Sunday, August 2, 2009

IKEA in Ireland - flatpack heaven at last!

Last Tuesday Ikea the Swedish home furnishings store opened its first store in Ireland, in Dublin. There is one in Belfast but this one was long awaited, and its arrival was hyped up beyond all, with newspaper articles, and TV news items flagging the opening party-like atmosphere. I was in Dublin today so it was definitely something on my to-do list, if only to say I was in my first Ikea store!

Ikea and us go back a while and have a bit of a history. For years we lived in the African bush, working in a refugee programme that was funded by (among others) the Scandinavian Lutheran churches. DanChurchAid, the Danish wing of the church, donated part of their aid as team support in the form of furnishing staff houses. The result was all the expats lived incongruously in Ikea-furnished houses, and became experts at wielding the Allen key which is integral to flatpack assembly. Every year we could peruse a new Ikea catalogue and the height of this bizarre-ness for us was when we lived in a small Swedish container house in a very remote refugee settlement in Burigi, near Lake Victoria in Tanzania, which was full of Ikea pine furniture! So we have a fondness for the flatpack ever since.

I went to the Dublin store with great anticipation and it was like a little outing - teenage daughter came along and was seriously underwhelmed and more than a tad embarassed by my enthusiasm and it became positively cringe-worthy for her when I took some photos, especially of my Ikea lunch. To be able to get a prawn and egg salad open rye sandwich for €2.75 in Ireland was something I wasn't going to let pass uncelebrated, not to mention the €1.00 tea (or coffee) with free refills. I understand the free refill is common in some countries but not this one, so hopefully Ikea will set a precedent and others will quickly follow suit. Maeve had the Swedish meatballs with potatoes for €2.00. I had a dessert to die for - a Swedishly unpronounceable slice of crunchy chocolate-topped layered cookie-style cake - for €1.00! Now in Rip-off Republic we are just not used to these prices at any level -coffee in a petrol station is nearly €3.00. Anyone from Ireland reading this will know exactly what I mean.

Back to shopping - Ikea is an institution and is not for the faint-hearted especially if you are in any hurry. Then don't go. It needs navigating and with a massive car park already conspiring to get you lost on arrival (I couldn't locate the car park, let alone the car, on my departure!) you need to take some time to follow the process as well as the arrows on the floors. You can look at lovely showrooms on the first floor and select and note your planned purchases, then go to the warehouse to pick them up yourself. For Irish people this is a first, as even in Argos the goods are delivered to you from the warehouse. It is incredibly efficiently done, as every item has a code and a collection point and off you go, even I mastered it.

I went to look at chairs and sofas - I left with two "Poang" beech bentwood chairs, some food storage containers and an Ikea shopping bag in the iconic blue and yellow. In fact the place was so awash with blue and yellow from the staff to the bags, and also the juggler on stilts at the entrance, that you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd entered a convention for the Tipperary GAA Team. There is an intriguing Swedish food hall which I didn't get to today, maybe next time. The only disappointment was that the chairs which I wanted and were on offer were out of stock, and they didn't know if they were getting more. So I paid about €20 more for the non-bargain ones, and they are lovely.

We must have walked a few miles today, as I kept getting lost between showrooms, warehouse and car park. No wonder Maeve's patience wore a bit thin! Three hours after entering the store, we were once again south-bound and a few hours later got home, where hubby assembled the chairs with all the enthusiasm flat-pack man greets every new arrival! He isn't too proud to RTFM (Read the ******* Manual) as he got the Allen key into starting position, and got the chairs finished within minutes.They are perfect in the sunroom and are light enough to be moved easily around the house.

I am already planning to go back in a few weeks when I am next in Dublin, as I want to see the things I missed today - like all the homewares I didn't know existed on the ground floor, and I would say to anyone in Dublin who hasn't been there - get on your bike, sunshine! The world just got that bit smaller this week.

Flatpack Man at work and the end result - a nice chair!


Jo said...

What a lovely shopping experience. And oh, the food, especially the dessert, looks to "die for doll!" I love your dog in the picture with you hubby assembling those divine chairs. Is he/she a Labrador? Thanks for sharing. Hugs Jo

Irene said...

My Ikea is 14 km away from me and just about all my furniture comes from there. I love Ikea and I love to look on their website to see what is new. And like you said, their food is cheap and delicious. It's a real outing to go there.

