The Complete Ikea

IkeaA few years ago I read an interview with Saint Bono of the Irish mega-group Bono and the U-2’s in which he justified his then-recent purchase of an exorbitant, fully-furnished new Manhattan apartment — even the silverware and bath towels were waiting at the ready for his family the day they walked in the door for the first time — using this reasoning: when wealthy rock musicians become preoccupied with furnishing their houses, buying table linens, choosing wallpaper, etc. instead of focusing on their craft, they will consequently produce absolutely crap records. By purchasing the house in a ready-to-live state, he hoped to avoid sapping his creative energies with domestic busywork, allowing him to devote his attentions fully to his art instead. And then the band released “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.” Oh well.

I have neither fame nor wealth — nor even an artistic temperament on par with Bono’s, it can be argued. But I do have a relatively new apartment that I’ve been devoting considerable time toward furnishing for the past several weeks. And I can attest, at least, to how thoroughly the act of setting up a new apartment can drain one’s creative energies.

Which is how I found myself in Elizabeth, New Jersey yesterday, trolling the huge showroom full of singularly contemporary and inexpensive furnishings at Ikea, along with a few friends who had also recently moved or will soon move into new apartments.

You᾿ll Be Back… to Ikea

You can’t really avoid a trip to Ikea if you’ve just moved. Sooner or later, the lure of unconscionably cheap home goods draws you there. I bought a passel of miscellaneous household trinkets, some bedding supplies, a night stand so cheap and cheaply made that I consider it disposable, a stainless steel sauté pan, and an enormous six-foot tall mirror… all for just US$360. Insanity.

In spite of the bargains to be had, I’ve always disliked the Ikea experience, mostly because the stores are so large and so remote that it feels like being stranded in some crazy, parallel dimension. Usually, I go numb with over-stimulation there and maybe a little panicky, too.

How Much Design Is Enough Design?

The reason for that, I realized this time, is that Ikea is one of the most complete design experiences available anywhere. In a way, it’s a quite wonderful example of how coherent an experience can be brought to bear using a ruthlessly efficient and unsentimental mode of design. There’s almost nothing available on the premises that isn’t Ikea-branded, whether it’s furniture, forks or folders. Virtually the only branded items I saw there that didn’t sport the Ikea logo were the sodas, and even those were sold alongside Ikea meatballs. Meatballs! Apparently, they’re very popular.

Too much design is just stifling, though. When everything has been measured, planned, optimized and aestheticized within an inch of its life, it begins to weigh down with the invisible tonnage of oppression. Ikea makes me go haywire because there’s almost nothing about the experience that doesn’t feel artificial. For example: when, after following the proscribed showroom path for forty-five minutes, I began to feel the need to visit the restroom, there just happened to be one nearby. When I started to get hungry, the store’s cafeteria presented itself. When after paying I was waiting for goods to be brought out from the stockroom, it was conveniently located near the snack bar. Nothing is left to chance.

Maybe what I’m complaining about most is how time-consuming the Ikea experience is. From New York City, anyway, it’s no trivial matter to make a trip to Elizabeth, New Jersey, where the nearest store sits. Partly as a result, no trip there is quick. But the store is massive, too, and it’s laid out in such a way that there’s more or less just one single, very lengthy path from the entrance to the exit. It can’t be done briefly, no matter how hard you try… we spent three hours there on Sunday, not including travel time. Those are hours I could’ve spent rockin’ out.

  1. See, that’s a lot of why I find Ikea to be a pleasant experience — I live in Brooklyn too, and going to Ikea, and all the hassle it involves (don’t ever go on the bus — only go when someone you know has access to a car), makes it into an Event. And the rigorous planning and design is, frankly, refreshing to me — living in Brooklyn, you get so used to cobbling together everything you want from so many ramshackle local places that when one store offers virtually everything you need in a sensible way, my reaction is more “At least somebody, somewhere is thinking of how to make my life easier” than “My God, what kind of robot are they trying to turn me into?”

    Plus, yeah, everything’s hella cheap. The hot dogs are maybe the single greatest thing you can buy on the planet for fifty cents. Find me something better, I dare you!

