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What To Buy And What Not To Buy At IKEA

By Erik Folgate

ikea what to buyThere aren’t a ton of IKEA retail stores in the United States, but if you live in or near a large metropolitan area, you might have one of the Swedish retail behemoths near you. Even if you don’t, you can order some of their products online or from their catalog and have it shipped to your door.  IKEA has built a frenzy around the concept because it offers some insanely cheap prices on many of their items, and they get away with it by keeping overhead as low as possible and using extremely efficient operation processes. However, not everything at IKEA is a great buy or worth it.

Before I get to the list of what not to buy, here’s my list of items that are a great deal and good quality from IKEA:

  • Home Decor Accessories: This includes items like candles, vases, mirrors, lighting, rugs, accent pillows, and other decorative accent pieces.  We bought a huge, good-looking mirror for $99 that makes a bold statement on our wall and it fills out the entire space.
  • Kitchenware and Accessoriess:  Not all of their kitchen accessories are good quality, but some of the smaller kitchen items like utensils and cooking dishes are a great deal and good quality. We love buying specialty glasses there like wine glasses, beer pilsners, and martini glasses.
  • Bedding and Curtains: They have some great pillows, duvet covers, duvet bedspreads, and window coverings at great prices, and we’ve found a lot of patterns that we really like.
  • Closet Organizers: We created an entire walk-in closet with IKEA’s closet organizers. They look great, they have tons of inserts, and you can do an entire closet for a few hundred dollars. One tip: avoid buying doors for the wardrobe systems. They cost as much as the entire wardrobe itself.
  • Organizing and Shelving: IKEA’s specialty is helping you create more space out of a little space. I love their shelving systems and organizational pieces that are more about utility and function rather than what it looks like.
  • Kids Stuff: They’ve got some staple kids items for VERY cheap and kid’s room accessories are great to pick up here, too. Plus, their stuff isn’t made in China, it’s made in Eastern Europe.

Here are some items toy stay away from:

  • Most Furniture: Don’t write off all furniture at IKEA.  A lot of it is junk and it looks like something you’d put in a college dorm room, but we’ve picked up some decent pieces here and there such as a daybed that is great quality with a nice antique white finish.  However, I wouldn’t invest much in their furniture, because most of it is pressed wood (basically wood particles glued together) and it won’t last very long. Look for the solid pieces of wood for quality items that will last a long time.
  • Laminate flooring: It’s cheap for a reason. I’ve never used it, but I’ve heard bad stories about it. Have any of you had good or bad experiences with it?
  • Cabinetry and Appliances:  I think they have some good looking stuff and they really know how to put together good displays to give you a visual, but I question how cost effective their cabinetry and appliances are when buying directly from them.
  • Mattresses: Again, I’ve tested some, and they definitely have some comfy mattresses, but I just think you can get better deals for higher quality mattresses.

Give me your feedback on these lists. It’s not comprehensive, but it’s based more on what we’ve had success with buying for our home and lifestyle. I am sure there are some differing opinions on IKEA buying, and I’d like to hear them!

(photo credit: Dalboz17)

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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  • http://beyonditall.net Carla

    I agree with everything on the list. I pride myself with having very nice, sturdy wood furniture in my home (most of it was purchased used; some are vintage or antique). There are pieces that I’ve had for many years and will last a few lifetimes assuming my place never burns down. ;-). I’ve seen people try to sell IKEA furniture on Craigslist and I just have to laugh. It usually looks like its on its last leg or wont last for a few years.

  • Heather Levin

    I recently bought two mattresses from IKEA and have to say, I’m really impressed with how comfortable they are. I was sleeping on a super expensive Stearns & Foster, and I’m actually more comfortable on these (far cheaper) IKEA mattresses. Of course, I have a feeling they might not last as long, so it’s definitely a trade off.

    I agree on the cabinetry; this is a “heavy use” item that I don’t think would stand up over the long-haul.

    • http://www.erikfolgate.com Erik Folgate

      We bought two lower-end mattresses at IKEA for a daybed that we bought from IKEA and we’re really impressed by them as well!

    • Mamacita

      We bought IKEA mattresses for our kids, because 1) our kids don’t even weigh much; how much could it matter to them whether the mattress is Hugh quality? and 2) kids are tough on mattresses (jumping on the bed, nighttime accidents, etc.) so it didn’t make much sense to invest in something that would be in harm’s way like that.

      We bought a couch there that broke its frame in the first week of use. When I finally called the store a few months later, they said that lots of other people had the same problem, and the store had repaired their couches, but we were too late to get the repair done. Nice customer service, eh?

      By the way, I went to IKEA today and it looked like they had replaced much of their Eastern European manufacturing with China manufacturing.

  • Casey Slide

    I have countertops from IKEA. I have had them for over a year, and so far they are holding up pretty well. However, my sister has the same countertops in a different color, and she had a cleaning chemical spill on them, and it stained! She had to get that piece replaced. Knowing that fact, I probably would not get them again. They were real easy to install, and they do look nice though!

    • http://www.erikfolgate.com Erik Folgate

      Yeah, I didn’t get into the kitchen stuff that much, but that’s a good point! Some of their kitchen stuff looks great, but I am not sure how durable it is. Good to hear from someone who has them!

  • ron

    i put a full kitchen in last year – no contractors. i would install IKEA cabinets myself again. very good quality. the only downside – know what you need, make your list with item/parts numbers, and recheck your order at the store and again when you load it in your car. we got the wrong style on a door and were missing a few parts. it takes a lot of work to make sure you get it right with them the first time. but still – higher quality compared to lowes or home depot in-store cabinets.
    our friends put in an IKEA kitchen 20 years ago when they bought a house… no flaws beyond the lazy-susan broke (cheap plastic does not hold up to 5lb bags of flour and sugar and canned goods, go figure), and a few screws needing adjusted on the doors to straighten. everything else solid.
    some furniture is ok, most is not. if it has mostly solid wood, it should be fine, unless you climb on it.

    • Suew

      We have had an IKEA kitchen for ten years now. It still looks like new. My husband is an engineer and loves the way the cabinets go together. Very easy to install too. Just bought a used park model mobile home to use as a cottage, the first thing we did was rip out the kitchen and replace with IKEA.

      Our Poang chairs with black leather seats have also had a decade of use. We bought more for our US based RV and are about to buy two more for our Canadian retreat.

      Have always chickened out of buying upholstered furniture as the price is so low. Would love to hear how their sofas with the removable slipcovers stand up to everyday use.

      • Andieherb

        I purchased a Klippan sofa on sale for $150 in 2009. It did not stand up to having a few people sit on it everyday. I sold it for $40 when I moved in March. I would not buy one again even for $150. They now sell for $300.

  • stormcorvid

    Do not…do NOT…buy the IKEA Algot frame designed for four drawers (or two shallow drawers and one deep drawer). The mesh baskets fall off the runners constantly. The baskets can’t be pushed in all the way, and they get stuck and can’t be pulled out. We had a set of plastic drawers bought at a dollar store that were better quality than this, and half the price.

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