What Not To Buy At IKEA

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 16 minute read

I really like Ikea a lot. It has a huge showroom with numerous display rooms, which I find very appealing. In addition to its reasonable prices on furniture and home decor, I appreciate the store’s helpful staff, emphasis on environmental consciousness, creative approaches to dealing with limited floor space, and overall value.

However, my viewpoint is not shared by everybody. A minority of customers believe that Ikea’s inexpensive pricing isn’t reflected in the high quality of the products sold at the Swedish furnishings giant. They think the low prices at Ikea are deceiving because the furniture doesn’t last long under heavy use.

It’s also true that some items sold at Ikea are overpriced. However, if you know where to seek, you can discover genuine worth. In each of the store’s eight most popular departments, you can find fantastic bargains, along with a few less appealing options.

1. Furniture

When it comes to home furnishings, Ikea has you covered. Wooden and upholstered pieces, as well as pieces constructed from other materials, are all available, as are pieces crafted from light wood, dark wood, and painted wood, as well as modern and traditional designs. 

Everything you might possibly want is readily available. So, the real question is whether or not you should make the purchase.

Top Ikea Furniture Selections

It’s hard to find good deals among so many options. You can’t rely on test findings to help you decide because furniture isn’t often rated at professional review sites like Consumer Reports. But there are a few standout works that design websites often highlight.

There are several, but some of them are:

  • The Docksta Desk or Table. This modern, pedestal-less table is modeled after Eero Saarinen’s timeless “tulip table,” which he designed in 1957. Knoll’s price for the original is over $2,000, whereas Ikea’s version is only $179.
  • This is the Poang Chair. This bent-frame chair was inspired by another modern classic; Alvar Aalto’s “Armchair 406,” which he created in 1939. The Poang begins at just $79, in contrast to the nearly $2,000 you’d spend on a replica of Aalto’s chair at places like the Danish Design Store. An article on FiveThirtyEight claims that the price of this chair has decreased by more than 70% since it first sold for approximately $350 in the early 1990s when prices were not adjusted for inflation. One of the many reasons Ikea sells over 1.5 million of these every year is because of the inexpensive price.
  • The lack of a suitable end table. Yet another Ikea mainstay to go on sale, this end table is a steal at its new low price. It used to cost $25 (around $56 now) in 1985, but now it’s only $10. HuffPost details Ikea’s board-on-frame construction, which uses a hollow hardwood frame stuffed with honeycomb paper to save costs (and thus the price of the table). In spite of its strength, this material is considerably lighter than solid wood. The minimalistic design and five available color options of the Lack make it versatile enough to work in any setting. Its low price and straightforward design make it a popular candidate for “Ikea hacking,” the process of transforming Ikea products into one-of-a-kind works of art. (However, insiders recommend avoiding the matching Lack coffee table because of its cheapness and instability.)
  • The Kallax Bookcase. The Kallax bookshelf (formerly Expedit) is a straightforward arrangement of perfectly square cubbies ranging in size from two squares by two squares (at $35) to four squares by five squares (at $179). It is offered in a wide range of hues, and its overall appearance may be altered by stacking various components and incorporating the available doors and drawers. Its simple design, adaptability, and durability have been lauded by a variety of online publications, from Apartment Therapy to Cheapism.
  • The Ivar Bookcase. The Ivar system is a great option for a more affordable bookshelf option. The solid pine construction allows for an even greater variety of sizes and configurations than the Kallax, including shelves, corner shelves, cabinets with doors, chests, and a fold-down table. The Ivar basic unit, which retails for $69, has been dubbed “Ikea’s most utilitarian piece yet” by apartment therapy.
  • Bookshelf Named After Billy. The prices for Ikea’s ultra-simple bookshelf range from $30 to $291, and it comes in dozens of different sizes, colors, and configurations. You can make storage solutions that are tailored to your specific needs by stacking and connecting multiple units and incorporating doors. Billy has been praised for its adaptability by reviewers at Apartment Therapy and Gear Patrol, but its particle-board construction has been called “notoriously fragile” by Reviewed. But after decades of use, the upper shelf of only one of my two Billy bookcases has begun to sag. I’d say it was worth the $80 I spent on it.

