First Trip to IKEA
June 22, 2017 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Never been to IKEA. I'll be going soon with some family members who have also never been to IKEA. Probably won't go again anytime soon (far away). I'm looking for any tips for the experience, any items to avoid or really look for, and how to have the most enjoyable, fun time there. None of us are looking for anything specific, but are furnishing new homes or moving into new apartments. One of us has a nice-sized gift card to use (not me).
posted by Aranquis to Shopping (72 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
There's a showroom upstairs. They have stocking filler things up there, but you probably won't need a bag. If you're planning to buy furniture, however, grab a pencil, notepaper and paper tape measure on your way up from the entrance. Get a cart and bag downstairs in the marketplace. Check the "As Is" section right before the registers. The cafeteria is surprisingly good and very affordable.

Most important: follow the arrows. Don't get clever and try to take shortcuts. And remind your partner you love them before you go in.
posted by caek at 11:16 AM on June 22, 2017 [43 favorites]

1. Bring a measuring tape, notebook (there is paper and golf pencils there, but I find a notebook better)

2. don't go on a weekend, it is really hard to walk through IKEA on a weekend - just way too busy and too many people.

3. Know that it's set up as a labrynthine maze that is designed to derail you from your intentions and get you to buy more stuff. Your willpower reserves will be low by the time you make it to the small-but-cool-and-cheap items at the end of the maze, before you get to the Warehouse.

Godspeed. Ikea is no joke (and with a FAMILY?)
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:20 AM on June 22, 2017 [13 favorites]

The IKEA stores I have been to are set up as a series of showrooms, themes according to a room in the house (so kitchen, office, bedroom, living room). After passing through the room displays, there is a marketplace with smaller items such as kitchen utensils and lights. Then came the self serve area. There are arrows on the floor for you to follow to see eveything.

Note that this applies to southern Ontario and Hong Kong. The stores were similar. Actually for Hong Kong, I followed the arrows for a while, then somehow escaped. I was mostly just curious since the IKEA was in the bottom of my hotel.

For the most enjoyable experience, don't go on a Saturday afternoon.
posted by TORunner at 11:21 AM on June 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

They have the store arranged as a series of rooms, and they steer you through them in order. The place encourages browsing and lingering, and trying the items out. It is difficult to make a quick trip to IKEA. I like to have eaten something before I go, because I know I'll be in there for a while. For large items (furniture), you write down the items you like/want, then give them to someone at the end, who gets them for you. So take one of the order forms and a pencil they provide at the entrance. Before you hit checkout, there is a small items area, which is really fun. (Tableware, linens, lamps, etc.) There is also a sale area full of discontinued or scratched/dented stuff. This is my father-in-law's favorite area. I find it useful to have some sort of list of what I need or want beforehand, just to stay focused. (Otherwise it is entirely possible to spend a lot of money and still forget the thing I actually need.) The store does not give you shopping bags, you have to buy the big blue recycled bags as you check out. They are cheap, <$1, and are super useful. Don't forget them.
posted by Cranialtorque at 11:21 AM on June 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

grab a pencil, notepaper and paper tape measure on your way up from the entrance

Depends on which Ikea you're at! The one we go to regularly has done awya with the notepaper for you to jot down measurements/what bins to pick furniture up in. Instead, they want you to take a picture of the little sheet by the furniture, and then use that.

Paper tape measures still available, though. Golf pencils take some rousting, but you can find 'em.
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:23 AM on June 22, 2017

I don't bother writing things down anymore. I take a picture of the tag with my phone.
posted by TORunner at 11:24 AM on June 22, 2017 [12 favorites]

You might want to have some idea of what you're looking for. When I go without a clear sense of what I need, I get so overwhelmed by options that I don't buy anything! (Or buy too many small items I don't actually need...)

If you plan to buy furniture, measure your car storage space ahead of time so you can compare it to box sizes. IKEA will deliver, but it costs extra. There are always people trying to fit boxes into a car that will obviously not fit.
posted by wsquared at 11:25 AM on June 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

None of us are looking for anything specific

This is key. You are not obliged to buy anything, and you can leave any time you start to feel overwhelmed.

If you see something that might be awesome but you're really not sure about it, leave it on the shelf -- you can always go back again if you decide you really want it (better than having to go back again to return it).

We went to Ikea last Monday evening with one thing on our list -- a light fixture that we'd decided on in advance from Ikea's web page, checked it was in stock at our local store, and written down the name. We got that first and put it in our cart, and then browsed for a while and picked up a few other random items that we actually needed. It went ok!
posted by heatherlogan at 11:28 AM on June 22, 2017

Eat Swedish meatballs. Buy cute cheap paper napkins. Stay hydrated.
posted by matildaben at 11:31 AM on June 22, 2017 [26 favorites]

Don't forget the food section! Meatballs of course; the frozen Swedish pancakes are quite tasty, and the jams are delicious. If they have a candy section, buy some (you choose what you want and pay by the pound)! Also the desserts (primarily in the frozen section) are quite tasty and the muesli is good if you like that sort of thing. Bring a cooler bag if you think you might be interested, or they sell one there for $4 or so.
posted by mogget at 11:33 AM on June 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

BAGS. BUY THE BAGS. You will laugh when I tell you to buy at least 5 but then you will find yourself using them for laundry, for packing, for storage, for carrying bags of soil from your car, etc.

