Mildly Enthusiastic Review: IKEA

This is a bit unusual, I guess, but I spent a lovely half-day in a local IKEA store and I thought to mix it up a bit with an extremely unobjective and unresearched review of the IKEA experience. Side note: IKEA, sadly, is not paying me for all the nice things I’m going to say (as is no one else for the rest of nice things I say here; too bad). Also, I know they are a corporation and so are, probably, inherently evil and bent on taking over the world but I haven’t noticed so far. (I do acknowledge that YMMV more than usual with these reviews though.)

er-ikeaShopping in IKEA

Category: Pastimes

Find it: Around; it’s probably somewhere there

What it is:
An international network of stores with furniture and other home accessories (which you knew, of course). It originates from Sweden and has a lot of environmental concerns in its brand image, which I generally approve of. Each store has a cheap restaurant and a lot of examples of (very) affordable minimalist design. Seriously, it’s quite hard to buy such a simple bookshelf as Kallax at this price anywhere else.

How I found it:
Honestly, I’m old enough to remember when the first IKEA store opened in our (broadly understood) neighborhood and even then it was a treat for us kids to go there and just browse. Well, it was mostly about browsing then because our parents couldn’t afford many of the things that were being sold, what with the crazy 90s economy around here.

Summary judgment:
I love a morning in an IKEA store. I know it’s more of a quirk than anything else, particularly as I’m not a great fan of shopping in general, but these trips are like going to a fun park for me.

Best things about it:
It’s entertaining for me. I like finding out about IKEA’s new solutions and designs, particularly that many of them have been working well for us. For most products the relation of price and quality is good too, unlike in many other similar stores.

Worst things about it:
I wish they put more of their money where their mouths are and did even more for ecological and sustainable furniture production and selling: more certified wood in furniture, more recycled paper in their instructions, more recycling in general. However, as I said, I didn’t really research any of this, it’s only my general idea drawn from reading labels and I might be unfair.

Other pluses:
I really like their restaurant: it’s cheap and fast and you can usually find something interesting there, as you can in their little store with Swedish products. Strawberry milk drink is my favorite thing and that elderflower drink is pretty good too.
Some of their designs are classics, and rightly so, for their smart lines and the simple elegance that, I feel, some people don’t give enough credit to.
I didn’t care so much before I had a kid but some of their toys are brilliant and one of our son’s favorites. He learned many words with their toy food and the rats serve as his security blanket. Now I’m always curious what new toys they have come up with because some of them are really surprising but the toy department is probably the one where I actually have to exercise my will power not to buy unnecessary things.
I like how IKEA is at least talking about clean and sustainable solutions and how, for instance, they have started (supposedly?) using exclusively wind power. I hope they will continue with this direction because it gives me hope.
Sometimes you can buy really pretty cookbooks in their store.

Other minuses:
If you choose a day wrong, you will be stuck among sooooo many people.
And a little nerdy trivia: not so long ago IKEA used to use their special custom Futura typeface for everything, which was incredibly beautiful (seriously, it was like the Sistine Chapel for a type nerd) but then they replaced most of it with Verdana, which is, well, not beautiful. And now whenever I remember how much better everything from signage to packaging could look, it just makes me sad.
There is also a special kind of IKEA experience, which is way less fun, and it’s buying huge pieces of furniture. You first find their locations in the magazine, then you locate the packages on the shelves and you struggle to put them onto the carts which never seem to go straight (and good luck trying to make the magazine employers help you). Some of them will always be in a different magazine where you need to go separately. Once you’ve done your waiting in the checkout queue, you maneuver the unwieldy cart into the transport station to order transportation (and there’s invariably another queue) and voila, you leave it there for the drivers to take care of. Was I really personally needed to take the packages from shelves and carry them those couple of meters to the transport station? No. No, I wasn’t. That’s DIY taken too far.

How it enriched my life:
Honestly, that’s probably not viewed as very classy by many of you, but probably a half of all the furniture we have in our house comes from IKEA (in case that wasn’t yet clear). And I always have fun when I go there to buy something, unless it’s very, very heavy.

Fun fact:
For my husband’s last birthday we actually went to IKEA instead of to a real restaurant, stylish people that we are. Sure, it was partly to save time and buy some things we needed but it was a nice kind of celebration all the same.

As they didn’t have the color of coffee cups we needed we’ll be going again some time soon(ish).

Recommended for:
People who are not snobby about their furniture, don’t hate shopping too much and can enjoy simple things in life found in surprising places. People whose children don’t go into fits when their parents refuse to buy them something, I guess.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Inhuman Condition


Swamped, Swamped, Swamped

I’m still so so swamped but it’s a truth universally acknowledged that the more work you have, the more distractions you will find (blogging being one of them, I guess). So here’s a list of my recent distractions (delivered in a blatant effort not to get down to drawing graphs).

