Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Deconstructing Ikea

I've always been curious about the Ikea store in Pittsburgh, which is touted as cutting edge and enormously popular. The Goat and I had some free time yesterday, so we took the two-hour drive to finally check it out.

As soon as we walked in, it felt as though Ikea was trying a little too hard, but we persevered. The place is HUGE.

After all, Ikea people are cool people. Look at this kitchen. This is a Cool People kitchen for sure!

This dinette is also for cool people. However, it would take a very confident person to sit in one of these chairs naked.

Confidential to said confident persons: keep a roll of paper towels and a bottle of Windex handy.

Cute Ikea pups. woof woof.

Hm. Ikea for Easter dinner? Um, no thanks.

The Goat puzzled over a plush broccoli toy. Broccoli? I like those dogs better, Ikea.

Not one of the Ikea beds looked inviting. Nonetheless, I wondered if the staff (ahem) tries them out after hours. I always muse on this in a mattress showroom. Who doesn't want to screw in a mattress showroom?

You know, Ikea, when you post a sign telling me how environmentally friendly you're bath fixtures are above the sink, then another above the toilet and yet another above the hand dryer, somehow I become less and less convinced with each one.

Mechanical ass for chair testing. Is there something oddly sexual about this place or is it just me?

The display books on the Ikea shelves are all real (I took one out and checked). John Grisham, meet Cormac McCarthy.

The massive warehouse section. Look at the tiny person center left in the photo for reference.

Cool lighting, Ikea. I'll give you that.

Guess someone changed their mind about the hook. Or was he (she?) considering an inventive way to modify the chair. And no, I did not put the hook there. It was there as I ambled by.

Ikea of Sweden || Made in China. Hmmmm. I'm starting to get the picture .  .  .

No we didn't eat at the Ikea restaurant, but damn those Swedish meatballs did smell good.

I eventually found something authentic: a package of salty licorice fish that was labelled "Product of Sweden."


The Goat and I left Ikea with less than $30 worth of merchandise. To be honest, most of the stuff was complete junk. Every label I saw said made in China or India. The kitchen items, particularly the cookware, were just awful. The place left me completely flat. I guess it's okay for college kids or first-apartment types, but I'm old school that way. Decorate with mom's hand-me-downs and what you dig out of the thrift store. 

It was a rainy gray day in Pittsburgh, but we drove around just the same, marveling at the strange houses built into hills and the winding narrow roads. I mourned the weather and longed to walk among the jumbled neighborhoods.

We ate at a quirky place where a tiny arched stairway led to get to the dining area, which was like a lovely surprise at the top of the stairs. I had delicious smoky wings in hot sauce. The goat had a sausage sandwich.

We stopped and bought a candy bar to munch and picked up a case of Yuengling Lager, which you can't get in Ohio. Don't know why. Maybe it has something to do with the Cleveland Browns (a lot of things in Cleveland have to do with the Cleveland Browns). Then we headed home.

Bye Pittsburgh. We'll be back, but next time we're coming just to see you. To hell with Ikea.

*  *  *


David said...

Very nice!
Next time go to the Church Brew Works or Primanti Brothers...
I like Pittsburgh too...
And I live in Old Brooklyn!

Meagan said...

Never buy Ikea lighting. It is cool looking but dangerously crappy. That said, I've wanted that tree lamp for years and am actually considering buying it now that they dropped th price (it used to be like $60). I think the advantage of Ikea is that their partical board crap is slightly better quality than Walmart's partical board crap, and if you look carefully you can find a few pieces of furniture made of actual wood for decent prices. The cookware might be bad, but the kitchen storage is actually pretty good, and we picked up 20 dish towels for about $10 the last time we were there. I think it's kind of like costco... good for some things, massive ripoff for others.

Anonymous said...

Best thing about Ikea is the way people hack the furniture into creative things.

Check out this place...

Crazy cool


Bill said...

Thank you. I hate shopping or browsing stores. However, my wife wanted me to go with her to our Ikea to "look around". I just showed her this post. Trip to Ikea is no longer on the agenda. YES!

Anonymous said...