I once carried at least 60 pounds' worth of other IKEA products in two of those bags, one on each shoulder, wrangled a sofa piece with my hands, and carried it all out to the car in one trip because I am stubborn and armed with IKEA bags.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:42 AM on June 22, 2017 [43 favorites]

Plan on stopping for "lunch". The doesn't necessarily mean you arrive at 11am, shop upstairs for an hour then encounter the cafeteria at the top of the stairs down to the first floor, don't bother trying to time it or anything. I just mean, you should assume that it will be time to sit down and get some sustenance, and the cafeteria will be nicely placed at the halfway point of your adventure. So plan on sitting down and taking a break, it's part of the experience. And also tasty. And also entirely furnished in IKEA items which can be fun to see in action (chairs, plates, lights, toys, etc)
posted by aimedwander at 11:43 AM on June 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

Lighting at Ikea is great, as mentioned, and their frames and rugs are really popular. The fabrics (duvet and cushion covers, curtains, bolts of raw fabric) are okay quality-wise but if you don't like the patterns you see in other stores, you can find some interesting patterns (I was going to say unique but they're Ikea so likely other people will have them). Their sheets are cheap but not worth the price. Oddly I find their plants of good quality.

Another note with regards to furniture - look for the wood. They have a bunch of particle board stuff but also some well priced wood. Go with the wood. Make sure you double check the codes to make sure you're leaving with the colour you wanted (or how I ended up with a white table).

Take a break for meatballs. Pace yourself.
posted by hydrobatidae at 11:43 AM on June 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Quite a few mention measuring with a tape there .. More importantly, measure stuff in your home/appt first -- windows, wall spaces, closets, etc so you can get an idea of what fits while you are there. (This can be chicken/egg -- measure what ikea has that you like and go home to see if it fits, or measure home and filter ikea by what fits.. But measuring ikea first means 2 trips at least )
posted by k5.user at 11:43 AM on June 22, 2017 [11 favorites]

If you have any desire to get larger pieces, and not just small housewares, I would strongly encourage you to spend a little time looking at the kinds of things you might want to buy on Ikea's website beforehand. Get a sense of what they have and what you might like. You might change your mind when you get there and see the relative quality of things, but there's a lot to look at, and you can't look at everything.

And take measurements of the places where you might want to put them. Because while IKEA is super-great about providing exact measurements for everything they sell, it does you no good to know that the china cabinet is 42 inches wide if you don't know how wide the alcove you want to put it in is.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:47 AM on June 22, 2017 [12 favorites]

Don't buy tea lights. You will anyway! I give future you permission to throw them away in 3 months when you inevitably haven't used them.

Go ahead and buy the tea lights! But also buy a cute little tea light lantern! Light your cute little tea light lantern and appreciate the cheery glow it puts out at night while you're reading! Or carry it around all little house on the prairie when the power goes out!

I think my favorite Ikea impulse purchases have been: my tea light lantern (like this but not this one exactly), my tray (like this but not this one exactly) that I use for eating when I'm sitting on my couch, which is always, my cheap clocks so I can always see a clock (especially in the shower), the adorable children's rug I got for my dog, the dog butt wall hook, and the dirt cheap hand towels that I have stowed everywhere for damp dog feet, spills, muddy shoes, etc etc etc.

A big part of the fun of Ikea is just letting yourself browse and get fun things you don't really need. Set yourself a budget for impulse purchases and grab whatever cute strikes your fancy.

And definitely build in time for a nice, leisurely lunch. The food is good. Sign up for Ikea Family at one of the kiosks when you get there--you'll get a discount on your meal.
posted by phunniemee at 11:48 AM on June 22, 2017 [9 favorites]

I get easily overwhelmed in IKEA and find that I have the most productive experience if I look on the website ahead of time and go armed with measurements.

Smaller stuff is more eminently browsable. I love their kitchen section and kids' toys, and plants/arts/textiles are usually strong.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:48 AM on June 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

My husband and I LOVE going to IKEA. We go there on dates. We get there, eat at the cafeteria (Swedish meatballs are really the only thing worth getting), and then wander around. It's fun! I love looking at all the little apartment set-ups. The kids section is REALLY cute. And I love the market section at the end, there are all kinds of dishes, towels, plates, pillows, all kinds of cute stuff.

I love their bedding, my last two duvet covers have been from IKEA. They're nice and soft and durable. I love their lighting. I got a good little saucepan there.

My mom hates going and finds it tedious. I looove going and can spend hours there. So you might not hate it! You might have fun!
posted by Aquifer at 11:51 AM on June 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

1. Start at the exit and buy a $1 ice cream cone.
2. Nothing else matters.
posted by anya32 at 11:52 AM on June 22, 2017 [20 favorites]

Oh! I forgot: they make a nice, wind-up flashlight for about $5. Get a few of those, they come in handy during blackouts. I was reading by one the other night when our power went out and I was bored.
posted by Aquifer at 11:53 AM on June 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Go online and look there for whatever you want to buy. You can then check to see if it is in stock at your local IKEA. For the self-serve furniture warehouse (where all the stuff that needs assembly is), the online entry for an item may even tell you its aisle and bin number.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 11:53 AM on June 22, 2017

Buy batteries. They're pretty inexpensive and of not bad quality. And buy batteries in sizes you don't think you need, like Cs and Ds, because you will need them at some point, and wonder why you didn't buy them at Ikea when you had the chance.

Also -- bring batteries. They have a battery disposal slot by the exit. Much easier to dump your old batteries at Ikea than to make arrangements for whatever toxic disposal unit to pick them up in your fair town. They might -- MIGHT -- also have a fluorescent light tube disposal slot. They usually have a high-efficiency bulb disposal slot. Worth checking out beforehand if you can, to gt rid of some tricky stuff you have at home.

Speaking of bulbs, they have tons of high efficiency bulbs themselves. Make a note of what kind of wattages you have at home, and pick some high efficiency bulbs at Ikea. They're also a bit cheaper than at Home Depot or whatever.

Join Ikea Family. It costs nothing, and gets you some good deals. There's also a Ikea Family department, which has some neato stuff.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:59 AM on June 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh -- buy one of the $5 golf umbrellas for in the back of your car. Handy as anything.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:00 PM on June 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Cardinal rule of IKEA - start at the top floor and work your way down. It can feel like a maze, so follow the arrows on the floor and you'll work your way to the end eventually. The arrows will take you to the food court - eat. They have decent food, and IKEA is hungry-making. Take pictures of tags, it's way easier than the pencil/paper they provide. They have a scratch and dent department by the checkouts, there's usually some cool things in there.

