Almost a decade later, any updates on alternatives to Ikea?
December 20, 2013 7:00 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to configure a recessed niche part of a rec room wall with some floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, a la the Ikea PAX system. I recently picked up an Ikea piece and was gobsmacked to discover just how horrible they've become since the last time I bought any.

Their 'chipboard' appears to be little more than ground up weeds that DEPENDS on the veneer to hold it together. It's bad, much, MUCH worse that the particle board or MDF they used in the past. If you haven't seen pieces of it lately, it really has gotten THAT bad.

So, to that end, is there a decent alternative 'system' for their shelving products?

What other vendors are out there that make standardized sliding door setups in a similar thermofoil or other veneer? I don't want to break the bank here, so custom built isn't happening. And while I'm handy I'm not particularly eager to get into tackling constructing all of this from scratch.

This is for mainly kid's toy storage in the rec room. So it needs to be reasonably tough. Which is where Ikea of the past was marginal, but what they sell today just WOULD NOT SURVIVE.

Any other panels and shelves systems out there worth considering?
posted by wkearney99 to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Sara C. at 7:48 PM on December 20, 2013

Not sure about alternatives, but for what it is worth, I just put all sorts of Ikea furniture and shelving including couch and desk in a college apartment and they are still thriving 6 months later. This stuff has survived multiple college hootenanny's and abusive everyday use. I went into with low expectations especially vis a vis the price and the veneer, but they held. Of course, YMMV.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:53 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Try contacting a kitchen contractor? We had plain shelves and cupboard doors done on a niche in our kitchen, and the contractor used strong MDF and a hard-wearing veneer that has stood up to a LOT of abuse, and it was the same as doing it via Ikea, but we were able to have extra supports added and choose sturdier materials. Kitchen people buy a lot of prebuilts that they can often fit together into odd spaces, and kitchen stuff is much more hard-wearing, but in limited designs.

Elfa is pricier than Ikea, and I don't think the quality is much better. We're about to redo a wall with storage, and we're considering either very strong storeroom shelves (metal frame and plywood boards - cheap, strong but not attractive) or custom built long wooden shelves that we will put boxes and drawers onto, with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors set in front or curtains. Anything with moving parts like drawers becomes much more expensive than plain shelves.

Ikea does sell decent plain wooden shelves, and I've seen gorgeous shelves made out of their countertops. DIY wood is hard to get where I live, and our contractor suggested sourcing countertops at Ikea as a cheap reliable alternative. Their MDF is terrible though.
posted by viggorlijah at 11:14 PM on December 20, 2013

I own some Elfa shelves(wall mounted) and Ikea shelves (Ivar). I don't think that they are that far apart in quality, definitely not worth the price difference. I only bought Elfa stuff when there wasn't an Ikea in the city that I lived. The next step up for me is custom shelves - maybe not this house, but the next one for sure.
posted by Brent Parker at 12:04 AM on December 21, 2013

I just purchased and assembled an Ikea game table for a kids' recreation room and was fairly impressed with the quality. It is heavy, structurally sound, and stable.

It is constructed of a combination of particle board, solid wood, and veneers. Ikea employs engineers and designers who are pretty good at what they do: determining where a piece needs to be tough and durable, and where they can save some cost and/or weight by using manufactured composites. Remember, they are designing for three factors: sturdiness, the ability to be flat-packed, and cost. The particle board may not be attractive to look at, but, in my experience, it's strong enough where it needs to be.
posted by dinger at 5:31 AM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ikea's quality varies enormously.

We have a giant Pax system in our bedroom and have used it daily (and not gently) for three years so far without a single problem, FWIW.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:25 AM on December 21, 2013

Product from three years ago may not be the same product they're shipping today. I'm not exaggerating when I say how BAD it's become.

They're not using particle board or MDF, they're using chipboard and it's considerable more flimsy than the particle board they've sold in the past. Take a look edge-on at one of their new pieces and you'll see just gaps in the material and how easily it flakes apart. Even the rattiest of particle board wasn't this bad a decade ago. Even the latest PAX system is made of the same low quality junk.

Anyway, the point isn't to discuss Ikea's product, the point is to find something else.

I've got brand new Elfa in two other closets, both the solid shelving and their wire style. Both are fine products and considerably better in quality than what's in the Ikea stores today. MUCH better and notably better than Closetmaid or the Martha Stewart junk in the box stores. It's considerably more expensive. But open shelving is not what I'm after here. It's the sliding doors as a starting point. I suppose when it comes time to fill in the cabinets I could use Elfa inside.

We just built a whole new house. In it I've got cabinets from four different companies (Omega, Signature, Christiana and Premier... in order of increasingly ridiculous prices.) So I'm familiar with what can be done with more traditional kitchen cabinetry styles. None of them make the same sort of modular elements found in stuff like Ikea's PAX sliding door cabinets.

That's really the starting point for the project, the sliding doors. I'm seeing those as a way to help manage the disarray while still being reasonably durable. Hinged doors and little boys in a rec room is probably not the most durable solution.

Are there NO other modular cabinet/panel vendors out there?
posted by wkearney99 at 7:21 AM on December 21, 2013

And what's further irritating about Ikea is their tendency to discontinue product lines. I've had no less than FOUR modular product lines get discontinued out from under me.

I've got solid wood Trofast frames for toy storage and wanted to add another tall frame... nope, no longer made. That's what pushed me toward considering something else for storage, but discovering their horrifically bad materials pushed me away from them entirely.

If you've got any of their Galant line of desk surfaces you might want to get any extra pieces you need right now, because it's being discontinued.
posted by wkearney99 at 7:25 AM on December 21, 2013

Did you check all the products? I only ask because some of their more (comparitively) expensive stuff is actually still pretty well made. I say this because we found there is a huge difference between the quality of their $40 bedsides and their $200 ones, as an example, but you have to hunt through all the crap to find the good stuff. If you did then I'd recommend the container shop for Elfa or any place that sells modular closets.

Also check out your local hardware store, a lot of major chains now offer storage solutions, I know our local Lowes has a whole row just dedicated to that sort of thing.
posted by wwax at 9:50 AM on December 21, 2013

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