Date with Ikea
January 11, 2011 2:57 AM   Subscribe

I haven't been to an Ikea for ten years. Now I live a bus ride away, I'm considering going to one near my house to get a new duvet cover. What other awesome stuff can I get there? What's terrible? What's been your best purchase?

BTW, I live in a shared house (all my stuff in my room, plus my food in the kitchen) so I have no need for buying furniture, and being a renter, I can't hang pictures/hooks/do any painting. But ideas on storage are always handy - particularly jewellry, hats or craft stuff, and particularly if it's cheaper than, say, Wilkinsons or Asda.
posted by mippy to Shopping (60 answers total) 83 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (I may have need for buying, say, a cheapish armchair or a footstool, but not where I'm presently living. So I can check that out nearer the time!)
posted by mippy at 2:58 AM on January 11, 2011

I live really near an Ikea, and mostly use it as a Swedish grocery store! Their bread kits and crispbreads are good, as is their jam and chocolate (which is really cheap) and you can get frozen meatballs.
posted by altolinguistic at 3:17 AM on January 11, 2011

Every time I'm near an Ikea, I pick up a few packs of small wooden picture frames. They're plain, unfinished wood, and are only $1.99 for 3!! They're fantastic for painting, easy to transport when moving (the "glass" is flexible plastic), and are super awesome gifts if you paint them up real fancy. I also love their huge bags of yummy scented candles (they actually smell quite real, and not chemically like other cheap tea-lights). Oohh there's about a million other things that would be great, but those are probably my top two suggestions considering your limitations.
gee thanks, you're making me want to hop on a plane to Malaysia, where my closest Ikea is!!
posted by hasna at 3:31 AM on January 11, 2011

I like the food, candles, glassware and crockery, rugs, pillows (and pillowcases), cushions and cushion covers, duvet covers, sheets, and children's toys. I just bought a lampshade there that I am very happy with too.
posted by lollusc at 3:45 AM on January 11, 2011

Honestly, the Idealisk colander. Mine's years old now, the wee holes mean you can drain small things but it's still much easier to clean than a sieve. It's ace.

My dirt cheap Ikea kitchen knives have lasted very well too, since when I bought them I thought I'd snap them in a year and they're still going strong after three.
posted by Coobeastie at 3:46 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Don't forget to check the "as-is" section if you are handy with tools at all. My family built a hutch for a computer desk from scraps of other damaged furniture. Remember to look everything over really well before you buy it, as there are no returns on stuff from that section.

I've been very happy with my Droppar storage containers. I store flour, sugar and noodles in them. I've also got a couple of non-stick frypans that have kept their coating for a couple of years, and a few other kitchen gadgets as well. My favourite lamp is also from Ikea, and now I wish I'd bought two as they don't make it any more.

And if your Ikea is anything like my Ikea... go early! Cheap breakfast before the store opens!
posted by cathoo at 4:03 AM on January 11, 2011

Their cast iron skillets are pretty good. Many of their storage solutions are really smart.

[Otherwise, even after living in Sweden for almost two decades, and in spite of getting one fat catalog every year in the mailbox, I normally just go and look. Stay away from anything that looks inconsistent between specimens, flimsy, or smells odd.]
posted by Namlit at 4:15 AM on January 11, 2011

All the little organizational things they have are great. Tiny containers that they have for spices or anything that hangs along those metal bars that are supposedly for the kitchen or bathroom can be used in an office.

IKEA is also the cheapest place I know to get a table or counter surface. When my brother was turning a number of floor cabinets into a kitchen island, he got a butcher block top for it for very little money there.
posted by xingcat at 4:20 AM on January 11, 2011

I really like their big blue Frakta shopping bags for toting laundry and groceries. Not especially durable, but at <$1 apiece you can afford to run through a few per year.
posted by Bardolph at 4:23 AM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

Firstly, go on a weekday evening. Especially if you value your sanity.

In the grocery section, their cinnamon rolls and meatballs are pretty good.