They don't provide plastic bags like other stores - you have to bring your own or buy a big blue bag (the blue bags are wonderful and worth the $2 or whatever, but just a warning).
Their carts are awful, all 4 wheels rotate so they go in unexpected directions. Also, you can't bring a cart to your car at the Schaumburg IL location which is annoying - I'm not sure if that's the case everywhere because Bolingbrook lets you walk off with the carts.

Things to buy: The ubiquitous and hackable KALLAX (I have 4 in my house, in various configurations), furniture made from wood (the pressboard stuff isn't great IMO, KALLAX aside). Some IKEAs have a cut-your-own fabric section, which is great if you sew. Lamps! Picture frames! Baskets! Mirrors! Organization! Plants! Chocolate bars!

Things to avoid: Their bedding is super scratchy and their dishware wasn't great.

Have fun! Eat meatballs!
posted by little king trashmouth at 12:00 PM on June 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

The last time I went I needed several pieces of furniture for my new apartment. I browsed online first to get an idea of what I wanted and the sizes. I found their app to be super helpful because you could put the things you want in your cart, and then it gives you the bin location in the warehouse section (and also if the item is in stock). I didn't need the pencils or paper.

One of the best things I ever got at Ikea was a small tool kit. It has everything I could possibly need.
posted by elvissa at 12:19 PM on June 22, 2017

how to have the most enjoyable, fun time there

1) Plan to eat halfway through your time there. Or even better: eat when you get there, and then plan to take a break at some point later to eat again or just sit in the cafeteria and decompress for ten minutes partway. The store overloads your brain and it can lead to terrible grouchiness, so plan to take breaks.

2) If you're going to buy anything biggish like furniture, remember that (a) you'll need the item number and (b) you should plan on spending some time hunting around the warehouse section at the end for the boxes. So, don't think, "oh we're just about done, two more minutes"... and then really you have another half hour of box-hunting and are getting grouchy because you're so ready to be done.

3) If you have different browsing styles (completist vs only-the-highlights, for example), be willing to split up for a while and meet back (at the cafeteria to eat maybe).
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:31 PM on June 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

I dislike shopping in general and view the slow filtered, crowded maze experience of being in Ikea as hellish. I will pay extra money *not* to set foot in one.

If slowly meandering through showroom after showroom and not being able to just easily say that your done and getting to register and checking out doesn't sound like a good time to you but sounds great to a family member, plan on splitting off. And make sure you have a map of the place so you're not stuck following the arrows that are designed to sell you stuff rather than getting you where you want to be.
posted by Candleman at 12:34 PM on June 22, 2017

Oh also - measurements!
Bring the measurements of any space you might want to be putting furniture, including any tricky entranceways you need to navigate to get the boxes into the house.

Bring the measurements of your car/van/etc and be sure you're only picking furniture that will fit into the car!

Be realistic about how much weight you can lift from your car into the house - some of their couches and tall shelving units have boxes that can be quite heavy, but the label includes the weight of them.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:35 PM on June 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

1) Eat meatballs, with lingonberry sauce.

2) If you're shopping for budget-conscious furniture, never buy the cheapest version, because it will be made of cardboard and will collapse in three months. The second-cheapest will be much sturdier and will likely suit your needs.

3) Eat more meatballs, with more lingonberry sauce.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:50 PM on June 22, 2017

I buy a lot of their picture frames - they're like $2-5 for the cheaper ones. My living room is full of them. They also have knockoff Baggu bags that are insanely cheap, if you're into that. Their kitchen stuff is also often a pretty good deal.

If you own no tools, get the little $10 tool kit with the hammer and pliers and so forth. It's a great stopgap, and the screwdriver has an attachment that can replace a hex key, making the actual Ikea furniture less of a pain in the ass to assemble.

3) If you have different browsing styles (completist vs only-the-highlights, for example), be willing to split up for a while and meet back (at the cafeteria to eat maybe).

Yes. I don't like visiting Ikea with other people for the same reason I don't like visiting museums with other people - I am gonna want to stare at one thing for 10 minutes and then breeze on past the next three rooms, and I don't want to wait for (or hold up) anyone else.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:51 PM on June 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

I like to have eaten something before I go

This is heresy. I was there Sunday en famille and the veggie balls with lentil ragout were yummy.

The trick is either to take your time, or enter from the back and just go to the right section.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:00 PM on June 22, 2017

I really like the random jars of jam and pickled fish towards the end. And the bar of marzipan!

(Which is to say: there is a small grocery inside, along with the ice cream cone (by the exit) and meatballs (in the cafe).

I also reserve a minute to hug whatever plush toys they're making these days. At one point they had plush broccoli and carrots, which I loved.
posted by batter_my_heart at 1:04 PM on June 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Take pictures of anything in your house you think might get an IKEA update. They have lots of storage stuff, shelving, etc. Last time I shopped there, they were kind of conservative about returns, so it's easier to plan not to return anything. My kitchen came from Ikea, the associate screwed up the measurements, and they were very good about me doing a massive return & re-purchase, and keeping the discount, so the return issue is not definitive. They always have cheap, nice potholders, dishtowels, paring knives, cutting boards, and lots of other stuff that wears out and gets lost. Their curtains are versatile and affordable. They sell batteries that seem just as good as anywhere else, but way less packaging and cheaper. I have several LED light strings that were pretty cheap and have held up really well.

Get the store map. There are shortcuts between departments in case you decide to go back and look at that thing you saw earlier. Some things seem to be available forever, other things that you assume you can get next time vanish. Sort of like Trader Joe's.

