Friday, August 22, 2008

Postcards from Spain: Afernoon in Ikea

Ikea must truly be the world's most democratic place. While equipping our apartment in Madrid, we made the requisite stop there. After spending an hour and a half configuring something called the "blobbi" or the "schlaghklumf" or some other lump of unpronounceable Scandinavian syllables for our living room couch and various other pieces of furniture, we were in for a nasty surprise. Things have changed since our last stop in Ikea outside Paris in the mid-nineties. You no longer drop off your ticket at the warehouse and wait for them to bring you your boxes. Each piece of furniture comes with it's own aisle and item number; you grab your cart and off you go to the warehouse to find each individual item and lift it onto your cart, before proceeding to checkout. This might work just fine for one or two items, but gets tiresome when you are equipping a whole apartment.

Talk about a company that knows how to squeeze a margin. I look at the smiling employees (they all mostly seem happy to work there) re-stocking items and ask my husband if we couldn't just hand one of them 20 or 30 euros to get our stuff for us? He said this just isn't done and they would be offended that I am trying to subvert their egalitarian Scandinavian ethos with my filthy American money and expectations. I wonder about the supposed high level of youth unemployment in Spain and other European countries. Surely it wouldn't cost Ikea anything to let these people earn tips by getting people's boxes for them at the warehouse? Where's the evil in paying for extra service? Why isn't Ikea online, or is it?

Marc tells this story to Sacha (Labourey)--our friend and former colleague at JBoss and RHT, who sympathizes. "I know what you're saying. The other day, I needed to buy some furniture for a family house in the mountains. I called up Ikea and told them that I had rented a truck and was going to drive 200 km just to get some furniture there and could they please reserve the pieces I wanted. They responded: No, we can't do that. All we can tell you is that there are eight of those items left and they are going fast, so we recommend you hurry."

We find ourselves reflecting. When we were young and didn't have money, we went to places like Ikea. Now that we're older and more settled, we are still still doing many of the exact same things. Some things don't change.


Alef said...

C'mon Marc, I wouldn't have expected you to buy Ikea stuff.

While you're in Spain, take a look at some of the amazing stuff Spanish designer Jaime HayĆ³n does... Maybe he'll even come down personally if you buy enough :-)

Juha Lindfors said...

They are online, although not with the full collection. If you're lucky you might find what you're looking for.

And for a price they'll deliver, and if I recall even assemble it for you (though I didn't try).

If you're lucky, the furniture may just last the 2-3 years. I recommend getting some extra screws, nails and glue (warehouse personnel is not the only place where they are saving!) and it might just last for the duration.

Nathalie said...

It was cheaper to buy Ikea stuff for the two years we will be here, than ship from the US.

No decoratrixes for us in the near future. Been there done that. Nothing like way over-paying for something useless like the remote control for the curtains and then losing the damn controller so you can't close them anyway. That experience could have been a Larry David episode from "Curb Your Enthusiasm". My kids just lurrrve designer furniture. It shows off sharpie marker and greasy little hand prints oh so well.

Marcf said...

I am like you, I wondered for a second what had happened to us as we were still shopping at IKEA. But that was the point, to have "throw-away furniture" we could use for 2 years. We didn't bother bringing much from the US and we will not bother bringing back either :)

Where do I find this Jaime Hayon guy? i will google but you seemed clued in.

Marcf said...


OF COURSE I ordered the delivery and install even though that added a good 20% to the bill. F8ck I didn't make a fortune to install all the shit by myself. I mean it took me 3 hours to do a bunk bed with my brother and a brother in semi-law. I took the IKEA guys (3 of them) 3 hours to build everything which means 9 ikea-man-hours or 27 marc-fleury-hours. I would still be cursing the name of those motherfucking swedes instead of writing here.

Marcf said...

Nathalie, baby,

I am working on this Open Remote thingy with a few good men. I should have a universal remote ready for you on your iPhone by the time we get back to the US :)

Oh wait, you don't have an iPhone...

Roy Russo said...

I build my own furniture using the carcasses of my competitors.

... otherwise the Buckhead garage sales circuit is where you'll find me. Nothing beats a bunch of rich people tossing out their $5000 armoire.

er... Marc, you gonna keep your furniture here in ATL?

oogifu said...

You guys should try

Marcf said...


We usually leave the furniture on the curbside. Last time we put out a table we had bought in Paris 10 years ago when we were a young couple. It disappeared in 10 minutes. I knew it was you circling the block in that truck.

Alef said...

Hey Marc,

I saw some of the guy's work in Milan (Salone del Mobile) last April (his pottery collection more detailed at Dezeen[1]). I don't know where he's based in Madrid. His website is