As we continue our popular “In the Studio” series, we visit a pair of interior designers who have partnered up on an ingenious business that customizes IKEA cabinetry to offer clients a bespoke new look, be it in a studio apartment or a 10-bedroom mansion. Co-founder Kathryn Hawkes gives us a peek behind the scenes at Fronteriors.
Q: How did Fronteriors begin?
he idea of starting Fronteriors came over a cup of coffee at the beginning of 2019. We (myself and Linda Dekkers) had been running our own interior styling business (House of Hawkes and Live Loud Girl respectively) for years. Where people saw us as competitors, we were always comrades — open and friendly with each other, even handing each other business leads in times when we could not take on a project ourselves.
We generally found we had the same challenges on projects. One of them was that we were always on the lookout for functional, affordable and eye-catching pieces. We both have a deep-rooted love for Scandinavian design, so IKEA hacking — a way of customizing, tweaking or upgrading an IKEA piece to make it your own unique style — became a common denominator for us. With respective projects growing, the need for such furniture also grew. One afternoon in January 2019, we spontaneously decided to make the things we wished we had and Fronteriors was born. What started as a side-hustle for both of us, has quickly taken centre stage in our shared entrepreneurial journey.
How does it work?
Fronteriors offers a collection of doors, tops, sides and hardware for the most commonly used IKEA units. By simply adding Fronteriors elements, you will have a storage unit with the functionality of IKEA and the craftsmanship of Fronteriors design. This allows customers to have a unique piece at home within 10-20 working days. With a background in interior styling, we know how to create a timeless, stylish and unique piece of furniture. And with so many styles to choose from, you can create something that really reflects your own style and story.
How does the process work when a client commissions you?
It’s an online retail concept that simplifies the process of achieving a custom furniture piece with the convenience of just “adding to cart”. That said, we do offer a consultation service via Zoom for customers who are struggling to make a decision on the finish that would best suit their interiors. Or for those who may need some advice on what IKEA frame would best suit their functional requirements. We recently launched designs for IKEA’s kitchen frames, known as Metod, and the kitchen order process is also managed via consultation. The concept works on a do-it-yourself principle. When a client wants to create something with Fronteriors, the starting point will always be an IKEA Besta, Billy, Pax or Metod base. The client might already have one at home that they want to upgrade or order a new frame. Either way, after ordering the doors, tops, sides and/or hardware from Fronteriors, it will only have to be assembled using our easy-to-use manual. For clients within the UAE, we offer an installation service at an additional cost. But, if we can do it, you can do it.
Who are your clients?
Our clients are mostly GCC-based because we are shipping within the Gulf region. When it comes to homes, our designs can now be found in anything from one-bedroom apartments to large villas and hotel projects. The beauty of our products is that that they are a functional solution for a fair price for any space within the home. The modular nature of IKEA’s frames makes it super-practical and versatile. We have seen the Pax being used for a master bedroom wardrobe of 16 doors and also in a kids room with one door. The Besta frames can form a 3-meter TV console or a small bedside table. And where Metod is mostly used for kitchen, the wall cabinets have proven to be a great solution for a console in a smaller dining space, too. The options are endless and with its modular benefits, the price point and the collection of different styles we offer, our client base is very broad.
Who makes your products?
We work with a local factory with high standards of quality. Materials are a mix of local and international suppliers. We also work with a very international group of people. Linda and myself are Dutch and South African so culture, styles and mindsets have always been considered a benefit within our company. The carpentry team is a skilled mix of local and foreign craftsman. The ladies that keep the show on the road in the background are a healthy mix of nationalities and one of our team members is based remotely outside of the UAE. We can honestly say we are locally-based with an international culture. That is something which makes us proud.
How does sustainability play a part in your business?
Sustainability is important to us, as it should be for any business. It’s an initiative that is not easily achieved, but we do what we can, where we can. We also believe that using furniture and items you have collected over time tells your story. That is why working with IKEA is such a great match. So many people already have one, if not several, IKEA cabinets in their homes that they can breathe new life info with Fronteriors. We are proud to offer a high-quality finish with a revolutionary water-based paint that used 90 per cent less solvents than regular paints.
How would you describe Emirati design?
We’d describe it as unique and emerging. We have seen local design change dramatically over the last 10 years. It has gone from being a relatively small scene to a large playing field with many newcomers. Influences from abroad have enriched Emirati design and modernized it. Our interior styling businesses grew thanks to this change. We are constantly surprised by how this region is drawn to a minimalist style that you would expect to see in Scandinavia more than the Middle East.
And this interest is still growing. Hotels, restaurants and homes have welcomed new styles, materials and textures. It is a direction that we love and obviously encourage.
Images credit: Fronteriors