Kallax shelves, for example, are a great example of solid wood furniture from Ikea that will survive for years to come. If you don’t plan on moving or disassembling the parts frequently, then go with something more affordable like Billy or Lack. Adding a small amount of wood glue to each joint during assembly can greatly improve the durability of fiberboard pieces like Billy.

The Worst Ikea Furniture Selections

Additionally, there are several recommended Ikea alternatives. One of the most frequently recalled items is the Malm dresser, which has been linked to multiple deaths and injuries when toddlers tried to drag the dressers on top of themselves. 

Despite the fact that Ikea’s Malm dresser comes with the necessary hardware to secure it to the wall, the vast majority of reviews advise against purchasing it.

Furthermore, Reviewed suggests staying away from any and all Ikea dressers due to the prevalence of mishaps involving multiple different product lines. Make sure you get a wall-anchoring kit if you decide to buy one. Consumer Reports recommends doing this with any new dresser purchase, not just Ikea pieces.

Victoria Stepanov, a designer, tells Cheat Sheet that you should stay away from most of Ikea’s upholstered furniture, including couches and armchairs. The phrase “sag and squeak” describes how they degrade with time.

However, she does make an exception for the Soderhamn brand because of its higher quality. These contemporary, angular chairs and sectionals cost between $200 and $1,300, which is pricey in comparison to Ikea but still affordable when compared to furniture showrooms.

Generally speaking, Reviewed advises readers to stay away from any Ikea pieces constructed out of particleboard. Reviewer Shayna Murphy claims the pieces are less sturdy and more difficult to disassemble and reassemble than those made of solid wood.

2. Mattresses

Latex foam mattresses, the type with the highest rating at Sleep Like the Dead, were once only available at Ikea. Seventy-six percent of people who own Ikea latex mattresses are happy with them, as seen by the site’s reviews, which are among the most extensive collections of their kind online. 

Although it did not sell the highest quality latex mattresses money could buy, this shop was the cheapest place to find this popular product.

It’s a shame that Ikea no longer offers latex mattresses, as these tend to get better reviews than the store’s other beds. Sixty-nine percent of those who possess Ikea’s memory foam mattresses are happy with their purchase. 

Despite this, just 63% of people are happy with their Ikea spring mattresses. Owners most frequently express concern about the mattresses’ durability, citing the frequent occurrence of sagging and denting.

Mattresses from Ikea, especially those that use springs, are not well regarded by other retailers, as this article demonstrates. 

Consumer reviews indicate that sagging is just one of several issues with these products. There have been complaints from some mattress owners that the chemicals in their beds give out a foul odor and trigger a variety of unpleasant side effects.

In addition, the mattresses are a slightly different size than those sold by most American mattress manufacturers, thus regular bedsheets may not be a good fit. Also, they may be just plain uncomfortable for certain users.

The most highly recommended mattress, made by Tuft & Needle and available on Amazon, is just one example of the great deals you can get on mattresses when you shop online.

3. Kitchen Drawers

Ikea has made a name for itself in the home improvement industry because of its kitchen selection. You may get everything for a new or remodeled kitchen, including cabinets, countertops, flooring, appliances, sinks, and faucets, from a single supplier. A member of staff may assist you in planning the layout of your kitchen, and for a fee, the store can even deliver and set up your new appliances.

There is a wide range of opinions on the quality of Ikea’s kitchen cabinets. Innumerable reviewers at sites like Apartment Therapy and Kitchen Reviews have lauded Ikea’s affordable and attractive cabinetry. The ease of assembly of the cabinets is cited by these pleased buyers.

Some customers love these particle board cabinets, while others find them to be too flimsy and tricky to install. They also claim that purchasing and shipping are a hassle, especially if you need to make returns to replace missing components. 

Users who have purchased doors with plastic veneer often complain about how quickly those doors can be scratched. If you’re handy around the house and have the time to hang the cabinets properly, you should be happy with your Ikea purchase. 

Location near an Ikea store is also advantageous for this reason. In addition, if you decide on an Ikea kitchen, it is recommended that you spend the extra money on doors made of real wood or glass instead of cheap plastic.

4. Appliances

Generally speaking, Ikea appliances are quite cheap, as stated by Consumer Reports. In addition, they have a lengthy guarantee of five years, while even household names like GE and Kenmore typically only provide two.

