You’ve finished school. You’ve done the long hours for low pay. You’ve put in your time and now things are starting to look like what you sort of imagined they would when you finally became a proper adult. This next part may be tough to hear: You are now probably too old for Ikea.
I understand why it’s hard to process. Ikea was the place you went when you could finally afford to step it up from milk crate furnishing. You could shop for the living room and procure a two dollar dinner all in one spot. It was cheap, and there was so much of it on Craigslist. And, of course, in the end, you finally felt like you had a comfortable place of your own, even if it did look a touch like everybody else’s.
However, I promise you the next stage is going to be even better. It’s when you get to find that really awesome piece and assemble a room around it. It’s when you get to make a space that reflects who you are and what you care about. It’s when you get to build a personal style. And, it’s when you get to make your friends so totally jealous because they haven’t even heard of Eames, never mind having a clue where you scored that amazing Eames Lounge and Ottoman that they never want to get out of. Trust me, that last part is about to happen.
Just to be sure, though, I’ve put together a helpful seven-point list to truly assess if it’s officially time to populate Craigslist with your Ikea collection and pass it down to the next generation.
I mean dinner parties, not potluck dinners. If you’re newly past your Ikea best before date the distinction can seem subtle, but I assure you it’s not. A dinner party is where you arrange the food. You don’t have to cook it, but you have to choose it and you have to pay for it. You are the host. This also means you set the time, you plan the wines to match the food, and you decide if you want to provide desert or invite one of the guests to handle that part. I suggest you have a look a Tulip dining table paired with an Eames DSR Side Chair. It’s a classy way to seat up to eight people, and comfortable enough to allow the conversation to carry on.
It’s something that happens almost without you noticing. Usually, you find a bottle you like and think, I’ll get a couple just so I have it on hand. The next thing you know there are 10 bottles in the cellar, pardon me, in the linen closet and you start selecting which bottles you’ll share with which friends. Similar to the dinner party, stockpiling wine is one of the early warning signs that you are too old for mass produced particle board furniture.
This is a rite of passage. It’s something you don’t anticipate and then you notice you’re doing it and you are not sure when you started. It’s a sign that you are beginning to value your space in a new way. It shows you’re ready to invest in some truly inspired pieces and that you plan to care for and build on those pieces. If you are the first of your friends to enter this new stage in life you will sustain some light mocking, but I promise, they are not far behind. I suggest you have a look at the Barcelona Coffee Table, it’s a perfect piece to start with as it’s subtle design denotes unrivaled elegance and yet it plays brilliantly with the older not-so-inspired furniture - also, it can handle your uncivilized, non-coaster using, friends.
This sign is hard to refute. You care about what your space looks like. You’re trying to make it a reflection of your style and tell everyone who visits that you have given the arrangement some thought. The trouble is, as I’m sure you’ve realized, cookie-cutter furniture - whether in birch or oak - will never make any sort of statement. At best it will blend into the background allowing those first pieces of your new too old for Ikea stage to make a prominent showing. I suggest starting with something like the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman or the Florence Knoll Armchair in blue tweed. Either of these will give you a solid base from which to start creating a space to relax and enjoy.
If you’re not too old for Ikea yet, you likely don’t know what I’m talking about. Every season, designers release a series of stylized pillows that add a splash of seasonal colour or a fun new theme to your decor. Just to be clear, they are not the pillows that come with the couch. If you do it right you can have different pillows for different holidays, mix in appropriate print patterns for autumn or spring, and toss in couple avant-garde colour mixtures just to shake it up. They are just the sort of accessory that makes a Barcelona chair pop or turns the Le Corbusier LC2 Sofa from stylish comfort into a personalized art piece.
For years the dog went everywhere you did. He got into all sorts of filth and you welcomed him to snuggle with open arms. And then you noticed what his exploits were tracking all over the couch. Now all of the sudden he’s canis-non-grata on the sofa and you’ve purchased him a nice little doggy bed for the floor. It’s part of the transition into caring about your space. It’s the realization that sometimes your stuff needs to be protected from your best friend, especially if it’s a brand new Borge Mogensen sofa.
If your curiosity carried you this far, I’m afraid to say, you are likely too old for Ikea. Don’t worry though it’s completely natural. When you enter a new stage in life you automatically find yourself reading up on all things related. It’s a good thing! And, now you get to embarke on developing a home you’d be proud to show off. You get to learn about Mid Century Modern masters who flawlessly transitioned between furniture and architecture because it was really all about style and design, not creating another generic widget to sell. These are exciting times for you!
So, now that you know you’re too old for Ikea, what next? Sometimes it takes a little while to fully get comfortable building an aesthetic - take your time. Usually, finding that perfect starter piece is what gets things rolling and then before long you’re operating a Swedish Craigslist pop-up store clearing out all that stuff that just sorta blends in.
To help get you thinking, I want to leave you with a few names to consider. First, get to know the husband and wife team, Ray and Charles Eames. Chances are you already know their work because they created some of the most elegant and comfortable seating in human history. And of course, the entire Mad Men set was practically dripping with Eames designs! If you have a home office and you haven’t looked at an Eames Management Chair for behind the desk, all I can say is you’re missing out on something special.
Next I suggest a couple Nordic designers that don’t sell cheap meatballs with their furniture. It will ease the transition and show you just how much better it can be when pieces are designed with purpose. Take the Shell chair by seminal Danish designer Hans Jørgensen Wegner, you could very easily put one of those in a room and a watch as the everything else starts to take shape around it. Likewise, you could begin with the iconic Egg chair by that other Danish master Arne Jacobsen and notice how even your remaining Ikea furnishings look as if they’re stepping it up a notch in its presence.
More than anything else, remember, this is about you. It’s about your style and figuring out what that is. Experiment. Invest a bit of money. And above all else, have fun with it!