Yesterday intrepid shopper VickyC led the wayon a half-day safari through Ikea. What an experience! The place, which occupies a large chunk of a large retail campus full of warehouse-size furniture stores perched on the banks of a gigantic freeway running through a vastsuburban plain of look-alike tract houses, was just jammed. So crowded was it that you couldn’t even stand still without having someone bump into you. At least a third of the patrons were youngish mothers with small, shrilly screaming children.
LOL! If I had been a child, I would have shrieked, too.
VickyC was continuing her search for a small desk, and she also hoped to pick up some shelves that hang niftily on the wall without visible braces. We did locate the shelves. But a difficulty promptly arose: she lives in a historic house, none of whose measurements are standard in 2008. So neither of the two sizes the shelves come in would fit either of the spaces where she wants to hang them. That she plans to put books on them and one sign announced their maximum load is 11 pounds didn’t help matters.
If she could find a desk small enough to leave room on the 60-inch wall that will house this proposed work space, she might manage to fit in a narrow cabinet of shelves. We looked at every cabinet, every bookshelf, and every desk in the entire 40 million square feet under Ikea’s roof. We searched at such length that by the time neither of us could stand up any longer, the crowds had gone home and we had most of the store to ourselves. During the hours-long expedition, we found one arrangement that mightwork. She decided to think about it.
We came away with three purchases: VickyC found a plastic drawer organizer and I grabbed a few unscented pillar candles and a glass mug to replace the yard-sale purchase I dropped some weeks ago.
I was struck by how chintzy the furniture items were. Much of this stuff is truly ugly: lots of plastic, ersatz veneer-over-cardboard, and fake chrome- or fake nickel-plated hardware.
On the other hand, beggars can’t be choosers: the stuff is amazingly cheap. And it must be said that the children’s furniture includes some adorable and snazzy designs. The “Mammut” series offers this cheerful table and chairs, which come in fire-engine red, brilliant blue, and lime green — to die for. The table is all of forty bucks, and each chair is fifteen.
We were impressed, too, by the large selection of Marimekko-knockoff fabrics, some of them in upholstery weights, others sheer, and all bright, striking, and fun. Next to the fabric department, Ikea sells hardware that will let you convert lengths of cloth into sliding shade-like “drapes” that move back and forth like shoji screensacross a window, an appealing device, indeed. Among the deskoids, we found an exceptionally stylish affair cobbled together with your choice of several etched-glass tops slung over legs fashioned to look like black-enameled sawhorses. With no drawers or other storage, it was useful mostly for decoration, but it did look cool.
Most of our fellow shoppers were twentyish-to-thirtyish adults who had the harried look of working parents. When I was that age, my husband and I had bought a house whose $350 mortgage payment stretched our income to the max. We had zero dollars with which to furnish the place. We had some pieces of Levitz furniture that we’d bought with the bribe my father gave my husband to elope with me, so that he (father) didn’t have to pay for a wedding and reception. And that was it. I ended up building bookshelves and tables with bricks and boards, which furnished our home for some years.
Probably today I’d buy Ikea products instead. The stuff is cheaper than bricks and boards, and at least it resembles furniture, more or less. Doesn’t look like you’d get years of wear out of it…but that may be just as well. You wouldn’t want to keep it around for years. There’s something to be said for stylish junk that can be thrown away when you can afford to buy something better. I’m not crazy about the concept of throwing out junk and replacing it with new junk every three or four years, but if you can’t afford anything better, that’s pretty much what you have to do. That, or live with lots of bricks and boards.
The estate sale has a lot to recommend it…