Come back Ikea, all is forgiven

One of my friends in this publishing business reckons that when the going gets tough, the tough get shallow. I admit it. When the deadlines seem beyond unmanageable, I tend to book a haircut. Or a facial. Or go out for lunch. But lately, my escape of choice has been decor websites. I don’t care if they aren’t my style; I don’t care if I could never dream up, let alone live in, their chi-chi, overwrought fiascos of hand-stencilled walls and re-covered antique sofas. Sigh. A girl can dream.

Work has been going ballistic. Another two books have to go to print by the end of the weekend; this follows a hammering treadmill that hasn’t really let up since May. And meanwhile, all I really want to do is spend time doodling little sketches of the rooms in our pretty house-to-be.

There’s something simultaneously thrilling and terrifying about Starting From Scratch. Almost all the furniture I had in my last house was given away when I relocated to the UK. There’s a fridge in my parents’ garage (though I’m not sure they’ll want to part with it – it’s the one with the drinks and the ice-cream, so who knows what might happen if it went). And a couple of weeks ago I bought an oak table and an assortment of chairs. So. No beds or cupboards quite yet; no couches or desks or carpets or shelves. But we have a table and some chairs. It’s a convivial sort of start.

Some days I have fantasies of living a marvelously minimal life, with stretches of open floor space and the very barest array of carefully selected furnishings. But I know it’s unlikely – not with a toddler who’s capable of strewing the entire contents of a wardrobe onto the floor in less time than it takes to tie my shoelaces (and I’m quite snappy with shoelaces). So the rest of the time I fantasise about funky assortments of clever storage solutions amongst play areas and workbenches. And today I made the cardinal error of going and eyeing the Ikea website.

I’ve always been a little leery of Ikea. So much bland, for so much money. But, god, it’s easy. I’m kind of glad it’s not available in South Africa, because it would be oh-so-tempting to throw money at the problem and make it go away in a puff of generic Swedish shelving. Fortunately for us, we don’t live in Ikea land. We live in a country where people still design and build things, thank goodness. Where I met these guys the other day, and had to marvel at their clever stuff. Where one of the girls in my book club makes this incredible stuff. (Yeah, Ev, you’re famous. I just wish there were more pics on your website…) Where the last word in design creativity is not ikeahacker. Even if I can spend hours online at Design Sponge and Decorology, going kind of gooey over pretty things from the international metropolis of decor bloggers.

OK, so it’s not going to be a one-click ordering business, I guess. There will be actual people involved, who will sketch stuff and measure stuff and get actual wood and stick it together to make real things. It’s so exciting. Work will have to carry on going ballistic for many months if I’m going to stick to my guns and avoid the generic prefab stuff. I’m only a little bit scared.

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About Lisa

I live in South Africa with my husband and two small children, doing things, thinking about things and sometimes writing about them.
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3 Responses to Come back Ikea, all is forgiven

  1. edenwild says:

    I have been trying so hard to be patient, and wait for the “right” furniture and decorations. It’s hard to wait when you walk into an Ikea (we have one not too far away), and see SOLUTIONS. But I don’t want a generic solution, do I? Don’t I want something that will be treasured for at least my lifetime? I think I might use them for my office, even though I really wanted to go eclectic, I can’t wait forever on that one. But it does give some satisfaction over the rest of my house that I am being patient and not just throwing money at bland solutions. But when will the REAL furniture come?

  2. Lisa says:

    I find it doesn’t come… you have to go out seeking it, and go looking in different places quite actively. Looking in magazines and online helps; setting aside an afternoon to go explore an area in your city that has furniture shops/second-hand stores/antique shops can be fun and adventurous and give you loads of ideas. The “before and after” feature on Design Sponge is hugely inspiring – if you’re feeling energetic and creative, scour Gumtree for cheap pieces of second-hand stuff that you can strip, repaint, recover or restyle…

  3. Alex says:

    We have a little shop just around the corner from us called Furniture Mania. The sell everything from railway-sleeper furniture to fancy woods (that nobody can pronounce) to plain unvarnished pine stuff. We have left a lot of money there already.

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