A recent entry on The Age's home renovation blog asked readers to share what they liked and disliked about Ikea. Most people who responded were decidely negative about the ubiquitous Swedish home megamart and its wares, except about the cheap breakfasts.
It got me thinking about the amount of Ikea stuff I have in my own home. There's virtually no furniture, but plenty of other things.
Now we've been in our house for nearly ten years, we've outgrown our 'it will do for now furniture' and replaced it with our real furniture. Our house is furnished with good quality new furniture that we waited for years to buy, such as our bed and the living room sofas. There's also our beloved second hand pieces that were very lucky finds - like the eight great 1920s chairs I recently found waiting for me in the window of a used furniture shop. They are a perfect match for the dining table we've had for the last nine years.
The only piece of Ikea furniture we have these days is a rickety 12-year-old bedside table The Hubster uses. But we have loads of other Ikea things in our home. They may be massed produced, but they are also simple and straightforward. A lot of it just works.
Take their storage jars. The $5 Burken storage jars are just the right size for storing dry goods, and have finally helped me get rid of our chronic food moth problem.
While I find a lot of Ikea glasses very flimsy, they have a sweet range of spotty glasses that the kids use now they've outgrown the plastic cup phase. Those small flower shaped plates that I found in the kids department seven years ago are still getting a good workout though.
I like Ikea textiles too, and especially their cushions. As part of this winter's task to cosy up our 'good room' (AKA the living room), I found these big squishy velveteen cushions. The colour isn't as quite as lurid as it is in this picture.
A trawl through their manchester section can throw up some good finds too. We have a simple creamy white textured cotton bedspread on our bed (complete with some holes that our rabbit chewed - I need to get to it with my needle and thread). Miss Mucks's bed is decked out in Ikea as well. A lot of single bed manchester around for young girls is sickly sweet and princess lolly-pink. I recently found an Ikea alternative (not in the kids section) in a pretty navy, purple and olive green abstract floral print on a white background which looks very nice on her bed, and she loves it.
I'm currently thinking wistfully about Ikea's combined cat bed, scratching post and igloo too; it's made of rattan, and has a quirky 1960s sculptural shape. I suspect that our kitten won't take to it however.
So while Ikea stuff is mass produced and on the whole lacks character, I think there are treasures to be found if you look. Just as there are treasures to be found online, in the local second hand shop, and at Kmart.