‘Hacking’ can make cheap become innovative
CAROLANN Rule, former editor of homes and lifestyle magazine Western Living, is a self-described design junkie.
I like having interesting design in my life, whether it’s what I’m wearing, what I live with or where I go, she says.
In her years at Western Living, first as homes editor and then as editorin-chief, Rule was always shopping for ideas for her own Vancouver-area home, as well as for the magazine. She discovered some of the most creative ones were in the residences of architects and interior designers, who don’t always have the same financial resources as their clients.
Now she has launched a website — Frugalbits.com — that offers a daily tip on how to get top value for the least money, such as the cheapest, chicest Palm Springs hotels, Lululemon outlets or how to make Ikea furniture look like itGs custom-designed.
Although there are long-operating websites devoted to what’s known as Ikea hacking, Rule first got into customizing Ikea’s wares several years ago when she and her husband, garden designer Ron Rule, had an addition built to their house.
In one small bathroom, they had planned to use a sink with a shallow vanity. They had thought it would require a custom cabinet, but designer John Mason advised getting a basic Ikea cabinet that he could modify to accommodate the sink.
John is very clever and a hacker from way back, says Carolann. I’ve seen him do amazing things with standard products.
She cautions that hackers should be careful not to compromise the structural integrity of the piece, especially if it is not solid wood. Mason has taken items into woodworking shops that have the tools and expertise to deal with a variety of materials.
In her new bedroom, Rule was contemplating 18 linear feet of custombuilt closets when Mason suggested she take a closer look at Ikea’s Pax wardrobe system.
The Pax had some appealing features — it was well thought-out with great interior fittings and concealed hinges — but the problem was how to make it look built-in. The roomGs ceiling rises from seven feet at the wall to 12 feet in the middle.
The Pax wardrobe came in two heights, but the shorter one would have left wasted space at the top and the taller one would have had to be placed away from the wall, losing floor space.
Rule’s contractor, Colin Smith of First Choice Repairs & Services, suggested buying the taller one, which he cut to fit under the slanted ceiling and snugly against the wall. Since the space was wider than the cabinets, extra doors were cut to fill in the sides. Like pairing an inexpensive dress with costly shoes, Rule purchased iconic Protean stainless steel knobs for $14.40 each from Cantu Bathrooms and Hardware.
Because you touch them, I think the way (the knobs) feel in your hand is as important as their appearance, she says. Similarly, she used $11 Ikea Lenda curtains in the bedroom, but they had more substantial stainless steel rods, which were custom-cut.
The point is not to find the cheapest thing, but the right thing, says Rule. Sometimes the Ikea solution is the best solution.
In her kitchen, for example, she wanted a shelf with stainless steel rungs over her stove. Ikea’s Grundtal shelf was the right idea, but the wrong size to fit the alcove where her stove is located.
She bought one and took it to Quest Metal Works for alterations. General manager Shawn Boivin recommended measuring both at the front and back of the alcove, and then cut the shelf to perfectly fit the space above her stove. He also removed the brackets and drilled countersunk holes in the end pieces so the shelf fits neatly against the wall.
It was not super cheap, says Rule, but it was less expensive than custom-made from scratch.
When Rule then asked Boivin to make a three-shelf Grundtal spice rack narrower, he said it would be much less expensive to convert the piece into a single long horizontal shelf instead of three vertical ones — an elegant solution.
Not all of Rule’s hacks have had such elegant results — like a Morkedal bed that reminded her vaguely of a Niels Bendtsen model she loved that was five times the price. She had the upholstery changed and the legs replaced, but said she will eventually invest in the Bendtsen bed. The Morkedal bed was not good value for money, she says, but it works in the meantime. And it didn’t break the bank. Ikea pieces are well enough made and designed, says Rule, but one of their best features is that I can take liberties with them that I would never take with pricier stuff.
— Postmedia News
Ikea furniture made to look custom-designed, among other things. Carolann Rule has launched a website called Frugalbits.com, which gives people tips on how to do it.