Ikea was pulling me in before I ever realized they were doing it and doing it oh so well.
I was probably in middle school when they sent large catalogues to my house. There was something about this store with the short funny name.
Was it pronounced eye-kee-ya? Ick-e-a?
Page after page, I’d see beautiful, organized homes, with happy people relaxing and entertaining. My parent’s home was cozy enough, but man what would it be like to live in places like that?
Unfortunately, when I’d flip to the back cover of the book–my head filled with dreams of what my house would look like as an adult, so chic and modern (which makes perfect sense for the successful magazine editor I wanted to be)– my dreams were crushed. The closest store was in some random place in New Jersey. My parents weren’t even thinking about new furniture, let alone Swedish furniture that none of us could pronounce. The other U.S. locations in the 90s were no where near as plentiful back then as they are now.
It wouldn’t be until I went to college, I’d make the trek to the magical place with the unmistakable blue and yellow logo I dreamed about as a preteen.
The building was massive. As I walked through the showroom it was like the catalogue I flipped through as a young girl came to life. I sat in the chairs, hugged the patterned pillows, sprawled out on the mattresses. I looked up close at the photos on the wall, books on the shelves and clothes and shoes in the perfectly organized closets that made it all seem realistic, but not intrusive to the imaginary family living in those rooms. Even as an “adult” and a story-teller by nature, I made up stories in my head about the people who lived in the rooms.
When I was learning about starting a business we talked about psychology and shopping. How a brand makes you feel, how they present themselves and offer their services.
Ikea is an amazing case study on this particularly here in the U.S.
We want stuff that looks good.
We love stuff that’s cheap and makes us feel like we got a deal.
They know we have a lot of shit we don’t need and won’t get rid of and being able to hide it effectively in our homes and in an organized manner not only appeals to us, it titillates us.
We are quite obsessed with home improvement and competing with others and feeling like we have lovely homes.
We get hungry when we shop.
One of the most genius things Ikea did was offer food. As a broke college student and a broke adult writer, I’ll be the first to say, there were times I went in there not even thinking about furniture, dishes or home accents.
I wanted the $.50 hot dogs and $.75 soft serve ice cream cones.
When they expanded the cafeteria (you can get a pretty darn good meal for $6 using real plates and utensils) it set something off in people. It was another victory for the brand (and for guys taking girls out on dates…”yeah girl lets pretend we are furnishing our future home..let me feed you another meatball girl! You deserve it, boo. Hell, let’s get some ice cream too!”)
Families could sit down for civilized meals while they shopped in a clean, well-organized environment. No cardboard boxes or paper cups.
I know I may sound like an obsessed Ikea stan right now, but think about it. Those Swedes get what we as Americans wish we could be and wish we had the time to be.
We are loud and messy and unorganized.
We eat terribly. We are addicted to the quick gratification that comes from a $.75 ice cream cone or a $39 bookcase that actually looks pretty nice. We can gussy up our bathrooms with some new vases, we can finally frame those photos we’d been meaning to get to and display them on our walls, giving our living spaces a much-needed, yet simple and inexpensive transformation.
Most of us can’t afford interior designers, and after hours and hours of HGTV marathons, we feel empowered to give it a try ourselves.
Ikea gives us the go ahead.
Ikea makes us feel good. It makes us feel like although we did something seemingly small, like buying a rug or a new set of dishes, it’s a pleasant change significant to our everyday lives.
We go to this store in hopes that if we buy these nice hangers (NO MORE WIRE HANGERS!), our closets will be more organized. If we buy the bookshelf, we’ll stop letting all those classics from college collect dust in the basement in a large plastic bin, and we’ll also show our friends we are smart and sophisticated when they stop by.
If we are more organized, we can be better people; our minds will be clear to finally do all of those things we swore we’d do. We can look like those happy people in the catalogues hosting parties sipping out of cute wine glasses, serving perfect finger foods on lovely cheap platters that our friends will gush over and ask us where we got this great stuff from. And proudly, as if we have given away a secret only known to ourselves, we’ll smile, and say, “Ikea, and you won’t believe what I paid.”
The reality is they will believe it, because they have the same “Karby” rug in their house too.
It’s all quite calculated. The flow of the showroom, walking from area to area, and then like being let loose in the gift shop at the end of a museum tour “the marketplace” of Ikea awaits you at the end. It’s climatic.
You reward yourself with a snack for $2.00, and you go home excited to add your new embellishments to your home. Good bye to that old, worn-out ratty bathroom rug!
Here’s to the dream. I’ve got to go. I have a “Bild” and a “Ribba” to hang in my bedroom!