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For the Love of IKEA

June 27, 2018
For the Love of IKEA

There is a maze where wondrous things happen. It’s a labyrinth of enchantment and sparkle, endless miles of marvel at every turn, festive and bright and bewitching, where people go in as strangers and leave out as…more acquainted strangers.  

That funhouse, for me, is an IKEA superstore.  

IKEA has a dubious, funny sort of way about it. Developing a love-hate relationship with the retailer is easy. On the one side, the sale prices are pretty dumbfounding sometimes. There are few local shopping arenas in our immediacy of Northwest Atlanta Metro where an entire kitchen can undergo a glamorous makeover for under $1,000. In the past, I have purchased an antique wood-stained dining room set from IKEA for $100 and a solid red armchair for $109, not to mention a foam mattress previously and all of the current drawer dressers in the bedrooms of my house.  

On the other side, however, IKEA shoppers have accumulated Internet volumes of stories regarding the shenanigans of building their furniture with nothing more than a tiny bag of screws and dowels and a manual illustrating three stick figures and few words. Namely, constructing anything complicated brought from the store nearly cannot be done. It’s unbelievable how much frustration/lunacy putting together IKEA furnishings can bring out of a given person/couple, as depicted in this tale. (And this one. And this one. This one, too.)

The hubs and I make it out divorce-free, by the way, but we have, uh, agreed to disagree there before.

Additionally, with the great prices comes the increased risk that the product is exactly the quality that was paid for it. We learned that blunder with the mattress I mentioned earlier, which didn’t live at our home longer than a few months before the annoying sagging and body prints showed up and the daily re-positioning of the wood slacks under the mattress drove us almost insane. 

Depending on the individual enthusiast, the overall layout of the store is either too cumbersome or too genius. There is…stuffeverywhere. In my mind, it is designed to trap us into buying. If one is not careful and follow the arrows that takes shoppers from the front entry escalator through each room region back to the checkout area, it is a mad tangle of products and pushcarts and other lost patrons mumbling apologies. People go into perfectly-decorated sample rooms and never emerge. There’s something astonishingly perplexing about walking into a flawless 297 square foot showroom “house” and finding it more beautiful than most places. One can spend an hour alone stuck looking at lights and mirrors. First-time IKEA tourists are obvious to spot—their swiveling heads, bulging eyeballs, and wide-open mouths spewing fast-paced, excited conversations give away their perspective, not to mention that they may unintentionally walk against (towards) the oncoming crowd. I would not recommend this, unless one does not mind strolling into often-heavy traffic of people and carts. 

So many carts. 

IKEA invites shoppers not to have to look where they are walking. It’s well-known that getting bumped into has a high probability. The merchandise is pervasive on end-caps and are not situated in specific aisles, while the prices printed on the card displays are followed by how and where to get the item, which is why people can abruptly dip across traffic to obtain closer inspection and the practice is not frowned upon. Thus, it’s a good idea to wear sneakers and patience. Even arriving when the store first opens does not always absolve consumers of crowd avoidance, particularly on the weekends. It’s best to just sorta suck it up. Go with a plan. Eat before you go. Pre-shop online. Take the constructed shortcuts, as needed. (They exist for sanity.) Walk for everyone else, especially if they have children. “Pull over” to examine closer. Look at all the sales. Put on a happy face. 

There are three dominant reasons why I still am always completely beguiled with each visit to the home furnishings emporium. It’s all about me.

–IKEA is a bit like a cruise ship vacation for me. I try to go without the kids to fully consume each special experience. Commodities are presented so lovingly. Encouraging. Welcoming. There is a lot to see. Shoppers are strolling, joyful and merry. The warehouse is warm in the winter and cool in the spring. The checkout area smells like real wood. (It’s awesome.) There’s free cardio all over. The food court wafts scents of cinnamon buns and Swedish meatballs. The store is a mini oasis.  

–Most of the IKEA offerings I have purchased have not steered me wrong. With the exception of that ill-informed mattress debacle, my IKEA furniture has been well-behaved and usually outlive the prices we pay. Jai’s dresser right now belonged to Jrue. In its fifth year at our home, the “Malm” drawers in turquoise are just as unique and strong as when we changed Jrue’s diapers atop it.  

–IKEA reminds me that I can, indeed, have a lovely home someday…when the kids move out. IKEA is a mainstay dream-enhancer. I appreciate the momentary escapes. 

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