  2. I have to say, conquering an Ikea is tant-amount to conquering the dark heart of Africa. And believe me, I’ve done both.

    Not unlike the dark heart of Africa, with Ikea, you find yourself in the midst of all sorts of perils. With Africa, you find the beasts of the wild… with Ikea, you find the beasts of automated shopping cart dispensers and the vast plains of bargain basement prices.

    To each his own. I prefer the wilds of the Savannah.

  3. I’m planning a move, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be moving to a town that has an IKEA. We’ve never had one in Kansas City (although the rumor is there’s one in the works), and it’s always frustrating knowing that I could be getting this stuff cheaper and more designerly if I just had one of those damn stores nearby.

    But I have visited a few of the stores and bought plenty, and I’ve ordered from the catalogs a few times, too. My general IKEA strategy is to avoid the furniture and scoop up nearly everything else in sight. The bottom line is that the furniture is usually not very well-made. As long as you realize you’re buying disposable furniture that will only last you a couple of years, this is fine. But if you think you’re getting something built with quality craftsmanship, you’ll be sorely disappointed. But the other stuff — mirrors, flatware, glasses, lamps, rugs, etc, etc. — is pure f’ing gold, man. Gold, I say.

  4. Apart from producing musical dreck, the said Bono has the gall to lecture governments on how they should do more for the poor while practicing strenuous tax avoidance (until recently Ireland had very favorable tax treatment for artists’ royalties, although how Bono ever qualified will forever mystify me).

    Ikea does have shortcuts in its linear circuit, but you do have to keep your eyes peeled for them.

  5. You always surprise me. I would have taken you for someone that would do his Ikea shopping online.
    Particle board freaks me out so I would never buy furniture there. The experience of shopping there sounds too planned out for me. I rather enjoy the haphazardness of buying second hand stuff. The cool thing is that most of the Ikea made shjt will have been discarded, fallen apart, or judged unworthy long before it gets to my stores.

  6. If you think furnishing a home takes a heavy toll on you, wait until you decide to go on a home rebuilding/remodeling spree. I’m just coming off a big one and, after three stress-filled months of living like a dog in my own home (no, I take that back – our dog has had it better than us), you’ll end up swearing never to try that again.

    We don’t have anything like IKEA around here, for better or worse. We do, however, have stores that sell scads of that particle board Scandinavian furniture kind. Which yeah, are cheap and a quick storage fix – but they suck royally in quality terms. They’re not built to last.

    Plus, all this IKEA talk just gave me deja vu memories of Tyler Durden, Fight Club and the “You are not your…” line. Sorry, someone had to say it.

  7. 3 hrs is pretty much the time me and girl spends when we visit the local ikea. i guess if you are looking for something specific it is a daunting task to go through the long winding journey.

    so usually we go there not for shopping but just to check out the new pretty furniture:)

    p.s. you should post up some pics of your new apartment.

  8. Ikea stores are like teleportation machines, you can go into one in any country and you can forget where you are geographically.

    Gap stores are kind of the same, I remember being in Gap in my hometown in Dundee, Scotland and then the following week in Gap in Toronto. The only thing that let me know I was in Canada was that the labels were in CAN$ and the prices worked out a lot cheaper! 😉 Oh, and the accents I guess.

    That kind of globally managed environment is quite wild to experience.

  9. Can’t agree more with the whole Ikea experience. Certainly leaves a lot to be desired. The only thing that makes it vaguely tolerable is the prospect of swedish meatballs and that famous Ikea cheesecake – don’t laugh, this is London after all, decent cheesecakes are few and far between, and theirs is fantastic.

    That said, we’re about to move as well, and have decided we can no longer live in Ikea-land, so we’ve opted for Lombok instead.

  10. Personally I love Ikea. It has the right balance between price, design and quality. It’s funny though how it seems to be a part of everybody’s life. I don’t know how it is in the States but here in Europe it gets a bit crazy sometimes.

    About two years ago I met this creative Iraci fellow which became a good friend of mine. Before he came to the Netherlands he lived in Sweden for 9 years and he got infected with the Ikea virus or something overthere. When I asked him what do you do in the weekends? He answered: Going to Ikea. And he started telling that in Sweden a lot of people do that, they see it as some family happening. And every weekend they just go there and spend the whole day at Ikea, with the kids and everything.

