I’ve had a relationship with IKEA for a very long time, dating back to the days when I was small enough to go in the ball pit (wistful sigh).
My earliest memories — besides the ball pit — involve helping to choose a bunk bed for my younger sister and me to share, after my brother was born and my sister lost her room. Not only was it fun to crawl all over the different beds, we got to go in the warehouse section, huge and industrial, with shelves stacked unimaginably high. And then…we got to help assemble the bunk bed. Best thing ever.
There were many other trips over the years as our family grew. We bought numerous Billy bookcases and felt very accomplished putting furniture together. I developed a distaste for the patterns of the textiles and fell madly in love with the paper floor lamps. The catalogues were a wealth of beautifully organized shelving, with the occasional Swedish book in the photos as an Easter egg.
When I moved away from home, the first thing we did was go to IKEA. A miscommunication meant we slept on the floor for half a week. I’d never been so glad to see a mattress when it finally arrived, never mind that we didn’t have a bed frame yet. The only problem with buying an entire apartment out of IKEA? It took days of puzzling over instructions and wielding hex keys before everything was assembled. And then, later that year when we could finally afford more than just the very basics, we had to do it all over again.
That experience ended the romance for quite a while. We bought secondhand furniture instead, trembling at the thought of a hex key. Some of it was even from IKEA, which meant — bonus! — that someone else had had to put it together.
Now I’m in a position where I’m starting to think about IKEA once more. The frustrations of assembly have faded somewhat over time. I’ve been poking around department stores, but their prices are such a big jump up, and their style so much heavier and more old-fashioned (which I prefer for some things, like bed frames, but not for others, like tables), that I’m hesitant to make the leap. Maybe I’m not quite ready to abandon my old paramour just yet.
What associations do you have with IKEA? What’s your favourite home furnishings store?