Definitely plan to eat there; the food ranges from fine to pretty good and is reasonably priced. I've gone to Ikea for dinner just because we knew it was easy on/off the highway and the food's good.
Wear comfortable shoes.
Get the catalog. Get a catalog for your friend.
You will not regret getting several bags.
posted by theora55 at 1:06 PM on June 22, 2017

Definitely begin at the exit. Prevent starvation by spending $2 per family member for a hotdog and an ice cream cone. Follow all the tips from above. Before you leave, go back to where you got the hot dogs and ice cream and buy the packet of cinnamon buns in case your car breaks down from the weight of all the Ikea stuff you just bought and you're still hungry.

I love their kitchen storage stuff. I love their duvet covers. They have cheap great art work to cover large blank walls. And do get the bag of tea candles for when you have parties - the gentle glow of 10 tea candles on your dining room table makes your food look fabulous.
posted by IndigoOnTheGo at 1:08 PM on June 22, 2017

You can fit an amazing amount of flat pack furniture into a car. I put a queen bedframe, a queen mattres, a night stand, two coffee tables, a couple small lamps, a Poang chair and ottoman and various dishes and kitchen items in a small hatchback with the seats folded down.

If the flat pack boxes are too heavy to pull out of the car, open the boxes and carry the pieces individually.
posted by bendy at 1:14 PM on June 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, definitely ice cream for a dollar. Their sheets and duvets go from scratchy to soft after a few washings.
posted by bendy at 1:15 PM on June 22, 2017

I freaking love Ikea!

They give you little pencils and pads where you can write down item numbers for the showroom items you want to pick up at the warehouse. But personally, I really recommend using your cell phone to take pictures of the tags AND the items. Then when I get to the warehouse, I have the item number and I see what the item looks like. It's especially useful if I see more than one similar item I am interested in and I need to make a decision.

If you're buying furniture for a specific part of your house, definitely measure and take them with you. It can be hard to visualize how something will fit in your house once you get to Ikea. You can pre-shop online, but I have run into things looking way smaller/different in person than when I was looking on the website. I guess my spatial awareness sucks, but you'll want an idea of the measurements involved going in.

Also, I do not recommend starting at the exit. Start at the beginning and look at stuff in the showroom, and then when you get downstairs, you can start collecting smaller items, and then finally, you'll hit the warehouse where you can pick up the big items. I also disagree with the recommendations that you need to eat while you're there -- an Ikea shopping trip ain't the serious and the food is nothing special, unless you love Swedish meatballs.

Ikea is dope. They have an Ikea member discount thing too -- you don't save much, but sometimes there will be an item on sale if you use your member card. Membership is free!
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:19 PM on June 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I spend a lot of time at Ikea in a smaller metro, and it's usually not very crowded. If you really want to go slow and fully experience it, head there on a weeknight evening. I love touring the showroom and viewing all the innovative ways they tie their products together. Spend time opening the drawers in the kitchen and storage areas for some neat ideas. The food there is cheap and decent. My Ikea gives free coffee and hot tea for family members and also has a childcare center that is free for one hour. The downstairs section has all the little cheap things you didn't know you needed - my favorite is a 3 dollar milk frother. You can occasionally find some good deals at the As Is section before the cash registers, but there usually isn't that big of a markdown on items unless they are pretty beat up. If you're only making one trip, then I would heed the above advice about checking things out online, but be prepared to make some last minute changes. There are usually new sales and markdowns or maybe something doesn't look or feel as nice as expected. Also, sign up for the Ikea Family card online in advance - sometimes they will give you a coupon.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 1:20 PM on June 22, 2017

IKEA's can openers are pretty good for inexpensive can openers. I've never bought an expensive one so I can't say how they compare but I have bought dollar store can openers and will never do so again if there is an IKEA around.

The As-is section is a good place to find odds and ends if you are interested in repurposing/hacking any furniture.

In addition to the meatballs they have chicken meatballs and veggie meatballs. The veggie meatballs are pretty good.

If you have smallish kids you can drop them off at the play area. There is a time limit of 40 minutes at my local IKEA.

We actually went to IKEA 2 weekends ago to pick up a cheap bunkbed for the kids. While there I saw an outdoor table that folded up quite cleverly so I bought it. It wasn't something I was looking for, but I appreciated the way it worked and needed something to hold stuff by the bbq so it worked out.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:21 PM on June 22, 2017

I used to live about a 3 hour drive away from my nearest IKEA, so visiting took the whole day. We would drive there, have a morning tea snack in the cafeteria. Then do the showroom level. Remember to really have a good look in the display rooms they have set up. Then we would have lunch ( always the meatballs). After that we would hit the marketplace on the bottom level. Fill our trolley with stuff we didn't need and then do a bit of a reality check in the last section about what we were actually going to buy. Then we would pickup any big furniture as we left. Last stop was a snack from the small other cafe after the checkouts for the drive home.
My main advice don't rush it, just enjoy the wonder that is IKEA.
posted by daffodil at 1:21 PM on June 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I should add, getting items delivered is possible, but it'll cost you. I got a couch delivered for $69 once, but it can cost more depending where you live and what you're getting. If you live far away, you might want to ask them if they delivery and what it costs first. (Ikea doesn't delivery themselves, they hire third-party vendors who do it.)

Keep in mind that even if you want something delivered, you need to pick up the item and bring it to their delivery desk yourself. There is a "picking fee" if you want them to select the item and then deliver it.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:26 PM on June 22, 2017

If you are going to buy furniture too large for your car -- a bed, say -- here is something: Ikea employees can help you lift the box on top of your car, but they cannot help you secure it. If you don't have a roof rack, they have triangular cardboard supports you can put on your roof to help protect the paint and the boxed item.

