He Says/She Says: IKEA Furniture


In the He Says/She Says series, we discuss financial-ish topics where we agree to disagree. And Joanna’s usually right (shhh!).

Johnny and I argued a lot the first year of our marriage. Always about little things. It would start off with “Wait, you don’t think that [insert opinion here]?” And then 9 times out of 10 it’d turn into a full-blown argument. Why? Well, I’d tend to get huffy and puffy almost immediately, and in response Johnny would get more annoyingly calm and pragmatic. And then we’d get more mad at the other person for acting that way. Ah, newlywed bliss.

One such example manifested itself at IKEA our second week of marriage. We had a one-bedroom apartment, zero furniture, and zero money, so IKEA was our interior-decorating drug of choice. I had assumed that all the furniture-buying decisions would be up to moi since I was the wife and CEO of decorating our home. But apparently Johnny didn’t get that memo, and he mistakenly assumed he should have a say as well. Luckily, IKEA is just big and neverending enough that even my heated whisperings and Johnny’s silent treatment couldn’t last a whole trip there, so we didn’t go home angry at each other.

IKEA furnished apartment from our college days, circa 2009

But now we have a different disagreement regarding IKEA and its furniture (but not its Swedish meatballs, horsemeat and all…kidding). Our apartments over the years have been an IKEA faux-wood furniture heaven. In college, such furniture only made sense. And when we moved to NYC and Boston, we kept with that trend since nothing stays nice being lugged up three or four sets of stairs to a tiny old apartment. But now I’m ready to put an end to the IKEA faux-wood fest. And I wouldn’t mind buying a couch or table that was put together before arriving in our home. I get that it’s cheap and it saves money. And I know I’m always the “spender” in our He Says/She Says series, while Johnny’s always the cheaper one. Guilty as charged. The truth is I am quite thrifty, but not in any areas where Johnny disagrees. Booo.

Now that we have Baby Girl and our house is becoming a home, I want to fill it with meaningful pieces that will last a long time. And that might mean spending extra $$$ or having to buy a nice piece of furniture for cheap that requires a bunch of DIY handiness. Gimme a paintbrush and sandpaper. I’m ready. In my mind, if we buy nice furniture once, we won’t have to buy it again, at least not for a very long time. Johnny wants to stick with IKEA for a few reasons: It’s practical. He likes the simple style. And, get this — he actually enjoys putting the furniture together. To quote him, “It’s like LEGOs for grown ups!” No nooo noooooooo.

And so we continue to be at odds with the giant blue store. Johnny has started making a few concessions. Our current coffee table, though from IKEA, is solid wood. I can get down with IKEA’s higher end stuff. I’m just done with cheap IKEA once and for all. I’m hoping to go all Inception on his brain and change his mind.

So where do you stand on buying furniture? Do you like to keep things cheap and simple, or are you ready to do whatever it takes to have some quality pieces in your home? So in other words, are you right (with me) or wrong (with Johnny)?


(Original photo by IKEA)

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  • Reply Kacie April 3, 2013 at 7:52 am

    Joanna, I’m totally with you on this one. I used to be firmly in the “Cheap Furniture Camp”… until our 3 year old couch literally started falling apart. My parents had the same living room furniture throughout my ENTIRE CHILDHOOD (and the couch still lives! It’s actually the best couch ever if you ignore the sad state of the leather from over 2 decades of use/abuse) so I am pretty disappointed with this cheap couch situation and am forever converted. No more cheap stuff – save up and buy the furniture you really want that will last forever.

    Also – that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m springing for stuff straight outta the Restoration Hardware catalog. Craigslist is awesome for used wood furniture – we got an amazing solid wood table and chairs set that just needed a little buffing and was good to go. Ikea isn’t the only option! 🙂

    • Reply Joanna April 3, 2013 at 11:00 pm

      I like the way you think, Kacie! IKEA is one of the easiest options for cheap furniture, but definitely not the best option for us anymore (as far as I’m concerned ;)). I agree with you on the Craigslist finds… I’ve found a few choice pieces of furniture on there. It takes some scouring, but totally worth the money saved in my book!

