Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Join me at StarLIVE on Dec 20th

This is the reason I have been running around like a headless chicken the past week and I foresee the next 9 days. It's been challenging preparing the presentation for this talk (should I say this or that? tell this joke or not at all?) and trying out a few hacks to see which will work.

I will be sharing the story of IKEAhackers and there will be 2 hack demos at the end too. It should be fun, if you like to kick off your weekend listening to the whirr of drills and firing a glue gun.

If you are available, do come and join me at Menara Star, Petaling Jaya. Admission is free but registration required. Here's a itty bitty write-up on it. See you there!

Date: Dec 20
Time: 10.30-11.30am
Venue: Menara Star, 15 Jalan 16/11, Petaling Jaya

To book your seat, email [email protected] with your name, NRIC number, phone number and email.

All in all ... I am thankful for this opportunity to share about IKEAhackers. A great way to end the year before I flop down exhausted for my Christmas break. (And I haven't even started on Christmas gift shopping! Argh)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Learning to speak ...

Outside of this blog, I don't talk much about my work and what I do on IKEAhackers. So when my church asked me to share a bit of my story to a group of young working adults, I thought I should step up and share the things I've learnt over the years.

Public speaking has always been a struggle for me, maybe because I prefer to write than speak and I am naturally a shy person. But there are days one just has to thicken the face and do the deed. I am glad I did. I am not sure what the audience took home but I personally learnt a lot from the experience as well as from the other speakers in the conference.

Here's what I learnt today:
1. Be clear on the one thing you want to hit home. If you manage to deliver that, then it's a job well done.
2. Share the good. And the bad. It's okay to be vulnerable. They don't think any less of you after that.
3. Look at the smiling faces and nodding heads. For a beginner speaker, a little instant validation is helpful and keeps your energy up.
4. After the talk, review what worked and what did not. And don't be too hard on yourself if you think you missed some important points or did not deliver the material well. There will always be another opportunity.

My next one is in 2 weeks. No time to rest on my Poang.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Trip update Part 3: Let's talk

Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 2 here.

Our last day was spent at the IKEA Concept Centre in Delft. It is an actual IKEA store with learning and research spliced in. In here, IKEA studies customers' interactions with their products, floor displays and information. They conduct experiments to better the flow, engage the customer and look into every small detail such as the floor directory to help customers find their way through the store.

For the uninitiated, the first visit to IKEA can be harrowing - the crowd, the maze, the self-service-dunno-how. My first time, I felt sucked into a blackhole with no way out unless I obediently followed the arrows. Now 10,000 trips later, I have the floor plan and shortcuts etched on my palm (till IKEA Malaysia smartly went and renovated their store, just to throw me off!)

The good news is, IKEA works tirelessly to improve the customer's journey through the store. Denis, the very animated store manager of IKEA Delft, took us on a tour and explained the ins and outs of the journey.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Trip update Part 2: Entering the heart of IKEA

Read Part 1 here.

After a good night's rest, I was ready to be wowed by IKEA of Sweden (IoS). I was told that this is where IKEA is most IKEA. The DNA thickest. The heart. And indeed it is.

The new extension of IoS opened not that many weeks ago and there were still many unsettled corners in the building. Spots of chaos aside, it was new and shiny. It has an amazing expansiveness about it. Lots of light, blond wood and dashes of colour.

We arrived at the same time the co-workers were getting in. They were busy getting their morning coffee, sandwiches. We, tourists, went crazy for knäckebröd - a type of crispbread - slathered with Swedish honey. There were muffled talking, mingling, laughing. It felt like I entered a buzzing hive.

The lobby with stacks of the new catalogue - in different languages.
The 'stairs' overlooking the cafeteria. I love this!
The cafeteria - the lively busy hive.
Sufficiently fueled, we met up with Marcus Arvonen, the designer behind the iconic MASKROS chandelier.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Trip update Part 1: Museums and meatballs

It's been more than 3 weeks since my trip to Sweden and the Netherlands and I finally found time to gather my thoughts and write about my meeting with IKEA. I know some of you have been anxious to know the outcome and my apologies for not posting earlier. It wasn't because I couldn't talk about it. I have so much to say and found it hard to trim it down to a manageable blog post. Hence the trilogy.

