The Ikea Dilemma

I grew up with a lot of really awful 1980s sofas (remember these? Ugh). They were so popular in that era that I’m sure every ’90s baby could find at least one in their family photo albums. They were dated even when I was a toddler, but their staying power kept them outfitting cottages and basements for years to come.

Every time I’m about to make a pricey home purchase, I try to consider its shelf life in my apartment and in my life. Will I still love this lamp in 5 years? Is it a stupid idea to invest in new dining chairs or should I just grab some minimalist ones from Ikea? The last thing I want is to pour a bunch of dollars into trend items that will be as unappealing as those awful brown floral sofas.

As a twenty something, I’m rooted firmly in my Ikea phase and trying to transition out. My apartment is decked out in minimalist black everything, compliments of the Swedish furniture giant. Shelving units, coffee tables, end tables, a dresser that took a small army and several hours to assemble. My college diploma is even in an Ikea frame.

Were these purchases practical at the time? One hundred per cent. A broke college student needs some budget-friendly surfaces to make a mess on, it’s not rocket science.

About a year ago, I realized that the black wasn’t doing my very dark apartment any favours. Maybe white furniture might have been a better choice? Because these items are from Ikea, this isn’t a simple upcycling project. If you want to bring your mom’s family heirloom dresser into the 21st century, your options are endless: you can re-stain it, paint it, or attach new knobs. The solid wood of this dresser is on your side. Ikea furniture is trickier. Every piece I have is made out of particle wood and covered in wood-grain printed paper. So what are my options? (I actually have no clue here, please advise.) I imagine there aren’t a lot of solutions that won’t work out terribly.

Aside from the fact that it’s not easy to flip these items, craftsmanship and how long it’ll last you is another valid concern: Good quality furniture used to be valued and people passed down their heirloom objects from generation to generation. Buying on the cheap has started to matter a great deal more to people. We’re filling landfills and thrift stores with cheap stuff and buying less quality items.

It’s hard to justify spending more on furniture when the budget is tight, which is why I think thrifting and up-cycling is key. It might even be the half-way house for Gen Yers breaking up with Ikea.


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