Blue-green fronts, elegant marble stone slabs and gold fittings: the chic kitchen of the well-known lifestyle blogger Jessie Weiß looks like a custom-made designer. It is, but only from the outside – the inner workings, such as cupboards and drawers, are actually from Ikea. “It is thanks to Reform that the end result no longer looks like Ikea,” writes Weiss in an article on her blog Journelles.
The Danish company Reform CPH sells kitchen fronts designed by well-known designers such as Sigurd Larson or Bjarke Ingels that fit on all Ikea kitchen modules. Customers order the skeleton of the kitchen made of cupboards and drawers from the cheap Swedish furniture dealer and the worktops and cupboard fronts from Reform. Ikea hacking is the name of this trend, which more and more young companies are making use of.
The idea behind it: making tailor-made designer kitchens accessible to a larger audience at an affordable price. The average price per reform kitchen is around 4,000 euros. The cheapest fronts from the Danish company are around three times as expensive as the off-the-shelf products from Ikea.
And the Danes seem to have hit a nerve: In 2020 the company counted more than 3,000 orders and achieved a turnover of around 14 million euros, which corresponds to a growth of 30 percent compared to the previous year. Germany in particular is their largest sales market, because the Germans are the biggest Ikea fans in Europe: the local market is also the most important for the Swedes. This also seems to convince investors: the company has just completed a financing round in which it will receive ten million euros from the Danish growth fund Vækstfonden.
A designer kitchen for everyone
“You shouldn’t have to be super rich to be able to afford a unique designer kitchen,” says Jeppe Christensen. The Dane founded the kitchen brand together with Michael Andersen in 2014, and the two friends have been running the company since then. The idea came to them over a beer when they were talking about buying a kitchen themselves. “We looked around the market and couldn’t find a kitchen with high quality and at the same time beautiful design, but also at an affordable price that met our requirements,” says Christensen.
The founders saw a gap in the market between the inexpensive standard kitchens and the high-end versions. And they filled them with reform.
“But how do you get into the market quickly when you have no idea about kitchens, are poor and have no production infrastructure?” Recalls Christensen. So they got the idea to jump on Ikea. At the start of the young company, Christensen and Andersen approached the furniture store chain. The Swedish furniture giant congratulated her on the idea, but reminded her to protect the brand. “Ikea generally encourages other companies to hack their products because it naturally pays off for their brand,” says Andersen. At the same time, of course, the hacking companies also benefit – even if they implement significantly lower volumes than Ikea.
The Swedish label Superfront, for example, has been one of the pioneers of Ikea hacking since 2011: the company not only sells fronts for kitchens via the online shop, but also for sideboards, wardrobes and bathroom cabinets, as well as handles and furniture legs. Unlike Reform, the brand does not rely on the designs of well-known designers. The Swedish label Prettypegs even has a one-year exclusive cooperation with Ikea, in which handles and furniture feet from the young company for the Besta combinations can be bought on the website of the furniture giant. And the hacking principle can also be applied to fabrics: The German interior shop Bemz, for example, sells colorful covers for almost every couch, armchair or bed model from Ikea.
In the future, the company wants to offer its own kitchens
Reform will continue to offer the Ikea option, but the company is now developing away from the Swedish furniture chain, according to Christensen. “Ikea is unbeaten when it comes to value for money, but it’s not a lifestyle brand like we want to be,” he says. The Danes want to achieve this in the future with their own, fully equipped kitchens. For almost a year now, Reform has also been offering an (almost) complete kitchen, only electrical appliances and assembly are missing. In the second quarter of this year, the company wants to offer a fully equipped starter kitchen model that costs just as much as the Ikea modules – plus the price for the Reform fronts.
“It’s funny to send customers to Ikea first, many want to buy the entire kitchen from us right from the start,” Christensen explains. The company has already lost many customers. The market for sellers of full, bespoke kitchens is also larger than the Ikea hacking niche, Christensen said.
Although growth in the corona crisis was lower than planned, reform was not particularly hard hit by the effects of the pandemic. One of the reasons for this is that the company also has some physical stores in several major European cities, but mainly sells its kitchens online.
The company became known in Germany mainly through social media and being mentioned by interior influencers such as the aforementioned Jessie Weiß or the food bloggers from Eat this. The first point of contact with most customers is social media. The subject of furnishing and home improvement has been booming on social media for several years, but it was even stronger during the Corona crisis, as people spend more time in their homes.
In 2021 Reform is now aiming for the sale of 6,000 kitchens and a turnover of 25 million euros. With the ten million from the growth fund, Reform wants to grow with additional showrooms in the largest growth markets, the DACH region and the USA. In addition, the money is to be used to invest in an even greener corporate orientation. The company aims to be CO2-neutral by 2025 and then even CO2-positive, says Michael Andersen.