They also have twine with which you can secure this large item to the roof of your car. But again, they cannot help you secure it. Know how to tie the proper knot. I did (k)not, the last time I encountered this situation, and I spent about 30 minutes trying to find someone who could help me tie that bed to the roof of my car. Most other customers just want to leave at that point, so it was difficult to get help. By the time I was nearly in tears, because it was starting to rain and the cardboard supports under the bed in a box were beginning to decompose in the wet, a very patient man kindly listened to my long explanation and desperate plea for knot-tying help. After I finished my sob story, he smiled sadly at me and said "I'm sorry. I don't speak English." I eventually ended up calling my dad, who gave me knot-tying lessons over the phone.

So know that while Ikea employees can help you lift a heavy object onto your car's rooftop, they cannot help you secure it. Also know that when you get home, maneuvering that heavy object -- which is probably 6' long, at least -- from your car's rooftop and into the house and around the hallway corner and into the bedroom is going to be your next challenge. Know, traveler, that when you're trying to drag that heavy box through the carpet and into that bedroom, you may fall over backwards, with the bed landing on top of you and bruising your knee and hip, and you may fracture your wrist on the way down. Know that when this happens on New Year's Day, you're going to wait at least two hours in the ER before you get x-rayed, and at least another hour before you can see a doctor to confirm the fracture. And know that the $100 co-pay at the ER (if you have good insurance; I do) will have cost you $25 more than it would have cost you to have Ikea deliver the damn box in the first place.

Know this: Ikea delivers. And even if a $75 delivery fee seems steep after all of the money you just spent in the store, paying them to deliver your goods may cost less in the end, especially when you factor in the intangibles like pain and suffering.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:29 PM on June 22, 2017 [22 favorites]

1) When you're going through the showroom, there are semi-secret "shortcut" doors. don't be afraid to use them to skip sections.

2) After awhile, the experience will make it seem like IKEA is the ONLY place to get furniture and that these are your only options for furnishing your house. Fight this feeling as long as you can. There are plenty of places to get furniture, and this is their design fucking with you. Settling in this case doens't mean "buying a piece of ikea furniture that isn't exactly what you want," it means "not buying a piece of ikea furniture and looking for something that is exactly what you want"

3) Get the ice cream and also the lingonberry jam.
posted by softlord at 1:41 PM on June 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

You're going to have sooooo much fun! Ikea is GREAT! It's kind of like a home-decorating themed amusement park.

-I really like IKEA's curtains and curtain rods; lots of different styles and varieties for very reasonable prices.

-Wall hooks and shelves, particularly picture rails:
Picture Ledges
Pictures and frames, as others have said.

- Drawer pulls and stuff like that

-I have a dimmer similar to this which I hang right next to my pillow and use to turn off both my bedside lamps without having to stretch for the actual lamp switches. Changed my life.

-Be aware that Ikea beds and bed linens are sometimes sized funny. Measure your bed if you're in the market for those.

-If your region still allows disposable plastic grocery bags, one of these dispenser things will change your life for storing them.

-Ikea has really good down pillows at insanely reasonable prices (and a great display to help you pick the right one, depending on whether you are a back sleeper or side sleeper/etc).

-I buy a lot of my dishes and glasses there. The downside, however, if you entertain, is that they have "IKEA" stamped very visibly on the bottom.

-I would suggest having a big caffeine-filled beverage just before you enter, so that you will be all hyped up and your mind will open to all the creative possibilities! Looking at their sample rooms upstairs is always really inspiring to me.

-Also, if you're handy, maybe have a look at the Ikea Hackers website before you go, to get some ideas. There are lots of very slight modifications that can be made to Ikea items to make them into something completely different. Especially for pets (like hiding the litterbox, cat castles)

-And in the same vein as the tea lights, every Ikea customer must buy at least one Poang chair before they die. Really very comfortable and ubiquitous.

-If you're in the US, many Ikea items are also available used on Craigslist. Already put together. Most items go for about half price. So if you're looking at an expensive item, check CL before you hit the checkout line.
posted by bluesky78987 at 2:01 PM on June 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Get a Bekvam step stool. Or two. So useful.

It's a weird one, but Ikea sells cheese sometimes, and the Ost Herrgard is good. I liked the Ost Prast less but it's a matter of taste. There's also a blue cheese listed on the web that I've never found in stock.

And meatballs, of course. The veg balls are pretty good too but I recall finding the chicken ones kind of meh.
posted by zadcat at 2:04 PM on June 22, 2017

Nth-ing the suggestion to buy the blue bags. I use them for camping, gardening, laundry and toting stuff around in my car. They are ridiculously awesome, and I always regret not having more of them.
posted by OrangeDisk at 2:16 PM on June 22, 2017

Princess cake.

Princess cake.

Princess cake.
posted by wittgenstein at 2:25 PM on June 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Be prepared to let your imagination run wild; many of their items are fabulous finds for purposes other than intended. For example, we use their white plastic trays (which cost $1) as boot trays in the winter.

Their lightbulbs and batteries are very cheap and good quality.

These glasses are great for beer, and only $.89 each!

It was mentioned upthread, but their paper napkins are the best I've ever found. They come in many colors so go wild.

The IKEA 365+ knives are very good.

Their food storage items are really useful. These are particularly useful for dry storage, IMO.

IKEA mattresses are generally well-regarded; we like ours a lot.

Don't be surprised when you end up spending far more than you expected.
posted by DrGail at 2:39 PM on June 22, 2017

I enjoy Ikea and furnished most of my first apartment from there. A lot of that furniture is still with me.

Good tips from above:

Before you go: measure measure measure. Measure:
--every space in your house where you may want to fit new furniture
-- any current furniture you may want to replace.
--Ceiling height, if low
-- weird things like the height and width of your shelves in case you want to get storage boxes
--any unframed art or photos you might get frames for
--bedframes, if you want to get mattresses and/or sheets
-- anything else you can think of

Keep that info on your phone, in cm and inches. Take extra phone batteries.

