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IKEA Märäthön

Royal Institute of Stockholm

The Royal Institute of Stockholm, where Terry got her degree in Swedish Wardrobes

I’ve always liked IKEA, the Swedish furniture and home furnishings store. Yes, I’ve finished assembling a piece only to realize at the last step that the very first thing I did was inserted backwards, and I have to take the whole thing apart and start again. It’s the only company that teaches mechanical engineering besides the value of low prices.

But IKEA is inexpensive, good quality, and they don’t slash and burn the Amazonian rainforests to get wood. So we went there yesterday and got a crib, some more media shelves for our DVDs/CDs/miniDVs and the largest wardrobe made in Europe for Ronan’s nursery.

I never know what the IKEA names mean in Swedish. DRAMMEN could mean “stupid Americans lining the pockets of Swedish industrialists” and HAKADAL could mean “Ha! Ha! This is large and imposing Swedish design” for all I know. We got the PAX wardrobe, which comes in 13 boxes and may transform into a panic room in an emergency. (Okay, I made that part up. But it’s very large.) I think it’s called PAX because PAX means peace in Latin, and bringing this monster thing home settles all arguments.

Terry originally wanted the 92-inch high version, which I was sorta okay with once I inquired whether it would fit in our 94-inch high ceilings. The answer: yeah, sorta. So I volunteered to build the thing standing up, instead of lying on the ground like most IKEA stuff. Thankfully we got the 74-inch high version, which I could build on the ground and then set up straight. It’s still a question whether we will have to dismantle PAX if and when we move.

I don’t know about your IKEA habits, but our trips work like this: Terry pours over the IKEA catalog, measures the room, measures the room again, an then we go to IKEA and throw out all her hard work when we see what the piece actually looks like and buy something that looks better and is cheaper and/or more functional. Then we measure all the new stuff in the store with their handy IKEA measuring tapes and recalculate all the needed things that will fit in the space.

For those of you who don’t live in New York City, IKEA is in Elizabeth, New Jersey, a lovely town of statuesque, lovely homes with trees and gardens. Or rather I wish it were. Visiting Elizabeth, New Jersey makes me wonder if it is the trucking capital of the world. Containers, trucks, container ships, and truck, ship and container parts are in every direction.  In the middle of the most industrialized area around, sits IKEA, looking like a multicolor oasis in the middle of New Jersey’s rust belt. There’s no reason for anyone who isn’t a teamster to go to Elizabeth except to shop at IKEA.

To get there from New York City, you take the free shuttle bus. Now, everyone knows the best time to shop at IKEA is during the week when those damn city dwellers can’t get there, and you can actually shop without taking your life into your hands. One of the things that Ronan will only appreciate when he is older is the organized chaos of IKEA on a Saturday afternoon. Hordes of people come there and eat Swedish meatballs and buy stuff that they can’t always identify and then get on the bus and go home.

To even get to the bus, we have to take the subway from our native Brooklyn to Port Authority, which was a difficult trip that particular day because the MTA decided the city didn’t really need to get to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, or to Queens, so those trains weren’t running. On the way to Port Authority, the conductor constantly reminded us that we would have to run – run, mind you – to catch the only train heading to the West Side, which could be located by running down two flights, under the tracks, and then up two flights to the downtown train, which would be heading uptown. Which wasn’t confusing at all. So when we reached the jump-off point, New Yorkers were more nervous than paratroopers about to land on D-Day. It didn’t help that the conductor yelled out as the doors opened, “Passengers! That is your train heading uptown on the downtown track!!” The doors opened, and all of us ran for the train, which helped us by repeatedly banging its doors shut on every hapless straggler.

Once we got to Port Authority, we then had to run to Gate 5 to catch the IKEA shuttle, which took us to Elizabeth. Terry and I had to sit separately because the bus was so crowded and we were running late and the last people on board. That ride wasn’t so bad, because unlike on the way back, the travelers do not have bags and bags of Swedish furnishings stuffed into every nook and cranny of the bus, so that you are sitting on your NÖRDVSK with your head in your BENNØ wishing for a quick death should the bus crash.

I made the cardinal mistake of city living on the way to IKEA. I struck up a conversation with my seatmate, which in New York is the cultural equivalent of spitting on someone. If you talk to your seatmate in New York, they immediately think you’re trying to steal their wallet. So after my first attempt to talk to him, I resorted to shouting diagonally across two rows to discuss IKEA specifications with my wife.

Once we got to IKEA, we joined all the other people in wandering around the maze known as the showroom looking for what we wanted. This is on purpose to increase impulse buying, and also to trap you in IKEA until you give up and send up a flare with your magic wand to get out of the wizard’s competition. I think IKEA sells the children lost in the showroom in Aisle 3, bin 25.

We quickly found a crib we liked, the media towers, and entered the PAX display showroom and set up base camp. The PAX wardrobe has about 1.5 million options, and Terry was going to research them all. We quickly realized there was a PAX sale and the short interior shelves were marked down from $24 to $9, which meant all our measurements for the other shelves we were thinking of were thrown out the window. Terry also scrapped the exterior drawers, and we decided in the presence of the giant PAX god that the shorter 74” wardrobe would do just fine. After about two hours, we made our first excursion to get some Swedish food, and then returned to continue our scholarship in Swedish wardrobe design. Terry has a master’s degree from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm after our visit.

If you haven’t been to IKEA, they have two areas to pick up your furniture. The self-serve area has 50-foot tall shelves of boxes. You find your aisle and bin number and then get your items. But the PAX wardrobe is so large, and so imposing, and so able to cause hernias, that IKEA co-workers get the boxes for you. So we were able to take our media towers and our rug and our clothes rod and head over to delivery. We were able to ship everything but the clothes rod and the rug for $100.

So, with our Swedish clothes rod and rug, we boarded the bus back. I was relieved (I’ve carried stuff back from IKEA all the way to Brooklyn and didn’t like it) that the wardrobe would be delivered, especially after listening to the guy in the next seat try to arrange a van for his purchases. 80 bucks for a one-hour van rental! It’s cheaper to rent a car from Enterprise right there at IKEA. I bet it’s even a Saab! (NOTE: It’s not a Saab.)

Jauntily twirling my clothes rod as we headed for the still-running Q train, we walked, not ran, to catch the train. I fell asleep on the train on the way back, exhausted by our IKEA marathon.

This Wednesday the wardrobe, the crib and the media towers arrive. I will then get up close and personal with an IKEA S-wrench. Terry has saved every IKEA wrench she’s ever gotten. They are damn handy to have when you have three or four people working on building Europe’s greatest wardrobe.

Of course, this PAX furniture is so amazing it may assemble itself. It’s that well made! (NOTE: The furniture will not assemble itself.)


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 26, 2007 1:00 AM.

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