    He told me that it was something similar as going to an amusement park for us. Just amazing if you think about it how a furniture store like that turned into some family happening.

  11. Bono is such a turd. How can you be create anything if you expereience nothing for yourself?

    We are the sum of what we experience and that allows you to create great or not so great stuff. If you experience nothing you create nothing, or in fact albums with ridiculous titles.

  12. In Chicago we are lucky since we have two Ikea’s mega-stores. One is conveniently located West-North-West while the other is West-South-West of the city proper. I am sure we would have another two if it wasn’t for Lake Michigan being in the way.

    I too have a love/hate relationship with the store chain. I love ’em because it hard to turn down their disposable wares listed at such reasonable costs. While I hate the fact that even with two stores the places are too often congested with shoppers. Ikea needs to open its doors 24/7.

  13. I’m frankly astounded that you would consider purchasing furniture at IKEA. The ‘value’ is a specious consideration at best. Given the (potential) durability of furniture and its relationship to resource consumption, very little of what IKEA produces can be defended as well designed or well manufactured. And, often, even a good value. The aesthetic they have popularized may be good to some designers (including me), but they likewise popularized the idea that a furniture purchase is as temporary as a metro card makes them the Torchiere of the 00’s.

  14. Another chain in which everything is the shop’s own brand is Marks and Spencer’s food shops. It has the same vaguely terrifying undercurrent as IKEA.

  15. Miss Representation, if that is in fact your real name: you’re right on that count. I’m not sure I would have framed it in such dire language, but I’m guilty of buying into this idea of disposable furniture; it’s not a sustainable practice by any means, and if I’d thought about it in that bigger context, I might not have bought that nightstand. The rest of the stuff, though, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to hang on to for a while.

  16. I see no problem with the disposable furniture thing, as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into. If you realize that the pieces are only going to last you a year or two, and you think the low price is worth that, then by all means, buy their furniture. For me personally, I like to buy higher quality furniture that I think will last. But there are certain items where I’m fine with having them for a couple years and then buying new ones. If that works for you, then I don’t see why you should feel bad about it.

    As an example: I bought the IKEA “Lack” coffee and end tables like four or five years ago. They got me $25 and $15, respectively, I believe. I still have them. About a year ago, they started to really look like hell and are now totally falling apart. I won’t take them with me when I move to Seattle — I’ll buy new occasional tables. But those things lasted me probably three good years. For the price, I’d say they were more than worth it. Of course, I knew what I was getting into and didn’t expect them to last any longer than that.

    It’s all about expectations. If you understand it’s disposable, and you’re fine with that, then IKEA furniture is perfect for you.

  17. I am definitely over Ikea. The furniture’s cheap, and I feel as though I’m in some alternate dimension theme park when I’m strolling through the store.

    Nothing that I’ve bought at Ikea is something I’d want to hold onto, while bigger investments at smaller more focused stores have kept their value.

  18. Jeff: I think the point is not so much whether disposable furniture is personally acceptable, but rather its larger impact on the environment and economy. Retailers like Ikea promote the idea that nontrivial hard goods — like shelves, tables, etc. — can be thought of as disposable if the price point is right. In effect, that discourages many people from investing in furniture that’s built solidly enough so that it will never be thrown away. It’s more expensive for an individual, sure, but it does less damage to the environment. I shudder to think at the sheer number of Ikea items tossed to the curb this year alone.

  19. The one bad Ikea experience I’ve had is with a lamp actually: one of those tall halogen powered Antifoni floor lamps. It did last me from 2001-2005 though so it wasn’t that bad. But the innards near the hot halogen bulb weren’t designed to last more than a few thousand hours Ё and I liked me that dark but crisp ambience where I used it.

    My table’s still good though. A great big dining room sized Anton one, which has had to put up with heavier monitors than the Geneva Convention would allow. Look for the volume of things when you’re there: the spindly and “very Ikea” items are typically short lived but they also carry some fairly hardy stuff. I couldn’t have found such a solid desk as big as that in Edinburgh’s other (toffee nosed or downright shoddy) shops.

