Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Loving and hating IKEA

Before the Beehive State was blessed with an IKEA of its own, I only got to go when I was in Illinois visiting my parents, and of course I couldn't get anything big because it wouldn't fit in an overhead compartment of a 747 (of course, a limited budget contributed to that problem also). Now that we have an IKEA close by, I've had the chance to get some trendy things I've needed for my home, and to covet everything else!

I really like their household accessories. I got bamboo placemats for, like, $1 each. I got a folding wooden plant stand for $6. You can get ceramic rice bowls for 55 cents each, a small dustpan and brush for $1, a teflon wok for $8, a gigantic roll of butcher paper for $6, a set of matching kids cups, plates, and plasticware for under $10, trendy measuring cups and spoons for about $3 a set, and the list goes on. As for the big stuff, I recently got an attractive solid oak stand/shelf that we use for shoes and gloves by the front door for a modest $50, and a rolling utility cart for the bathroom for $13. I really like browsing through the catalog and strolling through the store and seeing all the coordinating room decor, dreaming of an unlimited budget and full shopping cart bag. I think the prices are good, at least on the items I'm interested in. I love IKEA!

On the other hand, some of their products and some of their ways make me wonder... First of all, I would never buy furniture there unless it was solid wood. In high school I had an IKEA dresser that was mostly particleboard and although trendy and attractive, it turned out to be a piece of junk. Then, whenever I do buy furniture items or other accessories that require assembly, I am thoroughly insulted by the poorly depicted pictorial assembly instructions. Can't they use words? (Then of course I'd be complaining about the poor translation into 14 different languages, right?) How am I supposed to tell which way is up based on the picture? And if all else fails, you're supposed to resort to the last instruction: it is an image of a stick man on the phone with the IKEA store...yeah, I'm sure that would be a great trick in an ideal world!

Last spring I picked up a set of three stainless steel saucepans for $10. What a great deal, right? Within just a few uses, I noticed that the handle on one of the lids had cracked, allowing it to accumulate moisture which them morphed into mold between the lid and handle; then the handle on the actual pot fell off. Oh, and there's the really cool idea of mixing and matching your comforter cover with the polyester filling inside. (Covers come from around $20 and the polyester fill starts at $6 depending on the thickness). In theory, you can change your bedding "as often as you change your clothes" and can put in the heavy winter polyester fill or the light spring one. My only question is how do you get it to stay inside? I frequently wake up only to have the polyester inside taking over my bed and the cover itself a forgotten memory on the floor. At a subsequent visit to the showroom, I examined the show model of this bedding accessory--I was surprised to find that the show model had snaps to keep the opening shut. What a concept! Why doesn't mine have snaps? (I know I could easily add them myself, or a tie, or could just sew it up, but it's the principle here!) So after trying and testing many of those trendy but affordable accessories I'd had my radar on for years, it turns out that some are just a total waste of money. I can't stand IKEA!

I recently bought a cabinet unit from IKEA. For less than $60 I picked out a white cabinet the same size as my existing cabinets (although my cabinets are oak and it won't match anyway). It has a cabinet with a door on the top and an open microwave shelf on the bottom and is meant to be mounted to the wall above the counter where there should have been a cabinet in the first place. Very functional, right? I was impressed that I could piece together this semi-custom item for a decent price. I love IKEA!

I went to pick up my order. The man gave me several flat boxes, a bag of hardware, and a 6-foot long metal mounting bracket. He saw my perplexity at the size of the metal piece. "All the mounting brackets come that length, and you cut it to the right size," he informed me. "How am I supposed to cut it?" "Oh, any metal saw will work." What? A metal saw? Why would I have a metal saw? What have I gotten myself into? I threatened to return the ridiculously over sized stick of metal on the spot and go home without it, but would have had to wait another 20 minutes for them to call my number again...

So I brought it all home and set to work being resourceful with a screwdriver, a hammer, and pictogram instructions. It was almost looking like a cabinet when I discovered the door to the top half was the wrong size. They charged me for the right one, but simply picked the wrong one. No big deal, I guess. Mistakes happen...I'll just go exchange it. Now the cabinet is put together in all it's beauty sitting in my living room (and as a horizontal surface out of a two-year-old's reach has become storage for all manner of clutter-ous things). Our home teacher did us a favor and sawed the microwave shelf to the right depth and bolted it to the bottom shelf of the cabinet, then drilled a monstrous hole through both layers where we can thread the cord for the microwave. (Marketed as a microwave cabinet, shouldn't that have already been done for me?) Hmmm...this is turning out to be a bigger project than I thought. I have an appointment for my neighbor to come by at 8:00 tonight and finally mount it for me. I would have attempted it myself but he said something about finding the studs and how to drill it properly, and I just chickened out. I can put things together myself if all I need is a screwdriver, but actually maiming my wall? I'm not super confident in my ability to do it correctly...it would likely be crooked or fall on someones head.

What began in September as a realistic and affordable solution to kitchen storage needs has turned into a perpetually unfinished project that demeans my own confidence in myself to solve problems. I hate IKEA!

6 comments:

redredrose said...

I vote "Hate it!" What a headache! I believe that when there are so many quality issues with things, it doesn't matter how "cute" you think things are. It just ain't worth it. I believe buying high-quality goods means they'll last longer. When you buy low-quality goods, you just have to replace them more often. Buying more expensive things doesn't always work when the budget is shot and you really want/need placemats, but.....in the long run, I'll try not to waste my money on the "slighty more expensive but could potentially fall apart tomorrow" items. Case in point: Five months ago, I bought the most inexpensive set of bedsheets I could find (ooh! I saved $10!) because moving across the world exhasted my funds. Five months later now, the hems are ALL coming out. We sleep with threads in our faces. If I just had bought the more expensive ones to begin with, I wouldn't have to go buy again. I would have saved a lot more than $10.
(sorry this is a novel of a comment...I have a strong opinion on this matter: I believe Ikea is a store full of cute but low-quality goods.)

Jenny said...

Well, the whole point of my post was that the low quality goods at IKEA are not worth it, but that it's hard to know in advance what is low quality and what is high quality...

I stopped buying cheap electronics about 3 years ago...just not worth it.

C & T Rowe said...

Ikea is too hard to shop at w/ kids. The food court is great though! btw, Do you know everyone who posts on your blog??

redredrose said...

And my whole point is that everything at IKEA is low quality. It doesn't matter how cute. It's going to be cheap quality if it is inexpensive. Some things you can afford to buy cheaply--who cares about quality butcher paper? Or a quality casual placemat? Or a quality casual bowl (it could break, but it was only 55cents so who cares)? Or an adorable stuffed kangaroo (though there was a risk that one would fall apart...)? But for anything you really want to last (cookware, furniture, shelving units, do-it-yourself mix-and-match comforters) don't bother with IKEA. Because it has the IKEA name, you know it's cheap quality.

cutie pie said...

How disappointing! I hope the microwave unit works out...in the long run.

Jessica said...

Amen! Love/Hate relationship is what I have with IKEA. But most often my stingy/cheap side takes over, and I LOVE Ikea.