Sunday, August 11, 2013

Blockworks Furniture: An Ikea GALANT & BILLY alternative?

You don't really start appreciating something until you lose it.

In this case, I've lost nothing and just felt like looking for it in case I wanted something different. What I'm speaking of are modular furniture systems from Ikea. This includes series like the GALANT desks, BILLY bookshelves, PAX wardrobes, IVAR and GORM shelves, etc. In the past, I've put together posts about potential alternatives to the BILLY and GALANT systems. However, those were mostly alternative systems from IKEA or less flexible items from other stores.

Non-Ikea Modular Desks
Research isn't exactly the hardest thing to do nowadays with Mr. Google. Still, someone has to bother to actual to it, which is what I kind of did. I tried to look up modular furniture systems and didn't have much success in finding products similar to those from Ikea (e.g. choice of table tops, sizes, add-on parts). The ones I did find appeared to be custom-order products from specific vendors. Others I found were called "modular", but the options were rather limited and they were on the pricy side. Note that this wasn't comprehensive research, so maybe I missed some good ones -- I only gave it about 20 minutes until I found something interesting.

Blockworks: Build your own anything?
A very interesting item showed up a few pages deep in my Google search. I'm not too well versed on how it works, but it looks very interesting. What I'm talking about is the Blockworks furniture system. It appears to be pretty new product from a relatively small operation -- one man operation? The designer, Black Hound Design Company, has a blog attached to its website that suggests the product may have only launched in July or August 2013.

What can be made?
Described as an "adaptable furniture system", some of the items I've seen on the website are tables, desks, a storage bin, chairs, shelves, a bed, and a couch. Each item is put together using a few parts and should be easily taken apart to make different items when the desire arises.

The system appears to consist of four parts. There are joint sections to form connections and blocks that serve as supports and surfaces. Everything looks like it's made of wood and comes with different surfaces or stains.

They are offered in packages, or "sets", of two, four, and eight right now. A "set of 2" includes 2 "large H blocks", 6 "small blocks", 4 "small cartridges", and 2 "large cartridges". One would find twice the amount of blocks and cartridges in a "set of 4". However, a "set of 8" is slightly different with four times everything else except "small blocks".

It appears that the smallest package is advertised as having more than 12 furniture options. Intuitively, more blocks in the larger packs allow for more possibilities and/or larger items. I'm still not entirely sure how everything works, so I can't go into detail as to what makes what. There are examples on the company's website under the "Options" page.

This is not exactly the cheapest piece of furniture out there. A "set of 2" starts at US$ 400, the four goes to US$ 750, and the eight goes to US$ 1250. Looks like there's a volume discount.

For what may be a relatively new product, the shipping options and speed is understandably a bit limited at the time of writing. Each package is supposedly made to order with a delivery time of 5 to 6 weeks. It also only seems to be available in the United States at the moment.

I am very impressed. At US$ 400 for the cheapest package, it's definitely pricier than a typical Ikea item. To be perfectly honest, it looks like I'd need to spend $750 just to get a desk the size of my current $200 GALANT desk.

However, the ability to expand and create both larger and different items is very unique. And the philosophy behind the design appears to be one of compactness, so being small is the idea. One may never "outgrow" a package: if a piece of furniture is no longer adequate, it can be transformed into something else entirely. I was looking for a modular furniture system for just desks: this one does modular desks, shelves, beds, chairs, etc.

Not being American, I have no way of trying it out easily. And I'm not in the mood to spend over $400 right now. Looking forward to seeing what other people find.

IKEA BILLY Bookcase Review
IKEA GORM Shelf Review
IKEA IVAR Shelf Review
IKEA VIKA (Table Bar) Desk Review
New Ikea LED Bulbs Released: August 2013

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