You should know it's actually considered bad form to leave Ikea without some tea lights.

Their solar lights work surprisingly well.

Their footstools are, to my mind, quite expensive and not that nice. Last time I bought some, I got cheaper and nice ones from Habitat. The Poäng range of armchairs are neither beautiful nor super cheap, but they are durable and very comfortable.

Some of their storage boxes like this one and this one and especially these ones are very good. The last ones appear to double up as cat scratchers, saving my furniture, in my house.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:27 AM on January 11, 2011

Good stuff: cutting board, paring knife, Burken glass jars for food storage, lightweight quilt, fabric (I like to frame it), glass tea light holders, live bamboo, plant pots, flat-packed storage boxes

Not so good stuff: wok, LED lamp (so hot!), lamp with paper shade (too easy to tear)
posted by neushoorn at 4:28 AM on January 11, 2011

I love the SKUBB laundry bag/hamper. It has a zipper down the middle, so you can separate your whites and colors before you even start your laundry! Super easy to see which category is ready for a load.
posted by litnerd at 4:32 AM on January 11, 2011

My advice: Ikea sells several versions of most things, at various price points. Never, ever buy the cheapest whatever-it-is, because it will break in a matter of months. The second-cheapest will usually suffice.

I also advise that when you go to the cafe, eat some of the lingonberry sauce together with the meatballs. So good.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:42 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Palm a little pencil. Also:
posted by pracowity at 4:56 AM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

On getting a duvet: make sure you fondle the fabric before buying, some of their duvets are rather crisp and some are quite soft. I like my duvets soft so I've been happy with Malmo

Ikea shopping tends to make me cranky so I have a technique for dealing with this: at the end of the shopping, I stop and get a frozen yogurt from their snacks place and then sit on one of the couches that is near the door going out and eat it quietly. This usually decreases the cranky just enough to make it home.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:00 AM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

My best Ikea purchase has been these Lidan baskets. Tough, waterproof, cheaper and more practical than whicker baskets. Next time I'm in Ikea Im going to stock up on some more for use outside the bathroom.
posted by Ness at 5:02 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

My best purchase were their canvas laundry bags - which they don't make anymore. Huge capacity, nigh indestructible, useful for everything from moving house to ferrying baby stuff to grandma's to doing laundry. I wish to god they'd re-introduce them.

My best purchase of something they still make are their wine storage bottles - amazingly useful. Yes, you can keep leftover wine in it, but you can also use it to make sangria and Pim's cup, keep soda-based cocktails fizzy in the fridge, store home-brewed iced teas and tisanes, make sun tea, pickle small fruits, anything you need a tall, wide-mouth airtight glass bottle for, and it's really classy looking while being incredibly inexpensive.

I haven't bought any furniture from Ikea I didn't come to regret almost immediately.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:15 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

The single best item I have ever purchased under $5 (actually, I think it was $1 when I picked it up years ago) was a bag of plastic clips in assorted sizes. I use them to reseal plastic bags (brown sugar, pasta, frozen peas, etc.)-- all you do is twist the bag and put the clip on the twist. Seriously, almost every time I use them I congratulate myself on my purchase.
posted by mireille at 5:19 AM on January 11, 2011 [7 favorites]

AA batteries (made by Varta last time I checked), salt + pepper grinders (the ones with the little glass jar and ceramic grinder).
posted by Morbuto at 5:20 AM on January 11, 2011

Seconding their cutting boards. The thin plastic sheet ones, where you get three for $5 or so. They're easy to store, light enough to flip around the counter when you're in a hurry, generally sturdy enough that you don't cut through them, but cheap enough that if you want you can cut them down to make smaller ones.
posted by Ahab at 5:29 AM on January 11, 2011

The Krama washcloths wear like iron, and are just right, texture-wise; you get a nice scrubbing. I bought a pile for use as baby wipes; kid is 3 1/2 and the Kramas are still intact.

