So you’ve just arrived in Barcelona, you’ve found your dream apartment, out-laid as much as 5 month’s rent just to secure it and you’re thinking now after all that with the funds I have left, how am going furnish this place, now?! Yes your furniture and possessions are in transit [in fact ours were in transit for 6 weeks-another story] and you need a bed to sleep on.

Positives and Negatives:

As a designer it sticks in my throat, but as we’re not all blessed with bulging bank accounts, here it goes:


The Positives: Affordable and some good/clever designs in amongst the mix. When you actually think about it, the kit-set designs are incredibly complex and well thought out.

The Negatives: Lack of individuality, unsustainable, non- environmentally friendly and the concept feeds a throw away mentality.

At the outset I was determined not to fall into the Ikea ‘trap’. I was going to be different, I was going to do my research and I was going to find alternative solutions to this conglomerate.

After endless hours on the computer, searching for suppliers, translating between English, Spanish and Catalan I can quite confidently say that as far as I can tell, there is no alternative at the price point.

So with the fear that might be similar to facing an endless underground cave system we faced the gambit that is Ikea…but I had a strategy…

1: Make a list

I love lists…make a list of your furniture/furnishing needs. My recommendation is to only look at Ikea as a starting point, think of it as a place to get your basic items of furniture, think practical, think style and design and avoid decorative elements.

2: Get on line

Now get on line and get familiar with the range and the styles available.

3: Look don’t buy

Make a trip out to Ikea with the intention of ‘looking only’. Philip ‘loved’ every minute’. The bright store lights and the general ‘energy’ is draining. More than likely you will hit a ‘hypoglycaemic’ moment [there’s a reason they have a café/restaurant smack bang in the middle] and if you don’t have a list in hand and the ‘looking only’ rule in place you are apt to buy at random just so you never have to do this hell again. [I follow Nina’s lead: Get to Ikea, go straight to the downstairs café, order a Cervesa and a small bite, sit and mentally prepare while you increase your blood sugar levels].

4: Refine your list and choices. Are your choices in stock?

Having visited, you likely have a pretty good idea of one or two options for each of the items on your list. Now pare it back, decide on your style and check your budget. Oh and don’t forget to get back on line and check that the items are in stock. [There is nothing worse than making the journey only to find that the one item you want is out of stock]

5: It’s Ikea day!

Having made a pre-purchase visit, you have your list, you’re equipped, it’s a doddle. Get into that warehouse, get your aisle and bay numbers and get pulling those boxes off the shelves [note of caution: make sure the item you grab is in fact in the correct item on the correct shelf, check and check again. Failure equals that dreaded return trip]

6: Getting your ‘Ikea’ home

In Barcelona this is my favourite part of the exercise because waiting outside those Ikea exit doors is your answer to getting your pieces home. Why would I pay Ikea delivery prices and wait up to 24 hours to have my purchases delivered when just outside the door are men with vehicles happy to negotiate a fee to get you and your beloved purchases home.

Rules: A) Treat it like the ‘game’ it is [Have your trolley loaded up, go as if to exit the door, get their attention and wave. Walk away, register their disappointment and go and have a Cervesa. Now with a bit of ‘Dutch courage’ you’re ready to go. 2) Negotiate but, be fair [these men are providing a great service and you’re not paying Ikea delivery prices] 3) Request that they load the vehicle at the side if Ikea and not outside the front on Avinguda de la Granvia.


…so there we are, we’ve negotiated our price and loaded up the small truck outside the front of Ikea [which is now blocking buses from using the designated bus stop] we’re sitting with the driver on the front seat trapped by a bus when a couple of police officers arrive and ask us to wind down the passenger window. The officer starts talking to the driver and the driver hands across a bunch of papers, he then turns his attention to us, speaking in Spanish. He quickly ascertains that we have no idea what he’s saying to us, he asks ‘English?’ we assent and in beautiful English he tells us that we are not insured when being driven by this man. He then say’s please wait and they disappear out of view. The driver is telling us ‘how irritating it is’ well at least I think that’s what he was telling us in Spanish. The police officer returns to our window and repeats that we are not insured, we acknowledge this but, we’ve got this far, we’ve negotiated our delivery fee, our ‘stuffs’ in the back and I would say from the looks on our faces we give every indication that we’re not getting out of this vehicle. He lets us go with the words ‘don’t do this again’ [If only he knew I have no intention of a repeat Ikea performance of this magnitude].

7: Advice – Turn Left and find ‘those double doors’

If you are simply out at Ikea to purchase the smaller items from the ‘market place’ are you aware that you can ‘turn left’ and circumvent the whole labyrinth taking a short cut direct to the market? It’s a dream come true!

…also ‘those double doors’ in the market place with the clear plastic view panels, they’re not just there for the staff they are quick access points across the market place floor between zones ‘know your emergency exits people’.

Really for all the flack I seem to be giving Ikea, I must say it saved us and we’re very happy with the pieces for the money we outlaid.

…and here’s the result so far – welcome to our interior

20170215_143215_2   20170217_175724_2   20170218_143843_2

Living Room, Master Bedroom and Guest Bedroom respectively

And the rest…Barcelona is full of markets, second hand furniture stores, and great design and accessory stores…so get scouting!


Ref: Images of Munch ‘The Scream’, Ikea Logo and Delivery ‘Guys’ from Google. Interior images my own.

5 thoughts on “EXPAT: PLEASE NO-NOT IKEA!

  1. We all get sucked into the IKEA trap at one time or another! 😉
    LOVE your apartment,,, and love that you have guest room!!
    Booking my ticket to Spain now! x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amazing! LOL! Funny but also scary! Sorry…I think I’ll stick to boring old New Zealand! For now….!
      But for you, the fun part starts…making something interesting out of ordinary things and…second hand treasures!
      Designing, being creative and innovative…! Enjoy!
      All the best,

      Liked by 1 person

  2. haha, you’re right about the Ikea experience Stephen. I prefer the Philip experience of a browse with no commitment to parting cash. However a list is good, but I have found myself freezing midway through the list and deciding I would prefer to spend my money elsewhere. Actually probably just not spend my money at all!! And we have had the problem of selecting the ready to construct box from the numbered isles only to get home (3 hours drive later) and find our new purchase has a hole in it!! The best advice I can give when shopping at Ikea, buy some dishwashing brushes, they’re the best!!

    Liked by 1 person

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