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25 August 2008

I'm going to Ikea for the first time ever tomorrow. It's a bit scary. I need to buy all the furniture for my new apartment. I have nothing. I've downloaded their bedroom planning software, which is also scary to me. This is the thread for Ikea-related words of wisdom.
Bring a truck, or a van. A friend too, since some of the boxes will need 2 people to lift.

The whole thing is pretty linear, if there was a video game equivalent I would have to say that NetHack models it pretty well (random, linear halls with random objects strewn about)

have fun!
posted by hellojed 25 August | 01:32
I once broke down in tears in the middle of Ikea. It wasn't that long after George died, and I just couldn't take all the couples going round the place buying things for their homes together.

I went to my local Ikea the other week. For the life of me I cannot fathom out how you actually go about buying something bigger than a plate. It all looks so horribly complicated.

Also, certainly in the UK Ikeas, there is a route you have to follow. You can't just go to, say, beds, but you have to walk round everything, following lines on the floor, until eventually you find beds. Even when you can see the beds in the distance, you can't actually walk over to them direct. I hate that.
posted by essexjan 25 August | 01:43
I had to do the same thing a few months ago. Ikea is a terrifying experience, at least in Germany (but then, any shopping in Germany is a terrifying experience). Keep in mind when you're looking at the furniture in the showroom area that you should write down at least three alternatives, as they're often out of stock when you get down to the warehouse.

Definitely bring a friend and a truck, both for moral support and also to help you move things more efficiently.

Try to be organized before you go, as it's a totally linear progression from one area to the other (there are even arrows on the floors showing you where you are supposed to go) and if it's busy, moving against the stream if you forgot something is a huge pain.

If you're buying a bed, make sure you test at least three mattresses as there's a good chance the one you like won't be in stock in the size of the bedframe you're buying.

I'd also suggest not buying your lightbulbs from them. The four bulbs I bought were DOA when I got home. But I do rather like their towels.
posted by cmonkey 25 August | 01:46
Oh, and at the very end in the warehouse there'll probably be a discount area full of pre-assembled furniture that was returned. Take a look there before pulling your furniture, you might find a cheap version of what you were going to buy anyway and you don't have to deal with assembling it.
posted by cmonkey 25 August | 01:49
Try to make a rough list of what you need. I find IKEA terribly distracting with all sorts of "OMG how CUTE is it, I must HAVE it!" and then I get home and think "WTF am I going to do with this?".

Taking a sensible friend is a VERY good suggestion. So is checking the discount area first.
posted by ninazer0 25 August | 02:11
When you go, be prepared to be there for-friggin-ever. If you think you're going to go in and out bim-bam-boom you will end up weeping. Accept that it's a big, long, tiring journey, and go with the flow. There will be many distractions and many slow people in your way. Be zen.

First thing in the morning on a weekday is the absolute best time to go.

Have lunch at the little caf halfway through. Seriously! It's just a kind of nice break to take. You will need the food energy, and going start-to-finish straight-out just stops being fun if you don't take a break. (Note: you can get a good little macaroni and cheese from the kids' menu.)

Don't get sucked in by all the little cheap crap they stick in bins everywhere -- you just don't need that pair of $4 slippers.

Take some Excedrin along, just in case.
posted by loiseau 25 August | 02:36
mdonley's secrets for IKEA success.


Just walk in through a closed checkstand or something. This way you can get a tasty cinnamon roll and some Swedish soda at the snack shop, check out the "as-is" section where the already built/overstock/whatever stuff is, and start in the warehouse, which is where the furniture that you buy in flat-packs actually is. It's a lot like Costco - you've got chairs in one area, beds in another. The aisles are marked on a big directory, and you can search for where specific models are with the help of an IKEA employee or on a computer station.

If you've already used the bedrooom planner, you may know what models you want. You can also pick up a catalog and leaf through it.

Once you have a handle on things and the layout of the store - there's usually a big map before you re-enter the showroom - head inside.

) Use the "shortcuts" in the showroom to get out of the "flow" of the store. They're tucked in the corners of certain areas and poorly marked. Keep an eye out!

) Grab the helpfully presented pencils, measuring tape, and "shopping list" for marking down whether you want the 38" KLIPP mattress pad or the 36" KLIPP one.

) Resist the temptation to take a cart through the showroom - there's nothing really up there that you need if you're only looking for big furniture, though they've got a lot of "housewares-y" kinds of things up there. If you need a lamp or a bunch of towels, go for it. Consider making two trips to the car so you don't have your nice fluffy towels on a dirty pallet cart, or just skipping the small stuff.

) Know that going on a summer weekend right before the start of college is pretty much like flying home on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving in a snowstorm. Expect blood on the floor.
posted by mdonley 25 August | 03:29
And, of course: IKEA Hacker.
posted by mdonley 25 August | 03:34
Definitely go to the discount area. I got two brown leather sofas at half price there because they had just been returned - nothing wrong with them!

Avoid buying lamps there. I have had bad luck with Ikea lamps. Two of them just stopped working within months.

