Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shoppers rejoice - it's IKEA's homeland!

Here we go!
When IKEA (is it all caps?) came to Atlanta, there was a line of cars around the block waiting to park in one of the numerous parking garages.  The store was crazy hectic for months until the novelty wore off.  At first I didn't get it.  Who needs to make their own bed with only an allen wrench and directions ALL in pictures?  I hated going to the IKEA store in Atlanta because I didn't have much need to see how much furniture can cram into 237 sqft of living space because I would never, in my right mind, ever ever live in an apartment that was sooo tiny. Americans look around the showcase floor like its a museum.  It's interesting but so abstract because we can't imagine living in that small of an apartment.  Who lives like that?  Swedes do.

And I get it now.  After living in Stockholm for nearly 3 months, I understand the space limitations that led to the development of such efficiently compact furnishings. I also understand why they developed those living space show rooms.  Those aren't just funky rooms to rubberneck around in the store.  They are rooms to give you IDEAS on how to make the tiniest apartment imaginable habitable for a family of 4 because that's your situation.  I will say that we are extremely fortunate to have corporate housing that gives us plenty of space (66 sqm) but in all honesty, nothing we've seen even comes close to our townhouse in Atlanta -- which was small by Atlanta standards.  If only we could transport our townhouse  to Stockholm, even a suburb of Stockholm, we could easily sell it for $900K (maybe more).  I'm not joking.

Our trip to Ikea was kind of like a pilgrimage to shopping mecca. We walked there from the commuter train because the weather was so beautiful.  As we turned the corner, I saw the famous blue and yellow building on the horizon like an oasis in the desert. I started getting all giddy and Jon just looked at me sideways, like "really?"  There were tall flag poles waving the Ikea signs bravely in the wind.  Nothing is more exciting than a HUGE store filled with HUGE savings!

We toured the showroom floor with more interest now -- looking for real solutions and ideas for creative design but really we were there for 2 things.  1) black-out curtains for Calvin's room and 2) a potato smasher -- we only ended up finding one of these.  We mostly wandered the store and paid a visit to their cafeteria for some real Swedish food.
Easiest way to get around
We grabbed some Swedish meatballs and coffee mugs for the requisite post-lunch coffee and looked for a place to sit.

So much better with ligonberry
We found these great playground "rounds" (or whatever you might call them) that allow the parents to sit on the outside like a lunch counter and watch their kids play in the center.  It was great because Calvin had zero interest in sitting down and watching us eat.  He loved being able to play and explore and we actually enjoyed a stress-reduced meal for once.  He is still learning how to interact properly with other kids and that's always fun to watch.  He got pushed around a bit but ended up pushing back.  I'm not sure if I'm supposed to correct him at this age or just let him figure it out.
Food and a show?


Fun stairs AND a wall spinny thingy

We ended up wandering the store some more -- actually picking up a few items to buy and walked back to the commuter train to try to get home before Calvin really crashed out. We were a little too late on that one!
Asleep on the train
Overall, the IKEA stores in Sweden are identical to the ones in the States with a few exceptions.

  • The kid drop off/play area before you get into the store was about 3x larger than any I've ever seen.  Calvin needs to be a bit older before he can go in but it looked like a ton of fun.
  • The play areas in the cafeteria -- I've never seen those before
  • They provide shopping bags on wheels rather than carts.  This is kind of impractical because the handle isn't long enough to prevent the skateboard thingy bottom from banging into your ankles as you walk.  I traded this in for a regular yellow IKEA hobo bag pretty quickly.
  • It's on wheels!
  • The showroom floor was much larger with more room examples (for obvious reasons)
  • People were more tolerant of kids running around the store -- or maybe I was more tolerant -- either way it was fairly enjoyable!

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