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IKEA is a Shopping Experience, But What About The Furniture?

This article was written by in Consumer, Shopping. 15 comments.


IKEA logoFor years, I’ve found IKEA to be a great place for getting nice, basic furniture. Sure, it’s not the classiest place, but if you’re not looking to impress anyone with your impeccable taste (think college students, newly married couples, etc.) then that doesn’t really matter.

Over the past few days, my girlfriend and I have made two trips to the Swedish furniture superstore, with the intent of inexpensively and efficiently furnishing her new basement apartment. If you’ve never been to the store, here’s a little of what you can expect, based on my own experiences in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Long Island.

IKEA is generally set up like a labyrinthine showroom, with helpful arrows painted on the floor to guide you through thier various zones (bedroom, living room, lighting, etc.).

couchIKEA has a large number of furniture lines, named with words unfamiliar to the American eye, like Lund Bjuv, Klippan, and Stormark. The names help the shopper find matching items in some cases and in others simply make identification and memory more difficult.

As you walk around the showroom, some small items like lightbulbs, wrapping paper, and wine glasses can be carried around, while others are marked with an “aisle” and “bin” which pinpoint the boxed item’s location in the warehouse section of the store. Some larger items, like sofas and beds, cannot be picked up from the warehouse either. This is what we encountered with the two-seat couch we picked out.

After shopping, picking any smaller boxed items from the warehouse, and paying for everything, you may need to wait for the larger funiture to be brought to you. We seemed to wait longer than the others around us; after paying for our items, the couch wasn’t brought out for another hour. To make the waiting more enjoyable, IKEA provides its own furniture (equipped with price tags just in case you enjoy the experience and want to take it home) for lounging.

In the stores tha I’ve visited, IKEA also offers a taste of Sweden. You can buy $0.50 hot dogs or Swedish meatballs for snacks while you’re waiting for them to bring out your furniture from the back.

I have a Honda Civic and my girlfriend has a Toyota Corolla, so neither of us are equipped for moving a large amount of furniture from a store to an apartment. We decided to get everything delivered. Rather than simply ordering online or in the store and letting the delivery happen behind the scenes, IKEA requires customers to acquire the furniture in the store first, then bring all items in carts or flatbeds to a counter within the store in which delivery services are contracted. This delivery service costs a minimum of $99, but expect to pay more if you have issues the delivery company will encounter, such as stairs.

You can search IKEA’s website for items for delivery, but I’ve found their online selection is incomplete compared to what’s available in the showrooms.

That’s not to say everything is available in the store. The couch my girlfriend wants comes with a removable covering. For some reason, the store we visited in Long Island did not have the fabric available in the store. An IKEA representative checked the inventory of stores near me and we discovered one that had our cover available. We’ll make a stop to this second IKEA to pick up the cover in the next few days.

This will actually be our third visit to IKEA; the first was to “scope out the joint” and write down some options for further research before making the purchase decisions.

IKEA is a good store for that first apartment shopping experience. I picked up some furniture for my first apartment several years ago, and now my girlfriend has done the same. When I have more money to spend I’ll choose furniture that’s of higher quality. I don’t have any reason to do so until I settle down and buy a house. Good furniture is not an investment. It’s an expense and should be limited to the minimum you feel is necessary for entertaining and comfortability.

So how has my IKEA furniture held up over the years? Absolutely fine. Assembly is always simple and as long as you take care of it as you would any piece of furniture, it will last. They’re not going to be considered antiques any time soon, but they serve their inteded function admirably.

Updated May 26, 2009 and originally published July 2, 2006. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Kira

I have found that IKEA likes to have various price points of furniture, but in general don’t buy the cheapest one. They have a $200 couch that I wouldn’t recommend (it crushes after time) but the $300 couches are just fine. I love the scratch and dent area. If I owned a pickup truck or a van or some large car like that, my whole house would be furnished with that stuff. =)

The household goods section is really great for a first time apartment furnishing. They have a lot of cheap, sturdy kitchenware and dishes.

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avatar savvy saver

I have a couple things from Ikea that I bought about five years ago. Most of them haven’t held up with time, both in terms of durability and style.

I think I just outgrew Ikea. It makes me kind of sad, because it is a fun place to shop, but I prefer to buy things that are a bit more classic and durable.

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avatar wmc

Their stuffs look nice but they don’t usually last too long. Good design using cheap material and mass produce equal low price. I do like some of their products.

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avatar Jonathan

The good thing is that if you keep them looking nice, the resale value is actually pretty good as Ikea is almost a brand name for plastic-impregnated wood dust :)

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,455 (Platinum)

As I mentioned, IKEA is good for starter furniture. I wouldn’t expect it to last forever, or nearly as long as better constructed furniture would last.

Nevertheless, my most-used piece of IKEA furniture is a couch/sofa, and it’s managed to last more than three years so far. It wasn’t the cheapest couch available at IKEA at the time, but it was far from the most expensive. The cushions and the frame are both holding up fine.

