How Reform is turning Ikea kitchens into designer models
This Copenhagen-based start-up has cracked the secret to designer kitchens on a budget
“We didn’t invent the concept of IKEA-hacking,” says Jeppe Christensen, an entrepreneurial economist who co-founded Reform in 2014 with engineer-turned-kitchen manufacturer Michael Andersen. “People have been doing it for decades.” Reform’s take on the idea, however, has far more design cred than your regular Pinterest upcycling project. Since launching to the public in 2015, the company has collaborated with some of the world’s leading designers – from BIG’s Bjarke Ingels to Henning Larsen and Norm Architects – to transform IKEA’s range of modular kitchen elements with contemporary tops and fronts. Since then, they’ve sold to 14 countires and have also started hacking IKEA bathrooms and wardrobes.
“IKEA kitchens are good quality and it does huge quantities, which makes it very affordable,” says Andersen. “Competing with IKEA in modular kitchens is an uphill battle, so when Jeppe came to me with his idea to create designer tops and fronts to add to IKEA’s existing elements, it was a revolution.” By building on the base elements of IKEA’s modular kitchens, Reform can deliver a designer kitchen more cheaply, easily and quickly than building one from scratch.
IKEA elements are standard across the world, so clients can talk to the kitchen consultant at their local store to plan the kitchen’s layout and order the base elements. By the time they come to Reform, all that’s left to do is add the special façades, with replacement doors from around €100 (NOK945). “Piggybacking on IKEA makes it easy for us,” Andersen explains. “In theory, we can sell a kitchen tomorrow to India. People can go to their local IKEA and talk to their local kitchen consultant, get everything sorted and then order the fronts from us. The other good thing is that functionality – the difficult part, where to place the fridge and the stove – is already solved when they come to us.”
Currently, there are five collections available, including BIG’s industrial-style series, which has sleek black tops and oak fronts, plus black seat-belt nylon for handles; an elegant oak and copper fit-out by Henning Larsen; and, a soon-to-launch aluminium collection by Berlin-based Danish architect Sigurd Larsen. Reform is experimenting with atypical materials such as concrete, brass and tombac (a brass alloy with high copper content) – enabling customers to buy into cutting-edge kitchen trends on a budget. “In terms of trends, the whole kitchen market is moving towards treating the kitchen as furniture – experimenting with materials and colours,” says Christensen. “For many years, the trend has been that the kitchen shouldn’t stand out that much, it was integrated into the overall design of the home. Now we see a move towards stand out kitchens. Kitchens are getting darker, and people are playing with more unusual materials.”
“It’s easy to get a cool kitchen if you have money,” says Christensen. “If you don’t have money, the market is not that big. Here in Denmark, it’s an urban product. Most of our clients are from bigger cities, mid-thirties, couple of kids.”
Reform is based in Copenhagen with showrooms in New York and Berlin, and there are plans to open up in other major cities. “Hacking IKEA makes our business scalable globally,” says Andersen. “Eventually, we want to own the world.”