What are the best bargains at IKEA?
December 11, 2008 2:19 PM   Subscribe

IKEA Filter: What are some cheap, yet surprisingly durable or high-quality items worth purchasing at IKEA?

I'll be making my annual pilgrimage to IKEA soon and I would like some general tips on what to buy. Whether it's been a wobbly lamp or a chair that won't adjust, a lot of the cheap stuff I have gotten there in the past has been of really poor quality, so I am looking for things that are both inexpensive and durable. Of course, you get what you pay for, but what are the best bargains to be had at IKEA? What are some things to avoid? Thanks!
posted by cucumberfresh to Shopping (62 answers total) 98 users marked this as a favorite
Most of Ikea's wood furniture can be nicely stabilized with the addition of wood glue into all the screw holes.
posted by crickets at 2:28 PM on December 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

The rugs I've gotten there have stood up to 4 pets, a husband who forgets to remove his snow boots, and the occasional visiting toddler.
posted by desjardins at 2:28 PM on December 11, 2008

If you can find the Billy range of bookcases, they are practically indestructible. We bought four of them about five years ago, and they have come with us through four house moves. In Australia at least, they're very reasonably priced (approx 120cm wide, 200cm tall for approx A$90).
posted by impluvium at 2:30 PM on December 11, 2008

I really, really like the plain white sheets, which are luxurious due to their low thread count. They are like the muslin sheets of old, very soft and breathable. All these newfangled super high thread count sheets just feel clammy to me.

Also the faux-down comforters are great. They don't seem that nice when you look at them, but once you get a duvet cover on them they are very nice indeed.
posted by HotToddy at 2:32 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's not a piece of furniture, but I always grab a bag or two of 100 tealight candles for about $4. I've always said that's the best deal in the store. It's less than half the price of tealights anywhere else that I've seen - I just paid $5 for 50 at Bed Bath & Beyond last week. They also have tealight holders (in the warehousey section) in a bunch of styles and colors.

As for furniture, I think if you're meticulous about putting it together, it'll pretty much be fine. Sure, the cheap stuff looks cheap (like the Lack and Billy series), but I have both and they've stood up to use. I have a couple dressers and a desk (in the Leksvik series) and a Hemnes bed. They've held up wonderfully over the past 5ish years. My sister (who tends to get impatient and rush through things) declared Ikea stuff "crappy" after her dresser started to fall apart after a few months. (I forget the name of the line, but it was on the same level with Leksvik, I believe.) I also have a kitchen table and tv/media center with doors from Ikea. They've both served me well...but I made SURE everything was put together really well and the screws were tight and I was borderline psycho about following the little diagrams.

I hate the Ikea pillows I have (way too poofy), don't bother with those. The samples in the store were all pounded down flatter than they end up in real life - the pillows that I got ended up to be almost cylindrical, even after a bit of use. That's no fun for my neck.
posted by AlisonM at 2:41 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

A lot of the home goods (usually on the lower level of the store) are dirt cheap and surprisingly good. Great place to pick up votive candle holders ($0.25/each!), silverware, plates, glasses, etc.

On the furniture front, the Markor tv stand is built like a tank. Very solid stuff. Also, the Hemnes chest of drawers has been pretty good to us so far. Both are sub $300.
posted by mmascolino at 2:43 PM on December 11, 2008

I'm telling you, I love this coffee table more than one should love furniture, never mind furniture from IKEA:


It's sturdy, perfect size, looks good, and it is SO HANDY for storing crap! SO much stuff fits on those shelves! Get some baskets that fit into the shelves and it's just a lovely little table to have.