I really really like the feather pillows that I've gotten there.
posted by triggerfinger 25 August | 06:04
Self-link: 10 Hours in IKEA, or How Not to Shop for Your Flat's Furniture.

I've still got PST from that trip.
posted by romakimmy 25 August | 06:09
I just went to IKEA myself for the first time this weekend.

If you are going alone, make sure you have a quarter in your pocket. You can't take your cart to your car once you've left--you have to leave your merchandise at the exit, and then bring your car to the loading area. That's fine if you have two people, but if you're shopping alone you have to lock your cart up in a cage near the exit, and the key requires a 25-cent deposit.
posted by Prospero 25 August | 06:31
We had a whole house full of Ikea furniture when we lived out in the 'burbs in a 1970s condo and it looked pretty good. Once we moved into our current 1870s house, all the ikea stuff looked dinky and crappy. Something about 11 foot ceilings and heavy woodwork that makes the Ikea stuff look really out of place. We're slowly replacing it with pieces from the local salvage warehouse, estate sales and some family stuff from my mom's house.
posted by octothorpe 25 August | 07:04
Get a good night's sleep. Have a bulk carbo meal, like a big bowl of spaghetti bolognese, the night before. Take your vitamins. Wear clean underwear. Sniff on rosemary oil so you stay focussed and have clarity of thought. Prepare for Dawn of the Dead and "OMG! Must! Have!" at every turn.

Good luck!
posted by goo 25 August | 07:08
We went to IKEA yesterday! We had a ball! For a first time visit, do not go through the exit, I think that would be horribly confusing. Start in the showroom (where they tell you to begin) and work your way through. Eat at the cafe at the halfway point; the meatballs are delicious! If you can, definitely come prepared with your own way to get stuff home; it takes a long time to set up delivery and by the time you're done shopping, you're so tired you might not want to wait.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 25 August | 09:21
Eat something before-hand. And, if there is any doubt about a particular item, don't buy it. It'll be there next time if you decide that you really wanted it.
posted by danf 25 August | 09:44
You'll love the meatballs. Stay away from the meatballs.
posted by Eideteker 25 August | 09:48
Self-link: 10 Hours in IKEA, or How Not to Shop for Your Flat's Furniture.

I've still got PST from that trip.
posted by romakimmy 25 August | 06:09

I'm never fucking going to IKEA.
posted by sperose 25 August | 10:47
i wanna go just for the meatballs.
posted by ethylene 25 August | 11:13
Make sure to get gravy!!! The gravy is the BEST.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 25 August | 11:29
This has to be the most amazing MeCha thread ever. Thanks guys. At least I'm not the only person who feels like Ikea isn't all puppies and snowflakes.

I already have a mattress. Do I need to measure it before I go, or can I expect that a queen size mattress will fit in a queen size bed frame?
posted by grouse 25 August | 12:04
Do I need to measure it before I go, or can I expect that a queen size mattress will fit in a queen size bed frame?

It'll fit.
posted by stynxno 25 August | 12:06
Yup, it'll fit!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 25 August | 12:09
Rule number one for Ikea Furniture shopping (as you have a whole place to fill is) STOP AND EAT.
Or have a cuppa joe and one of those horrible but cheap cakes. This will give you some down-time to check if the shelving system you fancy can fit, and if so which parts of it to buy. Also you can make decisions on pieces that you are unsure about in peace. Make your list sorted calculate spend, sip some more coffee and walk rejuvenated to the downstairs (often) area where all the kitchen utensils, fluffy pillows, bedspreads, carpets, candles and china and the rest of the fluff-stuff is. Now you know what you have, what you have left to spend and may be able to resist buying umpteen oh-so-colorful vases that really are useless once you get home and realize that you seldom buy flowers.
posted by dabitch 25 August | 13:09
It's funny about the meatballs, whenever I'm abroad, I MUST HAVE THEM, but here in sweden? Meh. We get them so much better at home. Even my daughter is bored with their inferior version of meatballs now. :))
posted by dabitch 25 August | 13:15
oh my romakimmy, what a nightmare day you sepnt at Ikea. You should have brought a Swede. I could have averted one single thing only though, the order stuff upstairs thing. It's Swedish logic see. Nobody else in the world gets it. The rest, ah, the rest would have been the same except I'd have cigarettes and you could have bummed off me all day.
posted by dabitch 25 August | 13:22
To combine the advice of mdonley and TPS together... Go along the prescribed trail through the showroom but keep in mind that there's a warehouse down below where things (not everything) are methodically arranged and are on display assembled (although out of reach). The furniture corridors annoyingly twist around each other and the way people dart between spaces can be even more disorienting. And you'll navigate through a section that doesn't pertain to anything you want only to discover the secret shortcut that would have allowed you to skip it.

But I've found I can stomach the A-to-B route pretty well knowing that I will eventually find order amidst the chaos.

Once you've been to an Ikea and understand how it's laid out... Backwards is definitely the way to go.

