Ikea’s flat-pack furniture is guided by function and low cost. It has good bones, but tends to fall flat in the realm of aesthetics. Building upon DIY trends, Ikea “hacking” has become a means of refashioning the utilitarian furnishings. There are countless websites and forums dedicated to the art of overhauling particleboard furniture.
Design studios have set out to capitalize on the Ikea hacking trend as well, offering cabinet fronts, drawer pulls and chair legs for the furniture giant’s most popular products. Ikea’s kitchen cabinets, in particular, lend themselves well to hacking; their doors and side panels can be swapped out with ease. More importantly, the internal hardware is top quality.
“There’s a reason Ikea gives you a 25-year warranty on [its cabinets],” explains Jeppe Christensen, founder of Reform, a Danish company producing high-design, Ikea-friendly cabinet fronts. “All of its hardware is from one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of hinges and rails. It’s used by high-end modular kitchen designers, like Bofi, too.”
By piggybacking on Ikea, Christensen says, Reform is able to cut costs by a minimum of 30 percent.
Founded in 2014, Reform collaborates with world-renowned architects and designers to produce fronts and surfaces for Ikea’s Metod kitchen system. By piggybacking on Ikea, Christensen says, Reform is able to slash costs by a minimum of 30 percent, building designer kitchens for $4,000–7,000. “Ikea takes care of the functionality. For us, it’s much more about aesthetics,” he explains.
Like so many upstart companies, Reform was born out of a frustration with the status quo. Christensen teamed up with Michael Andersen, a former project manager for Bjarke Ingels Group, and set out to create a mid-range, modular kitchen rooted in contemporary Scandinavian aesthetics. Reform’s first offering, Basis, remains its top seller and its only in-house design.
“We were really inspired by a lot of new Danish furniture brands, like Hay and Muuto, who have done a good job of creating a cool brand around really skilled designers,” Christensen explains. Reform began reaching out to architects and has since courted some of the most in-demand Scandinavian designers working today, like Bjarke Ingels Group, Norm Architects and Sigurd Larsen.
While Reform has recently begun to offer fronts and surfaces for other Ikea collections, like the Pax wardrobe and Godmorgon vanity, cabinets remain its bread and butter. “We believe that the kitchen [functions as] one of the biggest pieces of furniture in a home,” Christensen says. With the rise of open floor plans comes the need for a better-looking kitchen, especially when entertaining. The overwhelming majority of Reform’s customers are not looking to swap existing cabinet fronts, but rather, build a kitchen from scratch. “People are not buying Reform as a facelift; they’re buying Reform because they want a cool kitchen,” he says.
Taking note of the hacking trend, Ikea has gone so far as to encourage the modification of its own products: a collaboration with Tom Dixon earlier this year included an aluminum bed frame with channels for the easy addition of a headboard or nightstand. The flat-pack furniture giant is also working on a collection of adaptable, hack-friendly “open platform” furniture, called Delaktig, slated to launch in 2018.
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