This evening we went to Ikea to purchase some domestic oddments. This was a mistake. The place is hellish. From the confused car-park to the swarmed checkout cavern, you must avoid it. There is nothing there for you. Once, it might have seemed a refreshing suburban liberation. It might have represented an escape from British highstreets of worn and shoddy furniture on one hand, and heavy and stolid on the other. Then, Ikea swooshed its plywood wand and cast its Swedish spell on a whole swathe of aspirational but parsimonious bourgeoisie. Ooh, look at all that Nordic Style, its funny names, its restaurant, its cheery plastic gewgaws and pine frapped chairs! They evoked some sort of mass-produced sophistication: a Swedish Habitat without the Conran pretentions, perhaps.
Open your eyes. If it was ever like this, it’s nothing like it now. It is nothing less than a con-job, trying to sell you planks for more than they’re worth in a venue designed to the Catholic Church’s plans for purgatory. I visited it on the way home from work,, so I turned up before Mrs Trellis. I wandered about the place, meandering amidst the kitsch and trashy, the pseudo-suave and the Bauhaus-come-deckchair faux-sophistication in the twee stage-set rooms, replete with their hollow plastic televisions regarded by hollow plastic minds. I cast my rapidly descaling eyes over the furniture. The gawping hoardes suddenly seemed like cattle, being tricked into grazing astroturf. I tried to give the pieces of furniture a greater critical appraisal than the average brand-sponged dribblers about me. And do you know what? The great veneered majority of it was utter tat. Cupboards that didn’t quite close. Chipboard that wasn’t quite encapsulated. Metal legs that weren’t quite flush in meeting buckling glass table-tops. The design was pedestrian. The finish was invariably lacklustre and chipped. The material was weary and its construction duncical.
Worse than any specific cut corners (sometimes literal) was the obvious fact that these objects were constructed for the benefit of the machines that hew them and boxed them – for the efficiency of their initial production rather than any variety or elegance in their final use. The cynicism-made-chipboard was palpable. Here’s a company that packages cheap boards with holes in them, adds a chamfer, and ramps up the “we’re stylish” brand to Emperor’s New Clothes heights. It puts them in a cattlepen warehouse of a store and ensures their supplicants have to wait in gargantuan queues for the privilege of purchasing the tat. God forbid one of the richest men in the world should employ a couple more checkout staff at minimum wage so that his wretchedly pliant customers might leave within an hour of joining a chaotic queue. Never mind the abasement of the experience – they’ll still come back in their swinish droves, even when that abasement leads to the savage Tat Riots at Ikea sales earlier this year. If you repeat the word “stylish” often enough, I guess people believe it. They believe it enough to maim. The glassy eyed maimers were there this evening too, in their hateful queue-barging droves. I realised that I would be duty-bound to include myself in this field of hate if I did not vow then and there never to return to this yellow and blue Hades again.
By the time Mrs Trellis arrived, my mood was dark. We were certainly not going to purchase any bookshelves here, with their hateful cardboard-thin backing and wobbly inadequacies. It is far more honest and attractive to place planks of wood between some bricks. If I could not afford a proper set of shelves made up by a craftsman who gives a damn, or from a shop that understands the true depths that the relationship between material, form and design needs to attain, then I would happily continue with said improvised brick-and-plank shelving until I could afford the real thing. Ikea is no the “real” thing. It does not represent a happy mean between style and affordability. It is just mean. Better to keep books in cardboard boxes or strewn across the floor.
Mrs Trellis had, by this time, though, picked up some wrapping paper and a small foot-wiper rug. She decided, by some dint of stubborness, that she would make the purchase, having picked it up, by hook or by crook, even though she agreed it was the last time she would do so. On seeing the mind-boggling queues, she almost lost her nerve. The aeroplane-hangar sized checkout area had about 5% of its available tills staffed, which meant that queues wound themselves into the dank collection area warehouse. How generous. It was as if here was a collection of dull and stupid middle class refugees queuing in some hellish processing centre, desperate for some sort of asylum at the other end. The horrible people with their horrible trollies filled with horrible slabs of horribly veneered horrible MDF. Chipboard is a bunch of cheap scraps of wood bound together under pressure by a thin veneer. Ikea customers are a bunch of cheap idiots bound together under the pressured delusion that they’re better than those who shop at MFI, and equal to craftsmen carpenters because they stick some glued dahls into an ill-fitting hole. If you are one of these people, and persist in defending this apotheosis of dismal post-modern Capitalism, I’ll be happy to sell you a melanin-lined self-assemble clue: DÃ¼ll-Ã¥rd.