Ikea — Love it or Hate it?

by Katy on August 10, 2009 · 31 comments


Okay fellow Non-Consumers, it’s time respond to yesterday’s reader replies.

I was firmly, yet politely informed that my harsh treatment of all things Ikea, which I called,fall-apart/ destined for the landfill particle board furniture” was off base.

Okay, perhaps I was casting a bit of a wide net. The only Ikea things I own are a set of plastic nesting bowls which were a gift. I do have a friend who bought all her kitchen cabinets from Ikea, and they they were a big disappointment. The drawers were too shallow and they started to fall apart very quickly. She also has a lot of Ikea furnishings which have not held up well.

But you, the readers were quick to defend Ikea, so I may be off base here. (I’m a big girl and can admit when I’m wrong.)

I do believe that an Ikea scouting research trip is in order. (Although I highly doubt I’ll buy anything, as my buy nothing new stance is a mighty strong defense against retail.) I will re-address the Ikea crap vs. quality issue in a later column.

Until then, thank you to everyone who comments on the blog to keep me on the straight and narrow. I love ya!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen@The Frugal Girl August 11, 2009 at 3:04 am

Yay, Katy! Just don’t sit in a Poang chair, or you might have to buy one. Although, I don’t think that would go with your decorating style. 😉

I respect you for having the humility to write this post. Go you.


Jinger August 11, 2009 at 5:49 am

I look forward to hearing about your IKEA experience. Be sure to look at the small space living areas they have set up.


Christine T. August 11, 2009 at 6:01 am

I recently bought their latex / natural mattress which I love. I think if you are looking for a quick decorating fix they are reasonable. Of course, you can also find many of their items second hand on CL!


Julius August 11, 2009 at 6:08 am

Personally, I love Ikea. After I moved into my empty flat, I basically furnished the entire place over three trips to our nearest Ikea (which is actually 80 miles away). OK, I have quite a lot of non-Ikea furniture (all the stuff that wouldn’t fit in my car and had to be delivered), but the Ikea items I have are great. Yeah, there’s that tendency of ending up with a trolley full of random small items (home organisation/storage stuff, decorations and assorted clutter) but I’ve done reasonably well at avoiding that – as I essentially started from scratch, I managed to pretty much buy only things I actually needed.


Kris-ND August 11, 2009 at 6:54 am

I don’t have an IKEA here, in fact, I think the distance between my little cabin and an IKEA is going to be in terms of how many state lines I have to cross vs whether I have to cross into another county 😉

I do run into IKEA stores when I visit family, and I have friends who have also updated their kitchens with IKEA products.

I will admit that since IKEA is the style I prefer, I haven’t spent much time finding out the quality of the stuff they sell, so I wonder if some of you IKEA fans could tell me a bit about IKEA:

1)Is this a modern style version of Pier One quality wise? I do like Pier One. My end tables are from Pier One and are years old, and moved right along with us as we got orders to base after base. They are still in fab condition because they were distressed. Is IKEA that same kind of quality?

2)Is IKEA furniture like Sauder(sp?) furniture, the put together stuff you can buy most anywhere? I have had Suader furniture during my marriage and it was very nice looking, but didn’t hold up to moves well. I want stuff I can pass down to the generations of my family.

3) Is their homeware more like Target or William Sonoma?


Kris-ND August 11, 2009 at 6:57 am

That should say that IKEA is NOT the style I prefer, not that it is..fixed lol


linda August 11, 2009 at 7:25 am

Hi Katy,
Finally someone who feels the same way about Ikea as my husband and me. Everyone we know loves the place including our daughter. We went a few years ago when it opened in Phoenix. Everyone was going gaga over it so we went to check it out. We didn’t get it. Yes, very inexpensive but so cheaply made and definitely not our style.


Emily August 11, 2009 at 7:31 am

It’s caveat emptor at Ikea, just like any other store. The lowest cost items, made from MDF or particleboard and laminate, are likely to wear down and fall apart more easily.