2nd the cheap knives, shopping bags. Enjoy your duvet cover; I always buy Ikea sheets -- their basic cottons wash up super-soft.
posted by kmennie at 5:29 AM on January 11, 2011

Without hesitation the $2.50 Bräda laptop stand and the $6 Grönö table lamps.
posted by vkxmai at 5:31 AM on January 11, 2011

Seconding altolingustic about the food. (Though I'm under an IKEA duvet cover now and I'm certainly not disappointed with it.) Try Västerbottens ost, which is sort of like a Swiss cheese. Or Julmust/Påskmust soda just for fun, though they may only carry it during December. Swedes love Julmust, but it's kind of an acquired taste for the rest of us.
posted by serathen at 5:52 AM on January 11, 2011

Oh, and I like their plastic food storage containers (in the kitchen section) because they're less flimsy than most storage containers you buy at a grocery store.
posted by serathen at 5:57 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really love this grater with an integrated bowl and a separate lid.

Most disappointing was a rather expensive printed duvet cover which lost all its vibrancy after the first wash, and the blue dye actually ran onto the white parts making them dingy.
posted by smackfu at 6:02 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

One other thing: a knife sharpener.
posted by neushoorn at 6:26 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love their lint rollers for $1 (especially if you are living with animals). Their version of Zip-lock baggies, Istad come in two sizes to a package, and are great (I use them sparingly.... one box lasts about two years for me). Classic Tekla dishtowels are amazing, and only 49 cents right now!

Seconding the grater that smackfu mentions. I've had the same one for 8 years now. It's so handy, and makes less mess that normal graters.
posted by kimdog at 6:35 AM on January 11, 2011

One more thing I remembered that we love: this plastic grocery bag holder. We keep this near our littler box, so a bag is always handy for scooping. But it's also great on the inside of a cupboard.
posted by kimdog at 6:41 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Candles, rag-rugs, kitchenwares. Oh, and timing is key -- the store isn't nearly so insane and cranky-making in the early morning. Since the kitchen opens half an hour before the store does. I like to grab a coffee first, sit a while, and then mosey into the store when it's all quiet.
posted by mochapickle at 6:49 AM on January 11, 2011

I absolutely love their stupid $.59 Fargrik coffee mugs. They ARE small and have a weird shape but I find them very appealing. I drink coffee super slow, so I'd rather refill a mug a couple times than have a big mug go cold. That's why I love these. Also, though, more or less every time I go to Ikea I look for them, and they are in three new colors since last time I was there. (The purple I linked to is new!!) So for the low, low price of practically nothing, I pick them up in new colors every time I go. And my cabinet's full of them and they are my favorite. I'm drinking out of my awesome-dark-brown-the-color-of-my-hair one right now. (And planning a trip so I can go get a purple one.)

In case you do look for these- they tend to be on an island all of their own, NOT in the aisles of kitcheny stuff. But they ought to be near there.

I also like buying plants there (you'll find those on the bottom level.) Happy Ikea-ing!! Now I want to go there. Stupid snowstorm.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 6:52 AM on January 11, 2011

I agree with many of the above items: I have the SKUBB (okay, two - whites, darks, towels and pinks because we have a 7 yr old girl) and sometimes they have bags made out of the FRAKTA material, but in cute colours. There are gardening ones in a circular form that I particularly like. And I do love the scented candles too.

In the grocery, there are little oatmeal cookies called HAVREFLARNS. I love to eat little ice cream sandwiches made with them. I love the lingonberry sauce with the meatballs, and they also have a pear-flavoured soda pop that's nice. And DAIM cake - I think it has a name like ALMONDEY.

But also, there are really affordable organizers like the MÄLLA, sized for sweaters and shoes that are great for so many more things, including crafty stashes.

The roll of newsprint-style drawing paper in the children's section (it's $5.99 here in Toronto) is excellent for many crafty uses - it makes a great (cheap!) gift wrap; it is a great colour for a backdrop for photographing items for Etsy-type purposes; it is cheap packing material.

