Deals and Duds: IKEA

>> 12.17.2010

Before you go out and join the mobs at IKEA's winter sale (they have two big sales- winter and summer), I wanted to share my take on  I can't remember who said it, but a random TV personality summed up my thoughts on IKEA the best: "they make you feel like you can afford everything." The trick of the IKEA experience is that you walk in feeling as though you can buy anything in the store. The prices are all within a college student or recent grad's budget (they'll hook you when you're young) and many of the designs are innovative or current, but that doesn't mean that you should buy everything!

Don't get me wrong, I love IKEA, I'm talking six-hour-round-trip-driving type of love (thankfully, I have one 20 minutes away now). After a good decade-long love affair with the Swedish big box store, hundreds (probably thousands) of dollars spent, and countless Goodwill donations, I've realized that many their products aren't worth the dirt-cheap prices.

How to spot a deal from a dud at IKEA...

The deals are usually:
*items that make a big impact on a space for little money (think: instant room updates like colorful patterned bedding or a statement light fixture)
*classic pieces that will last for years (yes, these do exist)
*less expensive than similar versions at Target (Target has similar quality, but isn't as difficult
*the pieces you've seen in all of the bloggers' homes

When it comes to IKEA shopping, I stick to simply designed items that I can't find at better prices:
1. Super affordable frames that you'll be able to use in any room.
2. Not only are the dishes cheap, but the simple designs are hard to get tired of. I've had my 365 set for over five years.
3. Yes, these magazine files are cardboard, but they're super cheap and hold up quite well. If you suffer from ugly/ cluttered shelf syndrome (like certain guys I know), these will solve your problems in a hurry.
4. I'll always remember the day that I upgraded to a closet full of wooden hangers- my clothes never looked so expensive. I'll never go back!

The duds are usually:
*the impulse buys
*poorly constructed with cheap materials
*the items you buy just because you [traveled far/ waited in long lines/ don't want to go home empty handed]

Sometimes it's difficult to spot the duds in IKEA, every department has its share of deals and duds. The most important thing to remember is to look at each product individually instead of as a part of a fancy display:
1. You can do better than fake wood and poorly constructed furniture, especially when Craigslist is spilling over with "solid wood" (use it as a search term) pieces at half of IKEA's prices!
2. The lighting at IKEA can be tricky- an interesting statement piece can transform a room... while a poorly made light can stop working and cause you to pay ridiculous electrician fees thinking that something is wrong with the wiring to your dining room just to find out that their fixtures break easily (I sure wish I would have spent that $200 from the electrician on a new chandelier instead!).
3. I love a cheap rug as much as the next person (I have an IKEA runner in my kitchen), but I wouldn't say that all of their rugs are great buys. Instead of spending $100 on a rug that you'll have to replace a few years down the line, just spring for the long-lasting high quality stuff!
4. I think there's a reason why they've placed the little extras like these votive candle holders near the exit, you're not going to want to leave empty handed and you'll grab the first inexpensive thing you find. Although it might be only $2, put down that votive- you don't need it!

Whew, you can tell that I'm a bit passionate about IKEA shopping! I'm interested to hear what you think, what are your favorite finds from IKEA? Have you ever walked away with a dud*?

*My duds: light fixture that only lasted a few years, ugly "what was I thinking?" accessories like candle holders and mirrors, Euro shams that look cheap on my pillows, bedding that felt too rough to sleep with, chairs with screws that wouldn't go in all the way, side table that wobbled, table that scratched easily, storage boxes I didn't even need... I could go on and on! 


Jeannine @ Small and Chic December 17, 2010 at 2:02 PM  

I'm with you on the frames. I've picked up quite a few in just the last few years. They mix in with more expensive ones perfectly.

My boyfriend HATES the place. He's even "meh" about the meatballs. He recites a joke that he heard on the radio fairly often..."You know why they call it Ikea? Because I kee-ya if we have to go to that store again."

Hardy har har.