Music: Zaz. It’s rare that I find French music that I enjoy and the more I treasure those finds. I listen to her and imagine myself in Paris. Miss you, Paris.

Film: Comte d’été by Rohmer. Back in my pretentious high school phase when I watched movies without a plot I really liked Rohmer. Now I’m watching him for French practice (because every now and then I catch a snippet like “How was the water?” and “Would you like the check” and it makes me feel so accomplished; seriously, my French still sucks) but I like how, well, French he is and his realistic portrayal of people when they speak undecipherable nonsense. It looks very realistic. But I’m only watching 10 minutes at a time.

Book: The Diamond Age by Stephenson. I read it once already but in a rushed way and now I’m savoring it more. I took a short break from Shakespeare.

Universe: Marvel Universe. We’re going through a new Marvel phase these days, because we have bought not one but two Marvel board games and additionally I’ve developed an addiction to Marvel Puzzle Quest: Stealing Your Time Three Minutes at a Time (TM).

Ugh, back to graphs.

Bookworming, Everydailiness

In the Meantime

While I’m writing my PhD, which I’ve been sort of doing for a while but only actually started doing yesterday, I don’t expect to write many other things so, as usual, bear with me. In the meantime, here’s a list of things I’ve recently read but won’t probably get down to reviewing as by the time I have, well, time, I will have forgotten most of my impressions.

Here goes: Kazan’s Acts of Love (my third reading and I still like it), Liza Dalby’s Geisha (I still prefer the less realistic but oh-so-lovely Memoirs of a Geisha), Bright Lights, Big City (pretty awful, ammarite?), The Giver (so, so awful; seriously I know it’s for kids, but it was still awful), iZombie (fun, actually), Persuasion (my last unread Austen, really liked it), Broke Heart Blues (not great, but so far haven’t found anything by Oates that I’d love). I’m also in the middle of what I’m pretentiously calling The Shakespeare Project, which means I’m reading (or re-reading, I’m not that uneducated actually) all of Shakespeare’s plays by 2016. I could do it faster, but it’s better with breaks. So far I’ve read five, I guess, but I’m optimistic. (Self-improvement for dummies.)


I’ve sat through a minor bureaucratic ordeal today and now I can officially start working on my PhD – or, you know, admit officially how I’m not working on it. Also, I’d love to post a new review but I’m reading The Luminaries, have gone through one-third of it and it will take me another eighteen months to read the rest. Is this novel slow or is it slow?


Not Singin’ in the Rain

I am a walker by necessity (no driving license and a secluded neighborhood) and preference (so much less trouble than gym) and as such a connoisseur of the special life pleasure called summer downpour. Not a summer passes by that I don’t get bone-soaked at least once… who am I kidding, it’s never just once. Yesterday was my yearly initiation into stormy weather.

Now, your experience of summer rain will depend entirely on one circumstance: are you going to or from home when it drops on you. Luckily, I was returning and so could keep my cool as I’m wont to do. Had you seen me, you would’ve been proud to know me, I’ve accepted the rain with such commendable stoicism.

The Summer Rain Experience invariably falls into phases. First, you feel anxiety and show a natural tendency to attempt avoiding getting wet. Having an umbrella prolongs the illusion that you can succeed. But then, as you run for cover, one faulty step sends you splashing into a huge puddle, fills your shoe with water and sets you on a path to freedom and carelessness (and potential pneumonia). Your makeup melts down your face, together with your sense of social propriety and a good thing it is because by then you look like a wet T-shirt contestant, only less buxom. Finally, with your hair plastered to your skull, clothes as wet as if you walked through a shower, when you have already said mental goodbye to your phone and favorite shoes, the Jerk Driver arrives. True, I observed with pleasure how most drivers slow down and veer away from the sidewalk. But then, it only takes one and he’s as sure as taxes to come by. Yesterday, with a timing happy for my stoicism, mine arrived when I had already not a dry spot on me and not a fudge to give anymore (and good for you, DPD delivery guy, ’cause if I wasn’t too wet or too slow I would’ve gotten your number and totally not do anything about it!).

But then the best part comes and here is full disclosure: I consider summer downpour one of great life pleasures. If I happen to be going home and expect a relatively soon change into dry clothes and a cup of hot tea, I actually love walking in the rain. When you’ve already given up on salvaging your clothes, hairdo and dignity it becomes incredibly liberating to just splash through the puddles, streams of water flowing down your face, all the sensible people already holed up in houses, stores and bus stops. It feels like just for a small moment, without any danger greater than a sore throat, you can step out of all everyday constrains. For a free and legal activity it’s worth recommending.

PS. WordPress suggested that I tag this post with mental-health. Stop judging me, WordPress.