I also adore my bedroom dresser:


I have it in white and I think it's gorgeous, very solid, HUGE drawers - the thing holds more than you'd believe.
posted by tristeza at 2:43 PM on December 11, 2008

If you don't mind the fact that the cord runs down the outside, the Not floor lamps are very workable and cost $7.
posted by sinfony at 2:50 PM on December 11, 2008

I've had two plastic folding chairs from IKEA for about 10 years and they look brand new! I will second that the pillows (both throw pillows and sleeping pillows) don't hold up well. I've also had good luck with textiles (both fabric and things like blankets and kitchen towels) and kitchen items (like my grater, some plastic storage containers, etc.). Every lamp I've ever had from IkEA has started slowly leaning within about a year or two of use, they just won't stay straight! Oh, and their pots (for plants) last forever and are dirt cheap.
posted by echo0720 at 2:50 PM on December 11, 2008

My local-ish Ikea stocks elegant yet sturdy one litre glass pitchers that are good for both hot and cold drinks, although I have been told that pre-warming them before you put in hot liquids is a good idea. But they're only 5 bucks, and I was able to carry a couple in my panniers on my bike across 15K of bumpy road without breaking them.
posted by maudlin at 2:58 PM on December 11, 2008

The Franklin folding bar stools are great, have held up a long time, have been declared comfortable by my guests, fold away when not in use, are great for hanging out at the kitchen bar with someone who is cooking, and are $20 each.
posted by matildaben at 2:59 PM on December 11, 2008

Generally speaking if you don't buy the cheapest variety of whatever object you're buying, you're set. We bought a few kitchen utensils that are nicely weighted and work very well.

Last time we were there we bought a Dave laptop desk that I use at the couch, and it's wonderful.
posted by cellphone at 3:01 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

nth-ing Billy bookcases. I have purchased three (and assembled them all by myself). They are solid, look decent (how much of the bookcase is actually visible once it's filled with books anyway?) and are a great deal at $60 each.

Another tried and true Ikea classic are the Ribba picture frames. The sizes don't exactly match your standard 8x10, 5x7, 4x6, but they come with mats.

Also seconding AlisonM's suggestion of picking up the "Glimma" tealights. I did a side-by-side test between Ikea and Target tealights a few years ago and Ikea won hands down. I love Ikea's office supplies - magazine holders and storage boxes - and Bumerang hangers.

Lastly, my boyfriend and I dearly love our IKEA PS metal cabinet. Anna at Door Sixteen also recommends PS.

I always buy Ikea batteries, but stay away from their fluorescent light bulbs - the light is very unflattering
posted by folara at 3:04 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Their kitchenware is very good. I have three non-stick frying pans from there that I've had for at least three years and they're almost like new. I also have pots from there and a variety of glassware and cutlery and it all holds up. Their textiles - sheets, pillowcases, duvet covers, etc. are also exceptional for the price.

In general I think the more you have to put it together yourself (but it costs a little less!) the less it can be relied on to endure. Though there's also some user error going on there.
posted by marylynn at 3:06 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, right--the Ribba picture frames. Can't go wrong there.
posted by HotToddy at 3:09 PM on December 11, 2008

I lied -- the glass pitcher is only $4 and probably even cheaper in the States) The page says they're good only for cold drinks, but I've been pre-warming mine with no explosions so far ...
posted by maudlin at 3:13 PM on December 11, 2008

I prefer Gorilla Glue to wood glue. It will expand, so wipe as you go.
posted by mecran01 at 3:13 PM on December 11, 2008

My apartment is pretty much all Ikea, from furniture to dishes to linens. It could easily be mistaken for their "complete apartment for under $799!" showcases.

I particularly like: this desk, topped with this glass. For roughly $200, you get a massive work surface perfect for spreading out books, laptop, etc. Solid as a rock, too.

$13 side table is also great; comes in tons of colors, absolutely easy to assemble, and pretty solid.

This chair and its associated footstool are divinely comfortable and great for reading.

Nthing candles.

And don't forget the meatballs!
posted by charmcityblues at 3:14 PM on December 11, 2008

Their enameled cast iron is terrific. Their glassware is great. Their wrapping paper is beautiful and great quality for the price.

