Middle-class problems: Ikea furniture
Perhaps the ultimate middle-class problem, this. Putting together a Billy bookcase. Cheap? Yes. Practical and effective? Without a doubt. But first, you have to assemble the thing and it's at this point you remember that the Swedish flat-pack furniture empire uses between 800 and 1,000 types of screw – though not, even if it often feels like it, as part of the same product.
Take, for example, the Laiva desk, £10. This simple piece of furniture involves a total of 66 nuts and bolts. And then there is the accompanying instruction manual, which is, to say the least, starved of design acumen. Drab, outdated graphics, not a helpful word in sight, bewildering do's and don'ts – five pages in and you find yourself desperately in need of an eye mask and a gin Martini.
Last year, to make things easier, Ikea produced a series of "How to Build" videos and there are 24 now posted on the company's YouTube channel. Again, production values are not a priority here, in fact these offerings appear to have been made for less then a Laiva desk.
With an estimated one in five children now conceived in an Ikea bed, it doesn't look as if we are going to escape our collective flat-packed nightmare any time soon. But there is hope on the horizon. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have now created robots – Ikea-bots – capable of assembling the company's furniture by themselves. So one day we might all be able to sleep easier in those beds. Once they've been assembled, that is.