I have wondered about Ikea too but closest store is Atlanta so they'd actually have to have pleasure workers in the beds for me to subject myself to that ordeal. Looks like the Swedes support slave labor as much as Wal-Mart. Hi Ho. I was so hopeful.

BTW, the sexual thing. It's just you.


dean said...

We are a family with multiple growing, active children.

We heart Ikea. If you pick the right stuff, it lasts just fine and

I have 15 year old Ikea bookshelves that look just fine. We have a 12 year old Ikea coffee table that is still in one piece, and that we don't slit our wrists over when certain 9 year old house goons mark it up unintentionally.

Our 8 year old Ikea leather couch still looks great.


danb said...

I go to Ikea to get ideas for stuff to build myself. I'm a complete bastard that way.

My parents and grandparents grew up in the Wheeling area, which is just under an hour away from Pittsburgh. I have a particular fondness for western Pennsylvania/southeastern Ohio, and find that I really kind of miss it up there. I miss Cleveland too, but for many other reasons.

I can buy Yuengling down here any time I damn well please. Good beer, too.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great memories.

I used to love IKEA and the P-burg location entertained me through several days of severe new mommy sleep-deprivation and PPD.

That vibrating butt thing? I think I saw one of those at the bondage store in P-town. You know how sexy those Swedes are. Can't keep it in their pants. Wasn't Xaveria Hollander Swedish? Maybe not.

God I could write a 10-page essay on IKEA.

Thanks for the post.

Bill said...

Twinkly hanging out in a bondage store! Now, THAT'S what I'm talking about! Nothing sad about that.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah. I got the best diaper station at IKEA. It was really crappily made but it was so well- designed for changing and storing diapers.

I had a Norwegian friend who worked for IKEA and she inspected their textile factories in India, China, and Portugal. She said IKEA did not tolerate poor working conditions. But that was a ways back.

I used to love the Swedish meatballs. Violet would eat the French fries.

Loved those little decorated rooms.

Maybe I should go back since it's been over 11 years.

Bill said...

I wonder if the Swedish company gives the Chinese and Indian workers, cradle to grave benefits and insist that they join the workers union.

Al The Retired Army Guy said...

I will second Erin's assessment of the cookware choices at Ikea. Simply awful. Maybe Rachel Ray designs it?


Anonymous said...

"Yuengling Lager, which you can't get in Ohio"

Yes, you can.

Yea, Kroger!

Anonymous said...

"She said IKEA did not tolerate poor working conditions."

They let them have light bulbs.


Erin O'Brien said...

Thanks for all the great comments.

I cannot believe no one said anything about sitting naked on the clear plastic chairs.

It's three thirty or so in the morning, either too late or too early to try one of the Yuengings.

I'm typing this on a laptop prop thingie I bought at Ikea. Can't remember the name of it. And why does Ikea name all of its products like pets or something? Dunno. A-course a woman married to a Goat only has so much room to talk.


A Daft Scots Lass said...

I'd totally sit on those chairs nekkied. Just for a laff.

Leslie Morgan said...

I was going for the sitting naked on the plastic chairs thing, but I was in meetings much of the day. Not only does the potential for embarrassment requiring Windex and paper towels occur to me, how about sitting on those rascals bare-assed on a hot day? I envision slow, careful lifting away of first one butt cheek and then the other, for one's health and welfare.

Joe said...

I love Yuengling Lager. You can't get it in Indiana either. You can in Florida.

Drinking Yuengling was the only good thing about my monthly visits to Altoona, PA back in the day.

Anonymous said...

Did Goat have the goat sausage? :-) I've never been to Ikea but everytime I have seen something that has come from there I have disliked it. It's not my kind of thing. I wouldn't buy plastic furniture, looks cheap to me, not cool. I don't like the "plainness" of the furniture. Too straight and institutional looking for my taste and let's face it, my taste is the only one that counts :-)

Great field trip, Erin.

Erin O'Brien said...

Funny. I've waited all this time to go to Ikea, I finally do and post about it and read this today.

Vince said...

