Gripped by fear and loathing in Swedish furniture hell


The Swedes are coming . . . all flat pack designer heaven and allen keys. Happy? Shmuli Goldberghas another view.

I hate Ikea! I loathe it with an unearthly passion and now I'm going to tell you why.

I'm going to moan, I'm going to rant, I'm going to bitch, and you're just going to have to listen; 'cos it's my blog, and I say so.

This is how you buy stuff in Ikea Israel. First, you have a look through the catalogue, either online or in print, and get a rough idea of what you want to buy. You choose beds, a sofa or two, tables for the kitchen, office equipment, etc.

Then you go to Ikea, and are greeted instantly by bright lights, clean walls, a kid's creche and two elegant restaurants. Until now you're doing great, you're happy, you're relaxed, you're naive.

You spend a good few hours on the top floor, where everything is laid out nicely and it's easy to see what Ikea has to offer. You're given a small pad and a truly Swedish pencil, and walk around with the catalogue in one hand, the pad in the other and the pencil in your mouth (or behind the ear for the authentic experience) choosing what you want for your new home and writing down all the product codes.

This part is actually quite difficult, as you try to match colours, fabrics, rooms and themes as much as possible. Admittedly, it's slightly irritating that "light wood" in one bookshelf isn't quite the same tone as in another, and that the chairs that match your table only come with red, black or beige cushions, while the matching couch comes in blue, green, yellow or white.

But you're bigger than that. You struggle on, and with a triumphant but weary smile on your face you bring your full list, with codes, numbers and colours to the cashier.

With a tone that one reserves for children and the physically disabled, your cashier informs you that you've been writing down the wrong product code. You've been looking at the red number on the bottom left corner, when you need the black number on the bottom right. You need to start again.

Most of us begin to crumble at this point, but some foolhardy people still believe they can keep their composure, and with a smile slightly wearier than triumphant, they head off back through the faux wood jungle once again. Many are led to believe, you see, that re-writing their list "should be easy", as they've "done it once before" and that all they need to do is find the stuff on their list and write down the other number.

I mean, it sounds logical? No? No! for this is Ikea, and logic hath no place within these halogen lit walls.

The Ikea designers, with their incessant scheming, appear to have named products after Swedish porn stars! Their basic extending kitchen table is called "Mygård", their single beds are "Tðvik", their bookshelf's "Billy", and their aptly named saucepan rack "Feck?t". So you're trawling through the shower curtains, trying to find the code to something on your list called an "Anneboded", and about now even the most hardened crusader begins to lose his cool. But this, is just the beginning.

Because sometimes, the product code you now need is missing, replaced by a little yellow slip that says: "Ask at the product help desk." So you go to the product help desk, to be told that for some reason or another, the product that you want isn't available.

Here is a true list of reasons we were told we couldn't get what we wanted, in order of appearance:

The one in stock only has one door instead of two;

It's not available in that size;

No one else wants it in blue;

Everyone else wants it in blue;

It's not in stock . . . never will be;

The guy who knows where we keep those isn't here today;

It's in our warehouse, but too high up.

Never mind that you've just spent 2½ hours colour co-ordinating your living room. We don't have half the stuff, so you'll just have to start again.

You can then, after spending seven hours wandering around Svedën-hell learning to swear profusely in Swedish and cursing every Nordic god you can think of, go home. Thank you for listening, I feel much better now.

 Shmuli Goldberg lives in Givat Shmuel in Israel. This commentary appeared first on