Spotlight on Gisbert Van Ginkel, the very busy hacker

 “I seem to have a knack for floating stuff.”

I must admit I was a little more than curious about the person behind the mysterious initials – G.V.M – who kept sending in one awesome hack after another. I knew I had to do a spotlight on Gisbert, as I would later discover, the hacker behind the gorgeous pair of dress boys. The dress boys narrowly missed becoming the 2010 Hack of the Year but it was a strong contender, no less.

IH: More on the Bedroom dress boys hack
How did you come up with the idea for the Bedroom dress boys? Credit goes to Laphoeff for the idea. I saw their bedbox in a design magazine, liked it for my kids’ rooms. I stumbled upon the dress boys visiting their site. I just brought the frustration needed to see it as a nice solution for our bedroom. There isn’t much space between the foot end of the bed and the wall, which doubles as the route to our balcony. Clothes got in the way cluttering up the place, and the previous solution – a free standing antique towel rack – looked nice but didn’t work, it kept falling over and we couldn’t keep our clothes well separated.

IH: What did you like most about it?
It’s a triple win. I prefer chairs for hanging clothes, that just feels natural, so this comes close, and with a great cool factor as well – it’s fun to have chairs sticking through the walls! And I greatly appreciate having two chairs, as me and my partner organize differently  J.  I like how it turned out with the radiator cover (also a hack). It’s functional, elegant and unobtrusive.

IH: In constructing the hack, what was the toughest/most difficult part?
Finding the right chair. It had to be attractive and relatively simple to slice in two, fit for hanging clothes without them sliding off and of course solid enough and not too expensive. The Bertils were a good second hand find. After that, it was working the manual circle saw so the edge of the seats would fit at the right angle to the wall. The key was to adjust the blade to be perpendicular to the horizontal plane, even if the seat isn’t. The final stretch is the most difficult, when part of the structural integrity of the chair disintegrates.

IH: You’ve actually submitted quite a few hacks which were published on Ikeahackers, which one is your favourite and why?
On a day-to-day basis I’m the most happy about the hack-cluster on our living room wall. It’s not about stunning design, but it is cheap, playful, fun to make, it provides ‘structure’ to the room; and it’s practical for us and the children. As a commenter mentioned, it’s a real life solution. The floating Rast cases really help freeing up space, organizing the kids’ stuff near the table, and provide easy floor cleaning – which is my household chore, so that’s a big plus.

IH: Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m 40, Dutch, father of two daughters (3 and 6) and of course partner of their great mom. I have a somewhat eclectic background as a tropical landuse engineer- gone anthropologist, math teacher, educational researcher and curriculum designer. I’m a DIY enthusiast at heart. I’ve always been making things and doodling/sketching things to make. It started as a boy, building several would-be-boats in the backyard. I even got one to the river and floating, for a short while – my dad is still mad I used his expensive brass nails.

IH: Where do you live and how has that influenced your Ikea hacking?
Gouda, a great mix of town and city with a nice historic centre, in The Netherlands. One helpful factor is of course the proximity of two Ikea stores, one of which a concept-store, the other only a 20-minute
drive en route to family.

Living in a compact house with two kids (and a partner with different organizing habits) on a limited budget has been a major hacking drive: trying to keep things organized, practical and comfortable for daily life. We bought our 1935 house in 2002, moved in together, and completely renovated the place, repurposing original elements as much as possible.

All DIY, save a few specialized jobs, with help from family and friends, especially my father-in-law, a handy-man by trade with a lot of tools. We retrieved the original blueprints of our housing block, and it’s fun to see that almost all 45 houses have been redone differently in major ways. The main theme in our renovation has been making the most of the available space.

IH: What do you do for a living?
I’m a teacher educator at the University, finishing a PhD on mentoring.

IH: What’s your favourite Ikea item?
From a hacking point of view: the Rast bedside table. I’ll agree it’s not that much to look at, but it’s a solid, simple and cheap base unit that’s superbly hackable, for so many different purposes.  I’ve used 9 in our home, and expect to do several more with them.

