Cabinet maker John McDonald told how he has built his Duarte, California, business using high end upgrades to IKEA cabinetry. The 2016 Cabinets & Closets Conference keynoter told in his address this morning of plans for digitally printed cabinetry, 

McDonald's company, Semihandmade, has flourished by hitching its star to the popularity of IKEA cabinets, trading on the trend to IKEA hacking (i.e., upgrades and embellishments to the cabinetry) by consumers.

"What we do at Semihandmade is make doors that fit IKEA cabinets, and that is, I'm absolutely convinced, a spectacular idea that somebody gave to me," says McDonald, crediting its origin with a prospective customer he met at a tradeshow.

Since IKEA doesn't require cabinetry customers to buy its drawers and doors, the market is open to Semihandmade's business. "We exist in what's called the 'IKEA ecosystem,'" he explained, a collection of companies that sell items like high-end furniture legs to dress up other IKEA furnishings. 

McDonald recounted in his presentation a life story that - like for so many entrepreneurs - traversed the line between personal and business life. After a lively start to a career as an aspiring Hollywood screenwriter, McDonald found that path to fame and fortune running aground. 

Since he often dabbled in restoring antiques, McDonald followed a friend's suggestion and

Semihandmade founder John McDonald kicked off Cabinets & Closets 2016 at the Pasadena Convention Center in California. The woodworking and closets expo runs through Thursday, March 24.

built some original pieces. Well received, these projects led McDonald to formal training at the Cerritos College woodworking school. He later launched Handmade.com to sell custom cabinets, and began experimenting with hybrid cabinets mixing IKEA and his standard maple plywood box. 

 

Amid the general economic downturn (and following a divorce), McDonald found himself living in his shop, sleeping on a couch.  With plenty of time to think, he developed Semihandmade.com, wrapping IKEA boxes in fine wood veneers, reclaimed wood, with doors to match.  

McDonald brought Semihandmade to KBIS 2015, winning a Best of KBIS Award. He continues to expand the product offerings, and business has grown exponentially.

Extension of offerings include collaborations with other wood products firms, such as Stikwood, the supplier of self-adhesive reclaimed wood paneling. Or the Mirth Design inspired piece below. 

Semihandmade, Mirth Designs

McDonald is also offering projects that incorporate digitally printed wood panel tiles. During his keynote he also showed dramatic imagery printed on IKEA cabinet faces. 

Semihandmade, mirth designs

he plans to launch private label brands, open multi-city showrooms, and expects sales to rise 50 percent to $6 million this year.

Cabinets & Closets 2016, John McDonald, Semihandmade, Closets Magazine
Semihandmade founder John McDonald with Woodworking Network's Renee Stritar and CLOSETS magazine publisher Laurel Didier (right). 

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