For your sanity's sake, go during the day on a weekday, when it's least crowded.

Stop for a food break when you get to the café, halfway through. It's useful to rest, clear your head, and talk about which of the many desirable shiny things you really need before you dive into the warehouse section.

None of us are looking for anything specific, but are furnishing new homes or moving into new apartments. This is basically the ideal state in which to spend way the hell too much cash at Ikea. You will emerge with 60,000 things you didn't know you needed.

If you're uncertain about a thing, don't buy. Returns at Ikea are their own special level of hell. If you do have to return anything, bring a good book when you go-- the returns line is lonnnngggg.

Ikea things I have which have lasted over 10 years, through multiple moves:

--Cooking pots: two stockpots, a steamer and a saucepan. Ikea cookware is great value.

--Mixing bowls: steel ones and nested plastic ones with lids

--Wooden book- and CD shelves

--Wooden utility shelves

--Tea light lanterns! So cheap, so lovely, so useful.

Things I keep going back to Ikea for:

--Mattresses and mattress pads

--Gummi candy

--Cinnamon rolls

--Ginger snaps

Have fun!
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:52 PM on June 22, 2017

+1 on "Browse the website before you go" and "Be willing to split up to accommodate different browsing styles."

It can be helpful to do a quick once-over of the whole floor first before you focus on one item or product line. Different choices for one category of furniture (e.g., dresser, chair) can be spread out in different rooms. I've gone and fixated on one item earlier in the route, only to find an even better option in a later room.

Some locations have an as-is section where they have discounted furniture.

They sometimes have sales and promotions (see website).

Ikea decor or household goods stuff can be hit or miss. I've had bad dish racks and dish stands, good lamps and bad lamps, ok dishware...
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 3:04 PM on June 22, 2017

I'd make a list of random things you might need for your household. It helps to have some idea of what you might want. They have pretty much anything you need to furnish a household.

I personally enjoy their plants and candles and misc accessories. Lighting and light bulbs are also good deals. Also storage boxes and magazine boxes are my favorite way to hold random junk.
posted by hydra77 at 3:18 PM on June 22, 2017

When I was a student I used to live about half an hr away from an IKEA. We used to go there for dinner if we wanted a change or a treat. We were all on very tight budgets but we still loved wandering around and deciding what we would spend money on if we had any.

If one or more of you plans to buy furniture know that the website does not only tell you the exact size and weight of the assembled furniture but also of the boxes it comes in. This is good to know when you get to the inevitable puzzle of how to fit everything in your car in the car park. Also consider that a car full of passengers does not accommodate the larger boxes-so don't try to minimise number of cars if you want to buy something larger.

Also, if you want to buy furniture realise that when they say self assembly, they mean it. I once bought a chest of drawers that came with a total of 200 screws and bits to assemble...after that I made them deliver and assemble my next furniture purchase - I have a feeling the assembly at least is not available everywhere.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:29 PM on June 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Agree that the bags are great. We have 2 and I wish we had more. At my old office we had a bunch of Ikea plants, which were surprisingly great.

The general layout as described by TOrunner fits my memory of the place.

I have also found the KALLAX to be the most sturdy and versatile of their pieces. I've also been pleased with our media stand (HEMNES I think). I never, ever want to use a MALM dresser again, and I suspect this is true of any of their dressers (they can't really stand up to daily drawer usage).
posted by radioamy at 4:36 PM on June 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Their vegetarian meatballs are actually pretty good, so grab a bag of those on your way out. Oh, and some Daim.

As for what to actually buy from Ikea that isn't food...ehhh. Light bulbs? Cutlery? A nice rug?
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:44 PM on June 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

As others have said: buy bags, Poang chairs are nice, dishes and such...

But I can't believe that no one has mentioned the RÅSKOG cart. They live up to the hype that is seen in other communites. One of the IKEA pieces that is just right.

The one in Washington state is always busy, but it is especially bad right now as they are in the midst of demolishing what was the original building after moving the store into what used to be secondary parking or furniture storage or something in order to make more parking. So there's almost no parking available. The new store is two stories and very nice though.

We went up last week to buy a pair of Poangs for the living room. Did not escape without Raskogs, but didn't buy any tea lights. The ones they have now seem to be identical to the ones from Walmart, and I have some of those already. I put tea lights in Mason jars, and no I didn't see it on Pinterest.
posted by monopas at 5:06 PM on June 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Former employee here. Ikea stores are intentionally designed to make you lose track of time and buy things you did not intend to buy. Here are a few things they taught us in brainwashing/orientation:

- Near the entrance, there will be some large bins with something cheap but useful, like bag clips or tea lights. Ikea calls these bins "wallet openers". They're designed to get you accustomed to impulse spending as soon as you enter the store.

- In each section, there'll be some brightly painted sections of wall with something eye catching and cheap displayed vertically. They call these "irresistible offers" (or something similar) and they designed to entice you off the main pathway so you encounter more products along the way.

- One of our cognitive biases as humans is that we value things more if we have put them together ourselves. That bookshelf will seem like it's worth more to you once you've sweated over an allen key for an afternoon. Yeah, people are weird, and Ikea has skilfully leveraged this to convince the customer to work for free.

- Many of the cheaper products are designed partly for form and function, but largely for fitting efficiently into a shipping container. See: mugs with impractically tiny handles, watering cans that spill when you use them but stack perfectly inside each other., things that are shaped weirdly but tesselate perfectly en masse. Try products out for yourself - they might be designed skilfully but not all of them were designed with the end user as the highest priority.

- One of the most common questions asked by customers of floor staff is "help, how do I get out of here?" Look for the shortcut doors.

- This might vary according to location, but rainy days were always the most frantic and busy.

