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I see an IKEA

For too long, I had heard tales of the Swedish superstore—the IKEA—without ever setting my eyes upon this big box monument to sleek, flat-packed, affordable furniture. Truly, this was a wrong that needed to be righted. So, it was this noble desire (or my need for a cheap desk set) that led me to rent an SUV two weeks ago and drag Big Brother to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit the closest IKEA store.

To make things harder, the IKEA was not in my Magellan GPS. It then became a race between me and Big Brother to see who could use their smartphone faster to find an intersection near the store to enter instead. (Big Brother won.)

Then we drove and drove and drove and didn’t die on the highway, despite the high concentration of morons we were sharing the roads with. Finally, after two hours, we beheld the IKEA!


Or, the “KEA” as it would appear to be titled in this photo. It was a huge, blue and yellow store set in a large lot near the highway exit. We headed inside and had lunch in the IKEA cafeteria, because shopping there evidently requires carb-loading beforehand. Why? Because the store NEVER ENDS.

Beware of the minotaur

As you can see in the map, IKEA is laid out like a huge, well-furnished, mouse maze. There is no cheese at the end, just the most delicious cinnamon rolls you shall ever taste. Which is far better than cheese, in my opinion. But I get ahead of myself.

To shop at IKEA, they make you walk through the entire store, which explains how I ended up purchasing a colander, a Tupperware set, and a cloth closet organizer, when I only came for a desk set. You see it and you want to buy it! This might also be why IKEA is the only place where I’ve impulsively bought a bookcase. It’s not like grabbing a chocolate bar at the grocery store checkout lane, though they sold chocolate bars here too.

There are no windows in IKEA, so I quickly lost my bearings inside the store, unaware of how far deep I was in the labyrinth. After I had walked down a few halls and turned a few corners, I looked behind me and could have sworn the IKEA employees had moved the walls. If there had been a fire, I honestly wouldn’t have known where to run for the exit.

By the time we got to the end of the maze, I felt like I often do after I’ve been at an art museum for too long. My brain was tired and I didn’t want any more visual input. At the end of IKEA is the warehouse, where you can grab any items you want according to their aisle and bin number. I had written down the numbers of the items I wanted, so Big Brother grabbed a hand cart and used his manly muscles to lift my bookcase and desk set off the shelf. We checked out and Big Brother stayed with the stuff while I got the SUV and pulled it up to the loading area.

Once we had loaded everything, we went back inside to purchase half a dozen cinnamon rolls from the IKEA marketplace. There is nothing about a furniture store that would make me believe they could make the most divine cinnamon-y, sugary pastries I’ve ever tasted, but behold! They were AMAZING. I could almost see myself driving two hours to Charlotte just for them.

On the ride home, we tried to find a radio station that was broadcasting the World Cup final. We found one, but it was broadcasting in Spanish. As we got closer to the triangle area, we found a station that was broadcasting in English. And just when we got home, I accidently hit a button on the steering wheel and discovered the rental car had satellite radio. Whoops!

In my next entry, I shall attempt to assemble the Swedish puzzle furniture with only my wits, a toolset and the assistance of a cute little cartoon man in the diagram!

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Lanie • August 2, 2010 at 8:16 am

I love love love me some IKEA! I want to buy dozens of houses and fill them up wiht IKEA. So exciting! And free Allen Wrenches, too! What could be better?

I’ve had the panic of walls moving behind me in that store. What the hell kind of Scooby Doo experience is THAT? Raggy? Raggy? Where are you?

I could stand at stare at their glitter countertops forevah, breaking only to occasionally pull out a smooth-gliding drawer. Oooooh. Aaaah.

The Detroit one is only an hour away. Road trip!


Evalinn • August 2, 2010 at 9:03 am

I know just what you mean, and they are excactly the same over here in Ikea-land! :-)


kat • August 2, 2010 at 9:15 am

Is there anything that males are more useful for than showing how effective testosterone is? I’m as feminist as they come, but when it comes to Ikea- I bring me a man. Stuff that I struggle with my male friends seem to just lift with ease.


