Saturday, 29 March 2014

IKEA: Sweden's Most Dangerous Export

IKEA is fairly familiar to us all. A beacon of blue and yellow on the edges of retail parks that draws in the Saturday crowds. Low price, ready to assemble furniture that is stylishly simple - what's not to like? Would you believe IKEA was founded by Swedish Ingvar Kamprad at 17 years old in 1943? Remarkable.

The owners of where I'm currently living are enamoured with IKEA, as everything in the house from bathroom to kitchen to bedroom is from there. Not to upset the theme I decided to go have a look. I needed a chair and possibly a stool as well. Nothing grand, nothing expensive, just functional. Easy, right?

The Groningen IKEA is only about twenty minutes walking from where I live, so on this sunny Saturday, I decided to go out in search of chairs and stools. I've been to IKEA in Sweden once before and was very impressed (and overwhelmed), but only just to have a look. It is quite a different thing when you're actually in search of something.

The layout of IKEAs are in a long, rambling sort of one way path (what I like to think of as "The Long Wander" but the Swedes call "The Long Natural Way"). You can dump your kids at the Småland play area and then continue up to show floor. It begins with simple examples of how your living room could look, with chic sofas and throw pillows. As you wander further in, it moves to kitchens, bathrooms, offices, bedrooms and so on...each section full of show models. You begin to think, this would be perfect for my house! at every step.

And here is where it becomes Dangerous. No, no I didn't get lost (they provide maps as you go - brilliant!). I went in for a chair and stool as previously mentioned, and I left, almost two hours later, having completely designed in my mind my future house for my future family with three kids, a dog and two cats. Yep, from the bedding and curtains to the wood floor, chandeliers, kitchen counter tops...even the garden furniture...the perfect desk and filing system, the best bedroom set, the towels and hangers...

It was the most splendid fun. I did finally get out alive with my chair and stool. It's all "self serve" - you must jot down the item number on a piece of IKEA paper with an IKEA pencil (provided every few metres for your convenience) and then go to the long rows of ceiling high shelves at the end of the Long Wander to find your bit of furniture. It's less of a retail store and more a long sequence of showrooms. There is even a restaurant where you can recoup after the showroom extravaganza, and a food hall where you can buy Swedish meatballs and Lingonberry jam. 

The stool is only slightly wobbly...
The fun doesn't stop there, however. I trudged home with the bits of furniture under my arms (only garnering a few strange looks), clambered up the Stairs of Death, and arrived breathless and perspiring from the spring sun and exertion. But before I could congratulate myself on my new purchases, I had to put the ruddy things together...the prices are low for a reason - you've got to do all the work! Armed with only a Swiss Army knife I realised I was going to need some help. I knocked up number 14 and asked the cute boys there if I could borrow a screwdriver and wrench. 

Thus armed with tools, I began Stage Two of the IKEA adventure. I am currently sprawled on my IKEA sofa, admiring my handiwork. The stool wobbles only slightly and the chair is stable enough. Feeling rather exhausted, I'm resolved not to move unless absolutely necessary. The rest of my planning for the future IKEA infused house will have to wait...