This year during Toronto’s Offsite Design Festival, I caught a symposium dedicated entirely to IKEA hacking. Curious what exactly it was, it lead me to designer Karol Kosnik of Studio Kosnik. The designer has dedicated his career to hacking and recreating the Swedish superstore’s affordable furniture for different purposes.
If you’re anything like me, IKEA instructions drive you insane. So when I found out about Kosnik, I figured he must have some serious dedication to creating smart mods that even someone like me could appreciate and try out for themselves. I chatted with Kosnik about what it means to be an IKEA hacker and how to crack the mystery code that is the instructions.
For those of us who may not know, could you explain what IKEA hacking is in a few words?
Kosnik: It is the creative act of taking a product from IKEA and well, altering it to better suit your personal need. Sometimes it can be cosmetic; there are some pretty ambitious makeovers documented online. Sometimes it can be structural – it needs to fit better, I do a lot of that, or it can be a designer hack – a combination of the two.
Okay, so what inspired you to become an IKEA hacker?
Kosnik: I wanted to make things work better for myself. At this point, I was already doing my own woodworking and it felt like a natural extension. It’s all about problem-solving for life!
When I was researching for our interview, I came across the fact that there is an entire worldwide network of IKEA hackerati. Are you part of this community and do fellow hackers share their designs with one another?
Kosnik: Yes! The place for IKEA hacks is IKEA Hackers. I have submitted my work for approval to be posted on several occasions with no success. Personally, I think my hacks are too professional – a little outside the usual DIY crowd. I have a studio space and professional equipment. My hacks are professional grade, designer hacks.
So what exactly is your process for design?
Kosnik:It is all about personalizing. IKEA is just a vehicle to deliver a great solution. Cabinetry, storage, closets, organizing, kitchen, cooking – the list is endless. First I will identify the client’s needs. We look at what IKEA has to offer and then we brainstorm and eventually come to the best solution.
Is it difficult to hack a product to make it customized, more functional, and often just better designed?
Kosnik: It is all about the individual being creative – those skills vary! Professionals, with access to appropriate facilities and tools, can work magic, like me. Personal needs vary – some people want to improve their space, some people want to be creative. IKEA hacking can be rewarding on many levels.
At this year’s Toronto Offsite Design Festival, you held your first-ever Ikea Hacking Symposium – what was that like and what made you develop the symposium?
Kosnik: What a great experience. On the day of the show, the venue was packed – people were standing outside! The audience varied with professionals, amateurs and just plain curious folk. No filler, just two hours of dense information dished out at an incredible rate. The symposium was a natural extension of my practice. Getting to share relevant information with others and this symposium was just the physical manifestation. We have now defined a new design movement. IKEA Hacking – accessibility, affordability, community!
Are there any tricks or tips to us common folk for how to properly read or figure out IKEA instructions ?
Kosnik: Rest assured, IKEA instructions are best in the design world and I stand by that. Make it an event – IKEA assembly party – especially if it is a larger piece. Two [or three…or four] heads are better than one. Make sure you have some power tools – it is silly to attempt to assemble anything with just a screwdriver – join the Toronto Tool Library
Would you want to hack IKEA furniture for a leaving? Or will you leave it to the pros? Let us know in the comment section or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.