Peggy said...

I have never been inside the door of any IKEA store so was delighted to read your account of the new one.Coffee for 1.00e is unbelievable !As I am gone past the stage of going to Dublin to spend a day at the Zoo maybe a day out at IKEA will fill the void.

Niamh Griffin said...

Hi Catherine, mmmm the pressure is building on me to get over there! It sounds like an interesting cultural experience - a Norweigian friend here was raving about the meatballs so that could be an excuse to get over there! Thanks for the description:)

Catherine said...

Thanks for the comments - Jo, that is indeed a lab cross with what we don't know, possibly German Shepherd as he is so big! Yes, Ikea was a great outing for an Ikea virgin, so I will enjoy the return visit.The food would be worth going back for!

IRENE - You are lucky to live so close to Ikea! I would go mad, and probably overfill the house with stuff! It was really cheap and cheerful and yet good quality. And yes, great food and sooooo cheap!

PEGGY - My first time to visit Ikea despite having lived with their furniture in the bush for years! you should certainly make a trip to Ikea when you go to DUblin again, specially if you've outgrown the zoo! Refillable coffee and tea - definitely worth the journey to eat there too.

NIAMH - If you are already in Dublin you have no excuse! Get on over there, and have a nice few hours. It is mega and takes a few visits to see everything but my daughter is still going on about the lovely meatballs which is something for a teenager who is seriously underwhelmed by anything that impresses me. And you will probably pick up a few cheap treats too!

Babaloo said...

I used to LOVE going to IKEA back in Germany, it was a proper outing every time. Unfortunately, we've had to make do without one here in Ireland for way too long. The store in Belfast was just too far for us and just going there for an outing wasn't worth it. Even Dublin is still a bit far but I might be tempted - especially being reminded of all their yummy food! Now I just have to come up with an excuse for the trip, seeing that we don't need any new furniture.

(I had a coffee for €1 at the Tesco petrol station in Killarney today! It was pretty bad, though. I'm sure the IKEA one is way better.)

Unknown said...

Seems like a great visit, is there a blog on the experience of assembling the furniture? Will Jan be able to come round to our house to put our table together?!!

Catherine said...

Hi Babaloo - yes you will have to make the effort to go to Ikea in Dublin! It is certainly fun to visit, and if you aren't too focused on shopping for lots of stuff and can just browse and enjoy the buzz it is even better. I just happened to know what I wanted and it was a different way to shop! And I guess we have a lot of flatpack furniture from other places and Ikea's is generally much better quality - more solid wood and classier looks. Glad you liked the post.

Catherine said...

Hi Joe - can't answer for Jan but I'm sure your table could be assembled... for a consideration...even in a brown envelope! Flatpacks are his forte; he has been doing them for years, ever since our African bush days, where Ikea was bizarrely ubiquitous in our neck of the woods, thanks to the generosity of the Danish Lutheran Church!
Haven't thought of an Ikea assembling blogpost, not a bad idea...have some pix alright!

FoodFunFarmLife said...

Thanks for sharing your day with us :) Ahhhh .. the food looks wonderful, and reasonable, too. I love your chairs & enjoyed reading your account of life in Tanzania/flatpack 'supplies' ... can totally relate ! Must admit that I've never been inside an Ikea before - as you know, we don't have them here in Afrca. My sister has promised to take me the next time we are in the UK though .... sounds like heaven on earth ;)

Catherine said...

Hi Lynda - thanks for your visit and comment! Yes it is definitely something to do when in the UK, the Ikea experience - they'll probably make it sound like visit to a heritage centre or a museum! I know there are no Ikea stores in Tanzania but there is a peculiar anomaly in that there is a corner of Rukwa region that is forever Ikea - since the 1980s and our years there! Also there are probably random pieces in Kagera and in Kigoma regions too - in fact in Kigoma the expats had whole houses from Scandinavia - you know the kind, container houses pre-fab and built on-site, many mining and road camps would have them in the bush. The Norwegians in Kigoma also had a whole compound which was like a mini-Scandinavia - furniture, décor, house-type. Pretty weird! We lived in one for a year in the middle of the bush in Kagera near L. Victoria - and it was adapted for African heat by taking out the triple-glazing and putting in louvre windows!
So that's another nugget of our lives in the bush! I think you enjoy the snippets. Hope all is well with you and your baby, indeed the whole family!