Until a few months ago, I had never set foot inside an IKEA. So, after selling off some old furniture to replace with more streamlined, modern ware, I hauled my ass over the Hollywood hills and headed over to Burbank. There – IKEA’s major blue hulk of Swedish wonder laid in wait, stocked with inexpensive, clean and functional designs for the choosing.
Screw the assembly part and the heavy packaged slates of wood that needed to fit into my two door Mini. After selling my old armoire from Pier 1 circa 2000, which I lugged out from New York City to Los Angeles several years ago, I was ready for some apartment therapy.
What stopped me from going to IKEA was that it was always sooooo far away. Whether it was on Long Island or Brooklyn, the headache would start just thinking about it. And now that my closest store is in Burbank, I put it off again for years. Traffic? No thanks.
But I did it. I drove to IKEA land, toward an area I’d never been, wondering how this New Yorker ended up driving along an industrial California road with bulging mountains on the horizon, in what felt like nowhere alongside a freight train line that probably saw Boxcar Willie roll into old Cali back in the last century. West End Avenue and the Grand Central Shuttle felt so far away.
All this to get to a place where they sell candles for $3.00.
But drove I did. And you know what? Learned a few things. Like how to survive a trip to IKEA without getting your soul sucked out of your brain.
For a then newbie like me, IKEA was a strange place. Just going there felt like I’d landed in an alternate universe. Pass those doors, got my bag and shopping cart, and it’s as if I was on Swedish territory. Well, I guess I was.
Meanwhile, I languished in a building that felt as if Bed, Bath and Beyond and Crate & Barrel had an orgy with Home Depot in a SIMS world. Items with names like SVÅRTASEN, PANDRUP and VIMLE jumble your brain. It’s almost English but it’s not.
When you enter an IKEA, you find your way through a pathway that goes one way around to various departments. It’s like being on a train on a one-way track where you have station stops, but instead of “125 Street” or “Grand Central”, you have “Bathroom”, “Bedroom”, “Office” – etc. And instead of a train, you have your feet, your cart and a line of people marching like ants alongside you until they make a beeline for the lamps.
As you see plates for $2.00, glassware for $6.00 and fancy woks for less than a Macy’s sale, you begin to enter into IKEA HEAD – an hypnotic mindset where your brain starts calculating the cool things your home will hold – what goes where – how things will be easier with that. You are now under the IKEA spell.
Oh, look! Chris found Valentines Day salt & pepper shakers! Thanks, 30 Rock.
Settle in and just go with it.
Ahhhh….clean, white, modern functionality in my newly designed home. Come to me…
Yes, I bought this desk.
Never been to an IKEA?
Here are some tips for first time IKEA people who don’t want to lose their mind. And I’m telling you this because since my maiden voyage, I’ve been to that big blue palace three more times and embraced the fatigue and brain squeeze of the place to where I feel I’m an almost expert.
Eradicate IKEA Brain Freeze. Create an Online Shopping List:
The beauty of modern day technology. Websites. Apps. IKEA has both. Hop onto the IKEA webpage or download their app. Create an account. Then go search for whatever fulfills your design starved home and click those beauties onto your “shopping list”. There, you can edit or add, thing and absorb. Then, narrow down your booty so you’re ready for the day. Print it out, and then get going. When you arrive, keep your blinders on. Look at the maps for locations. Get your stuff, and get the hell outta there. Brain freeze adverted. You’re welcome.
Order Your Stuff Online and Pick up at the Store:
Want to really narrow down your vision at IKEA? Never step foot in IKEA. Order your stuff online; however, be aware that you’re going to deal with a large shipping fee ($25 for even small items), and a two week wait. Plus, for big stuff, you’ll be under the thumb of a delivery schedule with windows of time that rival your cable repairman. So, be okay with that.
Here’s a cool thing. Order and pay for your items online and then pick up at your local store. No fuss. Just go to the information desk and ask where to go get your stuff. Someone will help pack your car so you can bounce – fast. No IKEA brain freeze, and you don’t get sucked into eating Swedish meatballs in the cafeteria. However, their potato chips at $1.79 a bag are awesome delicious at a price that makes your earn for 1978 again.
