One way to mess up a relationship: take them to Ikea

We’re drawn in by the Scandinavian clean lines, not to mention the clever potato mashers

A customer reaches for an item on a shelf in an Ikea store Photograph: Sergio Dionisio/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A customer reaches for an item on a shelf in an Ikea store Photograph: Sergio Dionisio/Bloomberg via Getty Images

 

Ikea always seems to be having a moment, but right now, it really does seem to be having a even more of A Moment than usual. No less a tastemaker than Kanye West wants to design for them. Fashion label Off-White has just announced a collaboration with Ikea, while Parisien boutique du jour Colette and stylist Bea Akerlund also look set to creatively knock heads with Ikea, too.

When high-fashion label Balenciaga released a €1600 bag that looked suspiciously like Ikea’s carry bags (and the latter in turn advised its customers on how to spot ‘expensive fakes’), it seemed that something was indeed afoot in the Having A Moment department.

But still. Ikea is the New Year’s Eve of shops, with its forced jollity and actual living hell masquerading as a good time. I’m beginning to wonder if Stockholm Syndrome is named specifically because of the Swedish furniture store: as much fear and loathing as it produces, you find yourself heading back out there time and time again.

Recently, I underwent the ultimate in Russian roulette play: going out to the Dublin branch of Ikea with a new-ish boyfriend

Recently, I underwent the ultimate in Russian roulette play: going out to the Dublin branch of Ikea with a new-ish boyfriend. I knew the risks involved: I’ve been enough times to notice the battle-weary couples, barely talking, at the delivery point.

Proving that we really were playing fast and loose with our romance, we arrived to Ikea about 20 minutes before closing. That we are still talking to each other is a minor miracle.

All told, Ikea’s system of self-service is a neat one…well, in theory at least. It’s all fine until you dash to a location to find that the one small part that will keep your beloved new bed together has sold out.

Ikea-itis, in case you’re unfamiliar, is a condition whereby the sufferer simply cannot leave Ikea empty-handed

Just when things couldn’t get any worse, the boyfriend contracted the worst case of Ikea-itis I’d ever witnessed.

Ikea-itis, in case you’re unfamiliar, is a condition whereby the sufferer simply cannot leave Ikea empty-handed. They’ve made the pilgrimage to the giant blue warehouse, they’ve done the showrooms, they’ve put the footwork in, and they’ll be damned if they’re not leaving with at least a newfangled sponge for the washing up.

Often, Ikea-itis presents itself in another way; the impulse buy. “Ah, sure its only a fiver… the price of a pint,” you reason as you stock up with noticeboards, candles, storage boxes, glasses and clocks.

The Ikea-itis fever only breaks when you get to the till and realise with a jolt that all those sure-it’s-only-a-fivers add up to €350.

With every Ikea visit, I’ve noticed there is a process akin to the seven stages of grief: shock and denial (“No way will anyone be here at 4pm on a Wednesday”); pain and guilt (“wow, I’d never be able to get my house looking like this, even if I spent all my life savings here”); anger and bargaining (“if that kid doesn’t get out of the way, he’s going to end up under this trolley”); depression (“why does everyone else look much happier than me right now?”); the upward turn (“there will probably be meatballs later”); and finally, acceptance and hope (“thank God I’m finally through the checkout”).

Now that it’s 30 years old, crashlanding into the mass market with its public appeal to ‘chuck out the chintz’, I’ve wondered for some time if Ikea is going to go the way of MFI, chintz itself and other ‘80s/’90s casualties; whether its mass production would mean that it would eventually start to look naff and outdated in Irish homes.

Are future generations going to look back on our Billy bookcases and Hemnes bedroom sets the way we look back at past decades: as the interior design moment in time that fashion forgot?

Herein lies the evergreen appeal to Ikea. We’re drawn in by the simplicity, and those Scandinavian clean lines. And we stay for the quirks, for the cleverly designed potato mashers and side tables. You didn’t even know that your life needed a potato masher before you got there.

It’s a true testament to their minimalist modus operandi that Ikea’s popularity has managed to withstand the test of time. Only the loftiest of interior designers walks into an apartment, spots an Ikea cushion or print and sniffs with disdain. In spite of its omnipresence, Ikea has retained its credibility.

House & Garden has even gone so far as to anoint ‘design classic’ status on some of Ikea’s bestsellers. The canary yellow Stockholm bedside table is certainly eye-catching, while the Sinnerlig day bed, with its nod to mid-century design, carries the hallmark of a success story.

The mint-green Raskog kitchen trolley is immediately recognisable, while the Gjora pine bed is as pocket friendly as it is clean and simple. The appeal in products like the Viktigt jug, the Ikornnes mirror, the Diod glass or the Dalfred barstool lies in its timeless simplicity. They are chameleon-like, able to fit into any room, and are just about ‘statement piece’ enough; not glaringly so.

Yet even one of Ikea’s bigwigs, Steve Howard, has hinted that shoppers have reached ‘peak stuff’. We have all that we need, or even want. Ironically, Ikea have set a target of doubling sales by 2020, and have hinted that they are building a business model whereby products can be recycled and repaired (music to the ears of anyone who ever tried to move house with Ikea furniture).

Howard’s right of course; we are moving towards a design for life where buying experiences, not material goods, is a quicker and surer route to happiness.

Yet it could be argued that a trip to Ikea is indeed a life-enhancing experience in and of itself, especially when you factor in those meatballs. Price of a pint and all that.

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