What to Buy and What Not to Buy at IKEA


I’m a major fan of Ikea. I love its colossal showroom peppered with model rooms. I love its friendly employees, its focus on sustainability, its array of solutions for small spaces, and — of course — its low prices on furniture and home decor.

But not everyone agrees with me. Some argue that while Ikea’s prices are low, the mega-furniture store doesn’t deliver on its promise of quality. They believe Ikea’s budget-friendly furniture is no bargain because it doesn’t hold up to hard use.

And it’s true that Ikea sells some things that aren’t really a bargain. But there’s real value to be found if you know where to look. If you run through the store’s eight biggest shopping categories, you can find incredible deals in each one — along with some others that aren’t so great.

1. Furniture

Ikea sells a vast array of furniture. You can buy pieces for the living room, dining room, bedroom, and office; wooden furniture and upholstered furniture; light wood, dark wood, and painted wood; modern styles and traditional styles. No matter what you’re looking for, you can probably find it. The question is whether you should buy it.

Best Ikea Furniture Picks

With so much to choose from, it’s difficult to sort the bargains from the busts. Furniture isn’t typically rated at professional review sites like Consumer Reports, so you can’t rely on test results to guide you. However, there are a few impressive pieces design websites often single out for praise.

These include:

  • Docksta Table. This sleek, one-legged design is based on the iconic “tulip table” created by architect Eero Saarinen in 1957. The original sells for more than $2,000 at Knoll, while Ikea’s version is just $179.
  • Poang Chair. This bent-frame chair is also based on a classic of modern design: the 1939 piece known simply as “Armchair 406” by Finnish designer Alvar Aalto. While modern versions of Aalto’s chair sell for over $2,000 at sites like the Danish Design Store, the Poang starts at a mere $79. According to an article at FiveThirtyEight, this chair has been growing steadily cheaper since the early 1990s, when its inflation-adjusted price was nearly $350. The low price is undoubtedly one reason Ikea sells more than 1.5 million of these each year.
  • Lack Side Table. This bargain-price end table is another Ikea staple that has fallen in price. In 1985, it cost $25 ($56 in today’s dollars), but today, it’s only $10. HuffPost explains how Ikea made the table cheaper by using “board-on-frame” construction: a hollow wooden frame filled with honeycomb paper. This material is strong but much lighter than solid wood. The Lack’s clean lines and five color choices allow it to fit into almost any space. It’s also a favorite piece for “Ikea hacking” — turning Ikea furniture into custom pieces — because of its low cost and simple design. (However, experts generally say to skip the matching Lack coffee table, which is flimsy and a bit wobbly, according to Insider.)
  • Kallax Shelving Unit. The Kallax bookshelf (formerly known as Expedit) is a simple array of perfectly square cubbies, arranged into units of different sizes, ranging from two squares by two for $35 to four by five for $179. It comes in multiple colors, and you can customize the look by stacking different units and adding optional doors and drawers. Sites from Apartment Therapy to Cheapism praise its clean lines, versatility, and sturdy construction.
  • Ivar Shelving Unit. For a cheaper shelving alternative, consider the Ivar system. Made of solid pine, it comes in an even wider array of sizes and styles than the Kallax, including plain shelves, corner shelves, cabinets with doors, chests, and a fold-down table. Apartment Therapy calls the basic $69 Ivar unit “Ikea’s most functional piece yet.”
  • Billy Bookcase. Ikea’s ultra-simple bookcase comes in dozens of sizes, colors, and configurations, ranging from $30 to $291 in price. By stacking and combining the different units and adding doors, you can create custom storage for almost any space. While reviewers at Apartment Therapy and Gear Patrol praise Billy’s versatility, Reviewed describes its particle-board construction as “notoriously flimsy.” However, I own two Billy bookcases, and only one of them is starting to show signs of sagging in the upper shelf after decades of use. Considering I only paid $80 for it, I’d say I got my money’s worth.