I don't really care what people say about ikea design being generic. Actually I say F*%^ em, for they hadn't seen what life was like for those below a certain level here in Europe. It was all very bloody well for those that could afford Art Deco or Nouveau. But in the 50's Ikea lifted the housing quality from little more that wood planks with access to classical forms and proportions. That much of Europe had been flattened helped of course. So two fingers to the po-faced pointy-heads and their fake Hepplewhite, Chippendales and Adams.
And for what it's worth, workers in India and China need work also. :-p

Bill said...

Why don't they just make the shit in Sweden?

Bill said...

Don't the Quakers make similar stuff,except better? Have those woodworkers been unionized yet?

Anonymous said...

Quakers belong to The Brotherhood of Man. They are pacifists, opposed slavery and supported women's suffrage. My kind of union.

Swedes eat pickled herring. What good can come of that?


Liane said...

I love this IKEA Walkabout story...I have always heard so much about it being a great store but it always seemed like it would be crap. Now had I known they had stuffed broccoli...

Andy said...

Erin, your observations as a first time IKEA browser make for good internets. It's a strange world unto itself, isn't it?

IKEA is a very strange corporate entity. Considering its commitment to sustainability, it's unfortunately dissonant that much of IKEA furniture is dumpster bound from the get-go. However, even the cheap stuff is designed with human needs in mind, which lends it a certain dignity.

I was disappointed recently to read about the conditions & practices for workers at the Danville factory. More dissonance. IKEA's going over to the dark side for sure.

Erin O'Brien said...

Hi Andy and thanks for stopping in.

I've had the chance to use some of the trinkets I bought at Ikea. One was a silly ice cube try for long skinny bottle-friendly "cubes." We picked it up for our daughter, who is constantly trying to fit ice into her on-the-go-bottles.

It is such a piece of junk I can hardly believe it. I never thought I'd get bested by such a thing, but the only way I could fill it and get it into the freezer without spilling was by putting it on a plate. Seriously. How dumb!

Okay, I didn't see that coming and it's one small inconsequential item. But I saw so many Ikea products that foretold their poor quality, I'd was left with the impression: junk junk junk.

And I've heard the term "disposable furniture" in reference to Ikea again and again.

The Expatresse said...

Even now in Europe, it can be difficult to find Pottery Barn caliber furniture. When we first moved to Slovakia in 2000, I could find VERY expensive and hideous Italian furniture. Or IKEA. Guess what I bought? For an expat with small children who needs to furnish a house, it does the trick. It does NOT move well.

Friend's husband worked as an architect for IKEA in Moscow. They HAD to furnish their apartment there from IKEA, and it looked okay.

But, yes: among expats, we all have the same stuff.

Contrary Guy said...

Clevelanders invading Pittsburgh... lol

That IKEA looks pretty damn much like the one in West Chester (OH), down by my dad's place. Lots to look at, not much I can imagine buying. Think I got a few rubber soap caddies for the bathroom last time out. A cheap sofa might be next.

Shaina said... i feel bad for loving IKEA. because i do. the desk i am sitting at (which i've had since i was a little kid) is ikea. the bookshelves in my room are ikea (all five of them). our coffee table is ikea. my mom's and my reading chair is the iconic Poang (the one in the machine tester room i think) from ikea. the starter kitchen kit i brought to my apartment was ikea. the bed i brought to my apartment, as well as the awesome foam mattress, were from ikea. i go to the stores and DROOL. i want their kitchens. i want their bedrooms. i want their couches.

i did not know about the bad working environment thing. that makes me sad. but...i'm not the kind of person who boycotts, with the exception of McDonalds and even that i've broken a few times. i still like Ikea. and I will probably do my darndest to furnish my first REAL apartment from there, because i love the lines and the look and i love assembling furniture and the price and yeah.

as for your ice cube it silicone? because ALL silicone trays are hard to get into the freezer. they're floppy! wtf.

Andy said...

Yeah, I like IKEA too; I find their design interesting & inventive, and as for my complaint about its product being dumpster bound, I've noticed that the higher end stuff is reasonably durable.

IKEA has not yet achieved hall-of-fame corporate bad guy status in my book, but its treatment of the Danville plant employees is worrisome. So far, it looks as though they're willing to tarnish their longtime reputation as one of the good guys.