  • Reply Laurie @thefrugalfarmer April 3, 2013 at 8:15 am

    That’s 2 and 0 and Joanna’s in the lead. Definitely get the higher quality stuff that will last longer. It’s important to feel all warm and fuzzy when you walk into your house – that will keep you from going out as much to spend money! 🙂

    • Reply Joanna April 3, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      Thanks for the support Laurie! It may take years to fully furnish our house with the quality stuff because of the time and/or money it takes to get it, but I think it’s worth it. And I love your argument… now just to get Johnny to fall for it!

  • Reply Lisa D April 3, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Team Ikea!!! I LOVE Ikea furniture (and picture frames and spoons and other misc. items) but I’m also not decorating a home just yet, so I agree with Joanna too. Ikea, and other cheap furniture, is great when you’re moving around a bunch and don’t know the layout of future homes and can’t justify investing in great furniture just yet. That’s the stage I’m at right now and my next apartment will most likely be furnished by Ikea, craigslist, and some seriously old hand-me-downs that I’m hoping I can spruce up. But one day down the road I would like to get some nice pieces of furniture for my home. I guess I agree with both of you but if I had to pick just one it would be Joanna because who the heck likes putting together Ikea furniture?!?!? It was a true test of my relationship when a few months in my boyfriend and I put together an Ikea bed and dresser that he had bought. Those directions were taunting me!

    • Reply Joanna April 3, 2013 at 11:11 pm

      Don’t get me wrong, I love me some IKEA, too! I’ve never gone in there and left empty-handed, even if it’s just with a cinnamon roll. But I’d like our home to go from 90% IKEA to more like 25%.

      If you and your boyfriend made it through assembling an IKEA bed and dresser, you can make it through anything. ANYTHING.

  • Reply Johnny Moneyseed April 3, 2013 at 8:27 am

    You have a child in the house now, so it’s not really the best time to be going out and buying new furniture. Ikea furniture works great for it’s cost too. Why would you replace anything that still works? If I were you I would start to replace items that are completely unusable, broken or otherwise falling apart. Buying new furniture is just a waste of money. You could check out thrift stores. I’ve found some awesome used furniture where all I had to do was strip the paint and re-stain them. Boom, it’s like brand new furniture for $30.

    • Reply Joanna April 3, 2013 at 11:18 pm

      I’m totally open to secondhand furniture if its a quality piece. That’s a great option.

      Anytime we’ve replaced furniture, we’ve always sold the old piece, which offsets the price of the new piece. And I want to replace items so our space looks nicer. It’s part of my need to make our house a home. It must be a girl thing because (my) Johnny doesn’t seem to get it either!

  • Reply Michelle April 3, 2013 at 8:33 am

    I love Ikea, and I would go with their higher quality pieces. I’d rather have something that lasts a long time!

    • Reply Joanna April 3, 2013 at 11:30 pm

      Agreed, Michelle! They’ve got a pretty great selection of higher quality stuff.

  • Reply Holly@ClubThrifty April 3, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Ikea is hell on earth! Too much crap in one place. I go into overload =)

    • Reply Joanna April 3, 2013 at 11:32 pm

      You are too funny! After reading about how much you hate Walmart, I can see why IKEA isn’t your favorite place either. You’re a girl who knows what she likes, and nobody can fault you for that! 🙂

  • Reply Emory April 3, 2013 at 9:25 am

    This is actually so funny because I am very much a buy-nicer-furniture-on-the-cheap kind of person. Possibly because our furniture all came to us for free from a failed estate sale, family, or the thrift store. Honestly, the idea of buying new furniture, even nice furniture, scares me because while the quality is worth the expense it won’t stay nice in my home. However, if it is one heck of a deal and has lasted for quite a while before it comes into my home then I am all for it. My husbands favorite piece of furniture is left over from my college roommate and is a giant Ethan Allen sectional from the 70s.

