Eleven Reasons To Love The Swedish God, IKEA

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I went to IKEA yesterday.

I love that place.

I used to work in Sweden. Many Monday mornings during winter, I got up at 4am and drove to London Heathrow airport to catch the 7:30am flight to Stockholm.

I stayed at the Royal Viking hotel in the center of the city, got driven around and generally pretended to be important and classy.

Visiting IKEA reminds me of Sweden and my life back then. It’s a trip down memory lane.

I loved the whole Swedish thing. The family friendliness, the egalitarianism, the honesty and straightforwardness of the Swedish people, the openness.

Occasionally, my clients would invite me into their open, fresh, natural pine homes that looked like the mountainside houses I saw as a child in one of my favorite books, ‘Heidi.’

They would feed me herring and coffee so strong you could run their saunas off it.

Their hospitality was delightful and their surroundings uncluttered.

It was charming.

Among the Swedes I knew, IKEA was considered cheap and undesirable but I could not figure out why. At all.

I never went to the one nearest me in the UK because I couldn’t get within five miles of it. It was mobbed on the weekends.

I was delighted when one opened up locally here in the US.

And ten years on, I am still thrilled to go there.

Eleven Reasons Why I Love IKEA

  1. I can teach my kids how to live successfully in a small space. Apartments are very small and very, very expensive in Sweden; they know about maximizing space.
  2. The child drop-off. When my kids were smaller, I would meet a friend and have a chat over coffee. (Which was mercifully not powering any saunas.) Forget the furniture; vacation from the kids.
  3. Nowadays, I can buy my kids a little treat to reward them for sweating it with me and it not cost the earth – $1 for a frozen yogurt, anyone?
  4. Marabou chocolate. I used to buy that in the duty-free and haul it back with me to England. Gorgeous chocolate. Lovely memories.
  5. If I run out of pencils, a trip to IKEA will do. They have plenty of little ones handy.
  6. Flatpack. I get to assemble the goods. Yay! Yeah, I’m weird.
  7. Parent-friendly furniture. If the kids wreck it, it is so cheap I can just buy another. Plus, I get to build it, all over again. 🙂
  8. Family parking bays if you get there early enough.
  9. The unashamedly Christmas section that reminds me of wonderful Swedish holiday seasons and lights and glög and Swedish holiday food and snow. Lots and lots of snow. Magical.
  10. The memories that spring up as I inhale all things Swedish – being a twenty-something career girl, dashing about town in my black BMW, with her briefcase and newspaper, high heels and expense account. Happy times.
  11. And seriously, where else can you go to buy everything you need to equip a basic home on a student budget?

Do you like IKEA? Why? Why not? Let me know in the comments!

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary E. Ulrich
Twitter:
November 17, 2010 at 3:12 pm

An IKEA opened up near us about a year ago. I like the variety and unique items. Also the cafeteria has tasty cheap food. Those Swedish meatballs are terrific. I’ll have to stop by for some holiday meatball hor doerves.
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Alison Golden November 17, 2010 at 8:45 pm

It’s a fun place to while away some time that’s for sure. A bit of window shopping, a little eating and pick up a few little bits and bobs from the downstairs. A fun place to be when it’s fairly quiet.

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Gary Jordon November 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm

I have heard of Ikea for years. Since my mother had our mobile home furnished long before Ikea came to southern California it was not a big deal.

I have one question do they cater to smaller folk like me. I am 5’4″ and about 125lbs. Also are they close enough to the floor like say a desk that I could use my over sized 1bag for a chair?

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Alison Golden November 17, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Hmm, well I don’t know if they have any adjustable furniture but if you get a catalog you could give it a good check out from there as they have all the dimensions. The 2011 catalog is just out. Unfortunately I’ve never found their website terribly helpful but get a catalog and you can have a look. If you know anyone handy the other beauty about IKEA is that it is so cheap you can adjust things like legs with a saw!

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Ann November 17, 2010 at 8:44 pm

I used to shop at Ikea 20 years ago when I was a student. I hated the stuff then. My motto was “lose a screw – and you are screwed!” We have a fairly new IKEA in Redhook, Brooklyn … and I tell you the quality of the items has really improved. My advice is to go with a list…so you don’t end up with 100 votive candle holders like me.

