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Wednesday Furniture Smackdown!

Jan24

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Well, hi,
I’m not sure if this fits in the “Advice Smackdown” theme of things, but I have a question, and I definitely KNOW that you have the answer.
Just how durable is the Ikea furniture? Obviously you’ve tested it through moving, a child, a husband, pets, and various other misadventures, so you know the ins & outs. I love the designs, the simplistic look, and would love to incorporate it into our home (which may I add, is a 150 yr old Victorian home, so my options are either simplistic/Ikea or ultra-traditional (think grandmotherly and way too expensive for my budget).
Does it last? We have kids and pets and they have friends, all of which tend to sit on things not meant to sit on, and lean on things I’d rather not see leaned on. Will Ikea hold up or is it like Target furniture- semi-cute and functional but not here for the long haul?
Thanks for the advice (I hope) and keep up the great work!
-Mrs. Butter-B

Hooray! I knew if I wrote about Ikea enough times, sooner or later I would be known as some kind of Ikea Expert, which was pretty much my entire life goal. And now that day has come, and my work is done. Farewell, Internet. Thanks for playing.
Kidding, of course, but also, yay for a question about something different that doesn’t require copying 14 dozen links from Sephora.com and Drugstore.com! A question I can just answer off the top of my shallow, un-higlighted head!
Ikea furniture: NOT here for the long haul. I mean, it’s cheap. It’s particleboard or laminate or very soft woods like pine or rubber. (Rubberwood even SOUNDS highly dingable, doesn’t it?) It IS cute and functional and a great option if you don’t have a big furniture budget, or if you know you’ll be replacing it in a few years. For the most part, the stuff we bought five years ago looks like total crap, but the stuff we bought two years ago still looks pretty good, although I occasionally need to get out the hex key and tighten the screws.
Examples! We bought Ikea furniture when we lived in apartments or when we were broke. We bought our bedroom set there because our bedroom was small and only had room for a double bed — but we figured one day we’d have room for a bigger bed, therefore why spend a ton of money on something that will eventually get demoted to guest-room status? In our new place, most of the Ikea furniture is going in the basement rec room, where Noah and his friends can beat on it to their destructive hearts’ content, and we got some bunching tables for our living room at Target because I am NOT spending a lot of money on a table that’s going to get pelted with sippy cups on a regular basis.
(This is a design principle I wish someone had smacked me over the head with when I bought nursery furniture. I didn’t go crazy, but I didn’t exactly go cheap, either, and I had this grand idea that I would buy furniture that Noah could “grow up with.” Yeah. 16 months later and it’s all covered in tiny teeth marks and two drawers are broken and did you know Desitin will strip the finish right off of wood? Me neither.)
So I guess it comes down to the fact that you can’t have it all — either you get the cheap furniture that will probably wear out, but at least you probably won’t stress out about it wearing out too much, and it WILL look pretty cute in the meantime…or you get really nice furniture that will last a really long time, but it will cost a lot more and therefore, stress you out more when the kids decide to upend all the living room furniture to make a fort. Although neither option is absolute, since my Ikea kitchen table is seven years old and still looks great, and my nice quality nursery furniture looks like ass.
If you like the look of Ikea and are willing to pay more for non-Ikea quality, try Design Within Reach or Design Public. Perhaps get a couple nice pieces and mix and match them with the Ikea stuff, and see what wears out first. Furniture cage match! Whoo!

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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5 Responses to “Wednesday Furniture Smackdown!”

  1. nancy Jan 24 at 8:53 pm Reply Reply

    I am finally getting rid of an IKEA desk my parents bought for me or my brother in the early 90’s. So, sometimes the stuff holds up. Also have you seen this?
    http://ikeahacker.blogspot.com/

  2. Vicky (Desperate to be a Housewife) Jan 25 at 12:23 am Reply Reply

    It depends on what type of furniture you buy from Ikea. We have an Ikea bookshelf in my daughter’s room that my parents bought for me when I was 11 (hint, I’m turning 11+24 this year) that’s still in good shape. Mine and my husband’s desks still look awesome after 7 years. Our coffee table, on the other hand, looks TERRIBLE, but I have no qualms about that because I paid $35.00 for it. Actually, it’s the second $35 coffee table we bought from there. At that price you can afford one a year and don’t have to worry about the kids going crayon-happy all over it.
    I live with the same mantra that my mother always did:
    “I will not have any nice furniture until my kids leave home”
    I found that one out for certain the day after we got our first ever brand new couch. Our five year-old son had been freaked out by the latest Harry Potter movie and didn’t want to go to the bathroom because of the Dementors who were surely lurking in the hallways…so he just peed on the new couch.

  3. Isabel Jan 25 at 12:06 pm Reply Reply

    My husband is a design and furniture snob. (Hey, come to think of it…maybe he’s just a snob. Anyway.)
    I LOVE your suggestion of mixing some nicely designed IKEA stuff with some higher priced, more durable, pieces. It’s worked for us. We are always getting compliments on our IKEA furniture without people even realizing it’s from IKEA.
    (And my brother just got some sweet job with IKEA which means I now get 15% off there. Which isn’t that much. But still better than a kick in the pants.)

  4. Meredith Jan 26 at 11:10 am Reply Reply

    I just have to post my warning for those looking for IKEA furniture for a specific purpose – Measure!
    We were so excited about 10 years ago to move to a place within driving distance of an IKEA and happily went looking for an entertainment center. Luckily my hubby is totally a type A who measured every piece of electronics to go in said center. We even brought our own measuring tape.
    After spending hours measuring every cabinet in the store (and that is a LOT of cabinets), we found NONE that would hold the electronics. None were deep enough (maybe they have shallow electronics in Europe). We were exhausted and sad, but nowhere near as mad as we’d have been had we discovered this only after we had purchased something!
    Measure people!

  5. Sara Jan 27 at 12:53 am Reply Reply

    I just wanted to say that we have some IKEA nesting tables and stools/tables that have lasted us years, even with our toddler around. And they are great for moving around (or moving out) as necessary. I think the least durable items are bookshelves and some kitchen items, like knives and pots & pans. On a side-IKEA note — the toddler bedding is quite good for the price. They are the only company ( found) who has a toddler-sized duvet, and it’s under $20. And our girl loves her train set, too. (Jesus, what the eff am I going to do when IKEA opens here this summer?)

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