Ikea as investment furniture

Dear Ikea,

We know that haters love to hate on you. We’re pretty sure you’ve heard all the mean things they say about your stuff:

It’s cheap.
It’s generic and soul-less.
It’s for just-starting-out kids (not real grown-ups).
It’s for those without style who think you can buy style.

(And that’s just about your stuff–not to mention the experiences of shopping for it and putting it together.)

Well, we just want to say this:

We love you. We really love you.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Ikea love letter Sally Field

We didn’t know how much until recently, when we were replacing the covers on our Karlstad sectional.

This (sorta) Old Life: Ikea love letter Karlstad couch

We bought the sofa almost a year ago. You see, we’d tried to be as cool as the hipsters we live so close to. We bought an awesome retro sofa and chair, but our kids hated them. They refused to sit on them. (I’m pretty sure our use of the word “awesome” here betrays us as terminally un-hip, which is probably the real reason our retro sofa was a bust. That, and we live in the suburbs. I think, by definition, one cannot be hip and live in the ‘burbs, you know?)

This (sorta) Old Life: Ikea love letter cool retro couchAnyway, we decided we love our kids more than being stylish, so we compromised by getting the Karlstad. Which, as it turned out, was a far more functional choice. You can fit a lot of people on that big boat of a sofa!

This (sorta) Old Life:  Ikea love letter karlstad couch family room

It’s a lot of couch for the money, which is part of what attracted us to it. And, while it’s not an amazingly comfortable couch, it’s a plenty-comfy couch. Our family has watched many a movie on it over the past almost-year. And some of us have taken a few naps.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Ikea love letter karlstad couch family room

Those pillows and blanket aren’t for show. Those are nap time essentials.

We’ve been quite pleased with it, but it was in the cover-changing that our feelings intensified to love.

You see, we have not loved our original choice for the couch cover. We went with the Korndal in dark brown. We thought this was a practical choice–sturdy enough to stand up to the rigors of 1 almost-teen, 2 bona fide teens, and 2 cat-dogs. (Really, our dogs are more like cats. Which means they use our sofas a lot.) We also thought brown was the color we wanted in a couch.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Ikea love letter karlstad couch

Here’s the couch with the original cover (before we moved it out of the corner and painted the room).

As it turns out, we hated the dark brown cover (no offense). Something about the texture of it captured every. single. crumb. and with aforementioned kids and cat-dogs, we’ve got more than a few crumbs in our household.

This (sorta) Old Life: Ikea love letter Korndal Karlstad cover

Cane was forever swatting at the cushions and muttering under his breath, and that detracted quite a bit from the whole idea of what a couch is for. (You know, a place to relax.) Then he accidentally splashed some bleach on a cushion, sort of pounding the nail into the coffin of the brown covers. (He says it was an accident, but just between you and me, Ikea, I think there really are no accidents.)

So we decided to replace them with the Sivik dark grey, which we love. They are softer than the Korndal, which makes the couch just a little bit cushier, and they fit nicely with the 70s retro/industrial coffee shop style we’re creating in our family room.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Ikea love letter karlstad couch family room

We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.

Wrestling those covers on wasn’t exactly fun, and we did have to iron them, but as we did so, it did not escape us that it would have been a whole lot more trouble and expense to replace a whole sofa. (As you know, the set of new covers was about $200.)

And that got us to questioning the whole idea of investment furniture.

We’ve been toying with the idea of “investing” in a high-quality couch for our upstairs living area. Something in leather, perhaps. Something we would not need to assemble ourselves, trying to figure out how the heck to do that without any words in the directions.

This (sorta) Old Life: Ikea love letter assembly directions

You know we love you, but, really: What is the relationship between the illustration at the top and the one at the bottom? Shouldn’t the order be reversed–so that, after inserting the sides into the bases with screws, one gets a finished sectional? And how about a little more detail on how those screws actually need to get in there. Because this? It wasn’t really helpful.

After last week, that’s an idea we’re pretty much abandoning, at least as far as a couch goes. The thing is, we aren’t designers. (We like to call ourselves UnDesigners, but we’ll save that whole line of thought for a different letter.)

We are not great at knowing what will and won’t work until we bring things in and try them out. (See green couches, above. And brown couch, above.)

We also change our minds, frequently, about what we want.

This (sorta) Old Life:  paint swatches in family room

See those paint swatches? This was from just a year ago. We went with the one on the right, which was recently covered with gray.

And that, Ikea, is why we love you.

Sure, we wish there were more direct paths to the exit in your enormous warehouse of a store and that you could put some words in your assembly directions.

But we love that you make it OK for us to get it wrong, to change our minds, to go in a different direction as our wants/needs change. AND give us a comfortable place to rest our weary bones while we’re working it all out.

We like that you create something that works well and looks good and doesn’t cost a million bucks. As we changed those covers, we realized that ours is a decently-constructed couch. It’s solid. It’s likely going to serve us fine until those teenagers are launched into their own first dorms/apartments.

I mean, really–if it holds up and looks fine and does what it needs to do, do we really need to spend thousands on a couch that looks nearly identical?

This (sorta) Old Life: Ikea love letter sectional comparison

I’m sure the Easton is a more well-constructed couch. But I don’t know that we’re going to get nearly 3K more value from it. And I bet you can’t get a new set of cushion covers for $200 if someone accidentally splashes them with bleach.

We think not.

We’ve been thinking a lot about our friend Jules’s review of her Ikea couch, and the story she shared about selling her beautiful Ethan Allen leather sectional on Craigslist for a song–because even though she loved the couch, it just didn’t fit in her new home after a move.

We are all about buying fewer things of higher quality and using them for a long time. (It’s why we’ve taken a pass on some of your cabinets and bookcases.) But we’re realizing (thanks to you and our Karlstad) that such an approach works only if we really really really know what we love and what will work for a long time.

When we bought our Karlstad, we knew we wanted a big couch in the family room while the kids are still here. But two of the three will likely be leaving for college in 3 years, and we might want to do something different in that space at that time. Heck, we might move to a smaller house within the next 10 years.

We just don’t know–and that’s why we’re a match made in heaven, you and us. It’s not just 20somethings and college kids who need decent-quality, good-looking furniture that they can swap out in a few years without some kind of huge heartbreak.

And so, dear Ikea, we just want to say this:

You light up our life (and our family room). We might not love our Karlstad forever, but we’ll always love you.