    • Reply Joanna April 3, 2013 at 11:37 pm

      That’s awesome you have been able to score great pieces for free or super cheap! I’ve gotta figure out how to do that better! And I bet it adds so much character to your home, with every piece having a story. Every story for our furniture starts with, “So we went to IKEA, and..” 😀

  • Reply Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle April 3, 2013 at 10:00 am

    I had cheap sofas when my children were little because they just wreck everything with spit and diaper leakage and vomit.

    I bought good quality wood items that will last forever and now I have been transitioning in to timeless leather pieces. Most of my furniture are things that people will want to inherit. Timeless hardwood antique dressers and dining room pieces that future daughters-in-laws have already commented on how they would love to have some day.

    • Reply Joanna April 3, 2013 at 11:40 pm

      How awesome you’re at the point of life that you can get quality pieces! I’d love to have stuff to pass down to my kids.

      Honestly, I hadn’t even considered the *children destroying stuff* factor, but that’s a good point. Johnny and I are very careful with our stuff, so that aspect of parenthood is going to be hard for us!

  • Reply My Financial Independence Journey April 3, 2013 at 10:01 am

    DIY IKEA style furniture can be great. It’s probably my furniture of choice. I put a lot of effort into finding pieces that look nice even if they cost a little bit more.

    I have pets so everything is a cat bed, scratching post, etc., which makes low cost furniture a must. This way if something gets too damaged it won’t break the bank to replace it.

    • Reply Joanna April 3, 2013 at 11:49 pm

      We have a cat as well, and I go a little crazy with her need to scratch/destroy stuff. I put a lot (too much?) effort into making sure she doesn’t do just that. I will probably be the same way with my kids!

  • Reply Stacie April 3, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Sooooo glad I stumbled onto this post! My husband and I are in this same situation: right now we have Pottery Barn white-ish couches that we bought when we had a mature, well-trained adult dog. Fine. Awesome. Now we have a monster puppy who feels right at home ON our furniture. We’re in a place where we needed to replace those couches anyway. My thoughts: go with something less expensive (IKEA is what I suggested!) because they’ll be getting more wear and tear and we’ll have to replace them again in just a few years. His opinion: keep going with the Pottery Barn and cross that expensive bridge when we get there. I don’t see how we’ll NOT have to spend so much more in the long run going with his plan! Usually I stick with my gurlz but I’d have to side with your husband on this one!

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 12:00 am

      I think sticking with IKEA sounds like a good idea for you guys’ situation, Stacie! If you know the furniture will have to be replaced in a few years anyway, IKEA’s the way to go. Luckily, even if the furniture from there isn’t always the highest quality, it still looks pretty darn great.

  • Reply Carla April 3, 2013 at 10:04 am

    I’m with both of you! There’s no reason you can’t have both. Check out the blog Young House Love (I’m not affiliated, just a fan). Their house is a great mix of Ikea and thrift store DIY. Something like an Ikea couch and a thrift store end table is a good compromise. Besides some of Ikea’s stuff is stupid overpriced for what you’re getting, and thrift store stuff has a lot more character. There’s no need to make a hard decision- decide on a piece by piece basis what look you want, then see what you can find for the best price!

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 12:05 am

      Good idea, Carla! I love Young House Love, though I’ve never been an avid reader. I’ll have to check out some of their ideas!

      Also, I love your thinking with deciding on a piece by piece basis. You better believe we’ll be trying that!