And my number one Ikea must-have are these white washcloths you get in the baby section: they come in a pack of ten, each one has a loop for hanging. They're kind of thin and slightly rough, so not only do they dry out easily and not get all stanky, they also provide a little exfoliation for your skin--gentler than those net puffball things, and gentle enough to use on your face.

(actually, I should give a shoutout to the safety equipment in the baby department as well: their gates are at least half the cost of comparable gates at places like Right Start or Babies R Us)
posted by padraigin at 3:18 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

We have the Linnarp coffee table, which is real solid wood (i.e. not particleboard covered with veneer). If it gets scratched, we can actually repair it! And for tiny dings, it's the exact color of a Sharpie! For $99, it's a fantastic deal.

We also have the cheapest couch you can get at IKEA - the Ektorp. My husband and I are short, particularly in the inseam, and this is the perfect couch for us. It's extremely sturdy, the cushions are very firm, and I don't have to stuff pillows behind me. I can actually sit with my back against the cushions and still my feet reach the floor.
posted by peep at 3:18 PM on December 11, 2008

My pantry is full of Ivar shelving and it's holding up just fine. Looks good, holds a ton and you can configure it to suit your space. It does not get rough use (well, the kids aren't hanging off it yet) and we stabilized it further with an extra bracket or two.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:19 PM on December 11, 2008

The Leksvik line is great- I have the six-sectioned coffee table as a TV bench and it's really sturdy.
I also stock up on refills for the Bastis sticky lint cat-hair rollers (in the pet area)- they're the best bargain I've seen on those.
Billy bookshelves suck- the backs pop off and they get shaky.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:19 PM on December 11, 2008

The non-stick skillets are cheaper than anywhere else I've seen (at least some of them are; they have some pricy ones, too).
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:22 PM on December 11, 2008

Oh also, if you get Ikea (sleeping) pillows, splurge for the 100% down ones- the feather pillows are poky and stabby and will leak feathers all over your place for years. The down ones are great, though.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:22 PM on December 11, 2008

Avoid the Docksta table (white, round, futuristic-looking). It's so wobbly as to be unusable. See the link for lots of customers making the same complaint. I called IKEA and told them they sold me a defective table, and they didn't contradict that statement at all -- they immediately agreed to pick it up and give me a refund. Apparently they've simply decided to be in the business of selling wobbly tables and hoping most people don't bother to return them.
posted by Jaltcoh at 3:31 PM on December 11, 2008

N'thing the cookware, especially the enameled cast iron, stoneware & knives. They also sell some very heavy plastic cutlery but only in the summer, I think, I couldn't find a link just now. Indestructable, cheap enough to lose.

I've also particularly enjoyed the benjamin stool - just the right size for all kinds of things.

Not having an outerwear closet made something like this a necessity

You may also find their office chairs to be surprisingly comfortable at the price.
posted by mce at 3:38 PM on December 11, 2008

Can I un-recommend the Ikea PS cabinet+ I have... uhm, this is sad to admit, two red ones, one white one and six black ones. All of them have scratches, a few have dents. Mind you some were there from the get-go as we bought them dirt-cheap in the 'junk department' where they sell off slightly dented stuff, but it's only gotten worse. I put a cotton swab on one of them after removing nailpolish from my nails, and yes the nearly dry swab removed some paint from the cabinet! The keys keep hiding from me and I bloody hate the noise those things make as I open and close the doors.

I've gotten everything from couches to closets at Ikea over the year and find as long as you stick to classic materials (ie; wood furniture, wool carpet, cotton sheet, down comforter) you're set. Might not be the cheapest item but the metal, plastic, nylon, insert other odd material here stuff tends to break/rip/scratch far more often. Leave them there.
posted by dabitch at 3:50 PM on December 11, 2008

Don't forget to look in the as-is/scratch & dent section. I got a well-made, soft and thick rug for my daughter's bedroom there for at least 50% off the regular price, and I've seen some great deals on already-assembled pieces there as well.

