Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hang On A Minute Lads, I've Got A Great Ikea

It's compulsory, in all the Western world and much of the East that, on moving into a new home, at least 64.2% of all the furniture MUST be from Ikea.

I'm no exception and there's nothing I like more than spending an evening poring over an Ikea instruction booklet, counting dowels and screw like things and turning strange looking planks of wood over and over again while trying to figure which is the one that is actually featured in stage 14 in the booklet.

I won't fall into the trap of believing that Ikea actually invented flat packed furniture but I think it's safe to say that they've taken the concept to new heights, or lows, depending on your perspective. We all know that you can get everything from Ikea in flat packed form these days.

You want a house, well they do it. You want a special chair that's tested by four million robots for a longer time than dinosaurs were around? They've got it, it's flat packed and it's available in a range of twenty seven different colours. Or twenty six if you're in Sweden as they don't have black over there.

In fact the only thing Ikea don't do in flat packed form is Swedish meatballs. I suppose, if they did, it would just be called Swedish meat. In Sweden it would be just meat, perhaps Ikea meat.

Isn't it genius this build it yourself and feel good about it furniture thing? At first glance, upon opening boxes and desperately trying to locate the bag of screws and bits, most of us are disappointed to see that we've got a lot of building to do. Despite the fact that there are no Ikea virgins, people who've never made an Ikea thing, left in the world, we all hold on to an impossible dream, one of opening a box and finding that we have bought a fully built item.

Time and labour, specifically how we view our own, are interesting subjects. Some people take the view that their time is worth x per hour, x being based on how much they earn. Some awkward chaps use y or even epsilon, but it's all Greek to me. Whatever letter they use they then figure that it will cost them that amount mutiplied by the number of hours to make said item of furniture.

It's a view, one that works for many. I prefer to take the approach that the value of my time is only appropriate if I'm actually working in that spell, or if I'm turning down money earning work in order to build a Billy bookcase. So, if I'm using up an evening or two and those evenings would otherwise have been spent lounging around, then the only thing I'm actually losing out on is some rest time. No big deal.

As me and the girls built the RD bed last week I marvelled, yes I simply marvelled, at the skill and ingenuity of the blonde and wispily bearded Swedes. Not just any Swedes either, though I'm a big Abba fan and think that they wrote some of the best songs of all time, this was marvelling at the very select group of Swedes; the ones who write and draw the Ikea instruction leaflets.

You see, in olden times, we'll refer to them as BI, there were carpenters and skilled woodworkers. They still exist but the likes of you and I never get to deal with them. They'd make things like beds and shelving units, tables and chests of drawers.

In those days a chap would buy an item of furniture and the artisan would deliver it, stick it in the room where you wanted it, and leave. You'd pay him and the deal was done.

These days the artisan makes the item, after it's been designed by Karina Haffel - Stromson, and then the instruction makers take it apart. They totally destroy all the skill that has gone into it. They then figure out not only how the artisan made it but also how an idiot, or worse, someone like me, can replicate the whole procedure.

This dumbing down of someone else's skill must be a bit hard on the person or people with the skill. Can you imagine if someone invented a similar idea for music? A game in which people were given simplistic instructions on how to play a dumbed down version of an instrument, like guitar or drums, then they followed the instructions and went away thinking they had the talent of a proper musician.

Exactly, it just wouldn't work would it.

However, I digress, the gift of the Ikea instruction booklet designer is huge. As you're well aware I struggle on a regular basis to explain the simplest of concepts to the most intelligent of people. Teaching and training, like most things, are just not up there in my list of talents.

The bed that we made last week is, in its finished form, a reasonably complicated thing. Not if you compare it to the innermost workings of a Formula One engine but still pretty involved. If you gave me a tree and some screws and bits and asked me to make it from scratch I'd be lost. In fact, you'll find this hard to believe, but I'd even be lost if you gave me planks of wood.

So, for someone to guide me through the process, step by step and bit by bit, is a major achievement. What's more is that most people, even those who aren't as skilful with wood, can probably achive the same. I'm fortunate in that I often have wood, I know how to work with it.

Then, once all is built, the idiot assembler (me) feels more pride in the finished item than God did after that week when he made the world.

Old God's all well and good and he may well have made the world in a week, but I bet he couldn't have made an Ikea double bed in two evenings.

I bet he doesn't walk past the world and look at it with joy, give it a little pat because he's so chuffed with it.

That's the beauty of Ikea.


Indyana said...

I guess we are lucky that over here the IKEA chaps fix the furniture up for us before they leave!phew!

Chavie said...

This IKEA business sounds like a LEGO set for adults... hehe :D

David Blacker said...

"I guess we are lucky that over here the IKEA chaps fix the furniture up for us before they leave"

Yup, and Arpico is easier to pronounce than Ikea.

sach said...

i'm still traumatized by the Ikea-building/assembling experience when the sibling moved into his apartment.

Though I wouldn't write an entire post about it ;)

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Indyana - Same in Singapore, I don't quite get the point of that though!

Chavie - Exactly. Just slightly more useful.

DB - I would consider it marginal. That's just my opinion.

Sach - Oooh go on!

Indyana said...

RD...Why ever not....saves us the trouble!! And I didn't get David's comment?!

Dili said...

I guess its all just a part of the self preservation society. :)

Kalusudda said...

Ikea is a hell for me! I can climb mountains, swim oceans but getting through Ikea is never a pleasure as I end up trudging the carts which are size of a truck over here. After all the shopping she decides, that nothing matches or needed at home! except some pot holders for garden or solar lights! Only good thing is the free Swedish breakfast they give! Furniture I would not vouch for but bathroom fittings office stuff are alright.
But the question is will they match your planters chair (Which I would really love to have)
But for all your Ikea troubles, visit http://www.ikeafans.com/