Bonus: You don’t get into arguments with your loved ones.
As per Liz Lemon, IKEA can ruin relationship over dining room tables.
Go During Off Days:
I hate crowds and weekend parking nightmares. Suggestion – plan on going during the weekday when you have a day off. Not on weekends. Not during holidays where the whole nation has off. If you’re planning some time off or have flexibility during the week, go then. It will cut down on aggravation. You’ll find parking. There are just enough people to make you feel less lonely in that big place, but the lines won’t be long and the freedom to roam will less hindered.
Going in? Get Comfortable:
Okay, so you’re going in. IKEA is a vast, giant beast of a building. Wear comfortable shoes or sneakers. Also, bring that shopping list so you can get what you want and get out. Also, bring water. As a first timer, you’ll be blown away by how caught up you’ll get as each pretty, shiny thing you see spins you into a tizzy of “OMG..I need that now.” You need hydration, because the food and water is at the end of a long, long, long pathway through the homeware, past the warehouse and beyond the cash registers.
Get Your IKEA game on:
So, you’ve pass the doors and see all the cool stuff that create the ‘New You’. IKEA HEAD has now lulled you into “The Zone”. As the synapses in your brain start easing into the flow, look down. A giant arrow appears on the ground, leading you in one direction past Art, Plants, Candles – until you spill out into a giant warehouse where you grab what will become your weekend project – your two o’clock in the morning nightmare – your date with a little “L” shaped metal bar and screws that go exactly where Swedish instructions tell you they go.
Bring Your Phone. You’re Taking Pictures:
It’s 2018. Like I have to tell you to bring your smart phone. But the whole point of IKEA, especially if you’re buying furniture to build, is to know how and where to find it. Each furniture piece has a location tag. Take a picture of your item, and the “Self Service Area” tag. See it below?
You will need to know that area, aisle and bin number once you head over to the warehouse-y place. Taking a picture of the item and the tag will help so you don’t get confused if you’re buying more than one item. You can see the picture of your desk – swipe left – and you see the corresponding self serve area tag so you know where and what you’re pick up.
Also – be mindful of the color. If your item comes in black, brown and white – and you want it in white – make sure you look at the colored dot on the box that denotes what color the item is inside.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint:
Hey, you wanted to go there in person. Now, you have to commit. Linger. Study. Fall in love with drapes and desks and rugs. Allow the brain freeze to take you in. Stay a while. Mindful shopping will allow you to edit your shopping cart/bag and make you get what you need. Don’t be ashamed if you have to go do the loop again to re-think things. You will be tired, but many a calorie will be burned, and the long haul will pay off.
Make Sure You Get Everything You Need:
You get home after burning off your Fitbit in steps, only to find you’ve picked up the wrong lamp base, curtain rod, do-dad that goes with the hizzy hoo. Now, you want to eat your face off. It’s likely you don’t want to return to the land of IKEA for a while. It’s usually a major trek, and to do all that driving and wandering with temptation in reach, yikes – you need a few weeks to power down after that. So, make sure your get what you came in for. That’s why exploring online offerings and bringing a shopping list is so helpful.
Assembling Those Items:
Be zen about assembly. Mull over the instructions. Be slow and mindful of the components. Open the box and have a look. Pretend you’ll start it tomorrow, but play with it. One step after another, and before you know it – you’re done.
If it’s a total bear of a build – then go on Youtube and see if there is a video. Or call IKEA and have them help you. Or – hire a guy to come to your house and build it. But come on. See that desk above and below? I bought it, brought it home and built it in less than 2 hours. It was fun and satisfying. And now my office looks cool. (And I bought and built that cubby hold shelving unit too.)
Go easy. Enjoy the process. Bring in something new that is bright and functional. Create a fresh way to bring in a vibe so opportunities have space to enter.
Go forth IKEA novices! Design and be productive!