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.)
Shopping in IKEA
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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