Real-world evaluations, however, are not always favorable to Ikea’s home electronics and appliances. Consumer Reports only recommends two of the ten models they review because they are the best values.

The outcomes on Reviewed are much less promising for Ikea. No Ikea appliance receives a passing grade in any of the publications’ tests of cooking and cooling devices. In addition, a 2017 survey indicated that most of Ikea’s appliances could be replaced with higher-quality, more affordable options.

Although Ikea is a great place to get cabinets and countertops, you should go elsewhere for appliances. In any case, it’s worth perusing consumer advocacy journals like Consumer Reports to see if you can locate higher-quality alternatives at a reduced cost.

5. Additional Kitchen Items

If you’ve recently ordered a new kitchen from Ikea, you can outfit it with all the essentials from the Ikea Marketplace. Kitchen tools, utensils, gadgets, and containers of every shape and size can be found here.

Ikea’s cookware has been met with widespread praise from critics. Both Insider and Gear Patrol feature them in their best-of-the-store roundups. Kitchn contributor and Ikea fan Faith Durand recommend the Swedish furniture and home goods giant for its selection of high-quality cooking equipment.

The best Ikea appliances for the kitchen, according to reviewers, are:

  • Containers made of Pruta for storing food. Making the most of food scraps is a great way to cut costs, but doing so necessitates storage. The Pruta set from Ikea is only $6 and includes 17 pieces of various sizes made from polypropylene that can be cleaned in the dishwasher or microwave. Each component can be stacked neatly out of the way until needed again. Also for a buck, you can get three identical 20-ounce containers from Ikea.
  • Utterly Bizarre Utensils. A core of fast-heating aluminum is sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel in this cookware series, a clad design highly recommended by professionals. This combination of two pots, a saucepan, and a nonstick skillet costs just $50, while a seven-piece set of high-end clad cookware like All-Clad may cost as much as $500. If you’re on a tight budget but still need to stock a basic kitchen, this is a great option.
  • Adelsten Crusher and pulverizer. A mortar and pestle, as described by the editors of Gear Patrol, is a must-have if you want to enjoy the full flavor of freshly ground spices in your kitchen. Ikea’s handsome and sturdy marble set is a steal for $15, according to Durand. The mortar is the bowl, and the pestle is the lengthy tool used for grinding, for those of you just starting out in the kitchen.
  • Containers of the Korken kind. Canning jars have found new uses beyond the kitchen in recent years. Besides its obvious utility for storing and presenting food, they are often seen carrying candles. For only $2 and $5, you can get a jar from Ikea’s Korken range, which features several sizes of jars with attached, hinged lids. Bottles of Korken come with their own corks for only $2 or $3. Durand claims that the caps on these bottles and jars are both inexpensive and secure.
  • 365+ Dinnerware from Ikea. Apartment Therapy’s Maxwell Ryan and Durand both agree that these dishes are a fantastic value. This set of white essentials includes platters, plates, bowls, and mugs. At under $3 for a dinner plate, the Ikea 365+ dishes are the least expensive option on Ryan’s suggested shopping list. The cost has subsequently risen to $3.49, but it’s still considerably more affordable than some of Ryan’s other recommendations, which can cost as much as $55 per plate.
  • The 365+ Carafe is available at Ikea. The glass carafe with a cork stopper costs only $5 from the Ikea 365+ collection, making it another best-seller. The editors at Gear Patrol laud the ingenuity of the design because you can clip notes on the top indicating the contents for guests or roommates.
  • Variera An Organizer for Storing and Displaying Lids for Pots. Both Cheapism and House Beautiful praised this $8 tool for keeping lids in order. Drawer organizer that extends from slightly over 3 inches to 20 inches, so it may be used with drawers of varying depths. You can store anything flat, from mail to craft supplies, in its secure, scratch-free lid holders. New dishes, cookware, or kitchen equipment? Ikea is where you should shop.

6. Textiles

The Ikea Marketplace has a sizable area devoted to textiles. 