Jennifer December 17, 2010 at 2:29 PM  

Hmmm.... my giant cork trivets (i NEEDed them! hehe) and my multi hook wall hook that holds a ridiculous amount of necklaces.

my bed... and nighstands... SUCK!


Jenn @ Peas & Crayons

LizzieBeth December 17, 2010 at 2:51 PM  

The hubs and I are seriously debating a big IKEA purchase.

We need a new sofa. Desperatly. We've been looking at the HOVAS, and trying to decided if it is a deal or a dud. Hmm. I might have to poll the blogging world.


chacha December 17, 2010 at 5:09 PM  

I have the rug in the picture with the brown border - it's actually not bad. Granted, it's in a room that doesn't get a lot of traffic (the office), but it's pretty good for 29.99.

Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog December 17, 2010 at 6:15 PM  

@chacha- I love the runner I bought for my kitchen. Like I said, it's hit or miss with the quality.

Sara December 17, 2010 at 10:01 PM  

On the couches, I have an Ektorp and I really think it is fantastic for the price. It is comfy and I love being able to wash the slipcovers. I will admit they can be hard to get back on. I have a dresser bought in my teen years that after a decade is just hanging it up. I had a $20 rug there for 5 years. I only got rid of it because I found another $20 I liked better. I also have some not so good purchases. I will say you featured the Hemnes dresser. I'm 99 percent sure that is actually full wood. My BIL and SIL have had them for several years and LOVE them.

Kelly Michelle December 17, 2010 at 10:09 PM  

It is nice to hear the bad side of ikea. Well no the bad side but to hear both sides. I have never been but I want to go so badly so thanks for the advise, you may have saved future me from some bad purchases :)

Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog December 17, 2010 at 10:49 PM  

@Sara- true, some furniture is real wood, but it's important to check how the joints are put together. With the flat packing, construction usually takes a hit. I actually have a bookshelf that I know will continue to be in my house for years to come.

Ingrid@morestylethancash December 17, 2010 at 10:58 PM  

Our Billy bookcases are probably close to 25 years old now, we have 4 of them. The roller shades we have in our sun room are almost 20 years old and are now disintegrating (they were only $20 each compared to almost $200 each for custom ones).

The worst buy we made was a white kitchen table whose paint started peeling off the top after a year and the chairs that came with it were rather rickety so I sold them at a garage sale.

I would never buy glass ware or vases at Ikea because I find them too flimsy. When they have storage shelves on sale (the good ones made from solid wood) I make the drive out there.

Jane @ The Borrowed Abode December 17, 2010 at 11:09 PM  

Those accessories (candle holders, plants, etc) at the end are death on the wallet, and on the clutter factor at home. Ikea manages to convey the idea that a cute grouping of candles will rock your space...then you get home with some of them and it's like "What was I thinking!?"

I do, however, love their sectional sofa that has a pull-out foam mattress. And it has hidden storage. Duvet covers, definitely a go. Even like some of the lamps. And the lightbulbs. But not the dressers.

I had it with Ikea when my bed's headboard fell 1 ft against the side of the U-haul as I loaded it. . .and the headboard snapped in two. Because it wasn't even plywood - it was such cruddy particleboard that it crumbled. Sigh.

Gaby December 18, 2010 at 3:06 AM  

I *adore* Ikea. Granted I have made a few impulse buys here and there and thought "What hell was I thinking after?!" But luckily, I've been able return the junk within the return period.

As for the furniture, our biggest Ikea purchase was our dining room table. We bought the Bjursta expandable table and 6 banana leaf chairs. In total we probably spent $800 on that set and in retrospect that's definitely more than I would want to spend on an Ikea dining set. But it's 3 years old and has held up very well and the quality has exceeded our expectations. In fact, no one ever believes it'sf from Ikea when they see it.