Jackie • August 2, 2010 at 10:12 am

How funny. As I’m reading this I am eating a cinnamon bun from IKEA. We were there yesterday and I brought a 6-pack home with me. Come on over before the girls wake up and finish off the box!


maxie • August 2, 2010 at 10:57 am

I haven’t been in “our” Ikea in a few years, but I never saw a map. However, I do know how to go directly to the cafeteria, skipping the maze. What I hate most about not working is that I’m not stopping at Ikea on my way home to pick up dinner. Love those meatballs!


Danielle • August 2, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Next time you go, try the cake with the Skor bar-like topping. (Can’t remember what it’s called). They sell it by the slice in the cafeteria, and you can also buy the bars. Yum!

Oh, and we’ll see you in eight days when you finally get the damn thing assembled. Let us know how many extra parts you end up with.


Debbi Does Dinner Healthy • August 2, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I live really close to an Ikea and I’ve heard tons of good things but I’ve never been there! I guess we just don’t need anything from there. I’m a little scared now to check it out. Much as I like cheese, I do like the idea of cinnamon rolls being at the end of a maze though.


Mymsie • August 2, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I ended up paying a friend to put my dining table-cum-sewing desk together. (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/20104718) It was well worth it and I LOVE my desk!


Tere • August 2, 2010 at 3:51 pm

My daughter moved recently to Atlanta and we are both mildly addicted to IKEA. We practically furnished her new apartment there. And as far as putting the stuff together . . . we got into fights over which way to face the boards according to the picture. But we got it all together and we still love each other.

We always stock up on the meatballs and sauce and can’t pass up the cinnamon rolls and the 50 cent hot dogs!

One of my friends had never heard of IKEA and he called it Icky-a. That’s what we call it now.


Gill • August 2, 2010 at 5:05 pm

ooo I love Ikea! Havent seen one since we left the UK 3 years ago (New Zealand havent got any :( ) but they make the BEST meatballs I have ever tasted mmmmmmmmm


schmei • August 2, 2010 at 5:15 pm

A: I once drove across the country of Sweden. There is seriously an IKEA every thirty miles or so. I no longer wonder why Swedes are all so happy.

B: If you’re ever assembling IKEA furniture with someone you love, choose separate tasks. For the love of all things holy, do not assemble an IKEA bed with the man you’re going to marry in a few weeks… because that’s what my fiance (now, happily, husband) and I did, furnishing our first apartment, and we almost killed each other. There was shouting. We did much better with the chest of drawers, as he assembled the main chest and I assembled the drawers. No yelling there. Lesson learned.


fd • August 2, 2010 at 6:29 pm

@schmei – i can only agree with B

c: do not attempt to do the following in the space of a week: move into an unfurnished apartment, have both in the couple start new jobs, spend your weekend in Ikea sales and then try to make an ikea bed while coming down respectively with the flu and the winter vomiting bug. we ended up sleeping on two couches for a week.
positive end to story: a kind generous friend saw our fbk status, came over, made tea, made the bed, made our dinner and then left :-)


Rebecca • August 2, 2010 at 7:27 pm

I have this theory that every single person is either in a fight or just doesn’t care enough to argue by the time you reach the lighting department. Listen carefully when you are there…all you hear is fighting. It would be awesome if it wasn’t so sad.


Julie • August 2, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Next time you are coming to CLT, send me an email! Would love to meet you in person. And I always need an excuse to go to Ikea!

Julie in Race City, USA (Mooresville, NC)


Lydia C • August 2, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Fun post; thanks for the memories. We relied on the Budapest IKEA for numerous pieces of furniture when we lived in Hungary for two years. Luckily the woman who bought a chest of drawers from us when we were moving back to the States had a cordless screwdriver to fix all my husband’s mistakes — well, it really wasn’t his fault he couldn’t get the screws all the way in on all the drawers.
But I agree: it is REALLY fun shopping there. And Hungary had NO reasonably priced, okay-quality furniture at that time, and IKEA really answers/answered a true need in countries like that. We desperately needed one in Bulgaria when I lived there in the mid-90s.
Hope you’re settling in okay!