  • Reply Anesha Woods April 3, 2013 at 10:15 am

    TEAM Joanna! It’s time to move on up to some grown up furniture! My husband and I drank the koolaid too…(Dave Ramsey) so we lived with hand me downs and garage sale furniture for the longest time. We still have many of those pieces. We save up our
    cash-ola and purchase nice pieces that we fall in love with. But solid wood nice stuff can be REALLY expensive, so we also like to find pieces with good bones and re-do them. I purchased a buffet and a china cabinet from an estate sale that had beautiful lines, but the finish had aged like fish out of water. So we stripped it, sanded it and refinished that bad boy, and it’s the nicest piece in my whole house. If you want some real inspiration check out young house love’s blog or Bower Power Blog. They make me never want to walk in a department store again. The majority of what they purchase comes from craigslist, goodwill and thrift stores. Just make sure if you’re going to invest in quality furniture, make sure it’s something that you LOVE.

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 12:12 am

      Thanks for the awesome tips, Anesha. I’ve never had luck at buying thrift store furniture, BUT I’ve never really looked, either. And I’m a novice when it comes to taking an old piece and redoing it. That said, I think I’m ready to get my hands dirty and give it a try. Your comment really makes me want to get my DIY on ASAP!

      I follow Young House Love and Bower Power, but I’ve never checked out their posts super closely. Now that I know other people have actually successfully tried the stuff on their blogs, I’ve got to get on that pronto.

  • Reply Julie April 3, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Like others, I think you can do both. Keep in mind, though, that it may not be worth spending big bucks on furniture if you’re not in a long-term home. One regret I have is buying nice living room furniture that worked in our rented townhouse, but not in the house we bought a year later. For 6 years now, I’ve been living with not-ideal furniture in a not-ideal layout because I’m not spending the money to replace it. I wish we would have waited till we bought a house and then bought furniture to fit those rooms.

    We have a two-year-old now, so we see the abuse some furniture takes. So keep in mind that you shouldn’t drop a ton of cash on anything you’d be heartbroken if it got dinged, stained, or colored on. That’s not to say it can’t be nice, but make sure it’s durable, washable, or camouflaged.

    You can also find nice furniture on the cheap. Not only on Craigslist or thrift stores, like others have mentioned, but in overstock stores. We have a few local chains, and I’m sure your area does, too. My best and favorite find has been a granite-topped coffee table and end tables with solid wood legs and frame. They’re durable, great for the kiddo since they are waterproof, and clean up wonderfully.

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 12:18 am

      Great ideas, Julie! Good point with waiting to buy nice furniture once you know you won’t be moving for a while. Our master bedroom (which is currently furnished by IKEA) is ginormous, and the furniture in it looks small and, well, bad! So I really want to replace it, but I probably should hold off until we’re no longer renting.

      And thanks for the tip on overstock stores! We’ve never given them a try, but I’ll have to see if we’ve got any nearby!

  • Reply Grayson @ Debt RoundUp April 3, 2013 at 10:58 am

    I used to live off cheap furniture. We didn’t have an IKEA, so we just go what we could, where we could. We do have an IKEA in NC, but it is about 2 hours away, so I am not driving there. When my wife and I decided to upgrade our coach, which broke, we went with a higher end one because we wanted it to last and we knew that when the little one grows up, we will be crawling all over it. IKEA is great, but it’s quality is questionable. That is their business model. I am with you Joanna, but I also get Johnny and his LEGO building obsession.

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 12:22 am

      I’d like to calculate how much I’d spend on IKEA furniture if I replaced it every 2-3 years versus what I’d spend on buying a nice piece of furniture that lasts 10-20 years. I have a feeling that IKEA would end up being more expensive. I love that place for some stuff, but for other things (like our bed), I’d like to forego that store.

      Men and LEGOs… our poor daughter will play with LEGOs whether she wants to or not because Johnny will definitely get them for her (and himself)!

  • Reply Chris April 3, 2013 at 11:03 am

    We’re on the cheap furniture side. The last couple of years my wife and I have taken some really nice furniture from people who don’t want it any longer. My wife has an uncle that does pretty well and they’re constantly giving us the Pottery Barn furniture that runs it course for them. Not a bad a setup.

