Thursday, July 27, 2006

IKEA adventures

When I moved, I gave away about half my furniture. (Basically everything in my living and dining room. It was old furniture and low quality. Some may not have even survived another move.) So I've been doing lots of furniture shopping since I came.

I made a trek to the IKEA in Pittsburgh (about 110 miles) shortly after getting here to see what they had, since lots of people rave about them. I left mostly unimpressed, but decided they might be fine for bookshelves and something to put my TV on. I've spent a lot of time since then checking all the nearby regular furniture places.

But recently I decided I really needed to get some bookshelves so I could unpack my book boxes and clear space in my living room (possibly to accommodate a recliner I'm thinking about). So yesterday I set out on another IKEA trek, and a somewhat more focused one: I needed three large bookshelves, one small bookshelf, and (if I thought it would fit in my car) a TV stand/entertainment center of some sort. I measured my car in different configurations before I left to see if I could fit a six-foot bookshelf package, and found that I could just manage, with some contortion.

So I drove down, perused the store, and made some picks. I opted to try the in-store restaurant before heading downstairs to pick up boxes and pay. I decided I should try a dessert too, so I picked what I think they called an "apple berry pie", which was labeled as a traditional Swedish dessert. My first thought on trying it was "I guess this is why I don't think of Sweden as famous for its desserts." (But you know, with all the weird little wares and knick-knacks in the store, foods for sale, and a restaurant, all they really need is a boat ride and some fish-jugglers or something and we'd have a new Epcot World Showcase addition.)

The downstairs part of the store turned out to include a number of other small items that were interesting and which I missed last time, because I thought that the bottom floor included only the boxed versions of what was in the show room. So it was a nifty discovery of all sorts of plates, glasses, linens and other random stuff. Not that I wanted any, but nifty anyway. Then off to hunt for boxes.

The boxes must be chosen by what is essentially a serial number, matched to what is labeled on the shelf. Different colors of the same thing are denoted by different numbers, and you do have to be careful, because otherwise the color is not indicated on the box, and the arrangement is a little weird. With the bookshelves, I found it also required a lot of matching up precise dimensions; an assembled version of a bookshelf over a stack of boxes was not necessarily an indication of what was in the stack of boxes. And box sizes are no help. Large bookshelves are in very skinny boxes, just the height and width of one side of the bookshelf, which makes sense to me. However, the short bookshelf of the same width was in a wide flat box as wide as the assembled shelf.

After a few false starts, and much difficult lugging boxes onto and off of a cart (the store helpfully lists that the large bookshelf packages weigh 86 pounds!), I was almost set, when I realized that the large bookshelf (and box) was about 6'8", not 6' as I had thought. By this point, I was eyeing the cart with three heavier and longer packages than I thought, and wondering if these were going to fit. After a parking lot run, I decided I might get two plus the small shelf in, but probably not three large, so I left one (more lugging here) and checked out. After fighting with the self-checkout system (bar codes would not scan and it took me a while to figure out there were two different slots for debit and credit cards), I was out trying to fight these things into my car. (Much panting and sweating was involved.) Trying to reverse the process at home left me briefly wondering if I would have a permanent car bookshelf, but I eventually freed the danged thing and manage to lug everything inside, although I felt about half dead by this point. (And I still need at least one more trip at some point?)

After I cooled off for a bit (praise to any gods in earshot for that window AC in my bedroom), I opened up a box and found the assembly instructions. They are printed with little cartoons showing what to do instead of words. The first "instruction" (inside the box, remember) essentially translates to: "Don't be an idiot and try to move the box by yourself, it's too heavy; use two people to lift the box."

And they are tricksy, yes precious. When I was almost finished, I realized I had three extra pieces of wood which I wasn't going to use for anything. I think these must be what the company uses to fill in spaces in the box. Or maybe the shelves will fall apart on top of me after my AC falls out of the window; who knows.

So today everything on me is a little sore, but there are shelves up and many boxes are gone. And I'm seeing definite advantages to buying from a regular store with no assembly and which delivers the stuff to your home.

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