I was with my mother and her older French friend with his very chic petite French niece in a flat he had just decorated himself.
My mother and I were sitting on a big red sofa opposite her friend and his niece who were on an identical red sofa opposite us.
As the petite little French blonde sat down in her sweater dress she stroked the sofa on either side of her with each hand and exclaimed to her uncle, “ Ah Ektorp, non? Ikea!”
“Oui” he said gleefully
“I have the same in my appartement. It is ze best.”
I couldn’t believe that two of the most stylish people I had ever encountered were besotted by a sofa from Ikea. So besotted that they knew it by name.
I have a bit of a love hate relationship with IKEA. As I expect does everybody else. There’s nowhere more stressful to spend an afternoon, but when you know that if you can simply get to the front of the queue, take that bookcase home, and somehow persuade your boyfriend to put it together, then all those books, magazines and various other things lying on the floor and everywhere else will finally have a place to live.
I can’t live with IKEA, but I really can’t live without it either. It’s quite the predicament. Nowhere else does such a huge variety of basic functional affordable furniture. So it simply can’t be ignored.
If I tried to deck my place out in head to toe French furniture I would bankrupt myself and still wouldn’t have all the things I need.
When you think about how much furniture even the most basic living spaces require – bookcases, sofas, armchairs, bed, bedside tables, chests of drawers, coffee tables etc, you have to admit that only IKEA will provide any or all of them while still leaving you enough money for food.
I have sometimes made the rather elementary IKEA mistake of going a bit crazy and buying everything they have in birch… or oak. Whichever one took my fancy at the time.
I’ll start off with a bookcase, then think “Oh wait they have a matching coffee table… and a matching desk!” It all goes downhill from there and I end up with an entirely birch room. Which looks anaemic and not particularly tasteful. It just functions.
There’s a reason form and function are supposed to live in harmony together, if you focus only on function you’ll be living in an IKEA catalogue. If you focus only on form you’ll be living in my sister’s bedroom, where all her shoes and clothes are all over the floor and on her bookshelves because her very beautiful French wardrobes ran out of space about four years ago.
I started to mix and match my IKEA stuff with more expensive elegant pieces, or would pay a bit more for their slightly better pieces. I go for solid wood wherever I can as I think it looks and feels better. I don’t decorate an entire room in one colour anymore either.
Here are a few of my favourite pieces from IKEA which I think tow the line between form and function rather perfectly. Continue reading