It’s an IKEA world

Note: the opinions expressed or implied in this post do not necessarily reflect those of the author, or the individuals described herein. The events are dead on though.

IKEA came to town six months ago. A month after it opened, we drove over the bridge to see if reality recognized hype in the mirror. We got a sense of the hype and a smidge of the reality, but we never got out of the car. The Tampa police closed the parking lot (it was full). People were parking along the side of the highway. Folks were leaving their cars a mile or so away, moving in groups through vacant lots surrounding the store like flocks of migratory birds. There was a queue out front, promising entry at some unspecified time in the future, business hours permitting.

We didn’t stop. I’m not that interested in furniture, Swedes or no Swedes.

Weeks later, I read an article where an IKEA spokesperson described their wares as stuff to keep around for a little while, then replace. Maybe his statement was taken out of context. Maybe something was lost in translation.

Maybe you take the statement as a given – for everything you buy. I don’t. When I buy something, I’m not thinking about what will replace it. I buy for keeps, though it occasionally blemishes the marital bliss.

It sounded to me like the IKEA dude was cynically describing planned obsolescence as a feature, even a virtue – and not just for IKEA. You may not know this about me, but I don’t take disappointment well. I had this idea in my head of a progressive, quirky, enviromentally conscious, European company that sold above average, inexpensive, sturdy stuff for the home. Or to put it more succinctly: the perfect fit for Chateau Kauffman. I lost my enthusiasm in a black hole. (Don’t you just hate losing stuff in a black hole?

Fast forward to this weekend. The TV in our living room was nearing the end of its long march towards uselessness. We’d had an HD model in our family room since my cancer days. It was a splurge for those weeks I thought I’d be confined to the house, carrying around my chemo pump. If only we’d known I was going to spend that time in the hospital instead.

But I’ve digressed to cancer talk once again.

Since the Hi-Definition Purchase of 2007, we’ve become video snobs. No merely mortal TV was going to cut it anymore, and that’s where the trouble started. (If you don’t count the aborted trip to IKEA, or countless anecdotes not directly related to this post.) You see, we had (have, if you have a truck and can bring your own brawn) a great piece of furniture for our old TV. It was oak. It was beatiful. It was perfect for a TV with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Was it suited for the 16:9 ratio on the HD beauties? Not so much. We could’ve put one in there – just a really small one. You feel me on this one, right? It would have been like trying to fit a wide rectangular peg into a not so wide, rectangular hole. (Who says I have a problem with imagery?)

Remember, we are newly minted TV snobs. Going smaller would be regressing. How could we face our friends in the face of such obvious failure? No, at worst you tread water, but really you want to go bigger. Always bigger.

So out went the old, and Cheryl went to IKEA.

I got a call from Cheryl last Thursday, asking if I had any qualms with her going to IKEA with a friend of hers. Setting aside my philosophical, epic struggle with IKEA (which is surprisingly one sided), I said sure.

You know what’s coming, right?

After spending the day at the Tampa IKEA Spa, Resort and Shops, she came home with a mother lode of boxes. Big boxes. The kind of boxes you’d expect an unassembled, downtown entertainment complex to come in.

I was in a pissy mood when she got back. I made an unfortunate, under the breath comment about her purchase. I don’t remember what it was (she doesn’t either), but it apparently wasn’t slathered with sugar, spice, or anything nice. The PG version: it didn’t sit well with Cheryl’s dander.

“You know, most guys would be pretty excited about getting a new TV,” she said.

Yeah, but you didn’t come home with a TV. You came home with enough raw materials to build an addition to the house… and expectations.

See how I used the italics there? That was me thinking rather than speaking. It’s not often, but every now and then the filter between my brain and my mouth works.

Well, a funny thing happened the next day. I actually set out to put the damn thing together.

It turns out I am a guy (sometimes), and I did kinda want a new TV. It took me all day but I got it done. The next day I even built some cabinets and hung them on the wall above it.

Then Cheryl went out and bought a TV.

Afterwards I asked Cheryl if she was surprised I’d put it all together and set things up in one weekend. I really got quite a bit done (for me): the construction, moving the old HD to the living room, rearranging the decor to match the new feel of the new furniture, rerouting all the wires to (and from) the TV, computer, stereo, Wii, cable box, Xbox, and UPS, reprogramming remotes, and getting the new (bigger) set settled in the man cave… but I didn’t mean it as a rhetorical question.

“Yes,” she simply replied.

Sometimes you can say an awful lot with just one word.

Sometime I’ll have to tell you how the old TV came to be broken.


  1. I DO! I DO STILL HAVE MY COUCH! it has survived 13 years, 4 long-distance moves, two messy dogs and one toddler and is faded and sporting a few stains but still very comfy.

  2. :-)

    I’ve put a few Ikea things together myself. Of course some of it was only accomplished with an awful lot of swearing. My kids know the signs of when to clear out. First, my face gets red, then there is a trickle of sweat running from my brow and then I start cursing a blue streak. At that point, I could murder someone. Anyone. But then the thing is together and I feel like I’ve done something truly spectacular.

  3. Hi Colleen,
    I won’t deny any of it. I’ve been known to put off a project or two.

    But I’ve also done a few projects that weren’t completely self serving. I get a little cred for the cabinets I hung. Plus, I did all of the all of the floors in the house (the ones we’ve replaced – about half), so I’m not completely useless ;-)

    I kind of like building things.

    I hope you’re right about the durability. A few of the folks I’ve worked with over the years swear by the stuff. And I will say I was impressed by the economy and preciseness of design.

  4. Ya got it all done in one weekend because it was for a TV. Had Cheryl asked you to put together say an end table for the living room, what do you think the odds would have been that you would have jumped to as quickly. C’mon, you know it. (she said with a grin.) And Ikea furniture lasts a long time. Really it does. (Becca, if you’re reading this… do you still have your couch?)

Give the gift of words.