The once catalogue-only empire still distributes in 25 languages and 35 countries and with over 700 stores worldwide IKEA has become the new universal language of interior design. That's all find and dandy, Andy, but at what price has all this cost cutting and trend setting come at?
Saturday morning I opened the kitchen showroom right on time. I had my Grande half-sweet Mocha Soy Americano Misto in hand, a blueberry muffin, it was sunny, and I dreamt it was going to be a beautiful day ahead. Then it happened.
Some dude peeked his head in and shouted to me "Hey, can you tell me which way to IKEA?"
"Yup, it's that way. Keep going." I said as I pointed to the right down the road.
Was he even going to consider what a über-posh designer like myself, with a swanky new coiffure, could offer him as he sped away in the opposite direction that I pointed two seconds ago? Sigh. My hero.
IKEA has done a fantastic job at creating an experience. From inspiration rooms, crystal clear signage, in-store directions, a restaurant to feed the meat-itarians, to creating a culture of low-cost savings, they offer everything for the home including a way out of your current mess (in the form of shopping trolley abandonment.) I don't know a single IKEA that isn't hopping full. This experience is so important that there is a spitting image knock-off overseas. Frustrating. Then there's the stuff that only creative people can do, like stuff with IKEA stuff, as evident by IKEA Hackers.
Recently, I was working on a wee side project for a friend wanting a built-in office. I have worked every design to its limit and even sent it out to a whole bunch of manufacturers for a bid. With a strict budget in mind, I was blow away when the cabinetry was coming in at budget before installation and delivery. I decided to download the IKEA kitchen planner and price it out. Yeah, you guessed it already. The price was less than half of the other suppliers. How can I effing complete with? Girl's gotta eat! Right?
Not so fast there, Don Draper, I know what you're going to say next and IKEA knows it has a problem with assembly which is why they're amping up their installation services. Doesn't that just ruin the budget? With 10'-0" x 10'-0" kitchens offered at $1980 for cabinetry, installation is sure to be about 80% of that at $50 per hour. Who am I kidding...
It's hard enough being a designer in a world full of "cheap and cheerful" (hate that saying) or "designer look for less" (hate that saying more) when all the cool crap I can do and amazing quality I can offer are all wrapped up like holobchi with Campbell's tomato soup instead of the real deal.
Alright, I give the eff up. IKEA, you win. (But I'm NOT happy about it.)
Let us be thankful we have commerce. Buy more. Buy more now. Buy more and be happy. - THX 1138
Incidentally, can someone please explain why when I search "IKEA directions" in Google Images I get pictures of straight-people intercourse? What does one have to do with the other? I mean, seriously. That's really gross.