I 've been very pleased with the espresso cups & saucers that I've gotten at Ikea.

Also, I frequently succumb to the lure of their deals on duvet covers and those have also held up nicely.

My daughter & I have been very happy with all the stuff we've gotten at Children's Ikea, from her crib that converted into a toddler bed, to her beloved stuffed hippo, to her plastic plates, cups and utensils.
posted by mogget at 3:51 PM on December 11, 2008

The meatballs.

Don't forget the sauce packets.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 3:56 PM on December 11, 2008

I would avoid the mechanical items (clocks, etc.) that are way cheaper than what you see elsewhere. They work for 5 minutes or less. My mother bought a $5 bathroom scale and everyone weighed 160 lbs. Good for some people, not so hot for others. But all the furniture has been great.
posted by artfann at 4:05 PM on December 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Solid wood tables, shelving, and desks are good bets. The "Marketplace" is fun, and the scratch-and-dent room is worth checking out.

Just when I thought my few IKEA items would be gradually on a one-way trip out (preening over my new antique glass-front, tiger-oak bookcases and other upgraded items), I had to replace my non-IKEA, kitty-impacted North Carolina-made wing chair. I got a leather POANG chair and stool on Craigslist. The armrests are a little hard, but pillows will solve that. I wouldn't want a fabric model, but the leather is great. It doesn't scream "budget-priced furniture" or even "this is IKEA." It's dyed all the way through, and the cushions can be replaced.

I've had my big Billy with lower protruding (for lack of a better term) cabinet for 20 years - no bowing shelves. The shelves are filled to the gills and the cabinet holds the TV nicely.

A thing to do with IKEA is to view the stuff as art supplies. See Ikeahacker.com, and also many issues of ReadyMade.

I did ditch the small Billy for a small walnut glass-front bookcase, and I would like to shed my two bedside tables, though, for more stuff along the lines of my hardwood items! The big Billy serves beautifully and would be tough to get out of my place.
posted by jgirl at 4:11 PM on December 11, 2008

Avoid the filing cabinets. I once went from the cheapest to the most expensive, bringing them back every time, before I just gave up. The woman at returns agreed that it was not their best product.
posted by micawber at 4:49 PM on December 11, 2008

The kitchen/housewares stuff is all terrific. Plates, glasses, kitchen implements, etc.

Also I bought a cheap down comforter there years (like decades) ago and though I have since bought a newer, pricier, thicker one, I still prefer the old one. I just wish I knew what the name of it was so I could get another.

Also more love for Billy: I have seven bookcases that I've dragged to four apartments. I lost one or two backing panels and screwed up a few things here and there, but they are still standing.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:51 PM on December 11, 2008

Ikeahacker is actually here. Looks like a great site!
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:54 PM on December 11, 2008

I like my 13" 365+ Chef's Knife, it fits my hammy hands well, has a nice grip, and holds an edge pretty well, but for only $5.99 I don't mind sharpening it more often than my $100 Wusthof.
posted by Floydd at 4:56 PM on December 11, 2008

Oh wow, look what they did with Billy!
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:57 PM on December 11, 2008

The Mikael desk is pretty good. Mine is still nice and sturdy, despite having been taken apart and reassembled several times.
posted by equalpants at 5:12 PM on December 11, 2008


Seconding the POÄNG (ugh...) chair. It's quite comfy and durable. I recently purchased two sets of the "lots of square cubbyhole" shelves and they're great.

