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.
This bookcase was the answer to most of my clutter problems. It easily holds all my magazines, books, files, DVDs and CDs and even gives my SONY photo frame somewhere to live while it flicks through all my photographs.
This is the most comfortable bed in the world. It’s also huge! I have a very hard IKEA mattress on it as well which makes it incredibly supportive. The bedside tables only cost £35! I added the grey glass table tops to match my quilt and cushion covers which are Fontaine from The White Company, as are the little grey pillows. My lamps are from John Lewis, so is the gold silk cushion. It’s the perfect combination of IKEA basics with more expensive elegant details. Hopefully the overall effect is more plush and cosy, less IKEA showroom. That’s what I was going for anyway.
The storage unit isn’t quite big enough for all my sheets so I’ll have to get a proper ottoman, but it’s cute and was of course cheap.
This has got to be one of IKEA’s most popular chairs, if not THE most popular. People seem to know this one by name as well. I recently bought one for my slightly dodgy back to sit on while relaxing in front of the TV. I think it’s comfortable but I’m not entirely sure, it’s certainly excellent for my back but my neck isn’t so sure about the slightly dodgy neck support.
Either way, I tend to sit in it with my feet up and a blanket over me. I look like a pensioner. But a comfortable one.
The famous Ektorp. I am planning to get one of these as soon as I manage to flog my old sofas. It’s fairly inoffensive I think, practical, quite pretty and seems to have lots of back support. Which is essential in a sofa!
I’m sort of lusting after this armchair. I think it’s very cute indeed and looks much more expensive than it is. It’s comfortable but firm which is exactly what I need. I hate starting off sitting upright then finding myself almost completely horizontal ten minutes later on a sofa or armchair. My neck doesn’t like it much either.
I have big plans to throw my red tartan blanket over the back of it to brighten it up as well. But sadly I don’t really have enough space for all this furniture in my living room at the moment, so this plan will have to wait.
You can browse IKEA’s range of hugely addictive and affordable furniture here.
That’s all for now folks.