  20. Not a lot of people know there isn’t a single IKEA store in Ireland, afair due to fair competition regulations – their stores are too large. This might give an insight into Bono’s decisions.. 😉
    I hear they finally got a building permit, but haven’t started the construction yet..

  21. Whatever happened to having a home that grows with you? The problem with furniture places like IKEA (aside from the environmental factor) is how things are made too easy for people. You can go in and buy yourself a living room, bedroom, kitchen right there. The personality and experience of your home are literally designed for you down to those meatballs that you can serve for dinner. And of course, you can switch everything out in a year or two. Do you really need the bed, side tables and the lamp immediately? How about just the bed to start w/?

  22. Ikea is full of short cuts round the pathway. If you know the store you can get round it very quickly. Look just off to some of the corners and these is a cut through to another section.

  23. Growing up in St. Louis (what’s up, Jeff Croft), the nearest IKEA was in Chicago. Talk about draining — many St. Louisans will get up at the crack of dawn, drive the 4.5 hours north, make a thorough shopping effort, pile their flat-boxed boxes and plastic bags of plastic knick knacks into their cars, then drive the 4.5 hours back to Missouri. I’ve done it. It’s exhausting. Your brain and body are totally sucked dry by the experience.

    Now a New Yorker, I love that IKEA bus — what a concept! I don’t go often, but when I do, I’m a pro. I look thoroughly at the catalog first so I don’t have to wander through laying hands on every ridiculous item, and I’m usually in and out and back on the bus in under an hour (unless I stop for the meatballs — they’re gross in theory but pretty tasty).

    For me, I continue to occasionally shop at IKEA because it allows me the illusion of adulthood. I live in a 10 x 11 foot room in a shared NYC apartment — without IKEA, I suspect I’d still be living with plastic tubs, cinderblocks and milk crates, dorm-style. Someday I’ll have a real apartment, a better paying job, and the luxury of owning actual furniture. But for now those cheap ass IKEA bits and pieces keep me from feeling the pathetic reality of what it is to be a 32-year old graphic designer living as minimally as possible in order to function here in New York. Is it real, sustainable design? No. But the illusion is important for many.

    My parents still live in St. Louis. Up until recently, neither had ever set foot in an IKEA. They are redoing their kitchen, and last month when I was visiting we did that hellish IKEA day trip. My mother had heard legendary tales of affordable kitchen accoutrements. IKEA had even penetrated the cloud-dwelling psychological haze of my dad’s theology-professor brain — he was curious also. 10 minutes in, my mom was in heaven. My dad, however, turned to me, shrugged and said, “Fight Club was right.”

  24. Ikea do sell good-quality, non-chipboard furniture, but of course you’re going to pay a lot more for it than the basic Lack/Billy/whatever stuff.

    maybe it’s just me but I don’t see the point in spending a lot of money on furniture, but that’s said as somewhat of a nomad who moves every year or two, and shit gets broken and dirty in the process and I’m past caring about Grandma’s 500lb heirloom armoire or whatever. less is more esp. when you get stuck moving it all yourself like the last time when my helpers flaked out.

    as for disposal, you can always burn it in the fireplace once it’s past the use-by date, assuming it’s not all plastic. um, if you have a fireplace… if not, put it in the trash room; someone will take it, trust me. people will take anything if they think they’re getting away with something. no trash room? curb it, baby. it’ll be gone in the morning. put it on craigslist’s free board–that’s how I got rid of the world’s most annoying futon. there’s plenty of ways to get rid of crap without it going to the landfill.

  25. The sustainability thing is a good point, but here’s the thing: I’m 25 years old. I live in New York, so I move an average of once a year. I don’t make a lot of money. Hell, I don’t even make a medium-sized amount of money. I make a small amount of money. And I like modern design.

    When you add those facts together, there’s no way to get the furniture I want other than buying Ikea. I’d love more durable furniture that comes to me in a more direct relationship with a craftsman, but the economics don’t make sense. And with the frequency of my changes in living space, no furniture *could* last me that long — I never know how big my next living room or bedroom will be until I’m in it, not to mention the question of any furniture, no matter how well-made, surviving more than a few years’ worth of frequent U-Haul trips.

