Being modern: Ikea

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Ikea: it has become almost as ubiquitous as childbirth and, similarly, though the experience may cause pain, we'll always go back for more.

While all shops are laid out to encourage impulse buys, no other corners the market with quite the skill of Ikea. In supermarkets, it might be the smell of baking bread that lures us into spending more than we'd intended. At Ikea, we are driven by a clever juxtaposition of ease and inconvenience. Yes, we may have come in for a bit of Billy, Bygel or Ekby and a new duvet, but having driven to the outskirts of civilisation and spent four hours battling through an emotionally exhausting, Kafka-esque maze lined with bright-eyed, newly cohabiting couples, we're bloody well going to stock up. "What do you mean we don't need 100 tealights?! But they're £1.89. And you get 100!" The logic is straight out of Pinter.

How quickly, too, we forget what happens when we get it all home: hard, Allen key-based labour; the realisation that the light fitting comes in two parts, and the other is still in Croydon; the odyssey of contacting customer services.

But let's not be too hard on ourselves. Resistance was surely futile at the hands of a retail genius like Ingvar Kamprad, Ikea's Swedish founder. The man was a retail success story by the age of five, for God's sake – bulk-buying matches and flogging them at a profit to his neighbours. Once he had opened the first Ikea, in 1943 (then aged only 17) our Bank Holiday destinies were surely written in the stars.

Ikea hit our shores in the late 1980s and now around 40 million of us visit each year. And this despite the brand lampooning our attitude to interiors, with advertising slogans including "Chuck out the chintz" and "Stop being so English".

Just as Marmite has entered the vernacular to mean you either love or hate something, so Ikea should be the word for feeling both emotions at once. There's a cartoon by Modern Toss headed: "Weekend". "Let's go to Ikea," says one character. "Fuck Ikea," says the other. Hmm. But where else can you get a six-set of wine glasses for £2.03?