On Sunday I ventured into an IKEA store for the first time. My purpose was to buy a new kitchen table, but I also wanted to experience this Scandinavian furniture phenomenon that many of my friends revere. And after a two-hour foray inside this giant big-box slice of Sweden, I think their appreciation is well-founded.
At first the names of their products--a bed named "HORESUND" and a lamp called "PULT"--can be off-putting. But after you realize how well-designed and durable these space-saving and solid wood furnishings are, you think of those odd names as just Old World charm. It's Beowulf, but for your kitchen and bath.
And I like IKEA's DIY system of shopping. First, you write down the aisle and bin numbers of your chosen artifact from the maze of showrooms. Then you retrieve it from a warehouse that rivals the storage room in the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It makes a lot of sense when you consider the alternative of waiting on a sales staff to find and move your order.
Building my new furniture took about an hour in the evening, and required no more expertise or special tools than what one would use to hang a picture. One unique thing is that IKEA furniture never comes with extra screws or washers. You use everything they give you. I wonder how much money they save by doing that? A colleague of mine suggested that if IKEA ever decided to make a car--it would come in cardboard box the size of a large pizza and require only a screw driver and an allen wrench to assemble. I don't doubt it, but would it be big enough carry home a nice-looking BJORKUDDEN table?