My First Trip to IKEA.

I’d been meaning to make a pilgrimage to IKEA to pick up their Saarinen Tulip Table copy, the DOCKSTA. Inspired by BadBadIvy’s post, and a break in the awful winter weather, we decided to head to the Canton, MI (between Detroit and Ann Arbor) store last Saturday.

My First Trip to IKEA.

For the three-hour drive, I even made a special playlist for the iPod, made of Motown classics from the Motor City, and all the Swedish bands I had in my library (the Concretes, the Cardigans, Bombshell Rocks, International Noise Conspiracy, Terra Firma, Sahara Hotnights, Alice in Videoland). Detroit and Sweden...get it?


With pit stops, the drive took a little longer than expected, and we arrived around 11:00 a.m., one hour after opening. There were THREE parking spots left, out of 1,300, in the very back corner. (Granted, five or so were filled with mounds of snow left from weeks of ploughing.) Remarkable.

Upon entering, having no idea what to expect, it was a bit of a surprise: not a “That’s all?!” surprise, but more of an “Oh, really…?” I reckoned we’d be greeted with acres of Scandinavian modern furniture; the view from the door was merely an escalator, and a long line to the women’s restroom. A man handed us a map (and a credit card application), and directed us towards the escalator, like a canary-coated St. Peter pointing out the Gates of Heaven-via Swedish exports-by way of the Detroit suburbs.

We then embarked on a 90-minute trip through the ‘showroom’; where, short of a few bins of flexible cutting mats and somewhat flexible artist figures, nothing really seemed for sale.

So, we sat in a few moderately comfortable and many uncomfortable chairs, kicked the tires of a few coffee tables, and located a dingy and hastily assembled copy of the Docksta table, which was almost dirty enough to un-motivate us to purchase one for our own.

The ‘showroom’ eventually ended with a pass by the restaurant…. THE RESTAURANT?! This store has a restaurant!? Sw-eet. Since dining had to be part of the authentic IKEA experience, we fell for it, and munched on a plate of Swedish meatballs, and washed them down with Lingonberry juice.

The arrows then, finally, allowed us downstairs to the “Marketplace”. Here, at last, we found piles of the items we’d seen upstairs, so cleverly arranged. There were kitchen wares, which looked as if they’d melt with heat applied, some unique textiles (which would be super-great if you were a 14-year-old girl), a couple interesting lights, and some wicked cheap picture frames and mirrors. We finished in the “Self-serve” furniture area, found our table, and headed towards the registers.

Total shopping time: 2 hours 31 minutes.

So, was it a disappointment? Not really. Was it everything we’d imagined? Not really. Was it fun and memorable? Absolutely! Will I do it again soon? Absolutely not.
IKEA is not a casual shopping experience; and I don’t imagine it’s intended to be- as denoted by the restaurant. You can’t really even aimlessly browse around. The store is set up so that EVERYONE goes through each showroom through the exact same route. Yes, if you’re looking for laminate/compressed fiberboard furniture, it’s far better to buy sleek, Scandanavian fiberboard furniture from IKEA than ugly French Country furniture from your neighborhood discount superstore.

So, we didn’t spend as much money as we thought we would, and spent way more time than we’d imagined.

I look forward to the thoughts from those whom have one within normal driving distance. How often do you go? Do you go for inspiration, or looking for an exact product?

It is certainly an experience that every DIY design-enthusiast should enjoy…once every few years.

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John Christmas on May 17, 2011:

I don’t know one person who does not recall their first trip to Ikea. It is an outing and oh what fun we can have in Ikea. Loathe it or love it, the furniture and those wonderful accessories are just made for the modern home.

qtpuh2tme on Oct 03, 2008:

Again, posting a century late, but, hey, what ya gonna do when you're a "newbie."


Where I live I can get to several of them. There's one right in town, and there's a couple on my way to & from driving to my mom's (2 hrs). I never, ever pass up an opportunity to stop and peruse an Ikea if I see one. Never. I get some of my very best inspirations there.

I luv the whole experience. The lights, the colors, the textures, the people, the shiny, shiny I-luv-to-rub-my-face-against-it stainless steel cabinets & tables. I feel everything I walk by as though I were still 6 years old, all the while the ghost of my mother's correcting whisper chastising my wandering fingers. But I don't care. I'm a grown up, a "big people" now and I can touch if I want to. ~:p

I spend hours just looking.... and re-thinking just about everything I see. I'm scoping for the secret thing that lies within that odd looking wall hanging key kiosk. The thing that I can re-purpose, re-make, re-design or hack. I adore using things for something other than they were intended, and Ikea proves to be the quintessential source for just that love of mine. (BTW - that key kiosk - such a silly idea anyway - became a FAB hack-of-a-wall-light fixture for my desk.)

All hail Ikea!


jacquilives on Jul 06, 2008:

Ah! As can be the case with some IKEA virgins, the first time isn't always the best.

I've lived both far from an IKEA and now, deliciously close. In all honesty, there is a science to shopping at IKEA in order to ensure your sanity and maximize your IKEA shopping pleasure:

  • NEVER go to IKEA on a weekend. EVER.