Ultimately, if you want your Ikea furniture to last, you can’t go wrong with solid wood pieces like the Kallax shelf. However, cheaper pieces like Billy and Lack are appropriate if you don’t need to move them or take them apart often. If you buy a fiberboard piece such as Billy, try adding a dab of wood glue to each joint when you put it together to increase long-term stability.

Worst Ikea Furniture Picks

There are also some specific Ikea pieces that experts say it’s best to skip. At the top of the list is the Malm dresser, which has been recalled repeatedly because children were killed or injured pulling the dressers onto themselves. Although Ikea provides hardware to anchor its dresser to the wall for safety, most reviewers still recommend steering clear of the Malm.

Reviewed goes further, saying it’s best to avoid all Ikea dressers since other lines have also been involved in accidents. If you do invest in one, use a wall-anchoring kit. (In fact, according to Consumer Reports, it’s wise to do so with any dresser you buy, as Ikea dressers aren’t the only brand subject to tipping.)

Additionally, designer Victoria Stepanov tells Cheat Sheet you should also avoid most upholstered pieces from Ikea, such as couches and armchairs. They tend to “sag and squeak” over time.

But she makes an exception for the better-quality Soderhamn line. These modern, angular chairs and sectionals range in price from $200 to $1,300 — a splurge by Ikea standards yet still quite reasonable compared to furniture showroom prices.

More generally, Reviewed recommends avoiding any Ikea furniture made from particleboard. Reviewer Shayna Murphy claims these pieces don’t have the same durability as those made of solid wood, and they’re harder to take apart and reassemble.


2. Mattresses

At one time, Ikea was unquestionably the best place to shop for latex foam mattresses — the type that gets the highest rating from users at Sleep Like the Dead. According to the site — one of the most comprehensive collections of mattress reviews online — 76% of Ikea latex mattress owners are satisfied with them. The store didn’t have the very best latex mattresses money could buy, but it was the most affordable source for this well-rated mattress type.

Unfortunately, Ikea no longer sells latex mattresses, and the store’s other mattresses don’t score nearly as high in reviews. Only 69% of owners of Ikea memory foam mattresses are satisfied with them. Ikea spring mattresses fare even worse, with a satisfaction rating of 63%. Durability is the most common complaint, with owners saying these mattresses are likely to sag and develop dents.

Other sites agree that Ikea mattresses — especially spring mattresses — don’t offer good quality. Reviewed says consumer complaints about them aren’t limited to sagging. Some owners also report that chemicals in the mattresses smell unpleasant and cause a host of bad reactions, such as headaches and nausea.

Moreover, the mattresses come in slightly different sizes from most American brands, meaning that standard sheets may not fit them properly. And some users find them “just plain uncomfortable.”

You can find better mattress bargains online, such as Reviewed’s top pick, a Tuft & Needle mattress sold on Amazon.


3. Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchens are a specialty at Ikea. You can order everything you need to build or remodel a kitchen in one stop: cabinets, counters, flooring, appliances, sinks, and faucets. Store employees can advise you on how to lay out your kitchen, and for an extra fee, they can deliver and install everything for you.

Reviews for Ikea’s kitchen cabinets are uneven. Many Apartment Therapy and Kitchen Reviews contributors praise Ikea cabinets for their sturdy construction, stylish looks, and low price. These satisfied customers also say they found the cabinets easy to install.

Other reviewers disagree, describing the particle-board cabinets as flimsy and difficult to hang. They also complain that the whole process of ordering and shipping is a pain — especially if you have to go back for missing parts. Many of the complaints come from users who bought doors covered in plastic veneer, which they say is easily damaged.

You’re most likely to be satisfied with Ikea cabinets if you have good DIY skills and the patience to hang them correctly. It also helps to live close to an Ikea store so you can go back to get any lost or missing pieces. Also, if you choose an Ikea kitchen, it’s worth paying extra for higher-end doors made of solid wood or glass rather than plastic.


4. Appliances

According to Consumer Reports, Ikea appliances tend to be extremely affordable. They also come with an impressive five-year warranty, while most big-name brands, like GE and Kenmore, offer only one or two years of coverage.

But in actual tests, Ikea appliances get mixed reviews. Out of 10 models covered in Consumer Reports, two are best buys, but none is a top pick, and some aren’t recommended at all.