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Alison Golden November 17, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Oh I’ve done that, too. Such a drag, isn’t it? I picked up so many votive candles from there ‘for gifts’ that eventually I had to give them away on Freecycle. You’d have thought I’d have learned by my age…

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Christy Smith November 18, 2010 at 11:56 am

I am fortunate to have an IKEA nearby. I bought my current bedroom set there and I love it because it is so practical for my bedroom space! I did a research paper on IKEA in college. It is a great story of building something from the ground up and I think the business really reflects and upholds their values.
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Alison Golden November 18, 2010 at 4:24 pm

IKEA is a great case study, I agree. The Swedes are, in general, extremely interested in work/life balance.

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Charis Brown Malloy November 19, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I love Ikea. While I wouldn’t recommend a trip there when you have low blood sugar (crowded theme parks come to mind), I like to go for ideas, even if I’m not necessarily in the market for any new home items. I’m a big fan of their textiles, and I really like how you can customize their items to create your own look. I’m not a modern-style girl at all, so the way that they usually decorate their show rooms is nothing like what my house looks like, yet you’ll find at least one object from Ikea in just about every room of my home. (The prices are awesome too – had to throw that one in there!)

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Alison Golden November 19, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Same here. As I was going around this week, it occurred to me, I have at least one thing in every room. Even from where I sit right now, I can see an end table, bookcase, magazine holders, paper drawers, lazy susan, wicker and wood containers. Scary. I had no idea 🙂

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Galit Breen
Twitter:
November 19, 2010 at 7:27 pm

i *love* ikea. LOVE. IKEA! and you, sweet lady have lived quite the life! if i’m ever back in sf, meet you there by the child drop off?! xo
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Alison Golden November 20, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Galit, I’m already there…:)

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Margarita November 20, 2010 at 9:08 am

Oh I love Ikea too!! I adore putting the furniture together as well, I feel a little crazy but I absolutely love it!!
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Alison Golden November 20, 2010 at 12:56 pm

I know, I know. I can’t wait to get it all out of the box, count all the pieces and start assembling. Such a thrill! And then I get to look at it/use it. I’m in heaven 🙂

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Kelly Stone November 21, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Our store is located right by an IKEA a which we all LOVE. May I say meatballs? We had an IKEA designer put together a very functional office from the IKEA offerings that we are currently using. I must say however, when it comes to childrens’ furniture, there is no comparison in durability and safety, to what is available from our store, Totally Kids fun furniture & toys.
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Alison Golden November 21, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I certainly like the looks the IKEA designers put together for businesses from their furniture. They look good and functional and are a very creative use of their stuff. Personally, my admiration doesn’t extend to their meatballs but it would appear I’m in the minority. 🙂

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KevinT November 23, 2010 at 5:48 pm

My wife and I actually planned our honeymoon around visiting Ikea. That should tell ya something. lol

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Alison Golden November 23, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I have no idea what you’re talking about, Kevin! 😉

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Marcia Francois, Organising Queen February 4, 2011 at 12:36 am

I’m in South Africa and we don’t have IKEA but my one regret when we visited Malaysia is not making the time to go check it out 🙂

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Alison Golden February 6, 2011 at 5:52 pm

If you ever get the chance again, Marcia, you must take a look. Just a quick one. They are as much a part of our modern landscape as the historical and cultural icons 😉

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Melody Granger
Twitter:
May 21, 2011 at 7:28 pm

I haven’t ever actually been in an IKEA! I’ve checked out their flyers and visited them online (looking for & recommending products for clients!), but I’ve never purchased specifically from them.

Perhaps when I am in a city that has one, I’ll drop in! Loved going down memory lane with you Alison!
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Alison Golden May 23, 2011 at 8:52 am

I had heard a lot about IKEA before I went in one and I was underwhelmed – with the jams to get in the parking lot and the queues to checkout. I have learned my lesson well – go only on a weekday and as soon as it opens.

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