What it provides includes:

  • Rugs. All sorts of materials, hues, textures, patterns, and forms are available in Ikea’s rug range. From $10 to $1,499, with the majority of options between $60 and $100, the market is flooded with medium to big rugs measuring between 4 and 7 feet in width and 6 and 12 feet in length. Featured on Lonny and designer Emily Henderson’s website, the $300 black-and-white striped Stockholm rug is a must-have. A group of eight rugs, including this one, were featured in a MyDomaine piece about decorating using Ikea carpets.
  • Towels for the kitchen. Whether you’re looking for a simple towel or a decorative one, Ikea has you covered with a wide selection of kitchen towels for under $5 apiece. The all-cotton Hildegun dish towel formerly known as Tekla in white with two red stripes along the edges has been a particular success with reviewers. Because of their durability and resistance to wrinkles, Durand uses these towels as napkins for her casual dinner gatherings. And the pricing per unit is unbeatable at less than a dollar.
  • Bedding. Sheets, blankets, duvets, comforters, and pillows, as well as everything else needed to make a bed, are all available for purchase at Ikea. Comforters start at about $8 and sheet sets for a queen-size bed may be purchased for as little as $20. It’s true that you get what you pay for with these inexpensive bed linens, as designer Jillian Grant Lavoie points out in the Cheat Sheet feature. As a rule, they are rough to the touch when first purchased, and even after several washes, they haven’t completely lost their threadbare quality.
  • Wet towels. Bath towels, which can be purchased for as little as $2 each, are another Ikea product that Lavoie advises you to avoid due to their scratchiness and lack of durability. Good Housekeeping found that the Vikfjard towel from Ikea was absorbent and resistant to fading, but that it had a thin, uncomfortable feeling and shrank considerably after washing.
  • Curtains. Prices per pair of panels at this shop range from $5 to $40, and they come in a wide variety of colors, patterns, and materials. Lavoie suggests, in particular, the $18 cotton Ritva curtains that give off an upscale appearance but are actually rather affordable. The Passionate Penny Pincher cautions readers to double-check their curtain lengths before making a purchase, since some curtain sets may have panels of different sizes.
  • Rugs, curtains, and other textiles are inexpensively available at Ikea. You can get better quality bedding and towels elsewhere. As an economical option, Lavoie suggests Target’s Threshold brand.

7. Lighting

The Ikea lighting selection is extensive. Table lamps, floor lamps, wall sconces, and ceiling fixtures are also available, as are seasonal and decorative lights, as well as task lighting and lighting for under cabinets.

Among Apartment Therapy’s top picks for affordable lighting, several Ikea products made the cut.

  • Targeting Ranarp in the Limelight. This fixture, which has an industrial appearance, can be clamped onto a shelf or attached to the wall. Pricing starts at $20.
  • The Ranarp Floor Lamp. Light can be focused exactly where you need it with the help of the matching floor lamp, which features a movable arm and shade. Invest $50 to get it.
  • Pendant Ottava. This ceiling light is 40 dollars and is composed of aluminum with a mouth-blown glass shade. It can be installed above a kitchen island, vanity, or any other surface to provide bright, downward illumination.
  • Ikea is a great place to look for contemporary and unusual lamping options. However, if you’re looking for more classic lighting options, you may want to look elsewhere. The Spruce suggests shopping at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or Shades of Light for a large selection at reasonable costs.

Ikea’s light bulbs are overpriced despite the fact that the company’s light fixtures are generally a good value. This wasn’t always the situation. The first widely available energy-efficient LED light bulbs for home use hit the market in about 2010, and the best location to get them was Ikea. In addition to being expensive, LED bulbs were not widely available.

LED bulbs, however, can be purchased at any home improvement store nowadays, and the vast majority of them are either more energy efficient or less expensive than Ikea’s. Home Depot sells EcoSmart lights that put out 800 lumens for as cheap as $1.25 apiece. 

Ikea’s Ryet 800 Lumen bulbs, on the other hand, only cost two dollars apiece. A 450-lumen Ryet bulb is also available for $1, although it’s only about 50% as bright as the EcoSmart bulbs.

8. Miscellaneous

Many of Ikea’s most valuable items are unassuming extras that don’t have a clear home.

