Accessorize your apartment, on the cheap

I hate to upset the commonly accepted beliefs about a straight male’s “place in society,” but damn it, I am in love with an interior design store.

No, it’s not Pier 1 Imports. That place makes me puke. And it sure as hell isn’t Crate-and-suck-my-wallet-dry-Barrel. They won’t even let me in there. If it were Big Lots Furniture you would be welcome to come and put me out of my misery at anytime. It isn’t.

The company I am referring to is Sweden’s Ikea: A castle of functional, fine furnishings and house wares at efficient prices. The closest such store is one-and-a-half hours away in Canton, Mich.

It’s well worth the drive, even if you aren’t buying anything.

If a Lowe’s or Home Depot store had two floors it would be about the size of Ikea. Its furniture showroom is three times as large as a Pier 1 Import’s.

Aside from the showroom, visitors to the massive store will find a day care center, a Swedish restaurant, a café, shipping and assembly services and a warehouse.

Founded in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad – God bless his dyslexic soul – Ikea quickly defined itself as a furniture dealer that synthesizes good design, functionality and price.

A durable, sharp knife set with holder is only $3. An attractive customized table is $100. A full couch that folds out to a bed is only $189 and it, too, is gorgeous. The list goes on and on. There are literally thousands of products. Go to and see the hundreds of products you can buy with the change under your couch.

A recent study done by “PC Magazine” found that Ikea’s batteries are the most cost-effective batteries on the planet. Just one example of the amazing deals you will find there.

Why is Ikea so much better than every other business in the world? It never assumes a product is as cheap as it can get, always hunting for the cheaper materials, designs and distribution processes for lowering price.

The most widely known reason for Ikea’s inexpensiveness is its “flat packing.” After visiting the showroom and noting all products, customers go into the Ikea warehouse on-site and collect the needed boxes. Customers transport and assemble the furniture themselves.

All of this saves money, but if the individuals wish to have it delivered and assembled, then Ikea will hook them up.

The resulting costs make Ikea affordable for the majority of buyers. This is one reason for its extreme popularity with all demographics around the world. How popular?

It has been reported, but not proven, that one in 10 Europeans was conceived on an Ikea bed.

The opening days of stores in England and Saudi Arabia caused stampedes where people died. On opening weekend in Stoughton, Mass., it took more than one hour to travel to the store from only one mile away due to traffic jams. Three-hundred thousand people visited and more than a million dollars was made. The scene in Canton was quite similar, with more than 100 people camping out overnight to be the first inside.

All in all, 410 million customers spend nearly $18.6 billion annually on Ikea’s approximately 12,000 products, at stores, online or through mail order. The 50-year-old Ikea catalog is published twice as many times as the Bible each year, at 160 million copies in 52 editions and 25 languages.

It’s popularity may be just as good a reason to love Ikea as any other, especially when one considers the fantastic impact the store has had around the world.

It is currently one of few “western” companies with stores in both Israel and other Middle Eastern countries. Ikea’s “democratic design” has forced the religious police in Saudi Arabia to raid the store and give lectures after unmarried citizens found it a great place for flirtation, which the country forbids.

It seems nearly every Ikea product, unlike Wal-Mart products, gets manufactured in countries one rarely sees a “Made in” label from: Russia, Egypt, Czech Republic, etc. In other words, Ikea has impacted markets all over the world with its 90,000 workers in 240 stores in 34 countries.

Furthermore, the Stichting INGKA Foundation, the world’s wealthiest charity, owns Ikea’s parent company. It is bigger than the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, at a net worth of $36 billion.

Ikea is also the first company to feature gay couples and transsexuals in a commercial.

The first Ohio Ikea store will open around the fall of 2007 in West Chester for you Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati and Louisville people.

Soon, Ikea’s new home building concept, the Boklok, will invade America. Imagine a whole country of Ikea homes. Woah.

Send comments to Matt Clark at [email protected].