Lots of people enjoy the "Ikea experience". Many others find it exhausting and disorienting. Shopping in groups can be particularly frustrating, as people want to move at different paces, everyone's decor tastes are different and someone inevitably ends up feeling stressed out or trapped. An awful lot of arguments happen during visits to Ikea. And overspending on things you don't need (which the store is specifically designed to make you do) is not good for you or for the environment.

My advice? Don't let yourself be manipulated. Ikea makes some nice things but it is not a magical wonderland, it's a shop that sells some stuff you might want to buy. Plan ahead; download the Ikea app. Decide *before* you go exactly which products you're interested in. All the measurements are in the app, as are the in-store locations of each product. Check the products out in person to see if you still want them, then collect what you want and get out.

Remember, it really is just a shop; in fact, it's a shop that has been specifically designed to make you believe it's fun to do work (collecting, packing, transporting, assembling) that other shops pay staff to do for you. Buy what you need and enjoy it, but don't get sucked into believing that a perfectly coordinated bathroom with change your life. It's just a shop.
posted by embrangled at 6:18 PM on June 22, 2017 [28 favorites]

Their shower suction cup things are great and actually work.

Never in my life has a suction cup ever, ya'know, suctioned. These do and they're great for showers.

posted by RolandOfEld at 6:21 PM on June 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, and anything involving drawers will take foreeeeever to assemble.
posted by embrangled at 6:22 PM on June 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, and anything involving drawers will take foreeeeever to assemble.

On assembly: If you are going to assemble more than 2* pieces of Ikea furniture in your lifetime, invest $10 in one of these folding hex wrench sets. Your fingertips will thank you, because disposable Ikea allen wrenches are hell on your finger pads.

* arbitrary, but based on experience
posted by mudpuppie at 8:13 PM on June 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Probably my favorite Ikea thing that isn't the blue bags (indispensable) or the napkins (the best value for the cutest paper napkins you can possibly imagine) is the Krama washcloths. They're plain white washcloths with colored loops in the corner to hang them from hooks (so you can tell yours from a housemate's?) and they're a perfect mix of soft and scrubby, thin enough to dry out fast so they can't get stinky, and cheap enough that as soon as they get stained by makeup you can downgrade them to rags and then to car washing rags and then to compost because they're 100% cotton. They're in the kid stuff section so if you don't have kids you might not come across them organically but in most Ikeas the kid stuff is right by the food court so just grab a pack of them on your way to magic meatballs and Princess Cakes.

Also: bag clips, utility scissors. Those will often be in bins along the stairs as you head down to the lower level, on your way to inexpensive plants and Ribba picture frames in every possible size so you can make a really gorgeous art wall.
posted by padraigin at 10:02 PM on June 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

One more thing: no matter how much you buy at Ikea, your home will not look anything like the tranquil-yet-homely pictures in the catalogue unless you also make an effort to declutter the rest of your belongings. Don't fall into the trap of trying to replicate the demonstration rooms, only to end up with a home that's filled to bursting point, but with a slightly better quality of junk than before.
posted by embrangled at 10:57 PM on June 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Great tips here but there's one thing I haven't seen mentioned yet. It's what I call the Ikea effect: pretty much anything will look good if you display it in a group of 10, 30, 50 of the same items. The sheer repetition by itself makes that vase, pillowcase or candlestick look nicer.
But if you buy one or two and take them home, you won't get that effect, and it'll just be a vase, a pullowcase or a candlestick. So make sure that you actually like the item, by itself.

I live within 5 miles of an Ikea. I like Ikea. But you need to be aware that an Ikea store is basically a selling machine, a machine that creates sales, and a pretty good one at that.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:30 PM on June 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've found that after checking out it helps to buy an ice cream cone for everyone, sit down and eat it and have a tiny moment of relaxation before packing the car. This has decreased the inevitable arguments during packing large objects into the car more than anything else.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:34 AM on June 23, 2017

I know everyone has said it already but meatballs! With the gravy and the sauce!
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 5:56 AM on June 23, 2017

Don't park near the entrance to IKEA; park near the exit. When you emerge, you will almost certainly be exhausted and footsore, and not up for making a trek to fetch your car. Also, at the exit, there's parking spaces designed specifically for loading flatpack items into your car, with twine nearby. Take advantage of those by driving your car into them, then loading your car up.

Also, there is a circle of hell reserved for those people who suddenly come to a dead stop in the middle of the center showroom aisles to gawp at the rooms, blocking traffic. Step into the rooms, that's why they're there! Sit on the furniture in them, try them out, touch all the things! But by the FSM's noodly appendages, please don't block the aisle when it's crowded.
posted by culfinglin at 6:23 AM on June 23, 2017

Lots of great advice here. The best things at IKEA, in my opinion (and I have a lot of IKEA! I had an entire apartment furnished on one trip to IKEA!) are:
dishtowels - so awesome, buy a lot
lights - they have really nice lighting at fantastic prices - so good that we've bought lights online despite the crazy shipping fees, because they're still cheaper than anything else decent!
the 365 stainless steel pots & pans - really love ours, I've had my set since 2010 and they are still great.
also the ligonberry jam. so good!

hydrate well while you're there, and drink a lot of coffee, also.
posted by john_snow at 6:38 AM on June 23, 2017

BAGS. BUY THE BAGS. You will laugh when I tell you to buy at least 5 but then you will find yourself using them for laundry, for packing, for storage, for carrying bags of soil from your car, etc.

Seconding this. I am about to help with an office move and one of the tools we will use is going to be one of the Ikea bags I will bring from home.

Since you are indeed furnishing homes, definitely spend some time in the showrooms poking around. Or even check out their web site in advance, looking at the "galleries" in each section; that can help you at least narrow down the general feel of what you want so you don't get option overload in the showroom.

