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Interview: People Are “Hacking” IKEA Products into One-Of-A-Kind Decor

IKEA Hacker

Industrial BILLY bookcase with hidden Murphy bed for teddy by Medina Grillo
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IKEA furniture is sometimes criticized for being plain looking, or that it’s so inexpensive that everyone has the same thing. (Have you ever owned one of their BILLY bookcases?) But, its affordability does more good than just keep your wallet happy. IKEA (perhaps unintentionally) offers a blank slate and starting point for DIY projects. IKEA hacks, as they’re known, transform ordinary bookshelves, lighting, tables, and more into one-of-a-kind pieces that express your personality.

The person leading the furniture hacks charge is a woman with the pseudonym Jules Yap. In May 2006, she was like many of us—searching the web for IKEA hack ideas. “How great it would be if I could find them all in one place,” she remembers thinking. Shortly after, her site IKEAhackers was born. Since then, contributors from around the world have submitted their ingenious repurposing projects and demonstrated how you can complete them for yourself. But even if you aren’t that handy, it’s still fun to see the creativity that comes from these otherwise ordinary IKEA products.

Yap, along with 19 other contributors, have compiled 25 furniture hacks into a book that's now available on Amazon. Learn more about it and her journey with IKEAhackers in our exclusive interview below.

DIY enthusiasts everywhere are turning their IKEA products into one-of-a-kind pieces with furniture hacks.

What was your background prior to starting IKEAHackers?

I was a copywriter, working in an ad agency.

Do you consider yourself a handy person? What was the first hack you ever completed?

I was not a handy person when I first started the site. I still wouldn't call myself a handy person but I've become better. My first hack was a set of doors for a bathroom cabinet with open shelving. I disliked having all my lotions and potions on display in the bathroom so I wanted a cabinet with doors. But the cheap SPARREN was the only thing I could afford, so I bought it and made doors for it. The cabinet is now discontinued.

IKEA Hack

Laundry bin by Diwa Chintala

What's a great hack for first-time IKEA hackers?

First timers usually have a lot of success with paint makeovers. Spray painting is relatively easy and almost fail-proof. Spray on a new fancy color can definitely liven up an IKEA piece. Or to notch it up a bit, stick on strips of painters tape before spray painting to create a pattern. Simple upgrades without full-on hacking. But it'll make your IKEA look less IKEA, if you know what I mean.

In 2014, you had a legal spat with IKEA itself. Did that change your view on the company? How did it alter the way you run IKEAHackers?

When I first received the Cease and Desist, it was a big shock and disappointment. But subsequently, IKEA realised that they may have made a mistake with this one and retracted their letter. They invited me over, gave me a tour of IKEA of Sweden and we sat down for a really heart warming chat. It did change my view of them. It made me love them even more. I mean for a long time, I've just really fangirled over their products but the whole situation opened my eyes to see that IKEA is a really down to earth company. They do care about people, even one living on the other side of the globe. They are not too big or too proud to admit a mistake. IKEAhackers still pretty much runs the same way it has from the beginning.

IKEA Hack

Studio Room divider by Dean Wilson

IKEA Hack

Floating billies bookshelves by Erik Roscam Abbing

How do you see IKEAHackers fitting into the larger DIY movement?

The DIY movement is very broad and ikeahacking is just one subsection. True DIYers will probably look at IKEAhacking with a bit of disdain (as some of my hardcore DIYer friends do) preferring to build something from scratch, with real wood. But there's a place for us ikeahackers. We are the people who found a way to make it faster, and sometimes cheaper.

Why should people hack their IKEA furniture?

People hack for a variety of reasons – but it mainly revolves around wanting to get what they want. Perhaps the piece they want can't fit the space they have, so they hack it. Or the designer piece they love is out of their price range, so they hack something similar. Or the style of the IKEA product does not align with their personal style, so they hack it to fit better.

What can readers expect to learn from the IKEAHackers book?

The book features 25 biggest and best IKEA hacking projects. They will be able to see how IKEA products can transform into something totally different. They can learn to cut up clothes hangers and turn them into a pendant light. Or take apart a stool and reshape it into a tea trolley. It's full of intriguing projects like that. My hope is that they will start shopping at IKEA with fresh eyes, to not only see the products as they were meant to be, but what they can be. That's the fun of IKEA hacking.

What's your favorite (or favorites) IKEA hack featured in the book?

I really love Sofia Clara's kitchen island made from an IKEA desks. It's so easy to hack but so practical. I'm also crazy about Amy Taylor's mudroom bench. Very cute hack. If I have to choose one of my own projects, it would be the half wall lamp made from a FROSTA stool. It looks like a standing lamp but has such a small footprint.

IKEAhackers: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Jules Yap.

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