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The Ikea Office

Two weeks ago, I shared the plans for our loft area, which is where I do my computer work. I mentioned that we were waiting for an appointment with Ikea — they called and the appointment was arranged. That Friday, I went to Ikea but our design consultant was nowhere to be found. The consensus was that she had a family emergency and had to leave. I can understand such situations but was a bit upset that no one had called us to postpone the appointment. We were not starting off to a good working relationship with Ikea.

The following week, she called and apologized — claiming that she had asked someone to call us. Skeptical! Anyway, we still wanted the design consulting and the earliest appointment was with another consultant (Steve) on Wednesday. He liked our plan and offered a few suggestions as well as answering some lingering questions. The next step was to create a pull list of all the items we needed. Instead of an Ikea employee gathering the items for us, it is expected that we would walk through the store and their self-service warehouse pulling the items ourselves. Interesting cost-saving business practice.

Just about everything sold by Ikea comes unassembled in a box. Our complete office could easily fit in our car — except the large corner surface — which we had delivered together with the wall cabinets (just to use up our 250 pound limit for delivery — you gotta get your money's worth, right?). The delivery was made the next day while I was on the golf course (Mizuki was home, of course).

Thursday night, I assembled the wall cabinets. Interestingly, Ikea provides assembly instructions with no words, just pictures. The cabinet assembly was pretty straight-forward — however, later experience showed me that some pieces had to be oriented in a particular way that was not mentioned in the non-verbal instructions. Assemble, dis-assemble, re-assemble — thy name is Ikea.

On Friday, I began the hard work — first shutting down the computers and emptying the old office. I left the old desk (with secretary) in place as a convenient work surface temporarily. Next step, install wall cabinets. Curiously, Ikea personnel told me that all I needed to use were "Molly Bolts". I was concerned about the ability of our drywall to hold the weight of these wall cabinets plus books and files. The potential for disaster was significant because of the valuable computer gear below. So I decided in favor of shelf brackets secured to the studs to support the weight of the wall cabinets plus drywall anchor screws to keep everything in place. Perhaps you'll accuse me of over-engineering. If so, guilty as charged. But at least I can sleep well at night.

The cabinets went up fairly easily — except for the doors on half of the cabinets. They have these really cool European hinges that can be adjusted to make the doors fit just right. Unfortunately, after many unsuccessful attempts to get the two parts to join, I regrouped and reverse-engineered the problem — which is when I determined that the instructions were wrong — the wall half of the hinge was shown backwards from the correct placement. AGGGGHHH!!!!


Next came the lights both under the bottom cabinet and above the top cabinet. The former provide pleasant illumination on the work surface and the latter chase the shadows that would mar the overall appearance.

Saturday was devoted to the work surface but first the old desk had to be disassembled and taken down stairs. It has been so long, I had forgotten how big a pain it was to get them upstairs in the first place — with a couple of burly movers doing the heavy lifting. Going down, gravity was our friend although the 180° turn at the landing created a challenge.


The instructions for assembling the work surface suggest that you do it upside down — connecting the pieces and attaching them to an ever expanding framework. That's fine if you are in the middle of a stadium — not so fine in a small loft area on the second floor of a townhouse. Thus I had to figure out how to assemble it all right-side up and the mirror image from the instructions. Again, the instructions do not let you know that certain pieces have to be oriented in a particular way.

But it's coming together and Sunday was devoted to installing hanging platforms for the computers (and UPS) plus wiring runs to help eliminate wiring clutter. By the end of the day, the new office was actually usable. There are still some details to complete (such as the wiring clutter not yet routed on the wiring runs in the second photo below) but I can share the results to date.

So this "Life After HP" is the first composed in the new office. The environment is much easier to work in. I like it a lot. As for Ikea, I'd give them an A for pricing, B+ for design, D for consulting and F for instructions.


Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com