Automatic for the People – Ikea Dreams*

*see my very clever REM reference. Yeah, I see you’re impressed. I won’t let on.

Ikea provokes some really strong reactions in people. For some, like my awesome friend The Jeweller, it brings on what I like to think of as “makers rage”. As a artist, maker and designer, she very rightly points out that the mass consumption of homogenised design is the very thing which chokes off genuine creativity in home-based design. Plus everyone’s home ends up looking the same.

Momma Lewishambles, on the other hand, points out that furnishing her home in the late seventies and early eighties, relatively new to this country and starting out with Poppa L, they ended up at MFI buying things “which will do for now”, were not her favourite to start with and which I vividly remember using to furnish my first student flat over 20 years later. For her, discovering Ikea was something on a par with the day that the UK got a fifth channel on terrestrial telly, or Colombus discovering the West Indies. She rightly points out that as a new homeowner on a budget I have to make certain choices about how I spend my pennies and actually ikea has a really wide range of furniture in many different styles to suit every taste. So I shouldn’t worry about having the same as everyone else as everyone uses their ikea differently. The sheer number of Malm beds available on gumtree would tend to undermine Momma L’s point somewhat but given that she doesn’t really use internet exchange boards (explaining Craigslist was a terrible, terrible moment and she is rather suspicious of the intent of most users*) I decided not to shatter her illusions.

But needs must and I’ve got some plans for a gallery wall and I love me some ikea frames (“Ribba: for your pleasure”… is the ad campaign which will never happen but should) and Flatmate needed a Billy bookcase for the approximately 5 billion cookbooks she owns (do you see why we’re friends?) so off to Croydon we did go.

Question: why the chimney? I'm serious - most ikeas have a chimney. Why? Do they think I honestly believe that after we all go home the elves stoke the fires and they continue to forge the Billy Bookshelves?
Question: why the chimney? I’m serious – most ikeas have a chimney. Why? Do they think I honestly believe that after we all go home the elves stoke the fires and they continue to forge the Billy Bookshelves?

Some tips for Ikea survival:

1. Use the internet function to make a shopping list. Then when you get into the marketplace area you know which aisles you want to go to. That way you avoid the howls of rage when you can’t find the Exocet table or Kalashnikov sideboard or whatever the hell it is.

2. Take a friend. Not a loved one. And NEVER the kids. I swear to god I’ve heard marriages end among the dining tables. I took Lovely One who is endlessly patient and we survived just about. But I think it was mainly because of the list. And because he’s awesome. Flatmate is also an excellent Ikea companion. She knows what she wants, she sticks to both plan and budget. You need people around you to help you, not hinder. Leave dawdlers, window shoppers and bargain lovers at home. And for the love of gob leave the kids with someone. Anyone. I don’t have kids so have never had the pleasure of prising them out of the stuffed toy section. But judging by the screams in that area it is approximately 0% fun.

3. Two hours is your maximum – plan it and stick to the timetable. I’m serious about this. Time loses all meaning when you’re in Ikea but you have to plan and get in and out like a damn ninja. Just look at this:


You need to have a plan or this will happen to you after 4 hours of aimless wandering and the kids will want more meatballs and you will end up sitting among the cacti at the back of the store WEEPING while your own LO rents his clothing in rage. You think I’m joking.

4. Turn up early. The car park is a terrible thing when provoked. And by turning up at 1pm on a Saturday you are only begging for trouble. There will be a man attempting a 48-point turn with a mattress sticking out of the back of his Fiat Panda and you will lose your temper. Mitigate this by at least knowing you’re leaving rather than just arriving when this happens.

5. Avoid the crazy. You know what I mean. The stuff you think is quirky, amusing or cute in the catalog or in amongst the stuff will look plain ol’ CRAY back in the real world. The lighting department is a serial offender. I mean:

*hums the theme from Transformers*
*hums the theme from Transformers*
Drunk lights.
Drunk lights.
A lamp which looks like it's about to show you it's knickers? Why not?
A lamp which looks like it’s about to show you it’s knickers? Why not?
A frilly lamp. Of course. One of these caused much hilarity while Flatmate and I were in Copenhagen. No idea why. We were drunk.
A frilly lamp. Of course. One of these caused much hilarity while Flatmate and I were in Copenhagen. No idea why. We were drunk.

6. Finally, treat yoself. Y’all know what I mean. When it’s time to leave, it’s hot dog and cinnamon bun time. Enjoy.

Ah, sweet hot dog stand of dreams.
Ah, sweet hot dog stand of dreams.

7. Finally, and this is important, don’t get home and think you have to do everything all at once. Luxuriate in the time you’ve created for yourself. Myself, I’ve arranged for Poppa Lewishambles to come up next weekend and help me sort my life out. And put up Lack shelving. Put it this way – you’ve spent the best part of your day in a giant shed trying not to kill your nearest and dearest (or yourself). Now why would you attempt a flatpack with limited instructions? No, save yourself and do it another day.

And that, folks, is how you Ikea like a Pro.

*[“They advertise for WHAT?! And people do this?! Dear GOD, what do their mothers think? WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEIR MOTHERS PROBABLY DON’T WANT TO KNOW?! WHAT DON”T I WANT TO KNOW?!?!?? ARE YOU ON THIS THING?!?!?!?!“]

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