Underneath Text: Form is not only about the beauty of a product, but also about how much better life at home becomes when it's beautiful and makes people feel good.]

I mean, you are influencing the world with your designs when you work for Ikea - Ikea is the world's largest manufacturer of furniture, and I would argue the most influential, especially now post-Covid and post Great Design Reset.

When Ikea wanted to design 'an official IKEA Hack' - the DELAKTIG project - they hired world's most famous furniture designer Tom Dixon. That is the power of IKEA - nobody can refuse the allure of prestige of working as a designer for IKEA. 


Second piece of the puzzle is the ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY.  I am probably exaggerating when I say that Ikea designers can go from a 'lunch discussion drawing on a napkin'; to a well designed and thought out CAD design; to a rapid 3D printed full-size model; to an actual 'structural joint' cut on a 5-axis CNC machine that can be stress tested in 'REAL LIFE' --------->  all in 1 day. 

Jealous I am.

[picture shows a display cubby at IKEA Etobicoke labeled: FUNCTION. Underneath Text: Function is not only about how good a product works but about how much better it makes things work at home. It's simply about enjoying the product.]

IKEA takes great pride in their development process capability and there are numerous videos floating around the Internet showcasing this - use the power of the GOOGLE machine to find them and impress yourself - what you are witnessing is unmatched in scale and scope, trust me. 

With great power comes great responsibility and IKEA is very serious about the power they wield - they know that in order to grow that growth must be sustainable. 

[picture shows a display cubby at IKEA Etobicoke labeled: Sustainability. Underneath Text: Looking for new and innovative materials, solutions and productions techniques in ways that minimize our environmental impact. We also see an important role in contributing to a more sustainable life at home. That means providing products, solutions and know-how that help people reduce their own environmental impact.]

When you shop at IKEA you also vote with your wallet - that's another key takeaway. Many 'good causes' - things we deeply care about - require us to make active efforts in those areas, commit time and money, and that is a luxury that many cannot afford. Ikea is different as their 'good cause' - sustainability - is built right into the product - you don't need to think about it, you don't need to put effort into it - it just is. 

[ALSO] Remember: when you shop at IKEA you actively support Western Sphere of Influence, this will be important going forward, and I will likely write more on this topic going forward. In some ways you are playing 'geo-politics'. Uhm hmm.... [while I nod my head].

Chapter 5 - Ok, everything looks great, but....

[picture shows the final display window from Ikea Etobicoke titled: Low Price. Underneath text reads: IKEA products are designed to fit the many people's wallets. They are developed on the factory floor ad adapted to the production possibilities. Our designers, together with our specialists, constantly look for solutions and innovations to improve the products and lower the price.]

This is the final picture from The Gallery at Ikea Etobicoke. I saved it last for a reason - this is THE CONSTRAINT. Most people think of constraints as something ~negative~. Right...? 'I wish I could do this, but....' - OR - 'I don't have time for this because I have to do...' - OR - 'I wish I could afford better quality, but...'.

For me it is completely opposite.  I subscribe to the STOIC principle that 'The OBSTACLE is the Way'. What are the OBSTACLES that people are encountering today when it comes to improving their space....? I would say that the main one is FINANACES:

-------> cost of appropriate materials to construct a beautiful and superbly functioning space. There are just so many absolutely useless 'Chackas, Dudas and Flim-Flam' - we are talking social media fads here - that I am personally amazed, and frankly overwhelmed. And if I find it challenging to navigate this field [and that includes sneaky contract language; for example: always using singular 'drawer' when talking about your new kitchen; kitchen is drawers, ALWAYS] then I cannot imagine the overwhelming feeling the average person experiences. The basics of home improvement have not changed and the courses I am offering will help you guide your purchasing - we want to select 'appropriate materials' and it is as simple as that. 

Philosophy here is this: If you need to spend then spend appropriately - which always includes saving money - but get it RIGHT. It's hard to make up for the mistakes, virtually impossible. 

-------> cost of expertise and knowledge to open the possibilities of your space -  you need to have it running at peak efficiency. Forget about your 'fancy doors' if your kitchen is not functional. Cooking instead of pleasure becomes a chore - you just waste time 'dancing around', that's what I call an 'inefficient cooking operation'. 

And what about closets for your 'stuff'? Properly stored clothing holds up better for longer periods of time - 'protect your investment', yes you can look at it as shallow consumerist thing [I am not personally attached to clothes or brands; my focus is always on comfort of activity], but sometimes you have to look good to be taken seriously - a small societal kink that I can tolerate. 

You can't start a family if you are not organized. It may hurt when I say it like that but it is absolutely TRUE - I got 4 babies and let me tell you that we have to be at 'Peak Organization' to enjoy the comforts and pleasures of being a family. PAX - let me tell you, both cost wise and design potential, that system is ~unbeatable~. I always outsource my 'Design Burden' to Ikea Design Team - smart engineers, creative industrial designers, and veteran furniture designers - they know what they are doing and they think of everything. That BROWN box is so PERFECT in absolutely every way. 

I just UNLOCK its true potential and show you how to improve and build upon that QUALITY. Add a ~lifetime~ to that warranty on your own labour. 

-------> AND finally, the cost of quality labour - a labour that will ensure that your project will provide PEAK PERFORMANCE for duration of your use. I know how to build things properly - I always assume position of 'building or designing for myself'. It makes me angry when I see routine short-cuts taken by trades - of course, everything is 'up to code' - but the loss is real. The last 15% of the project determines whether the project 'stops being great' at 10 years old [whatever that means; depends on care and attention of your labour] or performs flawlessly till 20 years... gently rounding up to 25 years of 'good service' when you will no longer feel any guilt about demolishing it to make way for something new and exciting. True dat. 

To be continued... ------> I will be periodically updating this post. Stay tuned. ~ciao~