    Ikea is certainly not the most resource-efficient way of owning furniture, but it’s the only one that makes sense when you’re young, poor, and urban (and therefore already far ahead of the curve in terms of resource-efficiency to begin with, so it all balances out)!

  26. I will never forgive the retail gods for this oversight: when Bradlee’s in Union Square closed a few years ago, I was convinced that an IKEA would move in. It’s an absolutely huge space, and the location is perfect — the NYU market alone would have been crazy, let alone all of the East and West Village hipsters and whatnot within a few blocks.

    Maybe they realized that that one “man with van” guy couldn’t handle all the deliveries … instead we ended up with a Whole Foods (nice, but too crowded) and some crappy clothing and shoe stores. And IKEA is in New Jersey. Bah.

  27. congrats on the new digs. i am envious – the closet ikea to me is 6 hours away, so i don’t want to hear about “time-consuming”

    hey have you read Ikea Hacker

    it’s great – macguyver meets ikea furniture

  28. In Toronto, we are surronded by IKEAs.

    Strangely, while they do offer to take back and recycle all their packaging, The furniture it’s self is all landfill bound. It is just going to rest a brief while in someone’s home before falling apart and being put out for garbage pick-up. No Ikea piece will out-last its first owner.

  29. I had the same experience at the IKEA in Paramus NJ this past weekend. From the moment you enter “IKEA Drive” off the highway, your experience is clearly planned for you.

    If you enter with an attitude that you don’t care so much about having “the perfect X” but rather that you just need *an* X, you will leave quite happy and be surprised at how little you paid for the volume of what you are leaving with.

  30. The meatballs are only sustenance for the starved. Granted, that’s pretty much everyone with a busy schedule or a child (myself=2).

    Be picky. The Billy shelving can last surprisingly well, well, b/c the books are inanimate objects that aren’t fondled by the busy man’s hands…

    Best to choose elsewhere when looking for lounge chairs or otherwise.

    BTW, I got some great red wool lounge chairs in Park Slope at “Living on 5th” which is on 5th ave and 3rd street. Peep 3R (a few doors down from Blue Ribbon) for locally purchased sustainable living housewares.

    And if you need a suit… check out Fulani on 5th (just off Flatbush)—I’ve got a friend who swears by them…

    OK. Enough local goodies in one post. For all of you who don’t live in Brooklyn… what’s keeping you…


  31. The Montreal area is lucky enough to be graced by two (TWO!) IKEAs. The newer one, on the South Shore, sits in one of those horrible “power center” drive-thru malls, but internally it’s a lot better designed than its cousin on Montreal Island.

    Granted, the IKEA experience isn’t perfect, but compare it to going to almost any other furniture store. Unless you’re willing to spend at least 5x-10x the money, you’re not going to get comparable modern design. And trust me, I’ve looked.

    There’s a couple of stores that inhabit a thin niche between IKEA and the true high-end or custom stores — BoConcept, EQ3, CB2 — but they are few and far between. And then there’s the issue of budget and value-for-money; I can buy one plywood Eames Dining Chair for $600, or ten plywood IKEA Gilbert chairs.

    In regards to sustainability — IKEA actually work very hard at being green. They’re using FSC-certified woods, paying decent wages, not using slave labour, and the whole point of flatpack furniture is to maximize shipping efficiency.

    Of course you still have to drive there. I wish they’d really expand their website and move to a delivery model — and down the road, even a “factory in the store” fab-lab approach to make the same designs from local, sustainable materials — on the first front, Khoi, you can certainly help them out 😉

    Oh yes, and, the great thing about ikea furniture being cheap means that creative and/or thrifty people can repair, customize and repurpose the pieces in ways that you probably wouldn’t if it was Expensive.

    Check out: Ikea Hacker.

    and when you’re done redecorating, consider contributing a pic to our Flickr group, The Interior Life of Designers.

  32. A big project finally paid-up, a Zipcar, and an afternoon in Elizabeth, NJ: it happens about twice a year for us, and we look forward to it. Accessories definitely win out over the big pieces for long-term value.

    The Ikea Boston has a special deal with Zipcar, where certain cars are exclusively for Ikea trips and even get special parking.