A lot of the other stuff... well, you get what you pay for.
posted by lalas at 5:17 PM on December 11, 2008

Nth: sheets, children's plastic tableware, rugs. The backs of my Billys tend to fall off a lot, so not so enthusiastic about the bookcases.
posted by kmennie at 5:17 PM on December 11, 2008

The Malma mirrors are wonderful for crafts, and cheap at two or three dollars each. I used to do mosaics and used them constantly for projects like these, and I've seen others just paint or collage on them, with great results. Even several in just a single paint color grouped on a wall looks cool.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 5:17 PM on December 11, 2008

I forgot to tell you about my bed earlier. I have an older version of one of these powder-coated metal but meant to look like wrought iron beds and I really, really love it. It's heavy and sturdy and has held up really well over 8 years, including 6 mos in storage and 5 moves (some halfway across the country). I didn't buy mattresses there because they didn't have the ones I wanted in stock, but do remember the sales person telling me that the IKEA mattresses are made by one of the big companies (sealy, serta, something like that). I mean, they could have been BSing me, but the ones I tried out seemed quite comfy.
posted by echo0720 at 5:39 PM on December 11, 2008

I have big love for my Ikea garlic crusher and my grater with zest attachment/handle and catcher bottom.
posted by Kerasia at 7:24 PM on December 11, 2008

The hot dogs are great and a very good value.
posted by clark at 7:44 PM on December 11, 2008

Nthing the POANG chairs - I've actually had three used POANGs and they were all very sturdy and comfortable. They also look stylish.

I'm also a big fan of the kitchenware. Not surprisingly, though, the cheapest stuff is, well, pretty cheap. I don't recommend the wok, which gets scratched up easily, or the cheapest pots and pans which are difficult to assemble. Go for the slightly more expensive ones.

Also, I love these glasses.
posted by lunasol at 7:45 PM on December 11, 2008

I'm actually so taken with the casserole dish set I'm getting as a gift that I'm going to go get one for myself in a few days. (Two simple, nice stoneware casserole dishes, for only five bucks.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:27 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I loved the way my Poang chair looked, but never ever sat in it. Finally chucked it last year. (If any mefites in NYC want an unused grey microfiber pseudo-suede cover for it, memail me.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:33 PM on December 11, 2008

Avoid the filing cabinets. I once went from the cheapest to the most expensive, bringing them back every time, before I just gave up. The woman at returns agreed that it was not their best product.

Gotta disagree with you there. We have the previous version of this Galant drawer and I'm fully convinced that it could be used as a blast shield in case of nuclear war. The worst thing about it is that unlike everything else at Ikea, it's is not flatpack -- it's 80 pounds of dead weight in a big box. My wife only weighs ten pounds more than this thing. I nearly killed myself hauling it up a couple flights of stairs.

We're also very happy with our Poang chair and Tingvoll bed. The Tingvoll is much better made than I expected; the welds are even half decent.
posted by nathan_teske at 8:48 PM on December 11, 2008

I'm a big fan of the Expedit bookshelves. We just moved ours and they held together just fine. I use mine to store massive amounts of records and they look great and work perfectly.
posted by bunnie at 10:24 PM on December 11, 2008

The Sortera boxes are great. I've used them for years and there's no sign of wear and tear. I store horse feeds and supplements in the large boxes and my friends do the same with dry cat or dog food.

I also have a few boxes for miscellaneous stuff I don't need very often. The boxes take very little space as you can pile them on top of each other. If the top box is very heavy, it's a good idea to place two short planks or a piece of thin plywood across the lid of the bottom box for support.
posted by kaarne at 12:57 AM on December 12, 2008

Cookware, glassware, pans and pots have a good quality; silverware not so much, The quasi-japanese kitchen knives are cheap, sturdy, dependable and easy to sharpen, and this comes from one rather picky on his kitchen knives. Cotton duvet cases are good, cotton/polyester not so. Chairs are absolutely decent for their price, kitchen cabinets can be adapted to almost every use possible (we put a 12ft long row of them in out bathroom, under the top with the washbasin, and they look great.

