A few weeks back I got a call from one of my long time clients. He had recently picked up some IKEA furniture and wanted me, a Denver-area carpenter, to do the assembly for him. With 30 plus years of custom furniture building experience, both from a design and build from scratch experience. I said yes, building from a box is pretty simple, and I have always admired the detailed engineering of some IKEA products.
Engineering and Design
When it comes to engineering and design, IKEA is indeed a leader. They offer a wide selection of modern designs and the ease of assembly makes the time pass quickly. Unlike the furniture I build, most IKEA products come completely unassembled and require the owner to spend a bit of time reviewing the instruction manual and familiarizing themselves with a multitude of parts. These parts are a mix of panels, braces and knock down specific hardware. The geek in me sees the complex intricacies of this collection of parts magically transform into useable and workable piece of furniture. I am also surprised by the efficiency of their packaging. I look at a small dense and heavy box and wonder how a full sized bookcase “fits” in there.
Once all of the parts are laid out and the build sequence is established, the project goes together quite smoothly. The precision of the machining is topnotch and everything fits perfectly. This is a lot different from some of my native edge furniture where Mother Nature exerts her own style and I work with the curves and bends of real wood.
But Then There Is All That Particleboard...
That furniture I built for this client consisted of two “Billy” bookcases in white and a “Besta” TV stand. The materials in these pieces ranged from wimpy cardstock to slightly better particleboard with thermofoil “woodgrain”. The only “real” wood in the entire set were a few dowel rods used in the assembly. To me, particleboard and cardboard are not acceptable building materials. The furniture I build is nearly all solid wood. IKEA does offer some products made from real wood, and when these more premium materials are used with their fine engineering, the end product is nice. Obviously finer materials mean increased cost. The “Billy” bookcases I built sell for whopping $60 and this price reflects the raw materials, the machining and packaging of these materials and then the transport of these “kits” from the Far East.