  33. I live in Winnipeg, allegedly the largest volume of Ikea phone and web shoppers in Canada (maybe North America). The closest Ikea is 13 hours away in Can or about 9 if you cross the border. This town loves Ikea. Any discussion of roadtrip with anyone here always involves ‘So, are you going to Ikea?’.

    A funny observation in this thread is how several people have mentioned ‘talk of a new Ikea going up soon’, which is, of course, what we hear here, for nigh over a decade. Apparently everyone is getting an Ikea ‘next year’!

    As much as Ikea can be cheap and, if overdone, soulless, the alternative (here) is Lay-Z-Boy/Leons/Brick ‘overstuffed’ leather and badly patterned sofas, faux-wood desks and shelving with too much routered and lathed edges. I cannot figure out if I am more offended by people who design the patterns that perpetuate the purchasing of bad furniture or more offended by the purchasers who validate the bad patterns… I’ll take Ikea over this any day as the clean, modernish design may rub off on the sensibilities of the average person.

    While there are certainly some people who have rooms that look like an Ikea showroom, I think the vast majority of people, especially anyone with a sense of design, actually achieve a certain amount of Scandinavian aesthetic. That is, while the Ikea experience is overdesigned, once you get the bits home, they are mixed with other not-so-overdesigned-items and a ‘warm modern’ style emerges. This humanity is really the power and appeal of real Scandinavian design.

  34. Yet another sign of my inability to stay inside the lines/follow the beaten path/do as I’m bloody well told is the fact that I cannot follow that path thru IKEA – even when I’m with others who attempt to insist. I just go about it my own way. It’s always fun to freak out the people working there doing this, as it is extremely rare. Apparently, anyway.

    I do love some of the design, especially the white dishes I got there a couple years back. Deep bowls, smooth glaze, enough weight to feel substantial, not so much you hate to use them. The entire set for 8 was something like $52 bucks total. Having something that clean to present excellent food on is always a bonus, too.

    I can only take about 45 minutes in the store, tho, before I get the Design Overload Jitters and, not kidding, start to skip to get out of there faster. I suggest the next time you are there to avoid the path and take the road less travelled. Like the weird door from the bathroom stuff over to the lamps. Or from beds to cookwares. Always fun.

  35. Absolutely agreed on the count of the furniture being disposable. I’m kind of relieved really, because the next time I move I’ll just leave half of this furniture at the curb and buy some more.

    I would, however, like to hear from someone who has bought one of their nicer couches. I’m having a hard time finding a well designed couch for under $4,000, and Ikea has some that look rather appealing but if I am going to spend $1000 I don’t want it to fall apart.

  36. For many of the same reasons you described Khoi, I really like Ikea ExperienceЎ. It’s certainly not the type of store you can pop in and out of in 20 minutes, but unlike a trip to the grocery store, you’re not likely to forget something you came in for. If you don’t like to follow Ikea’s predefined cattle herding path though, you should check the store’s detail page at Here’s are the details for the Elizabeth, NJ store. The website itself isn’t much to look at, but there’s a wealth of knowledge available and the forums were extremely helpful in planning our kitchen remodel.

  37. The Billy series is the best deal for bookcases. I find I need one extra shelf for the full height cases. The half height cases don’t have enough height to use an extra shelf effectively.

    But stick to 24″ or shorter shelf lengths. Humidity + book weight + particleboard = sagging shelves. Otherwise they last. Billy CD towers also work well for smaller books if you don’t have them filled with CDs.

    And as mentioned, if you’re really on a budget in NYC you can find most of the IKEA catalog for free on the sidewalk, I’d say within a month’s time.

  38. Here’s the thing, as a college student, I ravish the opportunity to travel the 2 hours to the closest IKEA store in order to fill my IKEA cart/flat with all sorts of trendy, contemporary junk. But that’s just it, I know it’s junk. However, I WILL be the girl with the cool, decked out apartment until the day I can afford a $2000 Eames chair. Til then, IKEA!

  39. Khoi — do you really want me to list of pseudonyms in literature and criticism that goes back to the Greeks? Tiresome.