For those who just want the scoop (and not my rambles), here is it.
I did not meet a single person in IKEA of Sweden or Delft who wanted to shut down IKEAhackers. Seriously, none. In fact, they were very supportive. Even the designers whose furniture we hacked, sawed, repainted, reshaped into things unrecognisable like what we do on IKEAhackers and are pretty tickled to see their designs turned into frankenthings.

The meeting with Torbjörn Lööf, the CEO of Inter IKEA Systems B.V. together with Anders, Henrik and Lena, was open, warm and honest. They recognised the contributions of IKEAHackers and admitted that they "did not handle this (the trademark issue with IH) very well". What impressed me most was their willingness to admit their mistake, make a u-turn and find a solution that was good for both parties. Various suggestions were thrown back and forth and we came to the agreement that IKEA will continue to let me use its trademark on my domain,, as long as my site does not bring harm or damage to the IKEA brand. (eg. porn, nudity, drugs - that kind of stuff which won't appear anyways.) As of today, I have yet to receive a draft of the agreement. But for now, in all likelihood ... stays. 

Yay! Pop the lingonberry juice!

I want to thank you for your support in this crazy situation. Without your very vocal support, I doubt I could have made this behemoth corporation change its mind. By now, you must tire of hearing me say this, but I will say it again from the bottom of my heart - THANK YOU! I am beyond happy. So let's raise our saws and continue hacking!

Now for the blow-by-blow story which means you can stop here if that's not your thing... 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Little change, big happiness boost

I've got a new header!

I love how my illustrated-me seems to be savouring coffee in an enchanted forest. All thanks to my web designer, Urniez, who is also a talented artist. You made me grin - ear to ear.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A sneak peek at the IKEA 2015 catalog

So it is here again! The IKEA 2015 catalog could be heading towards your mailbox even as you read this.

This year's catalogue themed, "Where the Everyday Begins and Ends" highlights the bedroom and the bathroom where most people start and end their days. Judging by the new "Bedroom" products that will be launched and the recent Shakespearean bed ad, IKEA seems to be indeed pushing the bedroom scene.

I have not seen the new range in person but from the photos released to the press, they look good. I am smitten by the ARKELSTORP (how in the world do you say that?), which according to its designer, Ebba Strandmark is a "modern interpretation of furniture that has roots in Swedish folklore." Solid wood too. No particleboard stuff here.

Let's move on to the photos and the many that caught my fancy.


An expandable drop leaf coffee table. And I love that red armchair too.  

Half moon window tables. Very versatile.

This desk looks like a keeper.

Then there is the HURDAL. It would be a hit for those who love the country farmhouse vibe. Pinewood and traditional lines and curves. And very hackable, I must add.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What's it that you do, Jules?

Recently, conversations with strangers or old friends go this way ...

"What do you do?"
“I am a blogger.”
“Hmm... Ok. What do you blog about?”
“The crazy things people do to their IKEA furniture.”
He/She stares at me blankly for a moment. “Oh, my aunt has a blog about her cats ...”

Not that I have anything against blogs about cats but I get the feeling that friends and family find it hard fathom what I do. They understand usual occupation labels like “accountant”, “sales manager” … even my previous incarnation “copywriter”. (Oh, you must be so creative!) But blogger? (They nod and maybe secretly think I should get a real job.)

Then, one of the most common questions I get asked is, “What do you do every day?” or “You must be so free?”

On one hand, yes, I do have better control of my time, compared to my crazy no-sleep-full-on advertising agency days. But no, I am not twiddling my thumbs wondering what to do next.

So let me invite you to spend a day with me. My days may vary from day to day, some days with more out-of-home-office time but the structure remains. I like structure. It gives me room to build upon.

The best part of my day is I don't wake up to an alarm clock. I mean I have an alarm clock but I don't set it unless I need to wake up early to catch a flight or an appointment. On most days, I wake up when I wake up. (And I am not a chirpy morning person. So please don't call me and say “Gooood Moooorrrrning!!!” Don't. Do. That.)

