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Ikea: what would our homes be like without it?

Shopping in Ikea

Ikea’s founder died this week, leaving behind a legacy for good, affordable home design. But Ikea has become synonymous with much more than flat-pack furniture. So what do you most associate with the brand and are you a fan, asks our guest, Hannah Jolliffe.

Ingvar Kamprad founded Ikea in the 1940s, but it wasn’t until the early 1950s that he had his lightbulb moment. One of his employees famously failed to wedge a new table into the back of his car, sparking the idea for flat-pack furniture.

With 412 stores in 49 countries and counting, the rest, as they say, is history.

My relationship with Ikea

I think it’s fair to assume that most of us have had the ‘Ikea experience’.

Being the world’s largest furniture retailer, it’s a brand that lurks in the corners of most of our homes. If we haven’t assembled a Billy bookcase or some Malm drawers, then we most certainly have some of its tealights or picture frames kicking about.

My own relationship with Ikea started when I moved out of home. As a student on a budget, the easy-to-assemble and reasonable prices made it the go-to brand.

And, when I was homemaking in my first ‘proper’ pad, Ikea served me well again. New bedding? Tick. Kitchen essentials? Tick. It even came to the rescue when my first baby was born and I needed a cot and soft furnishings.

Love it or hate it?

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. While my partner and I both enjoy a sneaky veggie hot dog on the way out of the store, it usually acts as a bit of a reward for getting around it without strangling one another.

There’s something about Ikea that brings out the worst in couples. I’ve had my fair share of disagreements in store – and I’ve witnessed a few strangers doing the same.

And then there’s the guilt factor. Do I really NEED all this stuff?

Ikea is the master of store layout – first you have to walk around the beautifully styled mock-ups of rooms. Then you’re funnelled through to the ‘Marketplace’, where items are so cheap that you have to buy at least three of everything. The result? You almost never leave without spending less than £100.

None of this sits well with my ‘don’t buy new unless you have to’ philosophy. But when the design is so on-trend and the prices so affordable, why wouldn’t you ditch old for new?

A company with a conscience

After many years of struggle I think I have found an inner peace with Ikea, though. We live just a five-minute drive from a large store, so I now resist the temptation to ‘pop down’ and only go when absolutely necessary.

On the plus side, it is a company with a conscience. The products are well designed to reduce waste and energy during transportation, while interiors guru, Jeff Banks says that the designs make good use of recyclable products.

The company has also been a leader when it comes to sustainable production, from switching its entire lighting range to energy-efficient LEDs to sourcing all the cotton in its products from more sustainable sources and working towards 100% renewable energy.

This is a guest contribution by Hannah Jolliffe. All views expressed here are Hannah’s own and not necessarily those also shared by Which?.

How do you feel about Ikea and how many products do you have in your home? Has it helped you furnish on a budget or do you avoid it all costs? What are those small, cheap products that you can’t get around the store without picking up?

Comments
Member

Never been near the place and do not intend to go ! IKEA ?

Member

We’d not really been there until we needed a new kitchen. We assembled quotes from all and sundry for between £1300 and £30000 and then,purely by chance, I checked Which? to see if they’d ever done a survey on fitted kitchens. It was. I have to say, something of a shock to find out that IKEA not only did kitchens but that they were rated the best by many in the survey.

I would say the buying experience was pretty dreadful; crowded, full of grandparents and kids, no quiet places to discuss needs with the sales people and a long waiting list. But the price? Half our lowest quote.

Six months in and we had a brand new beautifully fitted kitchen which took two weeks to fit and which looks stunning and works perfectly. So not only do you learn something new every day but you also discover IKEA really do something you never thought they did.

Member

I will remember them next time. 😭

Member

I have bought various items from Ikea over the years; bedding, towels, picture frames, kitchen utensils, etc. I always go with my like-minded friend rather than my husband who hates shopping. However, it has been a godsend this past year when my mother had a house fire. We had to buy everything for her new flat & Ikea was the go-to place for most of it. Picked up all the small stuff off the shelf & had the larger furniture items delivered. All completed within a few weeks when DFS were quoting around 12 weeks for a new sofa! I love visiting Ikea. 😉

Member
Phil says:
4 February 2018

Homes might have a bit more individuality without the bland mass-market minimalism. You never know.

Member

The matrimonial consequences of shopping at Ikea are not to be ignored. I would recommend the breakfasts for recuperation

If God has a sense of humour She (or He) will condemn the founder to spend his afterlife wandering around Purgatory desperately looking for the exit.

Member

I’ve never bought very much from Ikea and its many years since I last visited one of their stores.

These days, if I actually want more stuff, I usually see if I can find something suitable at my local Emmaus charity shop. Some of the nicer stuff that turns up there is ex-Ikea.

Member
Patrick Taylor says:
4 February 2018

A little bit more on Ikea’s addictative nature in making construction easy.
bbc.com/capital/story/20180201-how-ikea-has-changed-the-way-weshop

I loathe the place but I have great respect for the goods. Our Ikea kitchen around eight years ago still going strong. We did buy worktops elsewhere as they did not do 48″ depth woktops.

