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Cheap furniture just keeps hanging around
VITAL TRIFLE, BY LAURI GROSS
Cheap furniture just keeps hanging around
A few years after Brent and I moved to the Washington, D.C., suburb of Alexandria, Va., an Ikea opened up nearby. It was somewhere around 1987. We were in our 20s, not yet married and living in a rented house without much furniture.
The arrival of Ikea was much hyped, and the hoopla seemed to speak directly to us: cool furniture, fun atmosphere, sleek design and cheap prices! No matter that Ikea furniture is not constructed from real wood (veneer only) and that the bottoms, sides and backs of drawers were flimsy fiberboard or plastic. Business Week has referred to Ikea as a "purveyor of people's lifestyles." It certainly was of ours.
Today, we've been married 22 years and still have not replaced all our Ikea furniture. A few of the last pieces to go were in our bedroom-office. As we hauled out our Ikea desks and wall unit for donation, I recalled our decades-long journey with Ikea.
I think the first thing we bought was that wall unit. Like all Ikea furniture, it required assembly. Something about putting together that unit and placing the adjustable shelves and drawers just where we wanted them made us feel grown up. Then we attached the optional shelf light. I don't recall what we were so keen to illuminate, since everything we owned was junk, but I do recall really thinking that shelf light was the bee's knees. That wall unit was the shining star in our rented house that was otherwise filled with castoffs and hand-me-downs.
A few years later, when we got married and bought our first house, we needed more furniture. We bought a white dining-room table, chairs and hutch from Ikea. We bought fabric from which I made curtains and covers for throw pillows. And we bought a couple stackable storage units to share a space with our first wall unit, in our new, larger family room.
Going to Ikea was always fun. We loved the Ikea cafe, and we collected cute, chunky juice glasses in which they'd serve ice cream to go. Even if we didn't buy furniture, we'd usually come home with knickknacks, bookends, kitchen utensils, wrapping paper, picture frames or something else with just the right blend of funky and functional that caught our eye. For more than a decade, we used our Ikea tray to carry drinks and snacks. It remains in our house today but has been relegated to use as a craft tray for corralling beads, glitter and stickers.
When we moved to our next house, all our Ikea furniture came with us, and we added the desks, which Ikea intended as kitchen tables. Brent and I each used ours from the early 1990s until this year, when we donated them to make room for the first real desks ever to grace our home office.
When we were still in Alexandria, Brent's parents, who lived here in the Cleveland area, used to enjoy a trip to Ikea when they visited. After all, there wasn't -- and still isn't -- an Ikea near Cleveland.
On a 1993 visit to Ikea with my in-laws, we spotted some white china, each piece of which -- dinner plates, salad plates, soup bowls, etc. -- was $1. Brent and I were still eating off the ugly gray plates he bought for himself in his first bachelor pad, so we decided to upgrade to these $1 Ikea plates. I never understood why, but my in-laws did the same thing. We each bought about 12 place settings of this plain white china. Ours immediately went into daily use. My in-laws' went into the nether regions of their dark basement shelves.
When we left Alexandria and resettled in Geauga County in 1999, one of the benefits was that now, when our Ikea china became chipped, I could easily replace them with new ones from my in-law's collection -- now only a half hour from our house. Their Ikea dishes never left the basement, except to go into service in our house. We are still eating off those white Ikea plates. We took all our Ikea furniture with us to Cleveland, except our white dining-room set, which we sold before we left Alexandria. Our new dining room sat empty for a while, but we eventually outfitted it with a set from a traditional furniture store.
Recently, I was looking for a free-standing drawer unit for use in Brent's closet. An online search led me to Ikea's website, from which I made my purchase. When the item arrived via UPS, I thought, "Good ol' Ikea," as I assembled the drawers and placed them in their new home. In addition to that drawer unit, we still have a couple of our original Ikea storage units. One now holds a TV and games in the basement. The other helps keep our daughter's jeans organized in her closet.
After 22 years of marriage, we are awaiting the arrival of our first matching bedroom furniture. In the meantime, we have emptied all the old furniture out of our room. We are sleeping on a mattress on the floor, with an old desk lamp on a milk crate. A room full of Ikea furniture sounds pretty good right now.
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