This past Monday I bumped into one of my young colleagues in the hallway at work. I asked her, as is my wont, how her weekend had been.
“Amazing!” she gushed, “I went to IKEA!”
“Oh, I know,” said I. “I love IKEA. It’s a destination. And the meatballs: to die for.”
“No, but this was my first time,” she said.
“In the Calgary IKEA, you mean,” I answered.
“No…it was my first time going to IKEA at all.”
So. Wow. There are people – living in this country – who are born, grow up, go to university, graduate, get jobs, get their own apartments…and have never been to IKEA. Ever. Somehow, people manage to make it into their twenties without the iconic middle-class coming-of-age experience of shopping for unpronounceable furniture at IKEA. (And also, notably, without ever tasting meatballs paired with a fine lingonberry sauce. It’s scandalous, really.)
Somehow, people manage to make it into their twenties without the iconic middle-class coming-of-age experience of shopping for unpronounceable furniture at IKEA.
To be fair, though, my friend just moved to Calgary from Nova Scotia, and there are no IKEA stores farther east than Boucherville, Quebec. (Yes, really.) Now, I’m willing to drive a long way to get to IKEA (it takes a good half-hour-plus to get from my house to the Calgary store), but I suppose traversing two provinces to get there is pushing it a bit. In any event: now she’s a big-city girl, with her first trip to IKEA under her belt, she’s had a taste of the finest that Swedish home furnishings and decor (to say nothing of meatballs) have to offer, and she’ll never be the same again.
But I had to know what her favourite part was, never having met an IKEA virgin before. Was it the marketplace? Bedding? The as-is section? Or my personal favourite: the “what you can do with a mere 650 square feet of space” display. The hideaway dining tables, sliding doors and loft bed/desk combos never cease to amaze me, and I’m always tempted to sell my belongings and move into a tiny pied-à-terre in Stockholm when I’m there.
But that’s me…I’ve been going to IKEA to drool several times a year since the first one went up in Toronto in 1976. I also lurk suspiciously around the community mailbox at IKEA catalogue delivery time because I don’t want to take any chances. Serious IKEA-phile.
So this was an interesting opportunity. To discover what someone totally new to the whole IKEA experience thought of it all.
She was, unsurprisingly, a little overwhelmed. It’s a big place, is IKEA, and if you’re new to the go-upstairs-first-go-forward-but-never-backward flow of it all, you might risk getting caught up in the current or stuck in an eddy, but in the end, she did all right and came out intact. And her first-visit highlight? The kitchens.
Oh. The kitchens. Right. OhmygoshhowcouldIforget? Did I say I loved the tiny bachelor pads best? I lied. I love the kitchens best. SO MUCH THE BEST.
Sometimes (I’ll admit it) I gulp down my second cup of coffee on a Saturday morning, turn to my daughters and say, “so…who wants to go to IKEA for lunch?” We pile into the car and take the trek across town and then we’re there. Park the car, climb the stairs, and we’re suddenly in heaven: IKEA kitchen heaven. Immediately we’re each tempted by the siren song of the different kitchens, and it’s only a matter of seconds before I hear, “Mom! I want this countertop if we renovate our kitchen!” or “Mom! Look at these amazing cabinets!” Personally, I’m always drawn to the warmth of real veined marble, the glint of lights reflecting off a smooth glass cooktop and a sparkling white subway tile backsplash. For me, the perfect kitchen is white. Clean, sleek, linear and white. Having spent the last nearly twenty years surrounded by vintage 1980s honey oak and raised panels, it’ll be fine by me if I never see another swirl of wood grain ever again.
“Who wants to go to IKEA for lunch?”
It must be something in the genes, actually, because it’s always the modern, crisp, white kitchens that appeal to my daughters as well. We’re not enchanted by the dark espresso stains or rich brown granites and travertine that are so popular today. Nope, give us a kitchen like Jen’s, and each of us would be in our own personal heaven. Heck…you might even see my teenager cooking!
Teenagers cooking, eh? Now that would be a miracle even IKEA might not be able to achieve. Still…a girl can dream!