Hacking IKEA furniture has become something of a hobby for creative furniture lovers who have figured out inventive ways to take the Swedish manufacturers’ home furnishings to the next level.
For a new startup based in London, England, transforming garden-variety IKEA cabinetry into sleek, stylish kitchens isn’t just a cottage industry, but has evolved into a full-fledged business dubbed Plykea.
The concept is simple yet brilliant: birch plywood doors and worktops are designed and built that can be adhered to IKEA’s Metod line of kichen cabinets.
Plykea’s wooden facades are engineered to create a perfect fit with the originals, created to appeal to homeowners on a limited kitchen-reno budget who are looking for different finishes than those offered by IKEA.
The idea came to Plykea co-founder Tim Diacon as he renovated his own kitchen and struggled to find bespoke cabinetry in the kind of material he was looking for – and at a price point he could afford.
“I assumed it would be fairly easy to find a company supplying ply fronts for IKEA, but to my surprise couldn’t find one when I looked,” said Diacon in an interview with Dezeen. “We went to IKEA and bought one of their cheapest fronts, measured them precisely including all the drill holes, and then CNC-ed our fronts.”
The results were so spectacular that Diacon decided to team up with furniture designer Adam Vergette to manufacture fronts and worktops that would seamlessly fit on top of IKEA’s cabinets for an easy and relatively inexpensive solution.
“IKEA makes great quality mass-manufactured furniture. This naturally restricts the choice of materials they make available in their product range. What we add essentially is choice,” noted Diacon. “Kitchens these days are more often than not the central hub of the home and we’re finding that people want to spend a little extra to get something of higher quality, that’s more unique or personal.”
After the material is precision-cut, it’s then hand-finished, with wooden faces and edges sanded before several coasts of clear hard wax oil are applied to create a finish that is attractive, highly durable and water-resistant.
Options include wood and formica-faced plywood surfaces, in addition to wooden spacer panels meant to be placed between cupboards, which provides an elegant bespoke feel. Plus, Plykea also offers a range of handles, including brass pulls, while some feature round or rectangular cut-outs.
Why plywood? Diacon answered that question in an interview with Co.Design. “For me personally, I’ve always thought [plywood] has a really beautiful esthetic, there’s something about the exposed edge where you can clearly see how the material is constructed that gives it a kind of honesty,” he noted. “It’s not pretending to be a solid piece of wood like a piece of MDF veneered on all sides, it’s just being what is it and it’s all the more beautiful because of that.”
While IKEA has yet to either endorse Plykea or send a cease-and-desist letter from its lawyers, Diacon hopes the company will see the value that Plykea brings when it comes to driving renovators into the IKEA showroom.
“At the end of the day we’re only encouraging more people to buy IKEA kitchens,” he added. “We think IKEA is an amazing company, and we hope they see what we’re doing as complimenting them. I guess we’ll find out.”