9 Things NOT to Buy At IKEA and Why

Are you all familiar with the Swedish superstore IKEA? I really enjoy a shopping trip to IKEA, but there is no such thing as a quick trip to this Swedish retailer. I rarely come out of the store without spending more than I planned. There is no question that IKEA is a unique shopping experience and you can find affordable furniture and home decor to fit almost any design style. IKEA home furnishings have a modern design and are especially suited for small spaces. That being said, there are some IKEA pieces that are simply not worth buying.

Today I will share with you some shopping secrets from my own personal experiences with IKEA furniture. There are some IKEA items you should NOT BUY despite the reasonable prices. Below are nine things you shouldn’t buy and I’ll tell you the best IKEA finds you should get instead.

Just because something is inexpensive at IKEA doesn’t always mean it’s a good deal, sometimes it just means it’s poor quality and cheap. IKEA makes loss leaders, just like most rotisserie chickens at Costco, which are used to get you in the door to buy more. IKEA doesn’t even make money on these things, but if you buy other things they make up for it.

Learn to see the price ladder for IKEA products to get the best value when you shop at an IKEA store. Every product category has a range of price points. They sell a $10 coffee table, a $120 coffee table and a $300 coffee table.

Avoid items made of particle board (Kallax, Lack and Malm included below). Particleboard or fiberboard is just wood chips held together with glue (resin). Look for items that are made of MDF or wood instead.

Mid-Level is where the value is – No one will argue that everything in IKEA is not the highest quality, but there are different levels of quality within IKEA’S selection. For almost every item, IKEA has a low level, mid-level and high level. The best values are the mid-level items, which have higher quality but still good pricing. I’ll go into examples below.

IKEA Effect – IKEA is counting on the fact that putting the furniture together makes you LIKE IT MORE. It’s called the IKEA effect. The mere act of assembling the furniture makes you like it better. This is how they get you to buy items at the top of the price ladder that aren’t really a great deal.

You’re Paying the Labor Cost – They are counting on the fact that the IKEA effect will make you ignore that the cost of the dresser (or substitute any item in the store) isn’t REALLY the cost of the dresser. On average it takes hours to assemble many of the most popular items at IKEA. What people don’t factor into the cost when they buy it is the cost of the labor to assemble it. In recent years I have spent quite a bit of time assembling IKEA furniture, but I have come to realize my extra time is worth something!

9 Items NOT to Buy and Why

  1. Stockholm Sofa – This leather sofa is made of real aniline leather. The construction is a plywood frame with metal aluminum legs. The cost is $2500. The only assembly that’s required is attaching the legs. It is 83 inches long and almost 35 inches deep. At Article a sofa with the same clean lines that is the same size for $500 less (the Nirvana sofa) with wood legs and down removable covers.
  1. Stockholm coffee table – this wood coffee table has a walnut veneer top, it is almost 72″ long. The panel underneath the top is made of paper. It is $329. There is a similar style table at Article (Lenia) which is solid walnut (vs veneer) and has wood spindles that make up the shelf underneath. It is $349.
  1. Kallax shelving unitThe Kallax shelf is priced so that they can be thrown away rather than moved. Kallax is low-quality particle board construction. We have these in my husband’s office and they are what you buy ONLY if you need something temporary. If not, buy the Vittsjo shelving. It’s the same price, at $60 for the same size, but it has glass shelving and a metal base. It’s has a clean design that is simple and elegant.
  1. Sakarias Upholstered Arm chair This chair is $200, which isn’t bad for an upholstered chair with a cover that is removable. BUT at Pottery Barn you can get a more stylish chair for the same price. The Classic Dining Armchair Long Slipcover comes in tons of fabric options. This to me seems like a much better deal. The twill fabrics are the same as the IKEA price and wouldn’t you rather have more than 3 different colors to choose from?

5. Artificial Plants – IKEA’s artificial plants are really bad. Their real plants are a great deal. I bought three small trees and they’ve lived for years even though I don’t have a green thumb. Get the real plants instead, especially the snake plant and the money tree.

6. Malm Dressers – It seems unbelievable to find a dresser that is only $99 and can seamlessly fit so many different design styles. I’ve used this one in my home in 2 rooms. I speak from experience. This one is takes lots of time to assemble. It’s not worth the $99 price tag. Drawers are hard to assemble well. It’s worth paying extra to get a dresser that you don’t have to assemble. Try looking on Facebook marketplace or look for floor models in your local furniture stores. If you factor in the cost of assembly it isn’t so cheap after all.

7. IKEA’s Lack table – These coffee tables are only $40, but they look and feel like it too. The only good reason to buy this is for a dorm room. This is low-quality particle board construction.

8. Billy bookcase – This is a staple in the DIY space because you can customize it in so many ways, but it’s made of particle board. The Havsta and Hemnes lines are both made from solid pine and still reasonably priced.

9. Viskafors leather sofa – This rolled-arm leather sofa is $1899. You can get the same size leather Sven sofa at Article for the same price. The Article sofa has much smoother looking leather. The Sven sofa also comes in a smaller size that is $200 cheaper.

The REALLY inexpensive or cheap items at IKEA are just there to get you in the door. I hope you keep this in mind the next time you visit your local IKEA

The best way to get value at IKEA is to shop on the IKEA website (click and collect) and don’t go in your local store at all. You will save hundreds of dollars by not walking through the marketplace area.

If you liked this post check out the best kept Secrets at IKEA.

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One Comment

  1. Andrea, what a great article….seeing I just purchased a Malm bed (with storage drawers underneath), a console, and a fabric sofa for my daughter’s move to college! I spent yesterday assemblying them (which is torture) but it will work for her. I’d much prefer to recycle real furniture somewhere, but we didn’t have alot of notice to get her moved and set up. Love the comparison to Article….never heard of them but will check them out as I need a new sofa for the guest cottage. Good stuff!

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