On Reviewed, Ikea’s results are even less impressive. In its reviews of microwaves, ranges, refrigerators, dishwashers, and laundry appliances, not one Ikea product makes the cut. Moreover, in a 2017 roundup, the editors found better alternatives to most of Ikea’s appliances for less money.

Even if you buy your kitchen at Ikea, you’re probably better off going somewhere else for the appliances. At the very least, check publications like Consumer Reports to see if you can find better pieces for a lower price.


5. Other Kitchen Goods

After ordering a kitchen at Ikea, you can head over to the extensive Marketplace section to buy everything you need to stock it. This area offers pots and pans, dishes, glassware, dish towels, cutlery, various gadgets, and storage containers of all kinds.

Lots of reviewers are enthusiastic about Ikea’s kitchenware. They show up in lists of the store’s best buys at both Insider and Gear Patrol. Faith Durand of the Kitchn also names Ikea as one of her favorite places to find high-quality kitchen gear.

Reviewers’ favorite kitchen pieces from Ikea include:

  • Pruta Food Containers. One of the best ways to save on food is to make good use of leftovers, and that requires storage. Ikea’s Pruta set costs just $6 for 17 pieces of assorted sizes in dishwasher-safe, microwave-safe polypropylene. The pieces stack for easy storage when they’re not in use. Ikea also offers a set of three identical 20-ounce containers for just a buck.
  • Oumbarlig Cookware. This cookware line has the clad construction experts recommend: a core of fast-heating aluminum sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel. High-end clad cookware, such as All-Clad, can cost as much as $500 for a seven-piece set, but this set — two pots and a saucepan with lids plus a nonstick skillet — costs just $50. It’s an excellent value if you need to outfit a starter kitchen on a budget.
  • Adelsten Mortar and Pestle. The editors of Gear Patrol describe a mortar and pestle as an essential tool for bringing the flavor of fresh-ground spices to your kitchen. Durand says Ikea’s “handsome and durable” marble set is a bargain at $15. (For kitchen newbies, the mortar is the bowl, and the pestle is the long tool for grinding.)
  • Korken Bottles and Jars. These days, canning jars aren’t just for home canning. They’re also popular for food storage, display, and holding candles. Jars with attached, hinged lids sell for $3 to $18 online, but Ikea’s Korken line has several sizes priced between $2 and $5. You can also buy Korken bottles with attached stoppers for $2 to $3. Durand describes these bottles and jars as sturdy and economical with snug-fitting tops.
  • Ikea 365+ Dinnerware. Both Durand and Maxwell Ryan of Apartment Therapy say this line is a great set of dishes at a great price. These ultra-basic white pieces include platters, plates, bowls, and mugs. The Ikea 365+ dishes are the cheapest on Ryan’s recommended list at just $3 for a dinner plate. (The price has since gone up to $3.49, but that’s nothing compared to Ryan’s other picks, which run as much as $55 per plate.)
  • Ikea 365+ Carafe. Another top pick from the Ikea 365+ line is a $5 glass carafe with a cork stopper. Gear Patrol editors praise the brilliance of the design since it allows you to tack notes to the top identifying the contents for party guests or housemates.
  • Variera Pot Lid Organizer. Reviewers at Cheapism and House Beautiful adore this $8 gadget for keeping pot lids organized. It adjusts from just over 3 inches when collapsed to 20 inches fully extended, allowing it to fit drawers of any size. In addition to holding lids securely without scratching, it can organize just about anything flat, from mail to craft supplies.

If you’re in the market for new dishes, cookware, or other kitchen cooking gear, Ikea is worth a look.


