Saturday, April 24, 2010

To IKEA or Not to IKEA?

That is the question. I have seen many a heated blog discussion on such sites as Apartment Therapy (a favorite) about the merits, or lack thereof, of IKEA. People seem to either love it or hate it. My perspective is somewhere in between.

The Good list

1. Accessories

I have to agree with the IKEA-haters that an all-IKEA home is a little bit dull and uninspired. However, many of their accessories are very well designed and can add a modern touch to any space. Because they are accessories, their presence amongst other pieces doesn't scream "IKEA"! Frames, kitchen accessories, lighting, organizing product, plants, pots, textiles - all A+ in my book for both price and design. One IKEA accessory I can't bring myself to buy is the artwork. It's mass-produced and I do feel that art is something, more than other things, that should be personal and unique.

2. PS Line

From the IKEA Website:

"PS stands for POST SCRIPTUM, or the latest additions to the world of IKEA design. The IKEA PS collection is one way of sharing the design values IKEA has – form and function at a low price. IKEA PS gives designers free rein to shape the latest creations, where the aim is to create products that are emotional, fun and less predictable, appealing to those who prefer an individual taste to a common style."

Today the PS Line tends to be some of the most innovative and original pieces in the IKEA collection. A personal favorite is the uber-affordable IKEA PS Cabinet that was created by teaming up with a local locker manufacturer.

3. Social and Environmental Responsibility

IKEA thinks about their social and environmental impacts when they design their products. There's the obvious "flat pack" methodology that they have been using since the 1950's. In the 1990's, IKEA developed an environmental policy and has since expanded their social and environmental involvement into the 21st century. Providing "design within reach" (unlike the actual DWR) is a social feat in and of itself.

4. The Food

You just can't beat hotdogs for $0.50 or an ice cream cone for $1! Their Swedish Food Market is pretty great too, especially for unique gifts and/or party favors.

The Bad list

1. Laminate and Particle Board

It's ubiquitous in IKEA. When I am reviewing any piece of furniture, whether at IKEA or elsewhere, I ask myself, "How gracefully will this piece age?" Scratches and dents are a part of life. Furthermore, as an architect I prefer honest materials and I especially hate the printed fake wood laminate. The bottom line is that the stuff just doesn't hold up, especially if you move around a lot like I do. Stick with solid wood and other materials that will stand the test of time. IKEA has very affordable wood products, many of which that can be stained to your liking. The IVAR series is a personal favorite for storage.

2. Quality Control

Unfortunately, many times you are getting what you pay for at IKEA. I always make sure to look over a piece for imperfections before I buy. Flaws are all too common in IKEA furniture and my own personal quality control can take a lot of time and energy. Sometimes I even purchase multiples if I am buying a flat pack piece just to make sure I have a "good one" when I get it home (and then return the rejects). In the end I usually feel that it's worth it to have a nice piece for such a good price.

In the end, I don't think that IKEA is evil - a piece of furniture or other designed objects should be judged on its own merits, not where it came from. With a tight budget like mine, IKEA is one of the few options for owning modern furniture. It's not every day that I find an Eames chair for $5! I do love mixing the new with the old, however. It creates a texture that an all new/sleek home might lack. Plus, there's nothing more environmentally friendly than second hand furniture, so I try to go that route whenever possible.

Kristen Ziegler


B-Man said...

Here's a thought...

Herman Miller mass produced and mass marketed the furniture designs of Charles and Ray Eames. Everybody could afford it - everybody owned it.

Dansk shoved their inexpensive wares down the throats of every American in the 70's and 80's.

Who's laughing now?

The bottom line is: If you like it, buy it. I like Ikea as much as I like Target and probably more than I like La Diff. You can find good quality, nicely designed stuff at all of these places. You can also find overpriced (imported) garbage that "looks" nice. You just need to be a smart shopper with a good eye.

People can laugh at me all they want, but I'll state for the record right now that there will come a time in the future where "Vintage Ikea" will become one of the hottest trends - not all of it, but there will be some select pieces that will pad your wallet nicely.

There's still something about walking into a dirty old, stinky junk shop, spotting a vintage piece of gold, running over to it as your heart pounds and your knees start to weaken (while you're scanning the room for competition), and then walking out $5 poorer than you were 15 minutes ago.

You can't get that feeling at Ikea, Taget, La Diff, or from your local crack dealer!

B :) Long Live Furniture Nerds!

Anonymous said...

Haha thanks Bart! Awesome sub-post there. I totally agree. You should join Emily and I and do an occasional article for Minim[list]! I could return the favor via more second hand IKEA :).

B-Man said...

We love the planters by the way, and so do our plants!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! P.S. - Finally found the table of my dreams for a very good price today. Will post about it soon.

B-Man said...

Congrats! We just scored an original butterfly chair with a leather sling seat. eBay, but had to go to NC to get it.