Sarah • August 2, 2010 at 8:54 pm

I love Ikea. I was just there yesterday. I actually held off and did not buy anything. It was so hard not to get their chocolate bars. The milk chocolate one is amazing.


anji • August 2, 2010 at 9:54 pm

I love Ikea! I can’t wait to get posted somewhere next year and get real paycheques again so I can buy some new furniture to make up for all the stuff the ex stole from me! :) I love their bookshelves. Which one did you get???


schmei • August 2, 2010 at 10:51 pm

@fd – Oh, wow. I take back everything I said about happiness… glad you survived that. And I’m glad you have such a nice friend!


Stacie • August 3, 2010 at 7:48 am

The frozen yogurt is also to die for. And you can get a large for $1? Love love love.


Susan • August 3, 2010 at 10:29 am

I live in Charlotte and visited Ikea for the first time last Friday. I have a friend who spent an ENTIRE day in there, so to avoid that, I planned a tactical mission. I was seeking a bed pillow, followed the prescribed shortcuts, and learned upon arrival in the bedroom section that pillows are considered textiles, which was downstairs. With visions of being trapped in Ikea for days, I made my way downstairs and finally located the textile section. I had to force myself not to look at anything else, because that’s how they trap you. I managed to get to checkout in 30 minutes, and rewarded myself with a cinnamon bun!


psychsarah • August 3, 2010 at 12:22 pm

I haven’t been to Ikea in years. In the past, DH and I were addicts. I couldn’t set foot in there without buying something I didn’t know I needed from the Marketplace-fun coloured juice cups, funky watering can, kettle, star-shaped Christmas lights… Ahhhhh…the memories. You’re totally tempting me with the cinnamon buns…if only I wasn’t at work, and if only the closest store wasn’t 2 hrs away…sigh…

PS I concur with all above comments about assembling with a loved one-just do not do it!


Danielle • August 3, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Hah – if they’d included divorce paperwork in each box, I bet it would get used!! Assembly is a one person job. (Ideally that one person would be somebody you hire)


Tez • August 3, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Congrats to you first trip to IKEA =)
I visit my IKEA in Göteborg, Sweden like twice every month (or when I have a craving for a cheap meatball dinner) and my appartment is almost like an ad for IKEA.
And for the next trip to the IKEA store, use the shortcuts( If there are any in your IKEA store) they are a time saver.


Quix • August 3, 2010 at 6:39 pm

I love wandering through Ikea. I love the scene in 500 days of summer where they pretend the ikea is their house. I could totally see myself doing that, hehe.

The actual quality of stuff? Eh, I wouldn’t buy a major piece of furniture from them, but I’ve found some cool items there…


Leigh • August 3, 2010 at 10:58 pm

I’ve never seen one or been in one; we don’t have them here. They have food? I just thought it was a furniture store. Wow.


Mrs. Thighs • August 3, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Glad you finally made it into an IKEA. The first time I went to one, I thought I was going to lose my mind over the choices. My favorite part are the funny mock Swedish names they give everything. And yes, I always end up buying something there!


Lrayne • August 4, 2010 at 9:47 am

I live 10 minutes from an IKEA. I am proud to say that after 3 years and about 50 visits, I can get in and out of there in less than 1 hour! Sometimes I even skip eating at the end of the trip, but I have to keep my head down after paying for the stuff I don’t really need.


Rebecca in SoCal • August 5, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I’ve actually never been to an Ikea, so thanks for the info on what it’s like. With Lrayne’s pride in being out in an hour, I now know to set aside some (a lot) time. I certainly see enough references and love for it to make me curious, and there is one within, oh, 40 minutes of me.


Karen@WaistingTime • August 7, 2010 at 11:51 am

We recently were in Minneapolis for a long weekend and right by our hotel was a huge Ikea store! I told my husband I wanted to go. But unfortunately we ran out of time:( Hopefully I’ll be back someday and can explore and buy.


Jasmine • August 16, 2010 at 6:57 am

OMG…..is that building REALLY that yellow??? geez….lol


Jessica • September 10, 2010 at 1:47 pm

PQ – You have to check out this commercial! They let 100 cats loose in an Ikea store overnight and filmed it.


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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