I have an all-metal rolling cart from Ikea that’s lasted in good style for 8 years now. Some solid-wood bookshelves that are holding up well to normal use — not heirloom pieces, but they didn’t cost heirloom prices either, even though they were about 3x the price of the el cheapo Billy bookcase.


gfpumpkins August 11, 2009 at 8:41 am

I think Ikea is definitely a place where you get what you pay for. I’ve had some of their cheaper pieces, and some of their more expensive pieces. If you treat the cheap stuff really well AND put it together correctly, it can last a long time. But it isn’t meant to last so if you are hard on your furniture, it will show quickly. And putting it together wrong can ruin the whole thing. The more expensive stuff is meant to last longer and it served me well before I moved half way across the country and had to get rid of it.


Natali August 11, 2009 at 9:11 am

We love IKEA – you just have to follow the rule of avoiding buying large furniture made of particle board. We have solid wood desks, bedside tables and a coffee table, all for under a few hundred dollars (and easily upgraded via paint to look less than basic). Plus I love their various basic bowls and plates, low cost basic sheets/rugs/cushion covers, and if you need… say more spoons than forks, you can go in and buy them separately without having to pick up a full set of cutlery. The other winner in the house are their cork placemats, which are perfect for putting large hot serving bowls on.

They *also* have an AS-IS clearance section, which are usually near the checkout section, meaning you can cut through the front for a quick browse, rather than battle your way through the store rooms.

I think IKEA is just about how you approach it. We’ve spent a fair bit in there, but it was all on quality things that we needed and have weathered well. You can always scout things on their website before you go too.


Mariko August 11, 2009 at 9:44 am

Hey! Some of the IKEA stuff is cheap crap, but some of it isn’t, AND they have yummy cheap food (well, it’s yummy to me, anyway).
Oh, and I have had an ing account for several years and have no complaints about it!


Red Icculus August 11, 2009 at 10:23 am

IKEA is for more than the dorm room. Some of their Danish Modern furniture is stylish and well put together. I hate to use old cliches, but you get what you pay for.


Angela August 11, 2009 at 10:54 am

Ha-isn’t it funny what subjects end up being controversial?

I would agree that IKEA is a mixed bag. We’ve mostly had good luck, but I think it’s through pre-screening. My husband actually loves it more than I do, I tend to get overwhelmed in big stores and I’ve even gotten lost in there, but he actually goes there for breakfast and shopping occasionally.


Jessie August 11, 2009 at 12:03 pm

We’ve had pretty good luck with IKEA for the few purchases we’ve made. When we were first starting out as a married couple, we bought some large wardrobes. Now, over 5 years later, they are still going strong, spray painted black and sitting in my sister’s goth abode. They show absolutely no signs of wearing out any time soon.

We also have an all metal bed from there in our guest room. It looks beautiful and is WAY sturdier than the other beds that IKEA has. I had another friend who’s pressboard IKEA bed literally unscrewed itself and flattened – KERPOW! in the middle of the night.

Like previous posters have set, you really need to pay attention to the quality of the item, and you get what you pay for.


Deane August 11, 2009 at 12:37 pm

I largely agree with most of the comments – it really depends on what you get and the amount you spend. We have two pieces of furniture from IKEA – a bookshelf and a bureau. Both were on the cheaper side, but both have held up well, with some minimal maintenance from my husband on the bureau. I have also purchased kitchen items and curtains and been very happy with them.

On the other hand, we were looking to buy a new living room chair a couple years ago and IKEA was our first stop. I was HUGELY disappointed with the choices and quality in our budget range (not a big budget, granted), as well as the presentation of the floor models. Everything looked ratty and worn, which I suppose isn’t surprising given the mileage they have on them, but we decided that was an indicator of how they might hold up. We ended up buying a good quality and lovely chair on clearance from a local “crazy eddie” type store and being very happy with it.

Having said that, 90% of our furniture is used or hand me downs and it all holds up well, looks stylish and costs almost nothing! Another bonus – no heartburn when it’s time to replace it.


Jess August 11, 2009 at 1:03 pm

I like IKEA, especially that they’re the only place in town that carries lingonberries. The main problem with IKEA is the attitude that all their stuff is crap, therefore you can throw it away. My roommate’s IKEA coffee table had a broken leg that only needed some wood glue, but she was just going to throw it out instead of spending 30 seconds to fix it. So, I have a coffee table and a mostly-full bottle of wood glue I can use on many other projects.

