IKEA and The Embrace of Design Democracy, Part 2

IKEA is solutions at your fingertip. IKEA is a quick fix (usually). IKEA innovates but also creates anew. IKEA is democracy embraced. IKEA is pretty cool–for all these reasons, and oftentimes, if the queue is not long a commercial transaction might even ensue.

But IKEA is also consumption en masse. How much of IKEA do you want and desire? How much IKEA will you ultimately cherish in your own personal and private spaces? The key to successfully decorating your home and office is in the blend. Do the architectural confines of your living space imply a cohesive spatial flow when you move from room to room? Does the space you inhabit not only reflect but also respect your social and marital status, profession and, above all, the person you’ve grown to become? Do the colour schemes, lighting features, furniture, and accessories exhibit what you want them to reflect—and do they do it well? If not, then it’s definitely time to bring some more you into your home!

By the same token my suggestion is to buy what you need and need what you buy. Refrain from purchasing on a whim. Seek inspiration first. Then sleep on it. IKEA is a great concept that works. But a home made from IKEA is not your home…but one that belongs to IKEA alone. My philosophy of living better within your means celebrates you! And in your home you matter most. Allow your home to resemble you. Because a one-stop shop should neither be your first resort nor your last.

Off I went to IKEA on a dreadfully cold January afternoon. Throughout the visit, I clutched a bath mat under my arm. It was actually all I had really desired–but did not actually need. Finally, as I followed the blue arrows pointing to the check-out, I quickly noticed the jam-packed line-up. Not wanting to wait, though I stand behind patience being a virtue, I abandoned the whiteish mat and decided it was not meant to be mine. Not today at least. Nothing bought. But also nothing lost.

IKEA has some great furniture; stand-alone pieces that could really add value to a room. I saw a chaise longue in white canvas that appealed to my senses. It was functional, looked comfortable, seemed easy enough to care for, and was fairly priced. If a client had been on the fence about it, I would’ve defended it and suggested it be bought. Some kitchen counters and cupboards also caught my attention, and particularly wall colors of noble blues and purples. OK, so IKEA is not in the paint business. But color makes people happy. Anyway, as I pondered the actual dullness of the white bath mat, I realized I had not been thrilled by it enough for it to enter my home. In this case it was lacking both in an aesthetic beauty and quality so I let it go even if the price was pleasantly low. Doesn’t everybody love a deal?

But there remains a real relationship between design and commerce, one that says if it’s well-engineered, functional and unique, then it’ll become a timeless classic piece; one that’s worth its current price. One such item comes to mind, Alvar Aalto’s 1933-designed stool pictured above (right). It has become ubiquitous in homes and offices because, like many other items at IKEA, there exists an IKEA-equivalent. In so doing, they have appealed to the masses for decades now.

On the other hand, as I continued my shopping waltz, I came upon a section of 90s-style puffy love seats and armchairs mostly in dark brown and black suspended like racks of beef at an abattoir. I could not believe my eyes! What loftiness! What a ghastly sight! Was I still at IKEA? Needless to say, the visual assault was incongruous with what I think IKEA is and I was left frozen in shock. How could such a merchandising gaffe have ever happened? For posterity sake, I had to take a picture. See below.

Beginning today, Toronto will host another edition of the Interior Design Show (#IDS11), and I am curious to see IKEA’s booth and know what this company is bringing to market in 2011.

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