6. Textiles

A big section of Ikea’s Marketplace is devoted to textiles. Its offerings include:

  • Rugs. Ikea has a wide selection of rugs in all sorts of materials, colors, textures, patterns, and shapes. You can find medium to large rugs — from 4 to 7 feet wide and 6 feet to 12 feet long — at every price point, from $10 to $1,499, with lots of choices in the $60 to $100 range. The $300 black-and-white-striped Stockholm rug is featured on Lonny and the website of designer Emily Henderson. This rug and seven others appear in a MyDomaine article devoted to room designs built around Ikea rugs.
  • Kitchen Towels. Ikea’s assortment of kitchen towels includes plain and patterned styles, all for no more than $5 each. Many reviewers especially love the all-cotton Hildegun dish towel (formerly known as Tekla) in white with two red stripes down the sides. Durand finds these towels so sturdy and wrinkle-resistant she even uses them as dinner napkins for informal parties. And at less than $1 apiece, the price is impossible to beat.
  • Bedding. Ikea sells everything needed to dress the bed, including sheets, blankets, duvets, comforters, and pillows. Queen-size sheet sets cost as little as $20, and comforters start at just $8. However, as designer Jillian Grant Lavoie warns in the Cheat Sheet piece, you get what you pay for with these cheap bed linens. Most of them feel scratchy when new, and by the time they soften up from repeated washing, they’re already starting to fray.
  • Bath Towels. Bath towels are another Ikea product Lavoie says to avoid. They cost as little as $2 apiece, but like the sheets, they’re scratchy and not very durable. In a Good Housekeeping test, Ikea’s Vikfjard towel got good scores for absorbency and fade-resistance, but it felt thin and shrank significantly after washing.
  • Curtains. The store has an array of panels in various colors and fabrics ranging from $5 to $40 per pair. Lavoie particularly recommends Ritva cotton curtains, which start at $18 and look considerably more expensive. However, an article at the Passionate Penny Pincher suggests checking your curtains carefully before you leave the store, as sometimes, you find sets with two panels that don’t match in length.

Ikea has excellent deals on many fabric goods, such as rugs and curtains. But for sheets and towels, you can do better elsewhere. Lavoie recommends Target’s Threshold line as a good budget alternative.


7. Lighting

Ikea has a huge section devoted to lighting. You can buy table, floor, wall, and ceiling fixtures as well as specialty lights like holiday lights, night lights, or under-cabinet lighting.

Several Ikea fixtures make Apartment Therapy’s list of the best lighting buys under $100, including:

  • Ranarp Spotlight. This industrial-looking fixture can be mounted to the wall or clamped onto a shelf. It sells for $20.
  • Ranarp Floor Lamp. The matching floor lamp has a swing arm and swiveling shade, so you can direct the light where you want it. It costs $50.
  • Ottava Pendant. This $40 pendant lamp is made of aluminum with a mouth-blown glass shade. It’s suitable for mounting over a dining table or anywhere else you need downward-focused light.

If you like funky, modern light fixtures, Ikea is an excellent place to shop. But if you prefer traditional fixtures, other stores have more choices. The Spruce says big-box home improvement stores Home Depot and Lowe’s and the online store Shades of Light offer a wide variety of options at good prices.

While Ikea’s light fixtures are often good buys, its light bulbs are not. That wasn’t always the case. Around 2010, when consumer-use energy-saving LED light bulbs first became widely available, Ikea was the best place to buy them. LED bulbs were pricey and hard to find in other stores.

But today, you can buy LED bulbs in any home center, and most are either brighter or cheaper than Ikea’s. For example, 800-lumen EcoSmart bulbs from Home Depot cost as little as $1.25 each. By contrast, Ikea’s 800-lumen Ryet bulbs cost $2 each. The store also offers a 450-lumen Ryet bulb for only a dollar, but it’s barely more than half the brightness of the EcoSmart bulbs.


