Visit to IKEA

I’m not a home décor kind of guy, so before I saw the giant IKEA store opening downtown, I hadn’t given much thought to them – but my trip to the store was quite an experience.

IKEA, for those of you who are unfamiliar with them, is a Swedish home furnishing company that places a heavy emphasis on low price. This isn’t to say that their furniture is inexpensive or low quality, as the prices are reasonable and the quality is probably above average for the price. Most of their furnishings are modular, come flat packed to save shipping costs, and require some assembly. But, it represents a different way of thinking compared to traditional American values. Contrary to my preconceptions, not all of the furniture is particle board – some of it is real, unstained, untreated wood.

The store itself is huge. Even though it has been open several weeks, police were still directing traffic. The building is twice the size of the largest Home Depot and has two floors of showroom. It also has two parking decks and a regular parking lot. Staff is plentiful even though IKEA markets itself as a “help-yourself” store. Shopping baskets consist of big yellow plastic canvas bags tote bags along with some carts and pallet trucks to help carry larger items. Most items are picked up from the warehouse (again, flat-packed, some assembly required), so they have little posts with sticky notes for you to write down the item numbers you want. They also had paper tape measures, which I thought was handy.

The showroom consists partly of the typical retail “here is all out stuff” layout, but also small mock-up homes that served as demonstrations for how someone can live in small spaces such as 550 square feet. They also had 700, 1000, and 1200 foot models. Personally, I’m very interested in efficiency. I live in a small place myself by American standards (supposedly 990 square feet, but I think the usable space is really only 850) but seeing their examples made me ask three questions: 1) what is the average square footage per prisoner in prison? 2) Where to people who live in these places put “stuff” like Christmas decorations, old tax returns, groceries, movies, linens, clothes, books, old magazines, etc.? 3) Where are the windows? Obviously, the person with 550 square feet eats out a lot and takes their laundry out to be cleaned.

While I try not to be a “lots of stuff” kind of person, I find it hard to imagine a society with even less stuff. It’s not wrong, it’s just so foreign. I know, Americans are spoiled with our consumer centric society. We’re flooded with cheap stuff (sorry, Europeans, we’re still paying 2.50 for petrol… that’s dollars, not Euro… that’s per gallon, not litre. ) But if these efficient homes are typical of Sweden, I can tell you that all you would need to conquer such a nation is to give them one American sized Christmas. I don’t know where I would put all the gifts, much less hide the ones I’m giving. Self storage must be a booming industry over there.

Anyway, the IKEA store is setup like an EPCOT tour where you are psychologically encouraged to see everything before leaving. There was an emphasis on energy efficient lighting. One really neat detail was the escalator going down to the parking decks. It was an inclined “moving sidewalk” but has some sort of magnetic gizmo that caused the wheels on the shopping carts to seize up – thus not running away on the ramps.

So, if you are in the neighborhood and have two hours to kill, stop by the IKEA store. They will let you leave without buying anything.

Comments are closed.


Copyright © 2012 -1354585420