Friday, August 12, 2011

IKEA. In Colorado.

Just a few weeks ago, a brand new IKEA opened in Colorado. This was big news. Such big news that while I was home for a few days this summer, several companies were using IKEA in their marketing. As in, we are located just three blocks away from IKEA. Of course, IKEA was yet to have actually opened, but a large blue and yellow box is hard to miss.

I took great interest in this. And by great, I mean I paid attention when my parents told me that people had camped out two nights before so that they could be the first to get into IKEA. You see, the first 30 people in would receive an IKEA couch. Yay.

Let me first say that I love IKEA. In a slightly creepy way. I furnished damn near my entire apartment in the US with IKEA products. It’s cheap, it looks halfway decent, and it’s cheap. But it’s cheap. And that seems to have been lost on many people in the US.

I have owned an IKEA couch. It was, without a doubt, the worst couch I have ever owned. Granted, it wasn’t the top of the line model, but let’s be honest, nothing is top of the line when it comes from IKEA. There are very few things I would sleep in a large asphalt parking lot for two days for. A couch from IKEA is not one of them. In fact, it shouldn’t be one of them for anyone.

You see, IKEA stuff is made with cheap materials so that it can be sold cheaply in flat packed boxes and put together with one magical tool. These are not handmade works of art. They just aren’t. Swedes know this.

Swedes know that IKEA allows you to get bored and redecorate your entire kitchen every other year without having to take out a second mortgage. Americans don’t seem to understand this. Yes, there are pieces of IKEA furniture that last for decades. I believe some old bookshelves/cupboard thingies that once sat in the basement of my parents’ home were from IKEA. But the vast majority of furniture from the blue and yellow giant lasts a couple of years. IKEA furniture is not handed down from one generation to the next. It is not a point of contention in last wills and testaments. It is sorted at the dump or thrown onto That’s it.

A few years ago, I found a short article claiming that IKEA and H&M played a role in the high rate of divorce in Sweden. Because Swedes were used to changing their interior decorating and their wardrobe for next to nothing, they were also used to changing their partners. It was the kind of pseudo-psychology that appeals to people like me. I can read a poorly written article that probably misrepresents actual psychological research and refer to it in conversation with friends about the recent study I just read about blah blah blah. But regardless of the correlation or causation between divorce and IKEA usage, the fact remains that these giants of Swedish design are designed to be tossed aside for the next great Swedish design. It’s genius really. But it’s something that seems to have been lost in the cultural translation from IKEA Sweden to IKEA US.

What does all this mean? Nothing. Except for that when the next IKEA opens in the US, don’t camp outside. And anyway, they sell stuff online.

Welcome to the US. And cultural translation problems.

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  1. are you from colorado, now living in sweden? seems like we have the same story.

  2. Lol, Americans LOVE Ikea, whether they admit it or not, especially college kids and young people bc, as you mentioned, the furniture is relatively inexpensive but also quite stylish. In fact, I bought my first piece of Ikea furniture 3 months ago (a computer desktop for home) and love it :) But you forgot to mention the best part of Ikea: They have inexpensive, yummy, kinda-sorta "Swedish-style" food (like meatballs) in their cafeterias. During X-mas they serve glögg so you Swedes can enjoy a taste of home wherever there's an IKEA ™ ® :o)

  3. I had actually to move to Sweden from the SF Bay Area to experience IKEA. I think it's great to buy cheap disposable furniture that is well engineered and functional. It is not especially pretty, but it's not ugly either. I like it and IKEA, and am glad it's spreading around the globe. It's good for us. That's my story and I'm sticking t it.

  4. YAH! I am excited about the IKEA in Colorado. I am moving about 5 miles away from that IKEA for work and look forward to the Swedish market. Yummy food!

  5. At least IKEA knows how to make proper Swedish meatballs with lingonberry jam - worth a visit just to get a nice lunch out of it :o)

  6. We do still have bookshelves, "Billy", I believe they are called, in our basement that we bought at IKEA when we were first married and living in Stockholm almost 30 years ago. They actually have held up pretty well.
    We are excited about the IKEA in Colorado, mostly for the food items, Kalles, meatballs etc.. Also they are having a crayfish party next Friday. Now.. that will be fun!! Wish you were home for that!! I love IKEA!!