And last, in the kitchen section, they have these dish towels - they're white with two red stripes - and they used to be about 59 cents. I use the heck out of these - nicest ones for napkins, then they can get demoted to dish towels, and lastly for rags. I haven't used paper towels in over two years thanks to these!
posted by peagood at 6:53 AM on January 11, 2011

Cheap, decently sturdy and really nice looking poster frames !!!!!
also I have to buy a new laundry bin because my cat decided she loves to use it as a fort (stuff from the children's section is really cute)
posted by ghostbikes at 7:09 AM on January 11, 2011

You could get one of the Grönö Lamps and do the "lamp hack". It looks cool.
posted by nimsey lou at 7:23 AM on January 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

Really cute paper napkins! No more expensive than plain paper napkins yet they brighten my day and add a little flair to the table.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:24 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Cloth napkins!
posted by hydrophonic at 7:35 AM on January 11, 2011

I'm a nut about organizing and storing things, and am always on the lookout for the perfect container for something. After several forays into different products for storing kitchen staples, I've been ecstatic about these. They come in three sizes, the lids are interchangeable, they seal tightly, and they stack securely. I use the larger size for soba noodles and long pastas, the medium size (linked) for all manner of grains and powders, and the small size for nuts and dried fruits. Oh, and the structure of the lid allows you to level off a measuring spoon. Perfect in every way!
posted by DrGail at 7:46 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have had awful luck with their pump containers, like for soap, etc. They look nice but often just stop working when you put soap in them. It's a mystery since pumps aren't rocket science.

Also, I dislike any of the storage containers that use a rubbery gasket around the lid. After a while it stiffens up and doesn't really provide a good seal.
posted by smackfu at 7:51 AM on January 11, 2011

Their lazy-susans are very inexpensive, ~3 bucks. Next time I go, I'm buying three: one for the fridge (I always want the soy sauce that's in the back), one for the liquor cabinet (why is the whiskey always in the back), and one for oils and vinegars by the stove (where's that sherry). Eventually, I will have everything in my apartment on a lazy susan.
posted by montaigneisright at 7:58 AM on January 11, 2011 [8 favorites]

Try the elderflower syrup they sell in the little food market. Add it to some soda water for a nice, refreshing drink, or do what we do in my household and make some fantastic cocktails.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:02 AM on January 11, 2011

I really like their kitchen gadgets. They're cheap, nicely designed and a bunch of stuff I bought about seven years ago is still working despite tons of use. Little things like vegetable scrubbers, wooden cutting boards, scissors - and a system of food storage/tupperware (round white plastic that holds five containers in one) - I don't know if they still make it, but they have been washed a million times and are still in great condition.
posted by marimeko at 8:47 AM on January 11, 2011

The catalog, if they still have them in stock.
posted by theora55 at 9:04 AM on January 11, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so far! I don't currently need a lot of this stuff but it's good to know about for the future (I have a Y-shaped peeler - I can't use any others - from Lakeland that cost a whole £1.59 and it's ace, so cheap kitchen stuff can rule!)

One thing - is going on the weekend a really bad idea? I was going to go with my SO at some point so it would have to be a weekend. I can go during the week, but it'd be nice to go along with someone who can persuade me I absolutely do not need tealights. My nearest is the one in Wembley if that influences the answer at all.
posted by mippy at 9:14 AM on January 11, 2011

Response by poster: That negative lamp is lovely - if only Mod Podge were to be bought here. I bet something similar could be done with art paper.
posted by mippy at 9:16 AM on January 11, 2011

I've not regretted my furniture purchases, but you have to pay really close attention. The furniture that is made from particleboard or compressed wood products tends to fall apart quickly. All of my Ikea furniture has been the solid wood variety and has held up longer than I expected. The catch is that the solid wood can easily cost double or triple the price of the cheap stuff.

