Trish Bongard Godfrey

Furniture Hackers

04 April 2012
Trish Bongard Godfrey

For a few years I served on the Board of Directors of a Canadian charity called the Natural Step Canada, which dedicates itself to helping people and organizations work towards a sustainable future. That’s a simple way of saying what they do, but it’s actually very complex.

The incredible people in this international network are trained visionaries, talented in organizational development, environmental science, communications, community outreach, business leadership and management, and a host of other skills needed to make changes for a world sustainable for generations to come. One of the many companies to work with the Natural Step in Sweden was Ikea. So I have been interested in their products a bit beyond being just a normal consumer. While I still think that shopping at Ikea can be a frustrating and unsustainable exercise – travel time and customer service ranks low for me – they have made efforts at making their packaging and product design more efficient.

I was seduced three years ago to buy those large Ikea PAX wardrobe systems – fantasizing, I think, that I would be as happy, organized, carefree, thin, and blonde as the Swedish models in their advertising, floating in front of their neat and tidy PAX, wearing their gossamer dresses in a never-ending summer at their seaside vacation home.

So far, I have rearranged PAX in 3 different rooms, and hired friends’ kids and Rent-a-Son to assemble, disassemble, shove, and attach these units a couple of times each. (Oh…and the Ikea guys dropped the boxes on delivery three times and trashed the first set of wardrobes coming into the house).

The PAXes are in their final resting place where I shoved them myself, having, on an “it’s-too-cold-I-won’t-go-outside” day, taken my electric circular saw to their top-ends to make them fit under a bulkhead in my office/dressing room. I do not recommend this: they are made of particle board, which is very nasty and unsafe to cut and really messy to clean up.

Here’s what else I do not recommend:

Large sliding PAX doors: they don’t work well if you have to install the PAXes on an uneven floor. Hello? This is downtown Toronto – every floor is a bit sloped. The doors went to the curb side.

PAX isn’t for people under 5’6″. Those Swedish product focus groups must be comprised of really tall men. I have to reach way over my head to get my blouses and jackets.

Last week my husband John bought and assembled 4 Ikea Billy bookcases (13 bookcases in our home isn’t enough, apparently). I feel like we have bought, assembled, moved, fixed, donated, and sold these same darned Ikea Billy bookcases in white, birch, and brown, at least once in each of our 4 homes. Every time we move, we downsize, but somehow the book collection increases, and the Billies don’t survive the moves very well.

We have used many other Ikea products for our homes. My office desk and book cases are from Ikea. So is my son Ian’s bed frame. We have bought bedside tables, dressers, sheets, pillows, window hardware and coverings, glasses, pots and pans, knives, lamps, and fixtures, and also installed two complete Ikea kitchens (one in shaker-style Birch and one in glossy red). We have many of the Ikea products still, but mostly what I have are leftover thingy-ma-bobs – bags of no-name, non-standard bits and pieces of Ikea hardware that you only need when you buy Ikea.

But based on my own need to make constant adjustments to produce what I had hoped would fulfill my ambitions, I looked up what other, cleverer people do when they need to make the perfect Ikea product fit into their normal home. The art, or practice, of re-purposing things in general is called “hacking”. Check out these cool websites with ideas for hacking everything from desks to dolls to shipping containers.

Here are a few cool links:

Ikea Hackers 

Designboom 

Scraphackers 

Hacker Things