How to hack Ikea: New Yorkers on what to buy and what to avoid at the Swedish home goods superstore

By Lucy Cohen Blatter | July 25, 2017 - 8:59AM 



While we've all had our fair share of head scratching experiences with Ikea—whether it involved putting together an entire dresser before realizing that you've done it backwards, or moving said dresser to a new apartment and seeing it fall apart in the movers' hands—but yet, we never fully abandon it altogether.

Despite the frustrations involved in buying, building and moving Ikea stuff, thanks in large part to the sleek design and hard-to-beat prices, we all keep going back.  (Even professionals have recommended renovating apartments entirely with Ikea "bones.")

But the trick, you see, is knowing what to buy and what to steer clear of. So we asked New Yorkers to tell us their favorite tips and hacks for using Ikea. They did not disappoint.

Embrace the marketplace* (and what to buy there)

*If it's been a while since you last shopped in-store at Ikea, the marketplace is the area past the furniture and room displays that is chock full of knick knacks, lighting, kitchen accessories, bathroom accessories, art and a whole lot more. 

"I've bought everything from lamps to recycle bins to throw pillows to grill pans and been happy with those purchases."-Alanna

"I like their wine glasses—they're cheap enough (less than $1 a pop) that you won't care when they break—their shower curtains and linings, their version of Tupperware, and their kids' plastic cutlery, cups, plates, and spoons, which are cheap ($2.49 for 6 bowls!), bright and cheerful." -Lucy,  Brick Underground's senior contributing editor

"IKEA is like Dunkin' Donuts. Nothing is great, nothing is terrible. Everything is cheap and easy. There is one exception: the PRODUKT milk frother. For just $2.79 and a couple of AA batteries, you can oh-so-simply turn your morning coffee into a pseudo latte. It's literally amazing what that can do for your entire day." - Georgia'

"I like all little kitchen ware and organizational stuff like the draw and jewelry organizers.  Plus the plants!" - Elana

"Their paper napkins are shockingly high quality and come in all kinds of fun and cute patterns."-Mimi

"I love the giant packs of batteries and clips."- Koby

Use your own tools

"All IKEA furniture I've bought has had a very short life—and putting it together with those silly Allen wrenches is miserable. (Better to use your own tools. I've used a power drill and other, larger, screwdrivers, too.)"  -Alanna, Brick Underground's contributing writer

Add lighting to your kitchen

"We use this as under cabinet lighting in kitchen ($7.99 each). It's great for lighting so you can see, but don't want harsh overhead.There are two light levels, and they only use about two watts, so they're also very energy efficient. Plus, you control by a remote switch.  You have to buy some additional Ikea stuff to set it up, but it's not too expensive or difficult."-Mimi

Consider their outdoor flooring

"These outdoor floor decking tiles are great, easy to put together, and make outdoor space look fancy ($29.99 per pack). They last several seasons. They do weather, but it's an okay look when they do." -Mimi

Avoid their particle board-backed furniture

"I hate that so much of their furniture is made out of particle board not solid wood." - Michele

"Particle board is cheap and can emit toxic fumes."-Bonnie

"Their drawers tend to fall apart after a couple of years." - Jenny

"Here's my PSA: Do not buy the MALM line of furniture once you're post college. It looks cheap and it is cheaply made. My drawers were always breaking and the back is basically made of thin cardboard." - Lucy

Some storage items are better than others.

"The plastic storage bins are trash! The lids don't snap shut." - Virginia

"I love the toy storage units (starting at $59.99). Ours with plastic bins has held up great with two boys for five years, lots of wear and tear." -Heather

Good news: They take recalls (and customer service) seriously

"They reimbursed me 100% without receipts for dressers I bought 10 years ago because of a recall, plus came and picked them up." - Shara

"The customer service has always been good. They've never given me any trouble with things that broke during assembly, and it happens so easily."  -Michael

Beware of moving issues...

"I dislike that movers won't insure IKEA furniture and then it is invariably destroyed in the move." - Heather

... and delivery issues, too

"Every time I have deliveries with assembly (I would never attempt to put it together myself) they screw it up. Then I have to wait on hold literally for days for them to correct the problem, make a new delivery date, find the right part and give me a credit. This has happened every time."- Jenny

Go hungry

While everyone's got a range of opinions on what to buy and not buy at Ikea, there are several things everyone agrees on: the meatballs (both meat and veggie!), the soft-serve and the cinnamon buns. Plus, breakfast is $2, lunch is $3 and dinner is $4. Try beating that.


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