    We also think there’s no shame in gargage sales. We’ve found plenty of good quality stuff for around the house.


    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 12:27 am

      Not a bad setup? That’s an awesome setup!! Where’s my rich uncle?

      And I am really ready to do some garage sale hunting. My mom was the queen of that growing up, and I’m happy to follow in her footsteps!

  • Reply Rachel April 3, 2013 at 11:25 am

    I still live at home (recent grad with tons of student loans here!) but plan on moving out in a few months to live with the boyfriend. Our furniture will most likely come from IKEA due to the cheap price and wide selection, but I agree about wanting to upgrade after a few years!

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 12:32 am

      I don’t know what we’d have done without IKEA when we were first married. I love that it let us 1) have new stuff and 2) quickly fill our apartment with furniture. The upgrade process will be a long one for us (I mean, I still have to convince Johnny!), so I’m glad IKEA’s around until then. 🙂

  • Reply Stephen at Simple Economist April 3, 2013 at 11:27 am

    That is pretty funny. My wife and I had the exact same discussion a few months ago when we moved into our first house. The trouble we have is that we have a pretty good bit of nice but not as stylish old furniture that works. We like the idea of getting some new stuff but it can be really expensive if you are picky. We are taking it slowly and waiting for the right stuff (it has been slower than expected though). I’m not sure how much longer my wife can hold out before we end up getting new stuff.

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 12:36 am

      I feel for your wife.. I’m bad with being patient with having our home just how I want it! But I’m kind of resigned to the fact that the upgrade process will be a long one. We’ve kind of upgraded our living room, which is where we spend most of our time, so that is helping me to hold out for the other rooms in our house!

  • Reply Rob April 3, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Ah yes – IKEA. We here in Toronto know that place well – and not always for the reasons that you may think. Awhile ago, a person’s pet monkey (Darwin, by name) escaped and got loose in our neighbourhood IKEA store. It made national headlines !!!
    Here’s a link to some pics of that event –


    As to buying furniture, when we were young and newly married (and poor) we bought whatever we could afford or get free, quality wasn’t an issue. After finally buying our first house and our kids had grown from toddlers (who were no longer prone to wrecking the place – lol) then we graduated to coordinated quality furniture purchases.

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 12:44 am

      Rob, your comment about Darwin made me laugh so hard. Those pictures! I’d never heard about it before, so it led to Johnny showing me some IKEA monkey memes. You definitely added some entertainment to our night.

      Now that everyone has mentioned that toddlers destroy everything, I’m rethinking buying quality stuff for a few more years!

  • Reply debtperception April 3, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Considering we have no furniture, aside from a bed and plastic folding tables and drawers, I’d take cheap Ikea any day. I mean I would love to have nice, quality furniture, but cheap furniture beats no furniture. My husband, on the other hand, won’t do second-hand furniture and will not do particle board furniture at all…so cheapo plastic is the way to go when you can’t afford the expensive, good-quality stuff. It sucks and I would love to be able to have guests over, but we make do, for now.

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 12:59 am

      There were a few months when we were paying off our debt and in between apartments where we literally had a bed and a dresser. When we got tired of our bed serving as our kitchen table and couch, we’d put pillows on the floor and sit there. It might not be super fun right now, but it will be worth it in the long run!

      Just have a BYOC (bring your own chair) with your friends. If they’re your friends, they’ll just be happy to hang out! 🙂

  • Reply Shannon-ReadyForZero April 3, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    I can totally understand both points, but if you’re at a point in which you’re ready to purchase some investment pieces, then I think it makes sense to do so. My fiance bought an expensive (for my point of view) bedroom set when he was 23 and he’s lugged it from Maryland, to several apartments in New York, and literally across the country to our apartment in San Francisco. It’s fair to say it’s paid for itself multiple times over and still looks brand new. Butttt….our tv stand, couch, desk, and table are Ikea now. Good to strike a healthy balance!

