Wednesday, April 19, 2006

How Do You Solve a Problem Like IKEA?

Once upon a time, I managed to live without IKEA. In fact, for years after college, I didn't buy furniture at all. My nighttable was nothing but a cardboard box with a silk scarf thrown over it, the coffee table a sturdier variation of the same (two milk crates with a board across them). "Bed" was a lumpy futon my mother had found at the town dump and then passed on to me (it was a step up from the air mattress I slept on for a semester while living in the laundry room of a friend's house). Couches and eating tables were fairly easy to find on the street. That left bookshelves (bricks and two by fours!), and all the little things like lamps and dishes, which just seemed to materialize without any effort. Needless to say, nothing matched, and there were definitely some items that wouldn't pass the Feng Shui test. (For example, a "nautical lamp" from 7th grade Woodworking: an ugly, unvarnished hunk of wood which served as a constant reminder of how badly I did in that class.)

Yet somehow I managed to be happy WITHOUT all the space-saving, time-saving, streamlined, economical, practical, functional, well-designed products that IKEA offers. Somehow I managed to have a full existence IN SPITE of this lack, the same way I managed to lived through those years without a credit card, cell phone, email, internet, digital camera, or DVDs.

Yet here I am again -- opening the IKEA catalogue, credit card in hand, ready to buy things I now can't imagine living without. I feel vaguely dirty and ashamed, as if it's pornography that I'm about to look at, instead of toy-ish wooden furniture. Am I succumbing to some latent urge that I can't control? Have I become just another cog in the wheel of mass consumerism? And what happens when there is no more wood particle board in the world-- will IKEA start using humans, like in that movie Soylent Green?

I honestly don't know how to live without IKEA these days. Especially in Paris, where there are very few places that sell affordable ANYTHING. Especially when we're trying to furnish an entire apartment from scratch. But I still would like to be able to say, one day, "I am done with IKEA" -- the same way I said, not so long ago, "I am done with cardboard boxes covered with scarves."

I don't know what the answer is. Maybe it's time for me to finally learn some woodworking skills. Or perhaps I should really try to stay in one place for a while so I don't NEED to keep buying disposable furniture. Or move near certain family members, so they can give me their cast-offs.

Meanwhile, to get the dirty feeling to go away, I will look at the poltronesofa website. Now there's a furniture place I could learn to love...


Blogger meisen said...

For all the simplicity and economy of Ikea, I have yet to see them do something truly innovative… like selling the bread and butter of economical furniture… brick and board tables or milk crate and plywood mattress stands. Well, I say enough is enough! For every 'Ikea' purchase you need an 'Idea' purchase. Furniture you made from the local bricolage or things you found on the street, a fungk-schweet montra or yin/yang of the cling clang... A balance… with whatever item was purchased from Ikea. Simulated birch chest of drawers?, How about a four cinder block shoe caddy for the closet? Glass topped coffee tables on rollers?, how about rubberised car floor mats to keep your unruly party guest from skateboarding your coffee table across the room. P.s. If your interested I got a few extra floor mats I need to get rid of :)

1:06 AM  
Blogger wampoline said...

I like your ideas! And i think "fungk-schweet montra" would be a great name for a band...

10:30 AM  

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