The guilty pleasures of Ikea

I can’t help it. Ikea is one of my guilty pleasures. I don’t particularly like shopping, and I would never consider shopping a leisurely activity. So while I do go to grocery stores and other places where I purchase essentials, I very rarely go to shopping just for the fun of it. Yet I absolutely love shopping at Ikea.

Maybe it’s the mix of awesome and useful things that are available for such cheap prices. Or maybe it’s the awesome but completely useless things that get me, like the poseable wooden doll sculptures and mass-produced oil paintings (made using actual paint). With the exception of stores catering exclusively to my hobbies (electronics stores, hobby gaming shops, Ham Radio Outlet, etc.), Ikea is the only store that leaves me with a feeling of wanting to buy a lot more than what I end up walking out with. I could easily furnish a whole house with goods from Ikea, and eat lunch and dinner there to boot.

I suppose what I like most at Ikea is the furniture. Furniture inhabits a very interesting realm in the kingdom of “things you need to buy”. Furniture is expensive, but things are really going to suck for you if you don’t have it — for instance, the most recent reason I went to Ikea is because I didn’t have a nightstand in my new place, and for someone who likes reading before going to bed, that is a big problem. And because furniture is big, heavy, and bulky, it’s not exactly something you want to buy online.

But the best aspect of Ikea furniture is that it comes in many precisely cut pieces of wood in a flatpack box along with a plastic baggie full of tools and fasteners. My greatest joy with Ikea is not in selecting the furniture in the store, but, perversely, in assembling it when I get home. I suppose to some boring people the fact that Ikea’s furniture doesn’t come assembled simply increases its cost by whatever one considers one’s time worth, but to me, putting together the furniture provides significant added value. I would, and this is not an exaggeration, gladly put together Ikea furniture for someone else, for free.

When I was a kid, I would spend uncountable hours sitting in front of a pile of Legos on the family room floor building all manner of creative objects. As I grew older I stopped playing with Legos because it was no longer an “age-appropriate activity”, but trust me when I say that one of the best parts of having children has to be having an excuse to play with Legos again. In this context, my love of Ikea furniture begins to make sense. It’s like a Lego set for grown-ups, only better, because the material is real, the end result is useful, and it will last for many years. And the assembly instructions, with their parts lists, numbered steps, schematic symbols, and lack of written language, are eerily similar.

So don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the hour and a half I spent putting together that $50 3-drawer nightstand was the most fun I had that entire week. I really got into it, improving the plans in several regards by using better fasteners and applying wood glue to all wood-on-wood joints (would you believe the plans only used wooden pegs in such situations?!). I’d gladly buy a lot more furniture from Ikea, but alas, I don’t have any more space to put it in. So for now I’m in a holding pattern, anxiously looking forward to the next time I have a need to buy furniture. At least I already know where I’m going to get it.

11 Responses to “The guilty pleasures of Ikea”

  1. William (green) Says:

    You have kids?

  2. Cyde Weys Says:

    No, no kids here. Looks like I didn’t choose my tense clearly enough. Should’ve been: “one of the best parts of having children would have to be having an excuse to play with Legos again”.

  3. Jeff V Says:

    My apartment could be in the IKEA catalog. I’m really not joking at all…

  4. Cyde Weys Says:

    I don’t understand why people make fun of the quality of Ikea’s products. I’ve only ever broken two things from Ikea, and you tell me if it’s their fault: one was an empty kettle that I accidentally left on a stove turned to High for an hour, and the other was a glass lamp that I dropped from a height of four height to the uncarpeted floor.

    In contrast, everything else has survived really well. The desk I got four years ago is doing really well, but how could it not? It’s composed of one large solid piece of wood and two solid tubular steel legs. It doesn’t have any plastic on it anywhere. All of the wooden furniture — a couch, dresser, nightstand, and book shelf — are doing fine as well.

    Okay, so there’s one thing I bought at Ikea a long time ago that simply sucked. It was an office chair, and the plastic wheels on the bottom of it could only be described as deficient. We had two of those chairs, and in less than a year, more than half of the wheels across both of them were broken. Lesson learned; I never bought a rolling chair from Ikea again.

  5. drinian Says:

    Good design gets me interested, and IKEA is one of the most prominent places for it in the mass market, even if I am not a terribly huge fan of the ridiculously heavy (and easily warped) particleboard and contact paper that gets used in some of their products.

    I suspect that this is why it’s one of those stores that just makes you feel full of potential.

  6. knacker Says:

    What was the main character’s name in Fight Club again?

  7. William (green) Says:

    Tyler Durden is my guess prior to looking it up. Wikipedia says… I win!

  8. knacker Says:

    turns out the main character was never named.

    but Tyler Durden was basically him, so I guess you get points.

    Which is all you ever wanted, isn’t it?

  9. William (green) Says:

    It’s true.
    Cyde and I have a bet going to see who’s the first to 5,000,000. <– Not true.

    Marla Singer addresses him by name at a number of junctures, if memory serves, so how could he not have a name?

  10. knacker Says:

    I thought so too, but Wikipedia says he was unnamed. He refers to himself as “Jack’s something-or-other” at the beginning, where he’s being all emo about his problems, but other than that there’s no hint at his name.

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