In fact, maybe the trick is to just not succumb to its organization and just treat it like a normal store. Easier said than done.
posted by pokermonk 25 August | 13:26
First time? Yes, follow the prescribed route. And get one of those horrible, sideways-driving shopping carts instead of the little carts with the hanging yellow bag. The bags fall off of their carts, and there's no flat space to safely put anything breakable. Just be aware of the fact that you'll be walking sideways with those freaky-ass carts.

If you end up finding something you like in the showroom, you'll be picking it up in a box downstairs. Be forewarned that the bed frame you decide to purchase likely comes in several different veneers (probably birch, beech, black, and/or white). The boxes will all look the same, and you can't see the veneer through the packaging. Write down the color you want, and then make sure that when you grab the box, the right veneer is listed on the label. Sucks to get the huge box all the way home and then find out that it's the wrong color.

Also, call me a pervert, but I really love assembling furniture, and especially Ikea furniture. You should know in advance, though, that the instruction manual consists entirely of pictographs. No words. This can sometimes be frustrating. The drawings are pretty detailed, though. Line all your parts up on the floor in the same orientation they have them in the manual, and you'll be fine.

More on assembly: If you're assembling any piece of furniture that has a thin piece of pressboard on the back (bookshelves, wardrobes, dressers, etc), the instructions will tell you to pound in 100 tiny brads all along the perimeter. You can get away with one on each corner and 2-3 up and down each side. Do not pound 100 tiny brads.

And the discount section people mention above -- they call it the 'As-Is' section, and it rocks. The things I've bought there have been pieces of larger things, which I then repurposed. I bought a nice thick slab of wood that I use as a cutting board. My headboard is a raised panel door off of a wardrobe. There was a nick on one side. Mounted on the wall above the bed, you can't tell. My nightstand was originally a bathroom chest with three drawers, but the bottom drawer was missing. I took the drawer runners off, and it's the perfect space to put books.

Nthing the meatballs. Get extra lingonberry jam.
posted by mudpuppie 25 August | 13:55
Oh! One more thing.

My Ikea charges for shopping bags now, and you have to request them before they ring you up. Once you've paid, they have to open a whole 'nother transaction to charge you for bags, and the people behind you in line (and there will be people behind you in line) will get antsy.

So if you buy small stuff and need it bagged, make sure to tell the checker.
posted by mudpuppie 25 August | 13:57
If you want to have the IKEA 'retail experience' (that's not a dis--that's what people call it), follow everybody's advice. If you're like me, and having retail experiences sounds like a uniquely modern kind of torture, follow mdonley's.

And if you like tea lights, be sure to buy a bag. They're dirt cheap.
posted by box 25 August | 14:36
And, if there is any doubt about a particular item, don't buy it. It'll be there next time if you decide that you really wanted it.

I must respectfully disagree with this; more than once, I've discovered that something I was saving up and planning to buy (Jerker desk, another unit for my Magiker storage set) was discontinued out from under me, leaving me gnashing my teeth impotently.

posted by kat allison 25 August | 14:51
They discontinued the Jerker desk? Damnit, I was waiting to buy one until we moved into our house.

If you're shopping for a whole home full of stuff, you need to either allow a whole day (and be there when they open) or break your trip into tow, so you can buy the absolute essentials the first day, get them home, assembled and in place, then you have a better picture of what fits where and what spaces you have left.

Take your time, go with the flow and enjoy exploring all the clever bits and pieces. Stop for food at the cafe, for sure.
posted by dg 25 August | 16:00
I must respectfully disagree with this; more than once, I've discovered that something I was saving up and planning to buy (Jerker desk, another unit for my Magiker storage set) was discontinued out from under me, leaving me gnashing my teeth impotently.

I stand corrected, Kat.

So buy anything that you might have any inkling of owning, now.
posted by danf 25 August | 16:03
Another good thing to know: Ikea has a really good return policy. Don't like it? It doesn't fit in the space you allotted? Changed your mind?

Keep the receipt, and take it back within 30 days.
posted by mudpuppie 25 August | 16:07
It's a true testament to the awesomness and terribleness that is Ikea that a first-time trip requires the solicitation of advice, and that so many people actually have advice to give.
posted by mudpuppie 25 August | 16:13
Budget lots of time. Make 1 pass through with no cart, and just look at stuff. Take a lined notepad and pen to keep a rough budget. Stop to eat, the cafeteria is great, and affordable. Grab a catalog to look at over food.

Now go back through and make decisions and load the cart. You'll still see stuff you didn't see the 1st time through, but it's not bad.

I love Ikea. You'll be fine; it's only stuff. Better to buy too little than too much.
posted by theora55 25 August | 16:13
The shrimp salad and the princess cake are my favorites at the Ikea cafe.
posted by scody 25 August | 17:38
Thanks everyone, it worked out great! I brought my friend and a pickup truck rented from Zipcar. It was my first Zipcar and my first pickup truck. The truck came in very handy.

I ended up just buying the bed, and making notes for other stuff I can get after I move into the new place. I have to have a bed the first night because the carpet will still be wet from cleaning and I don't want to ruin the mattress.

Meatballs and smorgasbord were great.
posted by grouse 25 August | 23:45
Does anyone here have MS Publisher? I need a super quick favor. || I seem to have stopped being an ethical consumer