Of course, the idea that it’s better to throw things away than try to reuse or repair them is wider than IKEA.


GLM August 11, 2009 at 1:57 pm

I have to agree with the “you get what you paid for” crowd. I’m not terribly thrilled with anything that I have bought from IKEA.

On a side note, regarding Emily’s 8 year old metal rolling cart – a metal cart definately should last longer than a couple of decades. It’s metal, after all. Or is it one of those things that were glued together instead of welded?


Roxanne August 11, 2009 at 3:47 pm

My parents stole my Top of The Line Ikea Duvet and Cover 20 years ago and my dad is still using them.


Kate August 11, 2009 at 6:26 pm

I think all stores have some poorly made crappy/disposable products. Buyer beware.


Tara Morrison August 11, 2009 at 6:35 pm

I love my wine glasses and the textiles are so fun to look or buy. I also love the living in ? sqft. Yes we to own a Poang chair and have no complaints with it.


Julia August 11, 2009 at 6:41 pm

I love IKEA because it reminds me of my time spent in Europe and they have marzipan treats which I crave. (Think about it, how often do you see marzipan over here? That alone is worth the trip! 🙂 We have a fair share of their furniture, everything’s still going strong and the oldest thing is six years old. We’ve moved a lot, too, so the stuff’s been tossed around a fair bit. That said, we did have a $99 TV stand which fell apart—after about 7 years. That’s the exception, though, and I think that’s reflective of the fact that it was designed to be one of their cheapest offerings in that category. This was after daily use and a curious toddler opening and closing the glass doors about 12,000 times. At the time we bought it (1998?) it would never have occurred to me to look for a second hand item. Their housewares are pretty cool, well-made for their price (better than Pier One and Cost Plus) and I think IKEA treats their suppliers better. Also, for things like mattresses (of which we have two, one for a kid bed and one for a guest bed—sorry, I could never buy a second hand mattress), they adhere to the stricter European standards and so they’re not full of nasty chemicals like most American mattresses. I think they are much more environmentally conscious than other massive companies, again that’s the European background. I have never set foot in a Wal-Mart but still enjoy browsing at IKEA. We’ve also sold things of theirs on craigslist and no one ever emailed to say the stuff failed to do its job!


Rebecca August 11, 2009 at 9:22 pm

I agree with the assessment that it’s a mixed bag. Particle board is particle board no matter how many umlats you put over its name, but I have a sturdy metal storage rack from Ikea that has lasted me through three dorms, is the perfect size for dorm and apartment living, and doesn’t show signs of quitting any time soon.

I also think part of it is a life stage thing; as much as I’d like to buy nice antique furniture that has lasted for years and will last for many years to come, it’s really expensive! I’m a college student and will likely be moving around the country for my future jobs and grad school. It would be a bad time in my life to invest big bucks in furniture, not just because I don’t have that money, but also because I don’t have the money to move good furniture around, or the budget to afford an apartment that is big enough to fit nice antique furniture. IKEA stuff is sized well for living in small apartments/student housing, it fits a young person’s budget, and it’s cheap enough so that you can pass it on to friends without feeling like you didn’t get your money’s worth if you need to pick up and move suddenly. Plus, in my friends’ experience, you can get at least five years of hard wear out of even the cheapo IKEA particle board furniture (though it may need a little duct tape toward the end of those five years), and that works out to be a couple of “generations” of college students. In my circle of friends, even if it’s a desk that lasted only five years, it also probably lasted for three different people, and that’s an accomplishment when all three of them were college students!

I can see where people who are more settled and have families would want to invest in nicer, sturdier furniture, but I also think IKEA has its place.


Kristin @ klingtocash August 11, 2009 at 10:24 pm

I have quite a bit of Ikea furniture in the house. The only difference I’ve seen in whether or not something lasts is whether it was my husband or me who put it together. All my furniture is rocking well. Most of his stuff I’ve had to fix, but now it’s good and sturdy. I’ve had great luck with their furniture and much of it is hardwood.


