I heard a really fascinating episode of one of my favorite podcasts recently (99% Invisible).  It was about hacking IKEA furniture.  They interviewed the curator of a website devoted to the niche art form.

lights on!
Lights inside the oven!

Little did I realize a few years ago, I was doing just that when I decided to make a kid’s play kitchen “better.”  At least in theory, since I had to fix my hack later.

As it turns out, this is one of those designs that didn’t turn out nearly as great as it looked in my head.  In the end, I threw in the towel and undid the hack altogether, as it wasn’t all that kid-friendly.

For instance, in the interest of making the little kitchen more lifelike, I thought it would be cool 1 to make the over door open correctly (up-to-down, rather than side-to-side).  Well, unbeknownst to me, the IKEA designers had a very good reason for that choice: the door doesn’t bang the floor when the kids open it up and let go!

Also, I thought it would be cool if the oven had a working light that came on when opened.  Well, as it turned out, my circuit design wasn’t so good and the batteries kept draining prematurely.

You’ve heard the phrase “can’t leave well enough alone”?  This project fell under that category.  Sometimes in the quest to make things better, engineers can over-complicate.



  1. I’m convinced that this is the genesis of most engineering projects: “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…”

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