I believe in breakfast but I also believe it should be quick. On my go-to breakfast menu are 2 – 3 soft boiled eggs with a side salad of diced cucumbers or tomatoes sprinkled with salt and extra virgin olive oil. It is nutrient dense and hassle free. Here's what I do: I place 2 eggs in a stainless steel pot, with water just enough to cover the eggs. The pot goes on top of the stove and while it is waiting to boil, I turn my attention to the most important morning ritual - my coffee! It's a delightful thing which cheers up most of my mornings – preparing my espresso with my Bialetti Moka Pot. When the water in the pot of eggs boil, I remove the pot from the stove (but leave the eggs in the hot water) and place the Moka Pot on the stove. When my Moka Pot finishes its happy gurgle, my feels-almost-like-Italy-coffee is done and so are the eggs – perfectly soft boiled. Beautifully timed to go together.

While I eat brekkie, I read (and listen) to my Bible on my iPad. Today, I read Ephesians 1 – 3.

Then I start work. It usually begins with my Most Important Task (MIT) – the No. 1 thing(s) that I want to accomplish for the day. This is a principle I learnt from Leo of Zenhabits. Big rocks first and then the little pebbles. I don't have a lot of MITs – usually just one or two that I prioritize for the day. Too many can be distracting, overwhelming or defeating. Today my MITs are to provide my designer with temporary logins so that he can get on with some design tweaks and secondly, finish this post.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Morning routine

I am not an early riser. Never been.
But when I know there's something delicious waiting, it makes getting up early so much more enjoyable.

Like today.

Gravad Lax on toasted rye bread with generous spreads of butter and cream cheese. And of course, my Bialetti completes the meal. I like my Italian strong.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

10 things about me

One of my local papers, the Malay Mail did a piece on me, out today. Recently, there has been a lot of press, due to the IKEA trademark dispute. But this one is a more personal one. I get to tell my story of how IKEAhackers started and why I love it so.

You'll find out that I bleed Lingonberry juice, among other things. And that my IKEA radar is always on — and if I ever step into your home, I have this annoying habit of picking out and exclaiming "Oh, that's IKEA!" (Nowadays I do hold back the exclamations! For fear of not being invited again)

Starting IKEAhackers has also taken my career on a totally different tangent. It has given me the opportunity to work from home and opened doors to network with people from all over the world. Which is probably the most fun part of the "job", if you can call it that.

Read the full article.

Monday, February 10, 2014

How happy are you in your relationship?

Happy February!

Received this interesting bit of graphics from Happify and thought it was just perfect Valentine's Day fodder. To those in a relationship, there are some good tips to boost your happiness scores. It's pretty obvious and common sense ... but some times these simple gestures can be easily forgotten.

So take time to say pay each other compliments, stay positive and do fun things together. Click here to view a larger version of the graphic.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

What a year it was!

Busy, busy was the word for 2013.

I migrated the site from Blogger to Wordpress and spent a few months in living hell, fire fighting server issues and inching up Wordpress' steep learning curve (for a non-techy like me). But I foresee smoother days ahead. Fingers crossed.

Thank you for hanging in there with me as I tweaked, prodded and improved the the site. Some recent changes include:

> Changing the way the search results were displayed. No more pop-ups. Yay.
> Restoring missing posts from May to July 2013 which were not migrated from the first install. The hacks are now back to their rightful places. However, I wasn't able to import over the comments. Bummer. But I am not giving up yet and will still be looking for a solution to this.
> Server down issues. I will be migrating the site (again!) to another host in probably a few days. It has CDN and all that fancy stuff. Hopefully, the new host will deliver faster loading times and better browsing experience for you.

Still on my to-do list (and the most requested feature) is to reinstate chronological order of hacks. That will come back in 2014. For. Sure.

And now ... on to more exciting stuff. The last few days, I have been knee deep in hacks - reviewing and shortlisting my top 10 favourites for the Hack of the Year 2013! What a phenomenal year. Lots of interesting entries and my heart is rent with having to omit so many from the list. The list should be done in a day or two ... so look out for it. And if you have a favourite, do leave a comment below so that I can consider it.

Thanks again for your support, whether you are a first-time visitor to my site or a long time friend. You've made 2013 an awesome one for me and IKEAHackers.

Keep hacking!