Pimp my Ikea: How to bling up your 'Billy' bookcase

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What happened when we let the cream of up-and-coming British design talent loose on three basic pieces from the Scandinavian home-furnishing giant?

THE CHAIR

What: "Henriksdal" dining chair, £58.72.

Who: Michelle Mason is an award-winning interiors and homewares designer.

She says: "Even though it is sold throughout the world, Ikea is very much a Scandinavian brand, so I wanted to inject some classic British design into this piece, in the form of recognisable shapes and silhouettes. So I used sustainable felt that you can buy in any craft shop to make cut-outs of a Bakelite telephone, Robin Day chairs and a couple of Penguin Classics.

"I painted the legs white, too, to make it a blank canvas for the shapes and colours. Altogether, I spent £12 on materials and it took only a day – most of which was drying time.

"The beauty of Ikea is the plainness of its pieces – there is a lot of room to put your own stamp on them. There is a big trend at the moment to get digital photos made into canvases for walls or blinds, and I think another great idea would be to have your own picture printed on fabric, which can then be used to reupholster a chair.

"Ikea sells plain covers that can be fitted over the chair, so it's worth bearing in mind that if the decorating goes wrong, you can disguise them again."

Do it yourself

1. Sand the legs then paint in emulsion in your choice of colour.

2. Draw out your shapes on the back of some pieces of felt and cut out with sharp fabric scissors.

3. To get a feel for how they should be arranged, play around a bit and pin them in place until you settle on the right look.

4. Stick the felt pieces in place using a thin layer of fabric glue and leave to dry as instructed on the packet.

www.michellemason.co.uk

THE COFFEE TABLE

What: "Expedit" glass-topped, white coffee table, £45.

Who: Jamie Anley, Astrid Zala and Phil Nutley (pictured left, left to right) are the directors of JAM, an experiential branding consultancy that works with companies such as Audi, Whirlpool and Evian on a range of projects from furniture design to film, intended to create tangible representations of a brand's values.

They say: "Every object you buy with a flat surface is an opportunity to display your own creativity on it and make

it relevant to you. We wanted to move this piece as far away as possible from a mass-produced object towards something really personal. With the glass top, display is inherent in its design. To reinforce that new purpose, we created a frame motif, cut it out of gold laminate and printed out some photos of our team on nights out.

"It's a great time to explore this issue; the past 15 years of economic boom have resulted in people seeing homes as a commodity to buy, do up 'safely', and sell on. But a home should reflect the changing personalities and nature of the family that lives there. It's not really ever the case that you have 'finished doing your home up'.

"Ikea has done a great thing for the nation, but its success may be its obstacle, as it is so ubiquitous – unless people see that they can do more of this kind of thing. It would be a very smart move if Ikea were to embrace this as a premise for creating adaptable and customisable pieces."

Do it yourself

1. Remove the glass top.

2. Find an existing picture frame that you like and copy the shape free-hand on to the back of a sheet of gold laminate or paper. Make either one big frame or several frames of varying sizes for individual pictures. If you don't trust your drawing abilities, you can buy "frame tape" instead (try Do Frame tape, £8.50, www.designmuseumshop.com).

3. Cut out your frame shape and stick to the table with a thin layer of glue. Or you can make a stencil and paint the frame on.

4. Add your own pictures, postcards, or anything that is relevant and personal to you, and replace the glass. Once it's done, don't just leave it forever – keep changing and adding over time. '

JAM are creative directors of the interior-design exhibition 100% Design London from 24-27 September (www. 100percentdesign.co.uk). Jamie and Phil will also appear on a new BBC2 series about people and their homes in June. For details, see www.jamdesign.co.uk

THE CABINET

What: "PS" cabinet on castors, £29.26.

Who: John A Harris is a furniture designer who works chiefly in wood, reworking old timber into modern designs.

He says: "Ikea is not a place for expanding your mind as far as aesthetics goes, but in terms of functional pieces, it is great. You can buy fantastic basic pieces that work really well, such as a wardrobe frame, then use your imagination about the form you want to create.

"The cabinet is so simple that it lends itself to a lot of ideas. I didn't want to deconstruct it too much because as a working piece, it is perfect, so I focused on changing its appearance by cladding the exterior in cubes of various sizes made from recycled beech pallets. Face on, it looks flat, but if you turn it sideways it has different contours, which throw interesting shadows and make it look more like a 3-D landscape.

"If you have a few basic tools you can easily do this at home yourself. A hand-saw, a set square to draw out straight lines and some glue is about all you need. You don't even have to use wood – there are things you could find around your house that would work. Discarded piping, for example, could be cut up and used to clad it, which would give you a rounded effect rather than cubic."

Do it yourself

1. Paint the cabinet with matt emulsion in your choice of colour (the legs will still be exposed).

2. Choose your wood, sand it smooth and saw into pieces of varying sizes. Offcuts can be bought inexpensively from timber yards and often have the most interesting grains and colouring. The cubes used here were a mixture of one-, three- and five-inch cubes.

3. Once cut, sand the cubes again and glue them on to the cabinet. Gorilla glue ( www.gluegorilla.co.uk) is good for bonding different materials together strongly and quickly.

Harris will be exhibiting his work at the Milan Design Fair from Wednesday to April 27 ( www.jaharris.co.uk)

THE BOOKCASE

What: "Billy" bookcase in birch veneer, £47.96.

Who: Dan Black and Martin Blum are behind Anglo-Swiss design consultancy Black + Blum. As well as advising other companies on creative issues, they design their own range of products for the home.

They say: "Our main priority was to give this piece a bit of character. In its basic form, it is very recognisable as the cheapest bit of shelving you can buy from Ikea, so we wanted to give it a new identity as well as a function by turning it into a self-contained home-office unit.

"We joined two of the shelves with hinges to create a work surface that can be folded up to hide a laptop. We hung magazine racks on each side and added one at the top to change the shape – it almost looks like a winged creature now.

"Staring at the back of a bookcase while you work wouldn't have been very inspiring, so we laminated some fake grass to add an outdoors feel to the back and added a blackboard."

Do it yourself

1. Assemble the bookcase frame according to the instructions.

2. Fix one shelf at desk height and another two at appropriate heights for files and books.

3. Take the remaining shelf and attach it to the desk-height shelf using three standard door hinges, so that it may be folded out flat to create a working surface. For added support, staple a piece of strong ribbon at a 45-degree angle from the inside of the bookshelf to the underside of the fold-out shelf. Repeat on the other side.

4. Choose a fabric or print for the back of the bookcase and attach it to the wood using a glue gun. Attach the back according to instructions.

5. Accessorise with magazine racks, hooks, clip-on lights etc.

Magazine racks, desk-tidy, tape dispenser, blackboard and book-ends all available from www.black-blum.com.

For more ideas on how to customise Ikea furniture, go to ikeahacker.blogspot.com

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