F, G at Smith-9th Sts.
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For those few remaining people unfamiliar with the Swedish retail behemoth: Ikea is synonymous with affordable, ultra-modern home furnishings and decor. Shopping in any one of their city-block-sized stores is like tripping through the pages of their immense seasonal catalog. Just about everyone will wander through the maze-like top floor: aisles are jammed with college freshman, urban roommates, and D.I.Y. decorators testing out sofas and holding up empty containers asking themselves, “What could I use this for?” The most inexpensive furnishings are made of pressed particle board, which typically doesn’t last for more than a few years, so those with slightly deeper pockets tend to go for the sturdier solid-wood constructed pieces. The lower floors are for smaller items, like kitchen utensils, lighting, rugs, and decorative touches like plants and picture frames, all of which you can load in your cart and carry straight to the register. Furniture you’ve selected on the top floor is picked up with a claim slip near the parking lot exit. For the most part, Ikea designs are without frills, and tend towards smooth lines and swooping silhouettes. Bright, primary colors are their trademark, and textiles come in large geometric or floral patterns. More recently, Ikea began collaborating with Whirlpool appliances, taking things one step closer to providing, literally, everything you need to make an empty space livable. Shopping here can feel like a marathon, and Ikea knows you might be here for at least a couple hours; conveniently, parents can drop off kids at a supervised nursery to shop without distraction, and there are several inexpensive dining options for mid-mission re-fueling. For each location in the nation, Ikea’s website has directions, suggested times to avoid crowds and an interior map with multiple routes for navigating the honeycombed departments (living room, kitchen, bedroom, etc.).