In general, the idea that all the IKEA stuff is basically crap is a common misconception: while searching for stuff to put into our new home, we toured a lot of furniture shop, from cheap to upscale and brand furniture, unless you start looking into solid wood etc. is not so different, both in construction and in styling, to justify being 3 to 5 times the price of their IKEA equivalent. Mass production is in important part of the equation.
posted by _dario at 1:55 AM on December 12, 2008

I've seen crappy construction in their home furniture, but the Galant line of modular office desks is well made. My Galant corner desk is higher quality than anything I've seen in local furniture stores, better designed, and the best computer desk I've ever had (at work or home).
posted by D.C. at 3:19 AM on December 12, 2008

Do you cook? The round distans food savers are awesome. They're dirt cheap, microwave/dishwasher/freezer-safe, and they hold exactly one serving of pretty much anything. There're two of us in my current place, and we've got close to 30 of them.
posted by Kreiger at 3:50 AM on December 12, 2008

The Pello is much better than the Poang, and much cheaper.
posted by oxford blue at 4:03 AM on December 12, 2008

I only buy the furniture made of Solid Wood. Never any of the Laminated MDF - Medium Denisty Fibreboard. the MDF is shit and does not hold up to moving after assempbled. - especially the larger the item is.

one of my favourites is the GORM shelving Units - which are pretty basic but handy for out of the way storage.
posted by mary8nne at 4:47 AM on December 12, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! You are always so helpful. I think I'll go for a new rug, some goodies for the kitchen, Ribba picture frames, and perhaps some of the washcloths mentioned by padraigin. Oh, and of course the meatballs. I'll make a point of avoiding the pillows, the mechanical stuff, and anything that needs a lot of assembly. I don't need anything else right now, but when I do, I'll be sure to refer back to this. The furniture tips will certainly come in handy at some point.
posted by cucumberfresh at 9:46 AM on December 12, 2008

I don't know if you have a dog but the one thing I ALWAYS grab at ikea are the poop bags. It is like $1.50 for 50 of them, compared to petco/petsmart $6-$7 for 60, such a rip off. We don't go that often so both my boyfriend and the lady at check-out gave me an odd look for buying like 10 packages (we have two dogs!!!).
posted by magnetsphere at 11:10 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you need a large desk like I do, buy a wood countertop (I have a 9' one) and then buy table legs seperately - both are very cheap. Drill legs onto countertop and bam! Instant huge desk for <$50. I love mine and it is very solid.
posted by bradbane at 11:23 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

They have a plastic thingie that you can put plastic (grocery, etc) bags in, and pull them out as needed. If you have a dog, they're nifty for poop pickup bag distribution. I put one up at the dog park. I am too lazy to look it up on the website.

Look carefully at your own stuff and then look at their organizers. You can make your house way more organized for cheap.
posted by theora55 at 11:23 AM on December 12, 2008

bradbane, I was at IKEA when this story was posted and I did just that! I got trestles rather than legs because unless I wanted to pay $40 more for a frame to bolt the legs to, all the display models felt wobbly.

Of course, early this morning I tried to assemble it and half the screws were missing so I had to go back.
posted by vsync at 2:39 PM on December 12, 2008

I really love this silverware set, it's got the nice heft of the ones my parents paid a lot more for at Pottery Barn. The tiny fork and spoon are really tiny, though, but if you don't use those anyway then it's a great deal.

As people here have said, the second-to-cheapest option is usually pretty good at Ikea.
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:38 PM on December 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I never leave IKEA without another 8-pack bundle of solid wooden hangers.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 8:10 PM on December 14, 2008

These are all from IKEA in the uk:

huge 2 litre kilner preserving jars
the cleaver from their cheap knife range (can't comment on the others in the range)
the enamel cast-iron Le Cruset rip-off pots
big stone pestle & mortar
That one coffee table that everyone loves ....
... and the bookcase from the same range
a metal double bed frame that I don't think they make any more

In general, I agree with those upthread: the real wood/metal stuff is far more durable than the chipboard stuff (where the holes for the pegs are never quite in the right place or the right size)

Nearly forgot; I picked up this office chair recently so can't comment on the durability but it seems to be a great chair for the price (height adjustment only, but still, it's only thirty quid!)
posted by primer_dimer at 7:50 AM on December 15, 2008

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