Mr Kamprad was also a leader in financial jiggery and maintaining control of the company.
economist.com/node/6919139

Member

We have a couple of wooden step-stools from Ikea and a short wooden step-ladder. They are perfect to stand on for changing light bulbs and cleaning the top of the fridge etc because they are very sturdy. Assembly was easy. I ordered them on line because we don’t have an Ikea store within a reasonable distance and we have not visited one for many years.

I have never been enamoured of the appearance of Ikea furniture. There always seems to be something slightly odd about the geometry but it is practical and economical if somewhat utilitarian in many cases. We have always preferred the Danish style to Swedish but it comes at a much higher price.

Certainly modern high-precision flat-pack furniture is light years away from the original MFI-type products. It can look good, work well, and be assembled easily. For many people Ikea is the first port of call and there is a strange loyalty towards the company, possibly because of its quirky store layouts and elemental products. It is also the kind of shop you cannot leave without buying something: retail genius!

Member

When I moved home I inherited a study with an Ikea computer desk, drawers and bookcases including a tall, slim Billy bookcase. That was my introduction to the well known ‘Ikea wobble’. That was easy to cure, but it’s a shame that the company had not worked out a solution for themselves.

There is no local Ikea branch but I have picked up some smaller items when passing. I have a couple of self-assembly lamp shades in bedrooms. The assembly instructions defeated me but a YouTube video did the trick and the second one was easy. I like them because they completely conceal the lamps.

A friend ordered flat-pack furniture for a bedroom but decided to buy a more expensive brand. The fixings were clearly inspired by Ikea, but slightly different. The materials were no better and it would have been better value to buy Ikea.

It’s disappointing that every Ikea lamp fixture uses screw rather than bayonet lamp holders and stocks only screw-in lamps. Of course Ikea is not the only brand that is forcing us to switch to European designs.

For anyone who would like to repurpose Ikea products there are plenty of ‘Ikea hacks’ online.

Member

On the kitchen front (!) I would add that for us the winner was the sheer size of the drawers. The deep ones carry loads of up to 42kg and the shallow ones are three feet wide and every one is illuminated. However, we had a professional installer: I mean, I have major issues simply opening the packs of screws, so in terms of putting together the colossal jigsaw that constitutes an IKEA kitchen it was a non-starter.

However, IKEA are also flexible: the installer fell down steps on his previous job to ours, and fractured his wrist, so was unable to start on the specified (and agreed) date and – to make things worse – there were no other teams available since IKEAs kitchens are, apparently, in great demand.

The upshot for us was that we were awarded a 10% discount off the entire thing – kitchen and installation, which was a nice bonus. And they threw in the extra electrical work for free.

Member

Ian has previously recounted the fun he has had with DIY: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/diy-home-improvement-disasters-ian-comment/ which may explain his comment about opening packs of screws. 🙂

Looking at my Ikea desk drawers (which I did not assemble) they have been put together with the wrong size of cam screws and some are missing. They seem quite solid, so I assume that the drawers have been glued together. When struggling with self-assembly furniture it’s probably best to get a professional to screw it up.

Member

“Flatpack Empire” – A series of three programmes about Ikea on BBC2.

Member

I saw Tuesday night’s episode. It wasn’t exactly riveting.

Member

I wouldn’t have expected rivets. Clever captive nuts and hex head screws more likely, along with the proverbial allen key.

Member

An electric screwdriver with a hex bit comes in handy. Maybe one of the future programmes will look at the engineering and design aspects of self-assembled furniture. A cam lock is more effective than it might look.

Member

The best thing about Ikea, is their meatballs and chips that are surprisingly good.

Member

Another self-assembly miracle?

Member

Potato chips or woodchip? 🙂

Member
stephen robertson says:
12 February 2018

saturday morning in ikea is my idea of hell

Member

Just at the moment I consider Ikea to be the absolute pits. I ordered goods on 27 March for delivery. I was given the date of 30 March which was pretty good until it came to actual delivery. The driver rang and said that his vehicle was too large to get down my street. He said he would arrange a smaller vehicle delivery next day. When I rang the call centre they said that the driver did not have this authority and a retry would be made Weds 4 April. When I argued the point the operator cancelled the order and reset it for delivery on Monday 2 April between 10 and 4. When I rang on the Monday I was advised that the delivery would not be coming until 4 April. When I rang on 4 April I was then advised that the goods were not now available as my order had disappeared. I pushed my case and insisted on a delivery early on 6 April. When I rang on 6 April I was advised that the store would call me to let me know about delivery. It is now 1010 on 7 April and I am still waiting that call. I have no idea when or even if I am going to get my goods or even a refund. Emails to the CEO are a waste of time as those to the website are. From a company I would have rated highly in a short 10 days they have gone down to rock bottom and I cannot slate them enough.