    I assume most of the people on this list are designers, otherwise I would less strident. But the excuses of poverty and impermanence strike be as very weak and unoriginal. Did you ever think that was a credible defense in a crit? I’m poor, so I can’t think creatively? If I believed that, I’d be stacking boxes for $8/hr in a warehouse in a dying industrial town with all my relatives.

    If you can’t afford four chairs, buy one. My couch is 25 years old, and my dining set dates to at least the 40’s. Neither was acquired as ‘antiques’ or heirlooms or cost me anything. But I also considered the design value of the objects when taking them.

    If you spend $10 on an IKEA table this year, then $40 on one three years later, then $500 seven years after than, you have spent $550 on tables in ten years. By a $400 one now, and total cost is less. Cash flow is certainly an issue, but if you save $8 a week (a drink most anywhere in Manhattan), you can buy a $400 table by the end of the year. Use a box until then. It’s not that hard.

    IKEA goods aren’t necessarily cheaper. They are simply redistributing the resource cost. Labor cost reduction offset the shipping and materials. So if you save $40 on an IKEA product, all you have done is taken money out of a laborer’s pocket and added a disproportionate amount of CO2 to the air.

    If you want to be a designer for more than five years, you need to learn about the impact of commoditization on object and service production. Because in five years, anything you can do for $60/hour will in be done in India for $6/hr. Not buying a IKEA won’t stem this tide, but doesn’t someone, somewhere have a sense of personal responsibility any more?

  40. Also, Miss Representation (God, what a bitterly ironic handle that’s turning out to be), I, for one am not a designer. I work for a comic book company. Feel free to stop throwing casual assumptions around at any point. And “cash flow is a problem”? Yes, you’re putting that pretty f***ing lightly. Patronizingly lightly, in fact.

    Please don’t also assume I don’t think through the consequences of my actions. Arguing that I have no sense of personal responsibility because I bought a frigging coffee table at Ikea is among the more insulting — and ludicrous — things anybody’s ever said to me. I’m more than sympathetic to your point on labor costs, believe me, but look at it this way: those people you mentioned who stack boxes for $8/hour, who are they supposed to buy furniture from? Or do you think their cash flow isn’t an issue either? Are they not supposed to have furniture, because they’re not “creative” enough (as your reference to them is very clearly pejorative)?

    I don’t like starting a flame war in somebody else’s comments page, but seriously, the patronizing lack of perspective you have on the resources that most people have available to them is just astoundingly myopic. I’m already saving all the “drinks” per week that I can, thanks, to pay for things that I value a lot more than my coffee table, and I don’t think I’ve committed a mortal sin by doing so.

    Not where I expected the Ikea thread to wind up…

  41. I’m now worried, of course, that I’ve broken the only rule of this comments area (helpfully printed just to the left of the comment form): “Please be nice.”

    The question still stands, though: If I don’t have a lot of money, and I don’t want hand-me-downs, where am I supposed to acquire furniture? I’m not saying that in a confrontational way, I literally do want suggestions. It’s been my experience that the market is now so polarized that there is no business or retailer that splits the difference between Ikea’s modes of production and, say, something like Design Within Reach, which is frankly very, very far out of reach for just about everyone I know.

  42. Designers will approve of the new Ikea Stockholm collection. I happened to be there the day it launched, and the presence of the collection at the store made my shopping decisions much easier. I fell for this cute and comfortable easy chair and some of the other Danish Modern “inspired” items.

    As part of their consumer-friendly philosophy, Ikea might want to consider labelling items with estimated assembly times. The prices may be good, but the assembly times are not insignificant. Time is money.

    That said, never go to Ikea on a weekend, if you can avoid it.

  43. Laura: Definitely. Though when I went last Sunday, it actually wasn’t so bad. If you leave for the store at the crack of dawn and speed-shop your way through to the checkout counter, it’s actually somewhat tolerable.

    Chris: I don’t think you broke my ‘please be nice’ rule. All the same, before things get more heated here, I think I’m going to close out this thread in favor of my follow-up post on Ikea. New comments can go there, where I’ve added some more thoughts and there’s a great Ikea-related comic from Paul Oslo Davis. Thanks for participating everyone!

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