  7. Yeah, we seem to love IKEA a little too much here in the UK too. I remember a few years ago, a new IKEA store opened in Edmonton (North London). The first customers were promised ridiculously cheap sofas. So, 6,000 people began queuing up 15 hours before opening. These were people with the same mentality as those involved in the recent riots. So, there was literally a riot. A man was stabbed because he got a sofa, and someone else wanted it. Dozens of people were taken to hospital, either crushed or suffering from heat exhaustion. People waited outside the store for customers to come out, only to mug them of their purchases. As the parking lot was full, people just stopped in the middle of the adjacent motorway and jumped over the fence, causing tailbacks.

    Still... I love IKEA.

  8. Ikea är Ikea och har väl aldrig haft någon större kvalitet på sina produkter. Det är ju en del av deras koncept. Sälja billiga saker som sedan går sönder för att sedan ta emot samma kund igen och sälja samma sak en gång till.

  9. I also love IKEA. If you look a little bit closer, IKEA also actually sell some very high quality stuff. They usually have three versions of everything. One silly cheap crap version that works but only for a while. Then they have the very cheap "standard" version that's quite decent but not high quality. Then they have the "expensive" version that's usually a rebranded version of a high quality expensive thing.

    If you look at kitchen knives for example, they have the 29 SEK version, the 99 SEK version and the 249 SEK version. The 249 SEK version would cost you 995 SEK at a kitchen store for the very same knife but without the IKEA logo.

    If you buy a 7500 SEK IKEA oven, what you get is a 14000 SEK Electrolux oven with an IKEA front. If you buy a 4000 SEK microwave you get a 8000 SEK Whirlpool microwave with an IKEA front. And so on.

    That's what I like best with IKEA. Buy the least cheap version of their stuff and you get quality stuff for much less.

  10. Disposable furniture? Nothing should be disposable. Except diapers.

  11. Hamnade på din blogg av en slump, och tänkte att gud va kul att läsa om en Amerikask svensk- eller svensk amerikan om man så vil. Men efter att ha scrollat igenom ett gäng av dina inlägg måste säga att det du skriver speglar en bitter människa med negativa ord om det mesta han skriver om.För din skull hoppas jag att du inte är så bitter som du verkar, och inte så negativ som orden du skriver. Omfamna det som är bra i livet och släpp fokuset från det negativa. Hoppas det finns saker som gör dig glad i livet.

  12. One day I had the Ikea experience from hell - I left Kent with my husband to buy something he needed - a desk - but it wasn't in stock. So we drove all the way to another one. They didn't have it either. The queue to the final one was over an hour long and we had driven all the way around London and walked all the way around three Ikeas. That was 15 years ago and I haven't been back since!

    He goes on his own now. But they do have lovely kitchen bits and pieces. Maybe it's about time for another trip...

  13. I think you're mixing up two issues -- standing in line for two days before a store opens -- ANY STORE -- is insane. Being happy that there is a local IKEA is entirely different. The only cheap furniture alternative has been Target, which is just as cheap, and not as well designed or nice looking. I've actually ordered on-line from IKEA, because they are one of the few companies that sell furniture that fits in small houses

  14. @followyouheart – I am from Colorado, but no longer living in Sweden. Moved back to the US about a year ago after three years in Stockholm.

    @Samantha – good point, they do have some delicious foods there. And the hotdogs are only $0.50 I think. You can’t even steal them for that price. – it’s a good story. And Im all for the spread of IKEA. I love them.

    @Eric – I expect that your entire home will be furnished every two years with new IKEA furniture then.

    @Linda – true. Although, I always stick to the hotdogs when I go there.

    @mamma – I knew it!

    @Cocky – that’s the beauty of their marketing. Despite the heat, the people, the hospital trips, people love IKEA.

    @spabad – exactly, and that’s what makes them so glorious as an easy way to get halfway nice furniture.

    @Tuxie – a good point!

    @anonymous – what about income?

    @anonymous – there are two kinds of people who end their comments with the word peace, hippies and douche bags. You don’t sound like a hippie.

    @asazevedo – me too.

    @janerowena – just dont go on the weekend.

    @kirsten – also a good call, although, IKEA has an uncanny ability to get people excited about their store openings. From a marketing standpoint, I am horribly impressed, from every other standpoint Im just disappointed in people.