I will admit it: I love IKEA. I love the way you can walk through the showrooms and there is stuff in every drawer. I love how you can bring furniture home in your car because it is packaged so well to take up less room. I love how you can wander through the store or page through the catalog and find a thousand small ways to fill the everyday acts of life with a little more grace. I even love how you assemble most furniture they make yourself, embueing the object with some of your own spirit, even if you are just following directions.
I know it isn't cool, especially in this crowd of craftspeople, furniture makers and restorers of old things. I know I probably shouldn't bring it up. I've seen Fight Club, where the main character laments the soullessness of his apartment furnished entirely from IKEA. I should really keep my mouth shut.
But here's the thing I really love about IKEA: they DESIGN things, not to conform to an old way of doing things, and not to be different for the sake of being different. They design things to work WELL. That seems to be the criterion. They must work well. Sure, some of the stuff can be chintzy. But some is really solid, and has earned my devotion over the years.
We went to IKEA this time (we tend to end up there every other year or so) to buy a set of stacking containers to hold our recycling and to buy a particular short, small wingback chair to go in our kitchen so I can keep my wife company in the evening when she does her homework at the kitchen table, without myself forgoing a cushioned seat. But as we wandered through the store we found other small items: a magnetic strip to hold our paring knives, a new organizer for shampoo bottles in the shower to replace the rusted one, a little wedge of plastic to hold my notebook at an angle when I'm editing that is easier on my wrist when I sit the way I like to. Small things that will make life better.
At checkout, there were plenty of yuppy white moms in yoga pants and those flowy cardigans that seem to be the rage right now, hair up in a messy bun, holding a fake plant or a dining room chair with an impossibly white slipcover. But there were also plenty of people, like ourselves, for whom affordability was a clearly an important factor. That is the other thing I love about IKEA: the fact that they are affordable. Not affordable in a "this is junk" kind of way. But affordable in that the design process stressed manufacturing techniques and transportation parameters and just general economies of scale that make it possible for me to buy a wingback chair.
As we left, we stopped before getting on the highway and had amazing burritos from a taco truck. And I know many of you are gonna hate me saying this, but it felt kind of like the same thing: something amazing and delicious that was really well done, inexpensive, fast and totally what we wanted.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.