Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ikea--Disney World for home shoppers

My goodness, it's been ages (I sense Sabrina, likely the only one who ever checks this anymore, dancing in her chair somewhere up Huntsville way at the sight of a new post).

I spent last weekend in Orlando, visiting with best friend Sarah, her hubby Michael and their oh-so-handsome 7 week-old son Peter. It was a delight to meet the little guy and spend quality time with Sarah, something I hadn't done in several months.

The Saturday I was there, Sarah asked me if I wanted to visit the relatively new Ikea store.
We pulled off I-4 at the International Mall exit, crawling through traffic headed to different parts of the shopping district. We turned a corner, and there in front of us was a massive Wal-Mart sized building painted in blue and gold (after flipping through the latest half-inch thick Ikea catalog the night before, the size shouldn't have surprised me). We were there by about 11 am, but already the main parking lot was full, and there were red-shirted men directing traffic to an unoccupied vacant lot across from Ikea's parking lot. We busted out the stroller, installed a sleeping Peter in it and made our way to the entrance.

First thing we did was grab a map (a map!). As we rode up to the second floor (the Showroom) in the industrial size elevator, Sarah explained the concept. Top floor had all the various layouts of furniture/lighting/dishes/housewares/carpeting/flooring set up in little vignettes. Every item was tagged with name and price, and conveniently, there was a lined area on the reverse of the map where shoppers could write down the name and price of whatever lamp/cushion/frame/sofa caught their fancy. The bottom floor was the Warehouse, where everything so creatively arranged upstairs was organized for purchase downstairs.

As I pushed the stroller, admittedly overwhelmed with the crowds of people, the arrows on the floor directing people in the appropriate traffic patterns and the scads of attractive yet inexpensive home decor, Sarah wandered amongst the displays, writing down shelving options. It didn't take me long to fall in love with a massively over-sized teal chaise lounge and a set of lamps. I also quickly began to harbor a sneaking suspicion that I could get in serious trouble very quickly if I wasn't careful. Admiring decorative items and extensive bookshelf displays as we wandered, I noticed the chair area. One style caught my eye, and reminded me of an arm chair I inherited from my grandparents. It is a squat, 70s-era chair upholstered in an orange and yellow burlap-like material, and despite the color, it is my favorite. I have to check, but it's possible the chair isn't as old as I imagine, but merely of Swedish styling.

After further meandering, sighing over furnishings and pointing out features we both liked and despised, Sarah, Peter and I were hungry. So without further ado, we repaired to the cafeteria. Yes, there's a cafeteria, selling Swedish favorites such as yummy meatballs (bags of said item, frozen, are also available for purchase). Placed near the children's furnishings area (a riot of fun color that made me long to either be a child again or have some of my own, if only too decorate their rooms (not the right reason, certainly)) the food was inexpensive and tasty, served on real dishes with real glass and silverware. As we ate and Sarah nursed the baby, I people watched, laughing at the balloon-animal artist and magician who stood not too far away entertaining laughing children. I was tempted to take a picture, and almost expected a costumed creature to walk by.

We wandered some more after eating, picking out a rug and sea creatures mobile for Peter's room, and then decided to make our way downstairs. I found the lamp and flowered lampshade I wanted. The baby began to fuss as we followed the arrows back and forth, and I found myself briefly disgruntled at the people with carts who seemed to just park in front of us. And it took forever to get out of there, rather like being at a theme park after a long, hot, sunburned day when you can't wait to get to the car but the people in front of you can't seem to gather their family and shopping bags fast enough. Instead of turnstiles, there were easily 40 checkout lines, but they moved smoothly despite the number of people with large crates of assemble-it-yourself furniture jockeying for position in the shortest line.

At the end of the afternoon, though admittedly tired, I still very much enjoyed my experience. And it got me to thinking. As we'd looked at furniture, I kept saying how one day I'd decorate my home nicely using some of the antiques I have in storage and other new items. Sarah asked me why I should wait.

That got me thinking. See, although I've lived in my duplex for three years, I've hardly hung anything on the walls. And the antiques from my grandmother don't fit in my living rooms with the window-unit air conditioner. Despite the furniture, I used to be so good about making my spaces homey and imprinted with my personality, but for some reason, haven't with my current home. And the more I thought about it, I realize I don't want to decorate my current space, mostly because it would imply permanence. And I don't want to stay here. I'm not sure where I do want to go just yet, but when I do, and have found new digs, I'm pretty sure I'll be returning to Ikea.


Sarah said...

HA! You thought only Sabrina would read this! I prove you wrong! I'm glad to see you're blogging again. Love you!!!

Brina Bat said...

oh dear... that's funny - fighting about comments now are we?

Oh yeah - I just have to say "GO IKEA!!" And I even took photos there... check out the cool red cabinet I purchased!!