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Pimp my BILLY bookcase - what IKEA furniture can you redesign?

By Susannah Palk for CNN
  • IKEA hacks have included skirts made from pillowcases and clocks made from dinner plates
  • Mei Mei Yap's blog Ikea hacker is dedicated to the weird and wacky IKEA reinventions
  • Yap's blog name is "Jules," after the IKEA chair of the same name

(CNN) -- Sound speakers made from salad bowls, cheese graters turned into lampshades and coffee tables transformed into ottomans -- welcome to the weird and wonderful world of "IKEA hacks."

Taking DIY to a whole new level, IKEA hacking is a simple, inventive and cost effective way of transforming your flat-pack furniture into bespoke furnishings.

Usually the result of a shoestring budget and creative nous, "hacks" range from the simple and practical -- kitchen cart turned bathroom unit -- to the more bizarre, including the bookcase hamster playpen and tabletop guitar.

The practice has spawned a cult following online and one Malaysian enthusiast has gone a step further by creating a site dedicated to the hybrid designs.

Copywriter Mei Mei Yap, 40, from Kuala Lumpur, launched her blog Ikea hacker after trawling the internet for thrifty home decor inspirations.

Known by her blogger title "Jules" -- after the IKEA chair of the same name --Yap is a self confessed IKEA enthusiast.

There is a dearth of good, affordably priced furniture in Malaysia.
--Mei Mei Yap, founder of the Ikea hacker blog
  • Malaysia
  • Sweden
  • Home Furnishings
  • Interior Design
  • Design

She told CNN: "I do have a lot of IKEA in my house. Maybe 60 percent of my stuff is from the blue and yellow."

She continued: "There is a dearth of good, affordably priced furniture in Malaysia. Either there is the low-end offerings or the designer stuff which is out of reach of most people."

Fellow IKEA hacker and freelance writer Winnie Luthien Thye agrees.

The 41-year-old self taught artist has created at least a dozen hacks thanks to the Swedish furniture giant -- hacking breadboards into jewelry baskets and even re-carpeting her study with IKEA rugs.

And she admits living five minutes away from the one and only IKEA store in Malaysia has only fueled her hacking habits.

Thye told CNN: "IKEA itself inspires it. Their designs are clever, practical and creative. Most of us live in smaller spaces nowadays, and IKEA's stuff is made for smaller spaces."

Asked which of her hacks is her favorite, Thye says it's an easy choice -- her "Lord of the Rings" inspired craft cabinet, made from assorted IKEA shelving units.

"I looked around quite a bit for a ready-made cabinet but none were of the configuration I wanted. When I saw the shelving units at IKEA, I took the measurements home and lo and behold, I could actually just plonk them together."

Thye even googled her name in "elven" to add the finishing touches to her homemade cabinet.

"There is nothing more satisfying than making things with my hands and then seeing the final results," she told CNN.

And it's not just Malaysians such as Yap and Thye keen on pimping their BILLY bookcases. Yap's blog receives around 60 to 70 submissions from around the world and over 40,000 unique hits each month.

It's a phenomenon IKEA is wary about, as Charlotte Lindgren from Media Relations at IKEA Group, Sweden, explained.

"IKEA is a creative company and we like that people are creative with our products," Lindgren said.

"But we strongly want to point out that safety is a key priority and therefore it is important not to change the function of our furniture in a way that risks safety."

Not that it's stopping the hacks on Yap's blog, who are still coming up with odd and ingenious designs. As Yap explained: "I am still constantly amazed at what people can do with their IKEA furniture."