Check the Ikea website for your particular store's specials. They all have their little differences, for instance, Portland notes that they drop the prices on as-is products to clear them out on Wednesdays!
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:21 AM on January 11, 2011

I love that they have lamps that can be hung from the wall or ceiling that don't have to be hardwired! Great for renters (or low-tech homeowners). I only have so much horizontal space for table-top lamps. Gimme a hanging one from Ikea any day!
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:36 AM on January 11, 2011

Regarding when to go, I worked at Ikea for several years and found that no matter what day, between 4:00-5:30pm was the quietest time of day. First thing in the morning can be hit or miss - while there aren't a ton of people, there will only be one or two cashiers open, meaning the line-ups to pay will still be long. Weekends definitely are busier, but at least at the Ikea I worked at, it was possible to deal with at certain times of the day (between 4-530!).

Good luck! Check out the lampshades; they have lots of pretty ones.
posted by just_ducky at 9:44 AM on January 11, 2011

I also love their huge bags of yummy scented candles (they actually smell quite real, and not chemically like other cheap tea-lights).

The tea-lights are notorious as the thing you walk into Ikea not thinking about at all, but every. time. you. go. you come back with a bag. They cost like $2 for a bag of 100 tealights. Unless you live in a mansion and throw a lot of parties or you are a voodoo priestess, you will never use that many tealights. Purchase in moderation.

Also, avoid their knives. Maybe they sell some decent ones, but the ones that come in a block and are absurdly cheap ($10?) are garbage.

The bundle of tupperware for some ridiculous price ($5?) are good if you're constantly losing lids and tossing moldy leftovers.
posted by Sara C. at 10:54 AM on January 11, 2011

Also, avoid their knives. Maybe they sell some decent ones,

Yes, they do. The Gynnsam filet and paring knives are amazingly well balanced and hold an edge well. I haven't tried the chef's knife or the bread knife yet, but they're on my list.
posted by Floydd at 11:10 AM on January 11, 2011

Yeah, those knives look a lot better than the block of knife-shaped garbage one of my roommates brought home.

Searching around the site, the block of trash I'm talking about is the HAKE 4-knife set, for $4. They have this amazing ability to be the worst in the world for almost any task. The edge is slightly serrated, which makes them useless for chopping vegetables, and yet it's not serrated enough to pass as a bread knife. They're not too bad for cutting waxy/soft things like blocks of cheese, but you can cut that sort of thing with a butter knife.

I wouldn't put much faith in the SLIPAD sets, either.
posted by Sara C. at 11:20 AM on January 11, 2011

I have no clue how you people remember the nonsensical names of Ikea products. I probably have half these things, but could never tell you whether they're Fnörff or Sfÿfnÿ or Üvülä.


I love that they have lamps that can be hung from the wall or ceiling that don't have to be hardwired! Great for renters (or low-tech homeowners). I only have so much horizontal space for table-top lamps. Gimme a hanging one from Ikea any day!

I have a couple of these and love them, but they have one major drawback -- no switch. You have to plug them in or unplug them in order to turn them on. Major hassle, if the nearest outlet isn't easy to reach. However, you can buy a $10 plug-in lamp dimmer that makes the hanging lamps truly functional.

I love the Poang chair and footrest -- that's my easy chair at home. And I recently bought some other chair that they had on sale for $12.99. It's got a metal frame, and you slide the fabric over that frame. It isn't very decorative, and it looks horribly uncomfortable, but it's actually quite nice to sit in.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:26 PM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Ikea is generally great for homewares: vases, picture frames, kitchen gear, cushions, curtains. My favourite Ikea purchase is probably this Stockholm bowl, which is a lovely design.

Ikea also make some really cute toys. I've bought several presents there that've gone down well.

Bad purchases: The knife block, yes. Tiny halogen work lamps that got crazy hot and had flimsy metal necks that snapped. Polar fleece blankets that pilled after one wash.
posted by Georgina at 12:49 PM on January 11, 2011

(Ikea sells a $7.99 dimmer switch for their lamps. It's called...wait for it...DIMMA).