IH: What do you like most about Ikea?
The box with leftover bits and pieces in the as-is section, which  you can rummage through to fill a Gliss box with DIY goodies, for a few euros.  Now even my non-Ikea DIY projects are becoming easily dismantled with allen keys.

IH: Do you have a lot of Ikea in your home?
Yes, even our proverbial smallest room features several items at least. Mainly functional stuff, hardly any accessories, save a few plant pots . Quite some toys – going to Ikea with my oldest daughter and not coming back with a new furry animal is always a challenge.

I’ve resold several large pieces – many second hand to begin with – in accommodating the growing kids’ needs as well as failed experiments at getting rooms right.

IH: Are there any other hacks in your home?
There are several I didn’t post (yet), partly smalltime hacking. I repurposed a second hand Ikea bench (discontinued) for our dining table to double as a toy storage unit by turning it around, back rest removed,  with Trofast boxes on rails underneath. Two Mackis drawers flank our masterbed as floating bedside tables.

I made both my daughters a floating bed with Ikea Christmas lighting underneath for a starlit heaven effect. The new Stuva series proved great for a built-in floating clothes cabinet in our 3 yr old’s super compact (220 by 180 cm) room.

Her sister’s bedroom wall has Lack shelves with Ikea rails beneath for hanging art and stuff and a floating low sidetable as play(mobil) area, built from two Rast bedside tables with a long top and hanging Trofast boxes. I’ve adapted the use of smaller stuff such as Capita legs under vintage items and a bed ladder and using Fastbo wall tiles as whiteboards for the kids. But that’s about it. (Here’s one more!)

IH: What makes you hack or the reasons you hack?
Family + small house + limited budget (I really believe in the power of limitations to drive creative work) + a DIY mindset.  I’m easily frustrated by clutter and unorganized stuff or impractical layouts (like with the school kitchen hack)  and inclined to seek solutions in hardware. I like doodling to see what could be done with a room and searching out materials that won’t break the bank.

IH: What/Who inspires you to hack?
Mainly my three girls – wanting to be a good dad and providing a comfortable home, for them and me. One of my best friends lives nearby and we team up now and again for Ikea trips since it’s something our partners don’t share our fondness of. That helps keep the flow of ideas for projects running, especially as she’s way more artistic and better at colors than I am. Manual work is also a nice vacation from my thinking-jobs. In the summer, woodworking in the garden is fun with neighborhood kids coming by to start crafting with the box of leftover wood. Some wood, glue, a hammer and nails will have them working together for a whole day and proud of their achievements.

IH: Where do you get your design inspiration?
Anything I can find that works for the problem I want resolved – which is why I’m really glad a site like Ikeahackers exists, as well as Lifehacker, there’s just so many ideas.  I have a collection of interior design books I browse now and then, but two really stick out for inspiration. A basic, no-photo’s non-glossy one my partner bought me, written by a 1960’s interior architect (Hans Uylenburg). It emphasizes functional, transparent en durable solutions and really focuses on the basics of room layout – where the most comfortable seating area tends to be, how to rearrange volumes in a room, how to create a basic layout that feels uncluttered, even with added items. I really like the utterly basic and no-nonsense philosophy behind the book. It was like finally understanding the grammar of the space I live in. That really influences a lot of my larger DIY interior work.

More recently a book on painting (Dare to Paint by Per Nimer, probably from Ikea) had a similar effect with regard to color. I like it when a set of basic rules are spelled out to use as a foundation, probably a side effect of teaching math (axioms and stuff).

IH: Are there any current hack projects you are working on?
Right now the most urgent one is our workstation in the attic, where I do most of my desktop work.  I want to do an ergonomic sit-stand desk, given recent views on good workspace design. That probably requires hacking to remain affordable – I expect to do a Rast hack again. There’s a lot of great workstation hacks on Ikeahackers and Lifehacker that I’m considering incorporating,. (Such as a monitor stand like this one and redoing the file organizing system like this one.

IH: And any other comments you would like to add?
Thanks for my 15 minutes of fame, and a big thanks to all the commenters and voters on my bedroom dress boys hack!