How not to get lost in IKEA

“Are you one of those designers who loves IKEA or not?” My new clients from Ramat Gan asked me recently. This question is one of those cardinal questions that divide the world’s population in half… and it’s definitely worth being on the right side. They, they emphasized, are quite into IKEA. They love the style of the chain, the variety of products, and of course, the prices. “Yes, of course… I mean usually, it depends on what…” I answered a bit stammeringly and not entirely clearly.

On the way home, I thought about it. I love IKEA, very much so. In fact, there isn’t a project where I haven’t included at least one item from IKEA. I can navigate their labyrinthine store even with my eyes closed and I master their website to an embarrassingly high level (and if by any chance someone from IKEA ever reads this, here’s my chance to express my reservations about the new website format). But alongside its prominent advantages, IKEA has quite a few pitfalls, and it’s important to consider them if you want to plan a successful shopping day there. And I intentionally write a shopping day because with IKEA, it somehow never ends up just being a quick visit to the store. So what to buy and what to skip at IKEA?

Furniture –
Sofas, no… Beds and drawers – why not?!

Generally, my rule about IKEA furniture is anything that looks good and isn’t upholstered goes… For example, I really try to find sofas in other stores. Even if there’s a model I like, chances are it will lose its shape after a short time. It’s enough to be impressed by the gap between how the sofas look in the catalog versus how they look in the store to understand that from the moment of purchase, it won’t get any better…

I actually like IKEA’s beds, even though they are quite standard in design. Most of them have great storage options, which helps relieve the furniture clutter in the tiny bedrooms common in our country. Of course, it’s better to choose solid wood beds rather than melamine-coated ones. Even if over time the bed gets damaged, solid wood still looks less awful than peeling coating. The same principle applies to drawers, of course… Melamine is just disappointing!

Shelving Systems – Yes!!!

They might be a bit less designed to my taste, but I can’t take away from IKEA the first place in this matter. When it comes to shelving systems, the possibilities are truly endless, and I recommend using the professionals in the department to get exposed to all the existing options. Despite the temptation to use them for closets, the correct usage is more along the wall – a better utilization of storage per area.

Kitchen Department:

The kitchen cabinet bodies at IKEA are made from European compressed particle board. Most kitchen companies in Israel use sandwich panels to produce the bodies, which can be more durable depending on the number of layers. In my experience, even laminate and polymer fronts, which are commonly used by those companies and carpenters, are usually more durable compared to the delicate and vulnerable coatings available at IKEA. Another disadvantage of IKEA kitchens is the fixed dimensions of the storage units, which do not always fit the site measurements.

Personally, I have to note that I like the kitchen models, and in one of my first projects, we chose their beautiful model, but for a house with an active kitchen or with small children, I’m not sure I would recommend IKEA.

Cooking and Baking Utensils vs. Dining and Serving Ware

So, I don’t recommend most IKEA kitchen models. I also have some doubts about their cooking and baking utensils… I’m far from being an expert in this field, but if the coating of a pan starts peeling off after a few omelets, then it’s probably not the highest quality on the market. What’s good? Dining and serving ware. Both the pitchers and the trays are exactly the kinds of things that make hosting stylish without a significant investment.

We’ll talk about cotton tablecloths when my kids are older and spill less… but I personally won’t compromise on ceramic instead of plastic tableware, even for standard dinners. The dish sets always come in good and up-to-date colors, they are surprisingly durable, and even if one breaks, you can always buy replacements individually.

Oh, and I just have three more words for you: the new black cutlery. That’s it.

Textile Department

If you’re into pampering yourself with your bedding and towels (and you should be into pampering yourself with your bedding and towels), I recommend going for higher-quality textiles than those at IKEA. Most of their bedding has a synthetic feel, and the towels don’t absorb well enough for my taste. Except maybe for BLAVINDA and LINBLOMMA, the higher-quality and more expensive sets, but why bother with those names? It’s simpler to just go to Golf & Co or Fox Home.

However, when it comes to textiles, I don’t think IKEA has competitors in the carpet and pillow department. There you can really find good value for your money. It’s true that some of the patterns are a bit outdated, but among them are some particularly successful finds (as you can see here and also here), and besides, it’s a department that updates its collection almost every season.

Lighting Department

The lighting department is quite disappointing. When I choose lighting for a house, I always separate functional lighting from designed fixtures. In this case, neither is satisfactory. IKEA’s functional lighting is not varied enough, and the designed lighting is not up-to-date enough in my opinion… Lighting stores have enough good alternatives, even at IKEA’s price level.

Kids Are Joy

Here’s a department where I can happily praise IKEA. Perhaps because the items in this department have a limited lifespan to begin with, as our children grow up so fast… IKEA offers charming products at prices that won’t make you regret the investment. It’s clear they think of us as parents and try to make our lives easier with completely practical solutions, but they don’t compromise on the child’s play experience, colorfulness, creativity, movement, and fun.

I haven’t written yet about chairs (yes) and tables (less), but I trust you got the principle, and in general – the best advice regarding IKEA – try to avoid the furniture that everyone has and choose from the more designed collections. It’s much more fun to pay relatively little for a unique item than to buy the ones identified with IKEA and found in every second apartment in Israel.

And what else shouldn’t you buy? The hotdog…

*All the photos in this post are taken from the beautiful site of LIVET HEMMA