Q&A with the IKEAhacker

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Following the directions to put together a piece of IKEA furniture is so pedestrian. Sure, it’ll be cheap and functional, but where’s the challenge? And where’s the creativity? The Cheapskate Blog chats with the author of blog where people explain how they transformed IKEA products into things you’d never find in the catalogue—like, say, a guitar made from a chopping board.

The creator of the IKEAhacker blog goes by the alter-ego of “Jules”. Jules (also the name of an IKEA chair, naturally) discusses the coolest, most impressive, and cost-effective ways to make the most of IKEA.

Cheapskate: Why the fascination with IKEA?

IKEAhacker: Personally, I love the brand, its design and modularity. I also like that it is affordable. I mean, you wouldn’t put a saw through a 5 figure designer piece.

CS: What makes IKEA products so ripe for hacks and customizations?

IH: IKEA in itself is made to be mixed and matched. It is in its blood, so to say. It is mean to be this door with that countertop etc. Hacking is just taking it further — way further some times — from its original intent and purposes. Some of my contributors have likened Ikea to ‘raw material’ (move over Home Depot!) — they shop Ikea looking for pieces to modify and customize. They see Ikea pieces as good starting ground to build upon. It saves them time and energy building from scratch. Some times it costs less too.

CS: What are some hacks that really add value to IKEA products — you know, projects that produce a piece that would have cost lots more if you’d bought a similar item as a whole?

IH: I’ve not had many people tell me that their item cost more but usually costs less then what they would have had to pay if they bought a similar item elsewhere. Like this Armoire. Some of them get inspired by designer pieces and hack their own. Like this.

CS: What are some of the most artistically creative hacks you’ve seen?

IH: Phew! There are so many. Seriously I am always surprised at the creativity and ingenuity of Ikea hackers.

Some of the more far-out hacks include this chopping board guitar (this is his first — table top guitar), or this amp in an alarm clock. Some simple but rather artistic pieces like this bamboo dish clock or this grundtal laptop stand (made from a paper towel holder). Totally cute ones like this cat litter box. Naughty one.

But those that really make me gasp are like this salad bowl speaker, pinhole camera, jewelry cabinet. I have my list of favorites every year: 2008 Top 20.

CS: What are some of the most popular IKEA pieces used for hacks?

IH: Some of the more basic IKEA pieces are most popular — like the LACK series — that has been hacked into Cat ladders, light tables, computer monitor shelves. I’ve seen the EXPEDIT used as balcony railing, DJ Console, wine cabinets. The PAX doors also get quite a lot of modifications as desks, headboards. A lot of the smaller pieces like GRUNDTAL kitchen shelves, MALMA mirrors, FIRA chests, GRONO lights are popular too.

CS: Have you had any particularly rewarding/odd/interesting shopping or dining adventures at an IKEA store? Tell us about them.

IH: When Ikea first opened here in Malaysia, I was just out on my own. My first job, renting my own place. I would get so depressed after every trip to Ikea because I just loved everything there but could not afford them. Yeah, I worked for peanuts then. But I guess that was what started my love affair with the brand. Once I had some financial muscle I did buy a truckload of stuff. Most people assume that everything I own in my home is Ikea — well, that is almost true — maybe 60% are from IKEA. I live in their catalogue.

My biggest accomplishment is assembling IKEA furniture has to be my FAKTUM (now AKURUM with doors) kitchen cabinet tower. 3 wall cabinets stacked from floor to ceiling. I fixed them. Then carried them up on a wobbly painter’s ladder and stacked them all single-handedly. I almost broke my back doing so.

CS: What, if anything, has been IKEA’s reaction to your blog and all the readers’ suggestions?

IH: Ikea has not contacted me directly. I guess they are just letting us have our fun.

Read more:

Hey Joel Stein, Where Are My Trojkas?
IKEA: Where the Chinese Go to Hang Out, Drink Free Soda, and Take Naps
Cheap Dates … and Cheaper Lap Dances