10 things about: Jules Yap, hobbyist turned IKEA Hacker

Ipoh-born Jules Yap tells us how she ended up as the IKEA hacker. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Ipoh-born Jules Yap tells us how she ended up as the IKEA hacker. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, July 6 — What started out as a hobby collecting fun ideas to customise IKEA products became so big that the Swedish furniture giant threatened a lawsuit against Ipoh-born Jules Yap over trademark violation.

That is before an army of fans and those from the online community protested and even called the world’s largest furniture retailer, a big bully.

In 2006, Yap, also known as the IKEA Hacker, was researching ideas for her own apartment and noticed that innovative IKEA hacks were scattered on different web sites and forums.

The life of the IKEA Hacker started on the free blog publishing service, blogspot.com. But traffic grew so rapidly that Yap had to buy a domain name, www.IkeaHackers.net, just to cope.

Three years later, she quit her job as a copywriter after being in the advertising industry for 15 years and became the IKEA Hacker, full time.

Her web site draws an average of 30,000 visitors each day, but since news broke three weeks ago that IKEA is threatening a lawsuit, the figure hit 458,000 visitors on one day.

Because of the overwhelming support she got from the online community, IKEA and Yap are discussing the best way to handle the situation. At the moment, she is still allowed to use her site without making any changes.

In her own words:

  • IKEA is in my blood now. If you cut me, I’d probably bleed Lingonberry juice. My IKEA radar is always on — if I step into a restaurant or a friend’s home, I can’t help but notice the IKEA. You could say it’s an occupational hazard.
  • It 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.
  • If they really insist I cannot use their trademark, then I would have to go back to my original plan which was to change the domain name.
  • Now it’s in a bit of a limbo because at first one of the plans was to expand beyond IKEA because if I’m no longer constrained by the domain then why not explore other kind of furniture hacks as well but at this point in time if I were to keep to IKEA then maybe, I’ll have to rethink the direction of how I want to expand the whole site.
  • I do have a lot of IKEA in my house, maybe half but I guess maybe in terms of being a hacker, you want to make your IKEA a bit different so you don’t feel like you’re standing in a show room.
  • IKEA is good… it offers affordable furniture to people with designs that are not too bad.
  • I think when it was originally conceived, this is what I think… IKEA already built into the system this ability for you to play with it whether mixing and matching, choosing your own doors, knobs and stuff. So there is already this customisation that is already in this whole IKEA system. So by hacking you are actually bringing it a step beyond what they have thought.
  • I think that’s where the fun of IKEA hacking is. That can be totally beyond what it was originally conceived. Salad bowls can become speakers. It’s quite fascinating.
  • I believe, and when I started to learn to do these things, I discovered that it’s very therapeutic in a strange way. Maybe it uses different parts of your brain that you don’t usually use.
  • We should encourage the D-I-Y culture in Malaysia. I receive a lot of hacks from the US, from European countries, Australia even, even more from Singapore surprisingly, considering they have so little space to saw up stuff but Malaysia, so few and I don’t know why, somehow, Malaysians don’t seem to like to do this kind of thing, or they prefer to pay people to do it.

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