Toni and I Have Been Meaning To

GET OUT TO THE NEW Ikea store in the northern suburbs since, well, since before it opened. This morning, before we officially got out of bed, I proposed a field trip. (And, yes, it was to get out of doing work around the house.)

I am both impressed and unimpressed.

Back in my stupid youth, in the early ’70s, when I could be said to have been employed as a cabinetmaker (read: furniture maker), I got the notion — derived from campaign furniture dating back to Roman times — of a line of furniture which could be sold knocked down, and yet would serve as the owner’s own packing crates for his possessions. In other words, you would simply twist some catches and the drawers and doors of your casework would be latched and could be broken down into easily-carried units and moved from one domicile to another without the need to remove the contents and separately pack them.

At about the same time, some space-saver freaks in Sweden were starting Ikea.

You have, no doubt, heard of Ikea. My idea died stillborn. One very crude prototype got built. The business foundered, its participants scattered to the winds.

The success of Ikea’s model impresses me. Their furniture designs … m’eh. Not so much. Although the modularity and adaptability is neat, the materials choices and fit and finish strike me as… bottom of the market kind of stuff. I am reminded of Sippican’s dictum: never put anything in your house that subsequent owners wouldn’t have to seriously examine their souls before removing or altering. I think that goes for furniture as well as architecture. This stuff is not timeless or heirloom quality. In fact, I doubt most of it would last a one-year lease in a college rental.

The store is roughly twice the footprint of your average Home Depot or Lowe’s, but two 15-foot (approx.) storeys tall. It is HUGE. It is deliberately organized to be confusing. The first-time visitor will perforce visit all of the various departments — furniture, lighting, storage, organization, textiles, bed and bath, kitchen, and so-forth — in order to make it from ingress to egress, despite ubiquitous signs directing visitors toward the latter. The layout is like a maze, with “shortcuts” from one department to another. Possessed of a map and the desire to skip certain departments, one could save time, but the whole is designed to keep you passing more and more displays, to be distracted by shiny objects, your cupidity piqued into making you buy more.

That ranted, we’ll be going back. However, next time, we will BOTH take our cell phones. It’s too easy to get separated and too hard to find someone once you do.

I spotted one marketing misfire, which may or may not matter to the Swedish giant. They don’t get American consumers, and their labelling bears that out. Over and over again, I had to wade through metric size labelling to find dimensions of a product in “real” (English) units. Although the metric system is the official system of the United States, sensible American consumers still think — and buy — in feet, pounds, and seconds (fps). Talk about your cultural imperialism!

This mislabelling — minor as it may be — also extends to terminology. Although there were bins and bins of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) — carefully NOT labelled as such — there were ALSO fixtures designed to burn, and including, light emitting diodes (LED), a cool-burning technology with FAR lower power requirements than anything else on the market, and a far longer instrument (bulb) life. Orders of magnitude longer.

But they were not labelled as LEDs. Nor would a search of Ikea’s website turn up practical fixtures burning LEDs. Instead, they are called light diodes. In my opinion (and that of a lot of other people) — and please understand I DO NOT accept catastrophic anthropogenic global warming as anything other than a warped leftist fantasy — LED lamps are the wave of the future — literally, the Way, the Truth, and the Light for illumination purposes. And here is a merchant with practical (albeit limited) fixtures and instruments ON THEIR STORE SHELVES, using the wrong terminology for them, thus rendering them impossible to find by a simple text search.

Smooth move, exlax.

I bought a garbage can for the office, and some organizer boxes for my desk area. Toni got some dish towels, a clock, and a plant. We also got a chance to look at a bunk bed for the grand-daughters, which was the proximate purpose of the expotition. All-in-all, no surprises, some disappointments, but nothing to turn us away, with that codicil that I’ll never buy furniture from the place for myself.

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