Why does IKEA so desperately want to be like Lego?

Photo: thebrickfan.com

IKEA is a depraved consumerist nightmare and everything Karl Marx warned us about and more. 

It has positioned itself within the market as affordable designer furniture for younger middle class consumers, looking for a prescribed sense of style. As Palahniuk’s unnamed protagonist says of IKEA in Fight Club: ‘I had it all, even the glass dishes with tiny bubbles and imperfections, proof that they were crafted by the honest, simple, hardworking indigenous peoples of … wherever’.

It’s the ultimate consumer illusion that the items we buy from IKEA have a solid history based on righteous fair trade, and support for the underdogs of life, the poor artisans. Somehow, we’re buying into the bigger picture of Swedish socialism and neutrality (hold that thought). But when I look at a piece of IKEA furniture, I feel like I’m looking at something that can’t make up its mind.

And that’s why I borrowed my friend’s crusty truck for the pilgrimage to the temple of Scandinavian minimalism, to kit out my new flat with flat-packed kits. I knew in advance they were serving meatballs, so on Saturday morning I skipped breakfast and knocked back a quick performance-enhancing joint, to open my eyes to the stark reality of normality. By noon, my friend and I were on the road to IKEA. 

When we arrived at the bustling Victoria Gardens shopping centre, we parked up top to avoid the usual colonic mele for parking space. I spend much of my time dreaming about the zombie apocalypse and walking into IKEA I felt a rush of apocalyptic adrenalin that almost wiped out part of my frontal lobe. If it was going to happen, it would start here.

Being at the wrong end of a fatty boom batty and starving, we went straight to the IKEA Bistro for two serves of meatballs and mash, washed down with peach tea. With a stomach full of Nordic staples we threw ourselves into the wonderful world of IKEA.

Two Icelanders (pictured) upset with IKEA – Photo – Icelandic Music Mafia

It started with easy chairs and quickly progressed to a butcher’s bench called BEKVAM. By the time we got to the bathroom section, I was bored shitless and wished the zombie apocalypse would kick in so I could at least justify the hip flask in my back pocket and the venom crawling up my spine. 

With that in mind, I told my friend I was satisfied with what I’d chosen, and could we please get the shit I selected and go home for a beer on the balcony. It was at this point that she told me that we had to go down to the warehouse to find the aforementioned shit.

After two hours of confusing herding, we found ourselves in the warehouse from the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Pallet racks extending to the heavens loaded with animistic furniture. I stopped in my tracks and actually marvelled at the magnificence of the orange pallet racking. I never thought I’d live to see so much stuff, so neatly packed, and so devoid of character, all in the one place.

I stood there barking about neo-socialism and Alfred Nobel.

IKEA wants us to update our furniture based on pivotal lifestyle changes, getting married or starting a family etc. They want to be right there ushering us into adulthood, doing all the thinking, getting us ready for the next stage of our life to begin in earnest. IKEA is earnest, earnestly making consumerism look like an experience rather than a transaction. And they succeed in doing so with the IKEA nesting instinct.

Back in the truck, with my purchases safely stowed away in the back, I thought about my IKEA foray. We require things to sit on, lie on, crawl on, and shit in. We need things and we want nice things. And that’s when it hit me. IKEA’s inclusive branding and ethos promise the egalitarian trappings of Lego but deliver an Allen key and prescribed way of thinking via a technical manual, which is just another script for the masses.

And therein lies the problem with IKEA. It so desperately wants to be a free-thinking, conscious raising brand, but it’s just another multinational peddling inclusivity and freedom as a product that cares about you. In reality, IKEA offers you the worst kind of conformity through its range of playfully named products, promising you a fresh start with legions of other like-minded people, while Lego offers you the keys to the universe and beyond because it can, and without trying because you don’t have to follow a script to make Lego work for you. Lego just is, while IKEA really wants to be. Just take a close look at their respective logos. 

When we got home with all my new stuff, I put it in the garage with the rest of the shit I’ve wasted my money on in the past, making me part of the problem. It’s been there ever since. Maybe I’ll become like one of those consumers who doesn’t even know why they consume anymore.   

In IKEA the world stops spinning and just for a moment, you gaze into the muddy abyss of its false promises and fiscally-driven take on inclusivity, and feel the need to resurrect Karl Marx, as a Godzilla-sized consumer warrior with laser-shooting eyes.