Jeppe Christensen and Michael Andersen are the first to admit they didn’t invent the concept of Ikea hacking. But the men, at the helm of Danish design company Reform, just may have perfected the task. The solution they came up with in 2014 was this: Take Ikea’s cookie cutter kitchen cabinets — whose hinges, slides, and particleboard frames are the same quality as custom ones, Andersen insists — and re-skin them. Give them new fronts, toe kicks, countertops, and handles, all designed by some of the world’s most prominent architects for a sliver of what it might normally cost.
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The idea worked. Reform has eight kitchen designs now (an underrated plus: they’re all easier to pronounce than Ikea’s Ekestad and Tingsryd varieties), with more on the horizon. There’s the in-house model Basis, which, as its name suggests, is where it all started for the company. It’s the kind of kitchen that makes design lovers geek out, with Scandinavian simplicity — solid fronts featuring circular, cut-out handles — and a touch of ’60s flair. The success of it inspired Christensen and Andersen to call on the big names that anchor their brand today.
“We made a list of the three coolest designers we wanted to work with and called them up, and they were all into it,” Andersen says. The three (BIG, Henning Larsen and Norm) created original cabinet fronts for Reform, with unique touches like door pulls made from seatbelt material and wood panels banded in copper. It was a feat for a then-engineer and economist duo with little experience in the home design space to secure them, but since then, even more experts have signed on, and Reform has seen major success — enough to uproot some of its small Denmark-based team and task them with opening a Brooklyn showroom and office.
America has been slower to catch on than the company’s European customers, mostly because they don’t know it exists yet. Reform has no affiliation with Ikea, but many of the furniture giant’s Danish employees are familiar with it; some even refer people to Reform. At one of Ikea’s New York stores, a representative told us they hadn’t heard of Reform, but they knew the popularity of these hack-focused businesses was rising. Reform has the numbers to prove that: They’re on track to sell 1,000 kitchens this year, up 800 from their inaugural round.
The apples to apples comparison of Ikea’s standard wood fronts and Reform’s most basic ones is about $70 to $130. It’s double, but you’d likely pay double or triple Reform’s price for any other custom cabinet. And it’s with that fact, Christensen says, that Reform’s banking on luring in customers: “We’re trying to revolutionize the whole kitchen industry and bring affordable designs to the people.”
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