I probably wouldn’t go so far as to buy an IKEA mattress, but even if I did, I’d probably be sleeping on something better than what the majority of people throughout the world sleep on.

There will come a time when I want to furnish a house and I will look for furniture that will last for a generation or two. Until that point, I find no shame in settling for lower quality. I don’t have many visitors anyway. :-)

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avatar Calvin Mackie

Ikea’s dishes and cookware are great and quite durable.

As for the furiture, either get it for yourself as something temporary or don’t get it at all.

Ikea furniture is great for when you have hyperactive/young kids who love to throw their toys around. It’s definitely better for little Junior to toss around his Tonka truck set into the side of a $99 particle board dresser than for him to do it to a $2,000 sold wood handcarved one.

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avatar Megan

Home Depot rents trucks for around $30 per hour for those of us with cars (like me!). Buy the stuff, leave one person at IKEA, send another to Home Depot and voila, cheaper delivery. Or better yet, I have found people who will haul from Craigslist.org for around the same price. And they carry the darn things.

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avatar Cathy

I have to say, we own our home and it was hardly a “first apartment” type situation, nor are we “newly married” at this point, but most of our furniture is from IKEA and it’s not only held up fine, it looks great. I think the key is that we weren’t afraid to spend money on the more expensive stuff they sell – it really is comparable to much higher-end furniture, you just have to put it together yourself. That said, our couch and arm chair are from a “real” furniture store, and although we bought our beds at IKEA, we bought the mattresses somewhere else!

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avatar Kathy

A lot of Ikea’s furniture is particle board, but they always have some real wood stuff. For example, they almost always have one brand of real wood bookshelves for the same price as their particleboard versions. They change frequently, so if you like the model they have out buy all the ones you need at one time (we have three sets because of this problem), but they hold up wonderfully.

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avatar Kal

I am an Ikea virgin…i want a sectional couch but im still iffy…i was wondering how LONG the stuff lasts? anyone had anything for a lonnnng time, with kids and pets especially?

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avatar ac

i bought the ektorp leather couch for 700$ in October 2006 from the new haven store. stopped off on the way home from a wedding (i live in manhattan). Its now MArch 2007 and the couch is broken. Call customer service, the first thing they tell me is bring the couch in to be inspected? haha. um i have no moving truck. i paid YOU to delivery it to me. and now its broken. so, in order to get help, i have to take pictures of the couch (what do you want to bet they will tell me they can’t tell anything from the pictures I take), rent a car (to the tune of about 150$) drive to new haven (90 minutes or so) and talk to customer service about it. chances are they’ll do nothing. Don’t buy anything over $100 there. you’ll regret it.

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avatar Coro

I need help. If the cost of the house is: $100,000, how much do I have to have to buy furniture?

Thanks,

Coro

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avatar John

About 10 years ago, I was looking for a sofa and love seat. I went to Ikea and soon found myself spending almost three thousand on two pieces. I came to my senses and walked out. A week later, I ordered a traditional style set from Macy’s Furniture. I paid about 40% less due to a sale and 10 years later the set looks brand new and has not gone out of style – I doubt anything from Ikea would have held up as well.

The lesson here is to very careful when buying any upholstered furniture from Ikea. Its almost like a passive bait and switch situation. The lower end stuff is so poorly made that you will naturally begin to look at the higher end. The prices go up very quickly and soon are the equivalent of “real” furniture without the quality and with all the hassle of shopping at Ikea.

Always keep in mind a reality check. For the same prices as Ikea’s “high-end” lines, you could buy furniture at a real furniture store for the same money. You’ll wind up with non-disposable furniture, better service, and cheaper delivery – especially if you follow the sales.

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avatar Lisa

I love Ikea. I have not had any issues with their products and can find lots of really cool things there that allow me to complete my house inexpensively and look like I went to Pier 1 or some place like that to shop. I also love that I can furnish my kids rooms and they love it…best thing is that as they grow and change styles, I can afford to change along with them.

If you are looking for a bed or a couch, plan to spend time researching the product online, then in the store. You will be pleased. I was able to purchase my Tween a new bed and mattress for $150.00 because I was able to take advantage of a sale. She loves the bed and says the mattress is the best thing she’s ever had (and she has a terrible back).

Take your time…go in with a list.

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avatar Kim

Like anything else you need to look carefully at anything you buy. We have many Ikea pieces in our house. The only seating we own is a Poang chair & ottoman. It’s very comfortable. I don’t sit well on their couches as I am short. We were able to take a whole wall (About 16′) in our basement family room & customize shelving & cabinets to look like built ins. This was at least 6-7 years ago & only cost less than $600 back then. We love how Ikea makes space specific containers for their storage. I think that is the thing we like most-their storage ideas! ALso we have bathroom cabinets (the sturdy frame ones that you choose your doors for), sink & faucet in one of our bathrooms that is at least 7 years old or more. They are holding up great!

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