Rachael August 12, 2009 at 5:53 am

I love IKEA but do readily concede that some of the stuff is not great. However, IKEA cannot be painted with a broad brush-stroke. I have always bought their best quality stuff and been very pleased with it. Also, a very little-known secret is that their fabrics are of amazing quality. I recently purchased fabric with trees on it (wicked cute print) to make a clothespin bag. I once bought fabric for draperies and they were lovely. Anyone who doubts IKEA carries anything of quality, please check the fabric section. I have furnished only my guest room and living room (amazing quality and low priced-leather couches which are like-new after 13 years) with IKEA furniture but it really is a matter of knowing what you are buying. Their lighting also has served me well. I have an IKEA modern chandelier that is going on 20 years and looks like new. It cost a fraction of what anything like it would have at another store. I have many table lamps from IKEA as well and they have lasted several years and still are looking and working well. Also, they carry lovely, often European-made gift wrap and gift wrapping accessories. I try to only buy Euro or US-made stuff there if possible. Oh, also rugs there are great quality. So, like any place, you really need to know what is worth buying there and not worth buying.


Tracy Balazy August 12, 2009 at 10:03 am

I made one trip to IKEA when it opened nearby a couple of years ago; Danish modern, clean-lined furniture is my favorite, but I prefer to buy the vintage stuff at resale (I intend on joining The Compact). I admire IKEA’s focus on recycling and saving resources, but I noticed that a lot of stuff at IKEA is made in China, which is my main deterrent from shopping there (other than not wanting to buy unnecessary goods new).


WilliamB August 13, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Until a few years ago I was on the fence about Ikea. That which they’re known best for, particle board furniture, is cheap and flimsy; lousy stuff that won’t last very long. I disliked how everything was set up as a room, so if you needed a CD case you had to trapse over the entire store and then remember how to get back to the display that had the best option. Store personnel, although pleasant, are extremely hard to find. OTOH, their “extras” are good. Fabric, kitchen gear, plates, candles, all good quality and long lasting. Their cafeteria is also a delight. Then V, whom I’d hired to redo the kitchen in my new place, chose Ikea for all the cabinets and appliances and my view changed dramatically.

I will never patronize Ikea again, not if they were giving away solid oak bookcases made to order.

V placed the first order. A month later V called me to ask if I knew where the stuff was. I called Ikea. The order was still sitting on someone’s desk, unplaced. I placed the order again. About 1/3 of the order arrived in a week, plus an equal amount of things V hadn’t ordered, which I was charged for. V placed the order again. The stove was left on the loading dock in New Jersey, for reasons never fully explained. V called for the stove again. It was left on a different loading dock. Another reorder arrived, again chock full of things not on the list. V and I examined the growing pile of unordered but delivered cabinet pieces and noticed that prices had changed, and not to my benefit. V drove to Ikea to pick up cabinet pieces that he absolutely needed to continue the work – you don’t think the drive was free to me, do you? Lather, rinse, repeat.

It took eight orders to get everything in my house. Then I had to organize what I’d received and been charged for but hadn’t ordered, plus document what I should have been charged versus what I was charged. Then I drove there myself and had a *long* conversation with the store manager and the district manager. I got most of the money back but I shouldn’t’ve had to do this at all. Just documenting the financial irregularities took 40 hours.

Never again.


Angel June 3, 2010 at 6:08 pm

The truth is that there is low quality plywood and low quality particleboard as well as high quality plywood and high quality particleboard.
That fundamental variability of plywood makes it less suited for ready-to-assemble cabinets which need to be the same every time for a standard assembly process to work. If you like the look and added space of frameless cabinets, the argument is moot because you really need the precise tolerances and dimensional stability that particle board brings to the table. Plywood makes a very awkward choice if you’re going to use frameless cabinetry where everything has to line up exactly right. With a face frame that sits on the front of the cabinets, the joints can be a bit less exact, and the alignment isn’t as crucial., however the downside of face frame cabinets is that you lose quite a bit of usable space, especially in drawers.

Good quality materials perform well when designed and installed correctly. Are high end cabinet boxes made of high quality plywood great, durable cabinets? Absolutely. Are high end cabinet boxes made of high quality particle board great, durable cabinets? Sure are. The trick is using the materials in the right way, and having good quality control in the manufacturing.
So do your homework research about plywood and particleboard grading and make a decision that suits your needs.


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