Freelance writer and IKEA-obsessive Rachel England gets all gung-ho about our Swedish flat-pack friends…
“IKEA, with its modestly-priced and hilariously-named home furnishings, calls to me. Every day, as I stumble upon piles of clutter in my house, or lament the too-harsh lighting in my bedroom, I can hear it singing; beautiful melodies telling tales of aspirational living. It compels me to religiously study its doctrine: the IKEA catalogue (of which more copies are produced every year than the Bible), and its siren song grows louder and more consuming until I have no choice but to journey to its blue and yellow kingdom and atone for my slovenly sins by purchasing the products that promise to make my life so much easier, so much better.
Over 32 million of IKEA’s iconic BILLY bookcases have been sold since 1978 – one of which belongs to me; IKEA’s LACK coffee table is one of its most popular items and I own three of differing sizes and finishes; and new reports suggest that one in 10 Europeans are conceived in an IKEA bed. I’m not a baby mamma yet but rest assured when the time comes, I’ll be part of that statistic.
You see, I am an IKEA fangirl, worshipping at its flatpacked alter of interiors inspiration. Here, my ruthless organisational sensibilities are lovingly tended to with ERIKS and MOTORPS, and arrows on the floor indicating which way to walk so as not to get all up in the business of other shoppers. And at the same time, my dreams of a soft, romantic bedroom or pretty country-style kitchen are bolstered by shop-floor hidey-holes promising everything I could ever want and more within 500 square feet. There is no judgement here: my clash of pragmatism and lofty dreaming is accepted without question.
But it’s not just the OMSORGs and (rectangle-shaped) REKTANGELs that appeal. Nowhere else on Earth is there such a readily accessible showground for the vast spectrum of human behaviour and relationships. Indeed, anthropologists could do far worse than IKEA on a Saturday afternoon to observe the psychological intricacies of our species, which can usually be found in irritated couples and beleaguered parents. Fair enough, that’ll be me one day I’m sure, but where better to seriously consider abandoning your family in a moment of despair than a store which simultaneously promises the instant restoration of sanity with a few stackable TROFASTs? For now, though, it’s just hugely entertaining; another avenue of escapism provided by IKEA’s benevolent decorating deities. If only that teenage girl’s mother would be more understanding and just go with the purple version. God.
And then, of course, there’s the food. So tasty is this Swedish fare that folk are known to visit IKEA just for the munch, never mind the endless racks of stuff in Market Hall that you didn’t even know you wanted, nay, needed. Planning your aspirational home life is tiring work, hence a restaurant to be visited before you start shopping, a snack bar to sate appetites after shopping, and a food market allowing you to take home that almond fudge thing you like so much but can’t pronounce the name of, providing a tasty post-flatpack assembly reward. Which you will need, because once you’re out of those blue and yellow doors, and tiny bags full of screws and nails are strewn around your inadequate and mismatching living room, the spell will fade and no amount of praying to the MALM Gods will help you realise your interiors vision without at least one expletive yelled into the ether. But that’s never stopped me going back again. And again. And again…”