IKEA’s Frösta Stool, Revised
I’ve read a lot about “IKEA hacks” online but I’ve never attempted one myself. In fact, it’s probably still true that I still haven’t. I had help (the hands you see in the pictures below are my friend Rod’s), and it was more of a careful edit than a hack. Last month I came home with two Frösta stools from IKEA. Though I liked the shape, I was dubious about their quality, considering past experience with IKEA’s wooden chairs (background: Tom bought four Ivar chairs for his apartment while we were still in college. We used them at our dining table here in Minneapolis [see left] until one collapsed under him when we had friends over for dinner last fall… we were able to return them as IKEA’s staff determined they were defective… since then we’ve been using two blue Steelcase chairs I got for $10 each at the University of Minnesota Reuse Center). I brought the Fröstas home with the idea of test driving one; I left the other in its packaging to make for an easy return if necessary. My hope was that they’d make for great extra seating when we have guests, but my hesitations proved correct. With four legs, the stool was really wobbly. And, even though I had tightened the screws really well, the individual legs wiggled badly. With a 90-day return policy ahead of me, I decided to hang onto the stools until it made sense to make the drive out to IKEA again.
The stool and its still-packaged partner sat in the corner of our dining space until I read this post at Door Sixteen. Anna at Door Sixteen has a great eye, and this time she featured several Artek designs, the company Alvar Aalto, his wife Aino, and two others founded in 1935 (Artek meaning Art + Technology). Many of IKEA’s designs are inspired by Modernist classics, but I didn’t know of Frösta’s “inspiration” until I read Anna’s post. It’s pretty clear (Left: Frösta, Right: Aalto 60):
Frösta is made of Birch, just as the 1933 Aalto 60 is; it’s the finish on the Swedish-Chinese stool that makes it differ from the Finnish one as well as the height. Frösta is just a bit taller than the Artek stool. And the price… we can’t forget about the price. When she learned about my project, Anna from D16 pointed out that Aalto also designed 4-legged versions of the stool (the E60) and asked if I might be tempted to leave them as-is. The wobbles were driving me nuts, though, and I kept thinking back to math class: 3 points make a plane! With 3 legs instead of 4, I expected to reduce the wobbles significantly. Then the idea of glue arose as a solution to the wiggles. This is where my friend Rod came in…
Once decided, I asked Rod if he wouldn’t mind helping me make the change, and he very graciously said yes, telling me to bring the stools to him straight away the following day. After seeing the images of the Aalto 60, Rod agreed it would be an improvement to lose a leg on each stool and quickly went to work. First he measured and marked each stool’s seat, using one set of original holes to guide him. We didn’t measure out 120° angles, instead Rod estimated it would end up being about one foot between the points. This turned out to be almost dead-on. With a 1/16th of an inch adjustment we had evenly balanced lines. Next he created the holes. To control the depth of the drill, Rod attached a piece of black tape around his bit to avoid going through the stool’s seat (you can see it in the picture below left). Clever, no?
Once the new holes were finished, it was time to attach the legs. Rod added some Gorilla Glue before attaching the screws to make sure they’d really hold.
The verdict: three legs are better than four. This was a major improvement. Thanks to Rod!