I love Ikea's rugs, curtains and garden stuff, with some caveats: the wool rugs tend to shed badly. Some eventually stop shedding but I have one that has shed itself bald in spots (too bad, it's just the right color and odd shape for under my desk too). Most of their curtains are sold as very long panels that you hem to fit, which is great if you sew and not as great if you have to pay someone to do it for you. On the plus side, sometimes you end up with enough extra fabric to make a matching throw cushion or two (I use their bed pillows cut down as inexpensive alternates to throw pillow forms).

Like Sciencegeek, I also get quite cranky after visit Ikea: a large part of the problem is the store design usually routes everyone through a circuitous path through every part of the store. As a first time visitor, you won't know the nearly hidden shortcuts and their store map is nearly nonsensical until you've been through the place at least a few times. So to combat fatigue, test drive a lot of upholstered furniture, grab something to eat at the upstairs cafeteria (it's usually right by the entrance to the Marketplace, where things are a little more freeform) and after you get through the cashier line, get a cinnamon roll ($4 for a half dozen enormous rolls) and coffee for the road.
posted by jamaro at 1:34 PM on January 11, 2011

The kitchen knives are remarkably decent: my 5in SLITBAR serrated knife is going strong -- a few rust spots after being inadvertently submerged cleaned up with Barkeeper's Friend -- as is the GNISTRA paring knife.

The FÖRHÖJA kitchen cart is really pretty nice, too: the drawers are slightly annoying in that you can pull them right out, but the top waxes up well, the height is comfortable for worktop/storage, and there space underneath is suited to storage boxes.

The SANDA line voltage adapters for track lighting work with standard H-track, and allow you to adapt pendant lamps to that system with minimal fuss. The lint rollers. The knob selection, ooer missus. Elderflower cordial; gooseberry jam.

The one item on my list for my next visit is the PS cabinet that I'm going to put at the bottom of some shelves, mainly because I don't really like having books at shin-height.

You'll often find that many people's IKEA gems are no longer made: the E60-knockoff FROSTA stools, the much-missed JERKER computer desk, various shelving units like the JOURNALIST. Oh well.
posted by holgate at 2:33 PM on January 11, 2011

Apartment Therapy has a good list of the best buys at Ikea.
posted by barnone at 3:01 PM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

One warning about the cutting boards: they don't like dishwashers. They tend to get warped. The 365 pack of dishes is great; I am still using some I got 10 years ago. I like their bath mats which come in good colors and are washable.

The cheap floorlamp has moved with me a good number of times and acts as a bedside light.

Have fun and definitely do pick up a few of those blue Ikea bags - they are, as mentioned before, great as laundry bags, for moving, for big shopping trips and so on.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:34 PM on January 11, 2011

Didn't they used to have giant clocks? I always fantasized about hanging one above my desk, but never did.

The Poang chair is the most comfortable chair I own.

Ikea is our go-to place for tealight candles. And paper-thin ginger cookies.
posted by booth at 5:52 PM on January 11, 2011

They still have giant clocks.
posted by jamaro at 5:58 PM on January 11, 2011

Wrapping paper! Their wrapping paper is cheap, colorful, and sturdy. I love buying it along with the matching ribbon. Also, notecards.
posted by yawper at 6:51 PM on January 11, 2011

Their pots and pans are good (for the price, better than good). If you're at all crafty or a sew-er, you might find that their fabrics (or even the cheaper curtains or bedding) are great sources for material. They sell different sizes of light bulbs and batteries, cheaper than you might find them in grocery or hardware stores.

But what I love to do is walk through the furniture showroom and take note of the little decorative stuff sprinkled on the tables and shelves and walls. Sometimes it takes a bit of work to find "that round blue thing" once you get down to the Marketplace, but it's worth it. Just like Target, there's so much stuff that you never would have known was there without some digging.

Also, they have great lampshades. If you're in the market for lampshades.
posted by kostia at 10:13 PM on January 11, 2011

Best purchase was a stuffed animal (rat) my granddaughter treasures.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:48 AM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

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