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My First Trip to IKEA.

by on Feb 28, 2007

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.

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?

Close up of computer screen, highlighting a music playlist.

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.Man showing lines in his left palm with right hand finger.

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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