Tuesday, August 04, 2009

What IKEA furniture means to lifestyle and the economy

Megan McArdle is pretty much always worth reading. Here's a short piece by her in the Atlantic, where she talks about the wider effects of IKEA furniture, in the sense of cheap mass-produced furniture, to people's lives and the economy. I started reading this piece from the 'I hate IKEA' point of view. Mostly my IKEA-hate stems from not wanting to go spend hours in any big-box store, but part of it comes from a growing dislike of particle-board furniture. Mcardle points out that

  • the idealized furniture of ye olden days wasn't all durable...but the durable stuff is the stuff we see around us and which gets passed down.
  • cheap furniture makes it easier to set up a new house, to leave your parents' nest. So factor that into your complaints about IKEAs.

One of the commenters makes a nice point, too, for parents:
I can deal with having IKEA furniture that can be replaced inexpensively when a child scribbles on it with a Sharpie. I can deal with having furniture that is so well-made (and not cheaply) that it holds up under heavy wear and use. What doesn't make sense, at this (fun but) messy, chaotic stage of life, is to spend intermediate amounts of money on things that will hold up okay but won't hold up extraordinarily well under use and abuse by small kids. The kind of stuff you can buy at a mainstream American chain furniture store is pretty good, but pretty good isn't good enough to justify the cost over something from IKEA that I can literally regard as "disposable."
This is a painful lesson. This is one of those things I wish I'd thought about long ago.

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