In Store

I’ve reached that age, just after the first college reunion, when Ikea furniture no longer feels appropriate. Five years ago, with my freshly minted degree in one hand and little money to spare in the other, the inexpensive design store contained everything that I needed to outfit a small apartment, and then sold me on how to organize it.  Best of all, it could all fit in my SUV in a smart configuration of flat-packed boxes. I repacked my Poang chair into its box for this move, and we still use it, though I’ll admit, with a real sofa in place, it’s mostly the dog who claims it as her own.

This week, the 2011 Ikea catalog arrived in my mailbox, so I thought it was time for a visit to the store, a walk down a perfectly curated memory lane, with updated prints and fabrics.  Now that I’ve grown up, the result was an Alice in Wonderland moment, with seemly miniaturized sofas and low beds.  The desks and wardrobes looked nice from a distance, but upon closer inspection, the seams didn’t match and the doors didn’t have the heft needed to close themselves. At this stage, I want my furniture to have some weight to it and establish itself in my life, even if that means I’ll complain when I have to move it again.

Ikea’s newest marketing campaign centers around The Life Improvement Project, thus distinguishing the home goods store from other home improvement venues.  Perhaps that’s because their products cater to a lifestyle of small apartments and start-ups.  It fits where and when it’s needed, at affordable prices that makes it possible to purchase quantities to outfit a whole room.  What it lacks is the quality and finish to make it last.  But the in-store experience still hinges on that wonderland ideal, that only appears crooked when you look up close.

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