Our Day Trip to IKEA

As many of you may already know, FreshySites has recently moved into a beautiful space in downtown Binghamton.  It’s been a very exciting last couple of weeks as we have started settling in to the new space.  One of the toughest challenges, however, has been trying to figure out how to fill the space as far as furniture.  We had an idea of what we wanted, but were having a hard time finding affordable but good looking solutions to our needs.  Then Ben had an awesome idea: what if we went to IKEA, down near Philly (believe it or not, that one is actually the closest to Binghamton), for the day and tried to get as many of the items on our list there as possible?  So late Sunday morning, Ben, our son Henry, and I borrowed a van and headed south.

The drive was uneventful, and we arrived at IKEA about three hours later.  After parking in the parking garage and going up the elevator, we were in the entrance area.  This is kind of where everyone first comes in, and there was a beautiful bedroom and sitting room on display right there, with price tags on every piece of each room just in case you were interested in purchasing any of those items.  Straight ahead was the entrance to the kids’ play area, where parents could drop off their kids (potty-trained and up) to play while they shopped.  And then there was a huge escalator going up to the showroom.  We hopped on and started up.

The upstairs showroom is such an awesome idea.  There is a sort of path that goes through the whole thing, and it winds around so unless you really know what you’re doing and understand where the little gaps in the walls might lead you, you just stay on the path and walk through the whole thing.  That in and of itself is genius on IKEA’s part, because it ensures that people see everything and probably end up leaving with more than what they planned on buying initially.  It also adds to the whole relaxing feel of the place, so it gets you into that mood which is probably the mood that they want you in (people who are slowly meandering through a store probably end up spending more money than people who are in and out quickly).

There were sections based on themes, such as bedroom, living room, bathroom, etc., and then actual “rooms” that were set up and decorated with all IKEA products, scattered throughout the showroom.  So there might be three or four living rooms set up, and then across the aisle from those are a bunch of different couches on display.  We had so much fun just leisurely walking through the store and checking out all of the different areas.  There was such an awesome selection of different styles of furniture, and the prices were really pretty reasonable.  They actually have lots of items that are downright inexpensive, but even the items that are on the higher end of their pricing are still much less than what one would pay for the same quality and design at another retailer.  For example, a $1000 couch at IKEA could easily cost you $3000 somewhere else.

We probably spent about 2 ½ hours in the showroom area, picking out things for the office and slowly checking things off the “big list” that we came with.  Here’s how it works: everything that is on display up there has a tag with an aisle number and a bin number on it.  This coincides with where it is going to be in the warehouse area downstairs.  So when you find something that you want, you write down the information on this little brochure so you can find it later (the brochures and little pencils are on stands throughout the showroom area, so you just pick one up as you go along and use it throughout your time).

See, one of the ways that IKEA keeps their prices so low is they put the customer to work in a lot of ways.  The customer has to go and find the items in the warehouse, which is a serious warehouse, might I add–I’m talking at least two, maybe three stories high of shelving with boxes on it.  Also, everything is packed very compactly in boxes–assembly is required for pretty much all of the furniture that one buys from IKEA.

After enjoying a delicious Swedish-themed dinner in the cafe (which was free because of a little promotion they had going on, by the way!), we went downstairs and started the process of loading up our cart with the furniture.  This was surprisingly easy (other than the fact that we had to go back and get a second flatbed cart to fit everything), and took about 30 minutes.  By this time the store was about to close, so it was a little bit stressful to be under a time crunch, but we still found everything.  We checked out and the cashier paged someone to come help us load our car.

A super helpful guy met us at the cash register and helped us to get everything down to the parking garage.  Then Ben pulled up the van and the two of them loaded it up.  We left IKEA around 8 (about 4 ½ hours from the time we arrived), and headed home with a van literally filled to the brim with boxes.  Minus maybe three or four things, we were able to satisfy our entire list for a very reasonable price–and we’re confident that it’s going to look amazing as well.  Don’t worry, we’ll post pictures when it’s all set up!

I would highly recommend IKEA as a really fun day trip.  It’s a really great place to shop for home-related items of all sorts, but it’s more than that–it’s an experience.  When you go, I think it’s best to slow down and enjoy it for what it is.  Make a day of it with family and/or friends.  IKEA is a really great company with a lot to offer, but it’s definitely not an in-and-out kind of place (especially if it takes you 3 hours to get there–you might as well take your time!).  But if you know what to expect, and plan for it, then you won’t be disappointed.