For & Against

For & Against: Ikea

22 August 2017


As I wrote this, I wondered which IKEA story I should start with. Is it the story of the time my family went to extraordinary lengths to take a new IKEA mattress home? (We pushed the passenger seats down, stuffed it into the car and my mum and I lay underneath it the whole ride home). Is it the story of my friend who recently spent a thousand dollars at IKEA in one hit? Or the countless stories of failures to put together flat-pack furniture (before eventually succeeding)? But really, the IKEA story is the story of so many of us.

In 1999, my family – mum, dad, grandma and three year-old me – touched down in Australia, determined to forge a new life. We brought plenty of initiative with us, but one important thing we hadn’t brought that much of was furniture. Some of my earliest memories are from the old IKEA Moorabbin store, as my small immigrant family chased the Australian dream. IKEA was the enabler for my newly arrived family to settle into our new home, both physically and metaphorically.

IKEA furniture is cheap. It’s relatively easy and economical to transport. It’s mostly of decent quality. It generally looks nice. Visiting a store and putting together newly bought furniture somehow counts as family fun. Surprisingly few places offer this experience.

There’s a reason IKEA is there in so many memories. The simple reality is that IKEA represents the biggest revolutionary driver around furniture in human history. For me, and people in every corner of the world, IKEA has been part of a great enabler of the human dream – of families, homes and human living. It has made the cost of living significantly lower for hundreds of millions in families.

As daggy as it sounds, IKEA is often there when people remember the big points of change in their lives. The image that first comes to mind is the newly-wed couple, adorably trying to put together flat-pack furniture in their newly bought first home. The nineteen year-old student who has moved out of home, furnishing their small new apartment. The parents creating their nursery for their first child. The freshly minted business partners creating the office for their new small business.

And, of course, the small child, back from Moorabbin – looking up from their newly-made bed to see a room of  bookshelves, cute Swedish soft toys and funnily shaped chairs.



At my first share-house, we would magically receive a single thick IKEA catalogue once a year, every year, without any of us ever asking for one. As far as we could tell, we were the only young share-house on the block and the only ones to experience this annual phenomenon.

And so, my IKEA journey began with an alarmingly well targeted catalogue delivery. Unfortunately, once those curated glossy pages gave way to the reality of missing screws and Alan keys, my relationship with the furniture giant became less than congenial.

I’m going to come right out and say it. Despite being a member of the Pinterest generation, I harbour a deep resentment for IKEA.

Seriously, why is there all this fuss about furniture that is literally half-made? You can give it a fancy name all you want, but this ‘flat-pack’ business is bullshit. Can you imagine the outrage if Dymocks sold slightly cheaper than average books with the small caveat that you must FILL IN THE GAPS before they become readable? That’s how we would feel about IKEA if we hadn’t been beguiled by pretty product names like ‘Fartfull’ and ‘Femmen Våg’.

It’s common knowledge that visiting IKEA is a time-consuming and often traumatic experience. We’re talking about a place with such known maze-like qualities that they were forced to shut down an unofficial game of instore hide-and-seek that had gained a casual 30, 000 RSVPs.

The danger of getting lost in IKEA is never-ending. I was once naïve enough to think I was safe as I rolled my trolley out through those huge automatic doors, only to spend no less than 25 minutes alone in the loading bay as my mother got lost in the carpark.

I have only one friend with a bigger grudge against IKEA than me, and he has a good reason. He once passed out into an IKEA chair (long story) that seemed trustworthy enough. Wrong. The unreliable bastard didn’t break his fall, it just fucking broke.

Maybe it’s because my first attempt at flat-pack assembly happened on a 40°C day. Maybe it’s because my most recent IKEA memory is of a not entirely pleasant day spent there with an ex. But regardless of any deeper reasoning I may or may not be suppressing, I despise IKEA and YOU SHOULD TOO.

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