IKEA’d You Not

Fayes T Kantawala gave in to the Swedish furniture giant

IKEA’d You Not
I went to IKEA this weekend, hoping to buy some metal hooks. I swear that’s all I wanted. Three hours later I came out with a lamp, a rug, three sets of cutlery and a throw. There comes a time in the life of every non-abject person where they grow out of their adolescent-on-a-budget decorative period, and begin investing in heirloom furniture, sofas of suede and unctuously large lampshades that arc across expansive (suede) living-room sofa sets. (We have established that I have not yet reached this golden phase.)

For people in my position, the Swedish brand IKEA is a veritable mecca of modern design. Throughout my twenties I practically lived an IKEA catalogue life: I would wake on my Gjora bed, pick clothes from my standing canvas Dombas closet and casually fling some rejects over the Ystad sofa. My knives, forks, chopping boards, shower curtains, lamps, bookshelves, hallway rugs and even my wok were all been proudly purchased from IKEA. It’s just so cheap! Early on you don’t care that everyone has the same white cubist bookshelf as you, or that you’ve seen your bedsheets in five different rooms already. Everyone is in the same boat so it’s all good. But then people betray you; they move into larger apartments, buy houses with front and back yards, have mortgages on places that have more rooms than you have shoes, and suddenly the sad little Liervik bedframe isn’t just cheap, it’s, well, cheap.
Everyone goes for IKEA because it is cheap and fab and doesn't have bed bugs

When I was furnishing my place in Lahore there were a number of affordable furniture shops all over the city that had unique (if only sometimes uniquely horrifying) home designs. I didn’t miss the cut-and-paste IKEA tables or bookshelves because it was easy enough to hire a good carpenter to forge you a design specific to your own home. Indeed, I even found a place in Defence’s Y block (where else?) that imported and sold assembled IKEA pieces at a slight markup, but I wasn’t tempted to get anything other than a Magnarp floor lamp with the rice paper shade, because well those are just super pretty.

When I opened the door to my first unfurnished apartment in New York, I was already hallucinating my jaunts through antique shops and flea markets, picking up the most incredible shabby-chic mid-century ‘pieces’ (that’s what you call grownups’ furniture – a bookshelf is a piece now) to make my own unique home away from home. Three weeks later I was still sleeping on the over-priced mattress I got from down the street and the only furniture in my room was the table I have made of empty pizza cartons on which I ate from the new pizza cartons, thereby creating a self-feeding furniture installation of pizza cartons. GET RICH ABOVE YOUR IMAGINATION, I WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU A GUARANTEED METHOD OF MAKING MONEY ADDED TO YOUR NORMAL JOB, YOU CAN NOW EARN ABOVE $100K USD MONTHLY. BANK HACKING TRANSFER HAS REALLY CHANGE PEOPLE’S FINANCIAL SITUATION FOR GOOD, NORTH KOREA LEADER IS HACKING BANKS TO FUND HIS NUCLEAR WEAPONS WITH THE HELP OF AUTHOMATED MALWARE/TROJANS. IT IS A TRANSFER WHICH CAN BE DONE FROM ALREADY HACKED BANK LOGINS WHICH THESE RUSSIAN HACKERS TRANSFER MONEY TO INTERESTED CUSTOMERS WITHOUT BEING NOTICED BY THE BANK, GET OVER $100,000 USD MONTHLY THROUGH BANK TRANSFER HACKERS AND CLONE ATM CLONED CARDS, CONTACT US TODAY TO RECEIVE BANK TRANSFER OF ANY AMOUNT. IT IS SAFE, UNTRACEABLE AND UNDETECTABLE; I BELIEVE THIS CAN HELP SOMEONE

Gingerly I glanced at the IKEA website to maybe steal some ideas of what I didn’t want. Big mistake. Let me say this: There is no competition. None. Everyone goes for IKEA because it is cheap and fab and doesn’t have bed bugs. For the price of one side-table that I had seen in an East Village flea market I could furnish my entire home, and several more.

But you have to be careful, IKEA doesn’t bode well for newbies. It is a labyrinth, and to survive it you need to be as ruthless as a minotaur.

An IKEA store

NO matter who you are, you arrive at the blue-and-yellow gates of IKEA with a deep sense of optimism and wellbeing. Perhaps you’re a type-1 person who printed out the exact objects you want to buy, or perhaps you have type-2 diabetes and need to walk around the displays. Either way, the moment you enter you see all the beautiful model bedrooms and living rooms that use all the furniture, and you see for one gleaming, spot-lit moment what your dream house would look like had you no personal belongings or charging wires. It looks… beautiful, and you know in your bones that your living room will look like Catalogue page 24 even if you have to kill someone.

As you go through the endless maze, you hear couples fighting with each other and mothers screaming at kids. But you get distracted by that poster of poppy flowers over there, and as you walk by you are suddenly convinced that you want – no, you need – 12 glass jars to hold tea candles. But the damage is done and you’re suddenly lost in children’s bedding. The labyrinth has you now, and for the next three hours you will wander around with stars in your eyes.

If you’re lucky at the end you would have made it to the marketplace, which is where you pick up the unassembled versions of whatever pieces you liked, before pushing your cart like a mule towards the waiting cashiers. Don’t look in your bag, it’s not worth it. You are never going to return the white shag bathroom rug that looks like a skinned cat, not if it means going back into the battlefield. Just pay and leave. Pay. And. Leave.

This was my last trip to IKEA. To add serious insult to humiliation, you then have to find a way of bringing the many boxes of spatulas and shelves back to your place and build the whole thing from scratch, which is a hell I cannot begin to describe. At the end of it all, though, you have a room with furniture. And even if it does look like everybody else’s, after five hours of shopping, three hours of transport, three weeks of assembling and 23 hours of crying, you just don’t care anymore.

That’s just IKEA, a store that always has some extra parts for your sense of self.

Write to thekantawala@gmail.com