  • The Art of Making Picture Frames. Ribba photo frames have been recommended as a top Ikea buy by both Apartment Therapy and Cheat Sheet. These inexpensive frames are made of wood and are offered in several sizes and colors (black and white) for $2 to $20 per. According to Taryn Williford of Apartment Therapy, they make a great addition to a gallery wall. The inexpensive matching frames are a great way to unify various artworks into one stylish display.
  • Recreational Items for Young People. Toys for infants and toddlers may be found in plenty at Ikea, and many of them cost less than ten dollars. Stuffed animals, vehicles, trains, playsets, wooden puzzles, paints, brushes, and playsets are all available. Rather than using plastic, most Ikea toys are crafted from natural materials like wood and fabric. You can see that Ikea places a premium on child safety because the Kramig panda doesn’t have any plastic eyes or other potential choking risks.
  • Stationery organizers. Ikea not only sells home office furniture, but also a wide range of minor things that can help you better manage your office. All shapes and sizes of corkboards, magnet boards, and storage containers can be found for around $1 to $35. The shop also offers a variety of low-priced options for organizing computer cables.
  • Stuffing a Closet with It. Ikea provides a solution if you have trouble sifting through your closet. The shop offers a wide selection of containers, racks, and closet organizers. Prices for its eight-pack of wooden Bumerang hangers (for only $5) are unbeatable.
  • Candles. If you’re looking for cheap candles and candleholders, Ikea is a great place to shop. The shop sells scented and unscented block candles, tapers, votives, and tea lights in a variety of colors. There are several different candle holders available, including candlesticks, glasses, and lanterns, all of which cost less than $20 collectively. The Glimma tea lights, which cost about $3.50 for a package of 100, come highly recommended by Williford. Ikea also sells realistic-looking LED candles for those who prefer to avoid using fire decorations.
  • Batteries. Ikea revamped its Ladda rechargeable batteries in 2016. The new batteries are available in two different wattages, so you may have a high-power battery for high-drain devices and a basic cell for low-drain devices at a lower price. Fujitsu, the same company that supplies the popular Eneloop batteries, also makes Ikea’s AA batteries, but although a pack of four Eneloops costs roughly $19, Ikea’s four pack costs just $7. The Alkalisk battery 10-pack from Ikea costs only $3, making it another excellent value. Alkalisk batteries were just as effective as more expensive ones in a 2019 test by Today’s Parent.
  • Food. IKEA has multiple food locations. Ikea has a restaurant, a café, and a Swedish market where you can eat in, grab a quick snack, and stock up on products for your kitchen. The chain is well-known for its Swedish meatballs, but it plans to diversify its menu to include more plant-based options by 2025.
  • Cartoning Bags. You can get a Frakta shopping bag for one dollar to carry all your items. This massive, brilliant blue tote is made of rugged polypropylene and can contain as much as 19 gallons of your stuff. Hackers have turned this Ikea bag into everything from wallets and teddy bears to swimwear and raincoats for pets and children. For $3 more, you can get the Storstomma in a rainbow of colors from Ikea.
  • A shopping cart has multiple uses. The compact and stylish Raskog utility cart has been lauded for its usefulness and adaptability by Gear Patrol, Reviewed, and House Beautiful. It’s small enough to stow away practically anywhere, yet it’s perfect for holding everything from personal items to workplace supplies to kitchen utensils to craft materials to a spare set of keys. It’s multifunctional and can hold plants or serve as a bar cart. It just only $30, so you can afford to have one in every room if you like. Make sure you have some extra cash on hand before you visit Ikea in case you get any crazy ideas. These are the types of impulse buys that are difficult to say no to, especially at these prices.

Bottom Line

The trick to getting the most for your money at Ikea is to shop strategically. Start by working out exactly what you need for your house, then figure out which Ikea goods in each area on your list give the most value for money. 

Add these precise things to your shopping list, and remain close to it as you shop. Don’t let yourself get fooled by surrounding pieces that offer temptingly low pricing but may not stand up to hard use.

There are a few additional tactics that can help you get the most out of your Ikea trip too. Before your trip, sign up for Ikea’s store card to take advantage of special bargains, and clear the trunk of your car to make room for your cargo. 

As you shop, don’t overlook the marked-down products in the as-is room and labeled with yellow tags around the store. And don’t forget to make use of Ikea’s additional advantages, including the restaurant and play area for youngsters.

Whether you’re outfitting a modest city apartment or a suburban starter house, Ikea offers the items you need at rates that meet your budget. Just remember to focus on the things that give the best bang for your buying budget.

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