We also own the rug you pictured in your post. In fact I've purchased about 5 rugs from Ikea and each one has held up remarkably well quality wise. I say quality wise because when my wonderful little dog was a puppy his idea of fun was chewing at the corners of every rug in the house. So all of my rugs have frayed corners! But for $30 I'm totally okay with that, now if I had spent $300 on each rug his little tail wagging butt would have gone straight to the pound! I'm just kidding, I love him too much to give him away.

Oh, and I think their stemware is absolutely fabulous! Drinking wine and champagne makes everyone feel a little too good, which usually leads to someone breaking a glass (which actually happened about 2 weeks ago). Glass breaks and I'd rather have spent 83 cents/glass as opposed to $10/glass when that happens.

Kim @ NewlyWoodwards December 18, 2010 at 9:11 AM  

I love their frames, too. I was also really pleased with our Ektorp sofa, but I know it's not forever.

Good post.

Ses,  December 18, 2010 at 11:36 PM  

Love IKEA and have even bought some decent plants from there. (The garden center guy said their hardest to kill plant was the peace lily. We'll see - it's 3 months and counting.)
my DUD? I bought a couple sets of wine glasses that have broken during regular HAND washing, causing some nasty cuts. I trashed the entire set after the second time this happened. I do not recommend buying their very lightweight stemware for safety reasons.

Sara @ Russet Street Reno December 19, 2010 at 10:09 PM  

Very good list! I admit to buying candles there 'just because' and they burn terribly and are a total waste of money.

Anonymous,  December 19, 2010 at 10:40 PM  

Так мы расстались. Через год я вернулась в Питер, учились далее сообща, здоровались.Все.


Livinia Redlips December 20, 2010 at 6:03 PM  

Fab = The Tobias chairs in clear (not inexpensive, but way less than the lucite Louis chairs or Zig Zag chairs).

$20 rolling metal storage 'carts' w/drawers (I use these in my closet under the hanging pole).

Tall narrow children's closet/dresser (you customize w/drawers, shelves, doors etc), great in my daughters smaller bedroom (and majorly sturdy, also, it was not cheap either).

Black/grey/white wool triangles rug - flat weave (also not crazy cheap - but it's good quality).

Dud = their pots/pans (cheap quality and it shows!)

Rebecca @ the lil house that could December 21, 2010 at 7:16 PM  

Ahh I love this post!

My best buys so far are actually recent ones. My clerance Stornas dining room table and buffet, which were $199 each. I get asked constantly if they are from Crate & Barrel... and they're solid wood! Also my Dinera plates, which are a total knockoff of the expensive Calvin Klein plates I registered for. I returned those and instead got many more of the Ikea version. The only negative to them is that hte lighter colored ones are showing knife marks, so I may just pick up another 18 piece set in dark brown (I have one of each color now)

Hm negatives? The funny looking Christmas hurricane vases that light up thingys I bought this year. I didn't even use them. But they were in front of the registers.....

Yvette December 22, 2010 at 9:18 PM  

I would have to say I am quite happy and surprised with the durability of all of our IKEA purchases. I think the big thing is to look for pieces with clean lines as they seem to look more expensive and less dated. Sometimes modern doesn't look too modern aftet a few years :p! We have the Hemnes dresser for our daughter in red and love it (her room is vintge cowgirl). We use the Trofast (I think?) storage system in her closet for all of her toys. Works well and esy for her to access. I swear by the Billy Bookcase system! We have them in our living room in black and in the kids' room in white. Plus you just can't beat the price! In our bedroom we have a black metal framed bed (can't remember the name) and friends are shocked when they hear it is a $200 IKEA purchase! It has stood the test of time over the past three years. I realize that doesn't sound like a long time, but that is with two adults and two large dogs sleeping on it every night, not to mention a two year jumping on it! When you have two young kids, two busy adults, and two large and rambunctious dogs it is painful to drop a ton of money on expensive furniture. Although we make our kids respect our home and furniture, accidents happen. It is a lot easier to accept an occassional nick in something that came from IKEA as opposed to someting from Pottery Barn, Ethan Allen, etc.

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