In the early 2000s we lived in Belgium. At that point there were no IKEA shops in Ireland or Northern Ireland. My knowledge in those prelapsarian times about the Swedish non-profit organisation (kind of) was limited to a friend who had bought his furniture from the shop’s Glasgow branch and had it shipped over to Dublin, and some English students in university who mentioned it in passing. Then there was that memorable scene from Fight Club.
Anyway, in Belgium, IKEA was the shop of choice for all landlords to quickly fill a house with cheap(ish) Scandi furniture. Unusually, Brussels had not one but two of the places. Every flat was either partially or entirely furnished with their wares – from the egg timer to the shower curtain. When we moved into an unfurnished flat, we did the same, and I have to say that many of the pots and cutlery from those antediluvian (i.e. pre-children) days are still with us and working well after years of daily use.
To cut a long story short, I both like and dislike the place. Nowadays I scour charity and junk shops for what we need, generally looking out for things that are well made and have a bit of character. However, I still occasionally buy new/reduced from IKEA, sometimes using items in a ‘hacked’ way – e.g turning a shelving unit on its side and adding cushions. When I go there I try to be very selective about what I buy and how I shop. I have devised certain hacks and associated routes which I’m going to share with you now. I had intended to produce some maps to illustrate these routes – I searched for ‘map of IKEA’ on Google and this is what came up –
IKEA hacks: trips and routes
Exit –> Hotdog–> Bargain Corner –> Exit.
One form of trip, usually when I’m in the area anyway, involves entering via the exit grabbing a hotdog and proceeding through the checkouts in order to have a quick nose around the ‘bargain corner’.
Entrance –> Restaurant –> Entrance.
Another form of visit comprises going for the cheap breakfast on Fridays when some of the other dads have the morning off. We have a cooked (i.e. fried) breakfast in the restaurant – a ‘fry’. The ritual has become known as © Frkyea. Leaving the place without having to go through the showroom, i.e. via the entrance, used to involve lifting my 2 year old over the electronic entrance barrier and encouraging her to take a few steps down the stairs to trigger it to open for me – until they recently removed this obstacle (possibly from observing me repeatedly on the security cameras, who knows…).
Entrance –> Market Hall –> Bargain Corner –> Hotdog –> Exit.
A third longer format visit sees me going up the stairs and down the stairs into the ‘market hall’ area, navigating via swinging door shortcuts to the objects I think I need. Plus a guilty look at the bargain corner followed by an even guiltier hotdog.
In short, I don’t go to the showroom very much, but, last week I did, and these are my conclusions:
Cork is in.
Cork is one of those materials that we’ve been warned we’ll see less off in the future as more wine manufacturers opt for synthetic ways to stop their bottles. Apart from heat resistant mats and pinboards, it doesn’t feature much in the home. However, it seems like the furniture giant is trying to change all this by introducing a new range of products using cork – as cladding for table tops and seats, as well as lids for various jars and jugs. They market it as durable and easy to clean. It’s certainly soft and warm to sit on. I just can’t help thinking of my 2 year-old picking it off with her fingernail as I used to do with so much embossed wallpaper…
Yellow is cool.
From flimsy cabinets to more sturdy bedside tables and chairs, that shade of yellow is really sunny and inviting. I like this:
Artificial vertical garden.
I’m not a fan of artificial plants so I wouldn’t like an artificial vertical garden full of green plastic leaves. But seeing exactly this on my last visit did get me thinking about how one could fake the vertical garden look by taking the idea and using real plants instead. In the showroom they used a series of rails and hooks – the kind you often seen in the kitchen area for hanging up pots and pans – and attached the hooks to plant pots. The arrangement was so dense that you could only see the leaves. I didn’t take a photo at the time but the one I found below gives you an idea. I guess you could use real plants but then the problem is how to keep them watered – maybe a picture shelf could be adapted… ideas welcome!
Industrial retro has been officially adopted.
No one is safe from the retro-industrial look with IKEA now on board. As evidence I present the Ranarp lamp: it features an industrial office-like clamp to attach the lamp to a shelf like a giant clothes peg, or, to a slightly awkward-looking add-on that you mount it to a wall. Brass-like fittings and a black and white fabric cable complete the look. There are other lamps in the range – I picked up this one for a reading corner I’m hoping to add to a landing space.
Finally, how to enjoy an IKEA hotdog.
- Never get the vegetarian one
- Always add equal amounts of ketchup and mustard
- Never eat more than one (the first one tastes good, not the second)
- Never go deluxe… looks good but upsets the already delicate balance of ‘what the hell is in this’ vs ‘it’s cheap and I’m hungry’ by piling too much on.