For 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.
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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.).
IKEA 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 October 16, 2015 and originally published July 2, 2006.