Wednesday, 24 November 2010


On Sunday I faced my biggest test so far since undertaking my Challenge of the Utmost Kind - a trip to IKEA. We went with a friend who has just bought a new appartment, to help him transport his new furniture. I'm glad to say that I came out empty handed and was surprised to find that I wasn't even tempted to buy anything. In fact, the whole experience kind of annoyed me.

First of all, a trip to IKEA, in Italy (the 4th biggest consumer of IKEA products) on a Sunday afternoon, a month before Christmas is a bad idea. The place was heaving, people were fighting over spaces in the parking lot and getting tetchy in the customer services queue. After a certain amount of time I found a sofa in a quiet corner near the exit and waited until my friend was finished.

I sat there for about an hour watching all the people going out with trolleys full of stuff. I wondered what they would do with that stuff and how long it would be before they'd throw the stuff out and come back to buy more stuff.

IKEA has an image of being an environmentally conscious company, they use wood which is ethically sourced, have reduced the use of certain dangerous substances and have a growing range of recycled products for sale. However, I can't help but wonder how they are able to produce goods at such low costs and I'm sure that somebody somewhere is loosing out. In fact, they were placed on the 2010 Sweatshop Hall of Shame by the International Labor Rights Forum.

Nonetheless, my main problem is not with IKEA itself, it's with the vast number of people who decide to throw out their existing perfectly functional furnishings to go out and buy cheap replacements from IKEA, completely re-doing their homes every few years. Do these people really think it will make them happy to go out on a Sunday afternoon and buy a new dinner set or new bedding, spending their hard-earned cash to replace something that they already have?

I'm not saying that I will never buy anything from IKEA, I think they have some really good products available (I love their wardrobes which have ways of keeping your clothes perfectly organised). However, anything I buy will be something which I think will last for a long time and that won't need to be replaced every few years.

Needless to say, it will be a while before I'll be making another trip to IKEA!


Sarah said...

I don't understand the desire to redecorate and replace stuff every so many years either. It's hard enough doing it the first time around, once it's done it's done for as long as possible in my book!

The last time I went to Ikea I got a packet of paper napkins, a plastic bin for bread, couple of new pillows for the boys and that's it. I have been more than once and come out with nothing but rage! :)

Razmataz said...

As an Interior Decorator, I often see people wanting disposable rooms. I think we need to go back to our parents day when they bought things to last.

If you buy wisely, you can update your look with small purchases like pillow covers and accessories.

I love what you are doing with the challenge.

Olga said...

Sarah Elizabeth, now I know why I follow you with such pleasure :)
When we moved to Canada, we bought our furniture from IKEA. It saved us time.
However, it was never my aesthetical choice. It was a matter of necessity and affordability, of course. If I buy furniture from IKEA now, I would buy the cheapest version and paint it. I would make it look like old fashioned furniture from Provence.
At least it would bring some character to the ordinary IKEA stuff.

LindyLouMac said...

Oh that sounded like a nightmare of an afternoon! I have experienced IKEA in the UK and that was bad enough! In theory there are some good ideas available but not if it means dealing with all that. I am sure you were thankful to be taking part in the challenge whilst you sat there and watched.

Loree said...

I prefer vintage to Ikea. I don't like to change my furniture much. Once I get used to it it becomes part of my life.

Louisa May said...

well done you - sounds like a nightmare!

Whenever I'm about to buy something from Ikea I remind myself of the time we bought a collinder and a seive from there on impulse then realised we already had one at home...then they both broke...suckers!

International Woman of Mystery said...

Ikea is great though when you are on a budget and need to furnish an apartment from scratch like I just did. While I hate going to Ikea, and really hate building the furniture myself, I'm glad it's there.

The style is very Swedish - it's not for everyone... Minimalist and modern. And cost-efficient. I love it. Or at least I got used to it when I lived in Sweden for 5 years. Everyone had Ikea stuff. Also, I learned a lot from Swedes on how not to be wasteful. They view Americans as very wasteful (and I definately think we are more so). So, it's interesting for me to hear that you and others view Ikea as a place encouraging waste. However... you might have a point - just as when you go to H&M - another great Swedish company - you buy clothes you might only wear once. But I think the focus of the company is to provide modern and stylish trends at affordable prices...

But well done on not buying anything at Ikea. I won't go there unless I absolutely need something (and I never have unless I just moved to a new country) - I don't have that kind of self control. So instead, I just stay away.

Sarah Elizabeth said...

I totally agree International Woman of Mystery. When you have no furniture and a limited budget then Ikea is very convenient. I don't think that IKEA is encouraging wastefulness. I think that a lot of the people who shop there are wasteful and IKEA just meets the demand. I see H&M in the same way. I have quite a few things from H&M but they are things that I wear a lot and actually the quality is really good for the price. However, the people who go in just to buy something that they'll only wear a few times just because it's the latest trend and then throw it out afterwards - I have a big problem with those people.

Signe said...

I love Ikea, but I rarely buy furniture there! It's mostly candle lights, rugs, kitchen supplies etc.

My chair I inherited from a friend (who found it in the attic years ago) but I have covered it in a sheep skin from Ikea. My couch I bought used from another friend, but I have new pillows and a throw on it. My kitchen table I found in the attic in our apartment building, but I bought some new chairs for it. And now that I need a new desk I am planning a trip to Ikea to get one of those ‘build it yourself’ desks. I bet it will last for decades.

I agree that over consumption is a bad thing, but I like to think that one can combine being environmentally conscious it with a trip to Ikea every now and then :)

Sini said...

Sounds awful. I'm not a big fan of Ikea furnitures, I prefer something that lasts longer. Still, I'm planning my trip to Ikea as it's the only thing that reminds me of home here, as we Finns are sharing our history with Sweden and traditions are so close, so I will find everything I want for traditional christmas(mainly just decoration as we don't even own any christmas decorations) from Ikea. But I will go at week, so I can avoid all the crowd :)

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

My friend LindaLouMac has got here first .. IKEA is a challenge in the UK no matter when it is .. especially weekends , when they have family outings there .. so Christmas time is a no go area !!!

Marcela said...

I would have to agree with IW of Mistery. We move a lot (we change countries, sometimes even continents very 3-5 years) and Ikea works great for our lifestyle. It would cost a fortune to ship a whole house around the world, so we opt for Ikea and so far it has served us very well. It has also served us very well in terms of baby furniture, which they will outgrow anyway. I like the simple design, which is easily customazible, and the quality has been as good as we needed it to be.