8. Miscellaneous

A lot of the best buys at Ikea are small pieces that don’t easily fit into any category, such as:

  • Picture Frames. Both Apartment Therapy and Cheat Sheet mention Ribba picture frames as one of the best products at Ikea. These simple wooden frames come in either black or white and in various sizes, ranging in price from $2 to $20 each. Taryn Williford of Apartment Therapy says they’re an excellent choice for a gallery wall. The matching frames can pull together different pieces of art and give them a cohesive look on a reasonable budget.
  • Kids’ Toys. Ikea has lots of toys for young children, many of them priced at $10 or less. You can find stuffed animals, cars and trains, kitchen toys, wooden puzzles, art supplies, and, of course, toy furniture. Most Ikea toys are made of natural materials like wood and cloth rather than plastic. Also, Ikea takes special safety precautions with its toys, such as eliminating choking hazards like plastic eyes on stuffed animals, as you can see on the Kramig panda.
  • Office Organizers. Along with its furniture for the home office, Ikea sells a variety of smaller products for organizing your workspace. There are corkboards, magnet boards, and containers of every size and material at prices from under $1 to $35. The store also carries several inexpensive tools for keeping computer cords tidy.
  • Closet Storage. If you can’t find anything in your closet, Ikea has a solution. The store sells various storage boxes, bins, hangers, hooks, and complete closet systems. Its wooden Bumerang hangers, at $5 for a pack of eight, are the cheapest you’re likely to find anywhere.
  • Candles. Ikea is one of the best places to find inexpensive candles and candleholders. The retailer carries block candles, tapers, votives, and tea lights in multiple colors, both scented and unscented. To hold your candles, you can choose from an assortment of candlesticks, glasses, and lanterns, none costing more than $20, with a few priced at less than $1 each. Williford particularly recommends the Glimma tea lights, which cost only $3.50 for a bag of 100. And if you don’t care to have open flames in your home, Ikea offers realistic LED candles as well.
  • Batteries. In 2016, Ikea gave its Ladda rechargeable batteries a makeover. The new batteries come in two power levels, allowing you to choose a high-power battery for high-drain devices and a cheaper, basic battery for low-drain ones. They’re made by Fujitsu, the same company that makes the popular Eneloop batteries — but while Eneloops cost around $19 for a pack of four AA’s, Ikea’s four-pack costs just $7. Ikea’s ultra-cheap Alkalisk battery — just $3 for a 10-pack — is also a great buy. In a 2019 test at Today’s Parent, Alkalisk batteries rivaled the performance of pricier brands.
  • Food. Ikea sells food in several places. You can dine in the store at the Ikea restaurant, grab a quick bite for the road at the bistro, or pick up groceries to take home from the Swedish market. The restaurant is best known for its Swedish meatballs, but the store is promising half its menu selections will be plant-based by 2025 — along with 80% of its packaged foods.
  • Shopping Bags. To carry all your purchases, you can pick up a Frakta shopping bag for just a dollar. This enormous bright blue bag is made of sturdy polypropylene and can hold up to 19 gallons. Ikea hackers have had a field day with this bag, turning it into things like wallets, teddy bears, swimsuits, and raincoats for dogs and children. (Ikea now offers a rainbow-colored variant, the Storstomma, for $3.)
  • Utility Cart. Gear Patrol, Reviewed, and House Beautiful all praise the cute little Raskog utility cart for its style and versatility. It’s compact enough to tuck into almost any space and store all those little extras: toiletries, office supplies, kitchen utensils, craft supplies, or cellphones and keys. It can also serve as a bar cart or a plant stand. And at just $30, you can afford to put one in every room if you choose.

When you visit Ikea, leave room in your budget for a few impulse buys. Small purchases like these are hard to resist — and at these prices, you don’t have to.


Final Word

The key to getting the most for your money at Ikea is to shop strategically.

Start by working out exactly what you need for your home, then figure out which Ikea products in each category on your list deliver the best value for money. Add these specific products to your shopping list, and stick close to it as you shop. Don’t let yourself be distracted by nearby pieces that offer temptingly low prices but may not stand up to hard use.

There are a few other strategies that can help you get the most out of your Ikea trip too.

Before your trip, sign up for Ikea’s store card to take advantage of special deals, and empty the trunk of your car to make room for your haul. As you shop, don’t overlook the marked-down merchandise in the as-is room and labeled with yellow tags throughout the store. And don’t forget to take advantage of Ikea’s special perks, like the restaurant and play area for kids.

Whether you’re outfitting a tiny city apartment or a suburban starter home, Ikea offers the pieces you need at prices that fit your budget. Just remember to focus on the products that deliver the best bang for your shopping buck.



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