  • Mondays/Monday evenings are always the best time

  • If you're going to eat at the restaurant, head over a bit early to avoid the typical noon rush

  • ALWAYS check stock online prior to going, especially if there's a specific item you're look ing for

  • Learn the short cuts. There are "doorways" to help you cut through the various departments

: )


incubus_of_habit on Jun 11, 2008:

"How often do you go?"

About once a quarter. The 'marathon' trips where you spend a saturday kind of become unecessary post-college. These days we stock our kitchen with items, the occasional piece of furniture (the only place we could find a nice looking, somewhat modern, NOT poofy sectional sofa that would fit down our basement stairs) and whenever we need to pick up b-day presents for kids b-day parties.

knitrat on Apr 24, 2007:

Any self-respecting Ikea shopper / DIYer needs to know about ikeahacker.

awesome inspiration :)

as a treehugger trying not to consume mindlessly, I feel a certain amount of eco-guilt buying new furniture, but sometimes you don't have a choice. Ikea is the best option for many reasons. The company is very progressive surrounding household toxins and polutants, for example they don't use ScotchGuard (linked to hormonal cancers) or harmful chemicals in their particleboard. Also, because everything is flatpacked the carbon footprint of shipping is less than other companies. And most importantly, because you put it together yourself, it is easily hacked :)

coffeequeen on Mar 01, 2007:

Hahahah! I loved reading your experience and thank you for sharing it! We live about 4 hrs from the nearest, and I had actually asked hubby if we could book a bed & breakfast near one, just so we could go....rethinking that now. I think he would be too unimpressed to enjoy his time with me if he had to drive 4 hrs for that kind of experience. I think I'll just take the weekend alone to hang with him and make the Ikea jaunt a summer day trip with the kids.

lilybee on Mar 01, 2007:

One of the interesting phenomenon of the Ikea in north London is the sheer volume of arguing couples. Seriously, there are hundreds of them,  and all demographics are represented.
They may start out civil, but, by the kitchen section, one member of the couple will invariably be sighing from the depths of their soul and the other will be grinding their teeth and using that tone of voice that implies barely-checked aggression. By the time you hit the marketplace it's open warfare. I have actually heard a women shouting "I don't want a bloody wine rack... WHERE ARE THE KNIVES????", oh wait, possibly that was me... Has anybody else observed this or is it exclusive to London?

jasimar on Feb 28, 2007:

Walking through Ikea makes me wish I'd gone there first when I was a teenager and let it help me through college years and my first apt.  It's -really- great quality/price for starter situations, imho.  Now, I go for sport.

I'm one of the lucky ones to live 20 min from 2 seperate Ikea locations and there's even another one an hour away.  Going on a weekday is the only way my DH will come with.  Wish I could have warned you, it's SO not worth it on the weekends.  

I'm a true Ikea junkie though.  I go at least once a week.  I eat frogurt and marvel at the showroom.  Then I make it to the check out line with a cheap set of glasses or a new duvet cover.  For me, it is best as a casual shopping experience.  

Oh and you don't -have- to go the route.  There are shortcuts everywhere if you know where you're going.  Follow the arrows. 

abmatic on Feb 28, 2007:

You can actually skip the showroom all together and just go to the marketplace. In my local IKEA the door is next to the elevators when you first walk in and looks almost hidden, but its there! Its the perfect way to shortcut and buy some more cheap wine glasses after you break all of the ones at home...

DIY Maven on Feb 28, 2007:

Oh, Chris, Chris, Chris...you NEVER EVER go to IKEA on the weekends. NEVER! If and when you do go again, go mid-morning during the week and it'll feel like a different store. Seriously. You'll find a good parking space; there won't be any long lines to the bathrooms or the checkouts. AND there might even be an associate around if you need some help! BTW, if I remember correctly, we went to IKEA last Easter Sunday...now THAT was a great day to shop!

Sydney on Feb 28, 2007:

Sorry your experience wasn't better; definitely avoid IKEA on weekends and holidays. I hate shopping in general so I have to psychologically prepare myself for the IKEA experience, and am always exhausted (mentally and physically) when I depart. I have to drive about 80 miles to get to the closest store to me; I envy friends in Atlanta who live close enough to just run over for candles for parties, etc. Enjoy your new table at least!

Mikael on Feb 28, 2007:

I live in Sweden and have only been to IKEA once. I don't remember it as being quite as routed (did I just make up a word?) as you describe it. I was probably in and out in under 30 minutes with a new chair (if I remember correctly) under my arm.

It's probably not the nices store I've shopped in but it wasn't a bad experience. I think it's time for me to check IKEA out again. Thanks for the tip! 

badbadivy on Feb 28, 2007:

I am so freaking jealous!! :) I think we're going to go not this upcoming weekend, but the next! Glad I could be your inspiration!

bruno on Feb 28, 2007:

Huh, interesting observations. My first trip to IKEA was pretty overwhelming, as the store had only opened the week before.

I don't go unless I know exactly what I'm looking for, and I don't usually buy big-ticket items there (couches, beds, etc.). For me, IKEA's a great place to get shelves, linens, utensils, chairs, wall-decorations, and floor coverings. If I'm going to spend big on the main piece for a room, it's probably not going to be from the big blue box. 

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