General layout tips: the bigger stuff like desks and chairs and stuff is on display in the showroom, and you can check them out there. But those are all the things you would pick up as kits right before you get to the checkout, so just write down what you decided on. (If you forget, there are also a couple computer kiosks down there to help you with "shit, what was the name of that chair, "Poangg" or "Malm"?). The "marketplace" is all housewares stuff like sheets, towels, dishes, pots, pans, storage boxes, lamps....basically "anything that is not furniture". You can find some amazingly cool and random stuff there for cheap.

There is also a small collection of toys in the kids' furniture section that has some sweet things sometimes. There is also an "as is" section where you can find random stuff at steep discounts - they dump all of the showroom-sample stuff here whenever they do a showroom changeover, or if things have slight dents or scratches or have lost pieces. It can be a great way to get some random housewares for super cheap.

My only complaint about the housewares section is that sometimes the colors and patterns for the fabric can be a little limited, so if you've already got some things that you're looking to supplement and are hunting for something that would match you may be out of luck ("I need a nice set of placemats that would go with grandma's Irish linen tablecloth, but everything is in this weird print in chatreuse"), but if you're starting from scratch or just stick to solid colors that may be an option (I picked up a new plain white bedspread and sheets for summer recently that I'm going to round out by sewing my own pillowcases instead of using theirs).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:27 AM on June 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Buy their wonderful, cheap and sharp scissors to have in every drawer in your house.

The herring in the food store isn't so good. Everything else is good, including the chocolate.

Get a few of the big carry bags as someone said above. They are fantastic for the pool.

Clean out your car of any extraneous stuff before you go, so you'll have room to carry everything you want to buy.

If you think you might want any furniture, measure the relevant spaces in your house before you go so you're not like "will this bookcase fit?" &c.

Their serving stuff is beautiful. They have some bomb glasses too.

Maybe I'll go to Ikea today.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:22 AM on June 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

The showrooms have little side nooks you can duck into. A model bedroom, or living room. They're a good place to escape the crowds for a few minutes, de-stress, and tell your partner that, yes, you still love them.
posted by Banknote of the year at 9:24 AM on June 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do not go on an empty stomach or wearing uncomfortable shoes. This is a retail adventure!

The first section is the showrooms. They are incredible tiny set up rooms and you can wander in, sit on things, etc. and pretend you live in a tiny swedish apartment. The arrows on the floor will lead you through this. If you're looking for something specific furniture-wise, write down the things you're considering from the website and then go find and try them out in this area. If you decide you want something, write down the aisle and bin number from the tag (or take a photo of it). There will be little bits of things you can pick up to buy here but don't worry - you can also buy them later.

This will take you about half the time if you're really getting into it. At that point you'll be at the cafeteria. Get lunch! Its a bargain and pretty tasty. And it will help you get through the next bits.

You'll then go downstairs where you can grab a shopping cart. You will think "Oh, I don't need one" but YES YOU WILL. You'll then go through a series of housewares areas which have all kinds of things you didn't know you needed until you saw them. Get the tea lights. It's like losing your IKEA virginity. Napkins are also great, as are glassware and dishes. I like some of the bedding, carpets and pillows. Lighting and frames are also a good bargain and usually well-made for the price.

After this section, you'll be in the warehouse. If you decided to buy something from the upstairs showrooms, find the aisle and bin and grab the flat pack. When you enter the warehouse there are larger flat carts for these items. Before you check out, there's a returns/as-is section for super bargains.

Then check out. BUT YOU ARE NOT DONE. No. Visit the swedish food market. Lingonberry jam and soda. Cookies and other nifty things. Fish things, if that's your idea of tasty. I also always got a 6-pack of cinnamon buns to go. You may need the sugar high so feel free to eat one immediately.

You have now done IKEA right. You may or may not ever want to go again but at least you've done it all! To do all of this could take you 4 hours. If at all possible do not go on a weekend. Your odds of fighting with your loved ones are scientifically proven to triple if you go on a Saturday.
posted by marylynn at 7:28 PM on June 23, 2017

My whole microscopic (300 sq ft!) Hong Kong flat is kitted out with IKEA. Of note:

- strong ziploc-style plastic bags in many sizes
- non-awful eco-friendly lightbulbs
- GREAT deals on wrapping paper and gift bags - this is right before the warehouse in IKEA here - also some pretty fun stationery
- non-absurd bedding - duvet/comforter covers that are not closed with ten separate fiddly tie closures but very sensible snaps, a nice variety of weights for different seasons
- memory foam pillows and nice cases designed for those pillows
- cheap but nice silicone kitchen tools
- this 5-quart SENIOR Dutch oven, way less than the price of a Le Creuset and rumoured to be made by Staub (no-knead bread!)

Finally - this is not exactly your question or context - but my local IKEA in Hong Kong has the cheapest but still nice-quality ham/salami/air-dried Swedish prosciutto, frozen salmon and non-boring cheese anywhere in town. This has been vital for me as I've been trying a high-protein, low-carb diet here. Also: cheap almonds!
posted by mdonley at 3:56 AM on June 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh - and eriko once pointed out that Ikea screws aren't phillips-head -- instead they're a special kind called Pozidriv. You can buy a set of interchangeable Pozidriv screwdriver bits the fit them correctly, and it makes assembling the Ikea furniture much easier. (Phillips head screwdrivers will work, just not as well, and if you end up buying something that has a lot of screws it can be a real pain.)

Also, depending who you're going with, might be worth a talk about whether one of you is in the "shared appreciation" school of browsing. To me, a lot of the fun of Ikea is in looking at their fun things, and saying to my partner "check it out!" ...and the desired response is just to acknowledge the fun thing ("aw, cool"). Neither the initial pointing-out nor the positive response mean the person wants to actually buy the thing, it's just a moment of shared appreciation, and then moving on. (This took us a while and some testy moments to figure out, so it's just worth having on your radar as far as people's different browsing styles.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:21 AM on June 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

« Older Quick photoshop request   |   Which MacMini model should I get? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.