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 1:02 am

      I’m all about the balance! Right now things are just a tad too IKEA heavy. And it’s like you read my mind with mentioning your fiancee’s nice bedroom set… that’s just the thing I’m ready to splurge on!

  • Reply jrm April 3, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    I’m the youngest of four children and with the exception of my mattress, 95% of the furniture in my place was hand me down. I bought a great big, heavy dresser from Goodwill 5 years back that I love. It is seroiusly better made than I think most reasonably priced dressers on the market today. My current philosophy is buy a great mattress and couch and thrift or do nicer IKEA (IMHO, some IKEA stuff is junk and some of it is of sturdier quality).

    The caveat with the couch is that you may want to wait on it if only because you are still planning on moving again (I think….think you are trying to buy a home someday). There are so many couch options and qualitiy variables — it makes me a little dizzy. I would hate to see you buy a couch for your current place if it won’t look right and/or not fit in your new place.

    My other recommendation is to shop “estate sales” in retirment communities. My parents live in AZ in a 55+ community. People are always coming and going (other homes or their “final resting place” — morbid but true) so there are always sales going on and often the furniture is in real good condition. Of course easy for me to say b/c of my parents “hook-up” and me living not too far away, but may be something to scout for if something similar exists near you.

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 1:08 am

      Such great advice. We are definitely planning to buy a home soon-ish. So I *might* be able to hold out on nicer stuff until then. At least that will give me more time to convince Johnny!

      And that estate sale setup you have sounds pretty sweet. Older people have the coolest furniture. They bought stuff back in the day when there was none of this faux wood stuff!

  • Reply Brittney April 3, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I feel your pain! We have so much stuff from IKEA-I actually bought a fancy allen wrench from Home Depot. We always joke that we will know “we’ve made it” when we don’t have to put together our furniture with an allen wrench. I do agree with you on saving for better/forever pieces. IKEA stuff is going to get tossed, since it’s so cheaply made so with big stuff we tend to save our pennies and buy what we love. We also cruise Craig’s List/Thrift Shops for really nice wood furniture and revamp it. It’s a little more work but usually about the same cost as IKEA!

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 1:13 am

      You’re allen wrench comment made me laugh, Brittney! Sooo true!!

      I’d love to start looking for nice pieces at thrift shops. A few people have mentioned that as a great option! It’s time I get my craft on.

  • Reply L Rose April 3, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    I agree with many other readers– go for a mix of both!

    I, too, dreaded that “IKEA apartment (house, room, etc.).” I just hated the idea of having a living room that looked exactly like the display at the store.

    So the solution? Buy smaller furniture pieces (end tables, a desk, etc.) and decor (lamps, rugs, etc.) from IKEA but “splurge” on a better quality sofa and bed. Go to yard sales and thrift stores for decor and furniture, too. As long as the pieces are salvageable and somewhat clean prior to purchase, I’m okay with a bit of DIY tactics to make it perfect for my home.

    Also, I love the home sections of Marshall’s and Ross. Those are great places to find more unique, smaller pieces for your place that won’t be too harsh on your wallet.


    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 1:23 am

      You have great ideas, L! I’m right there with you on not wanting our rooms to look like IKEA displays. Right now our living room and bedroom are failing miserably at that. 🙂 It might take a little more time to mix and match, but I think it will be more than worth it.

  • Reply Chaney April 3, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Both! I think that IKEA has some great deals for things that don’t you don’t need to spend a lot of money on (think frames, some of their curtains, fun accessories, and some furniture like their Expedit storage), but if you’re looking to upgrade your “big pieces,” like a couch, I’d definitely save up and go for the good stuff. It’ll last longer, and even if the up-front cost is hard to swallow, you’ll end up not having to replace it for a long, long time.

    I also agree with a lot of the comments here – it doesn’t have to be new or expensive to be good quality! Shop thrift stores, Craigslist, yard sales, and places like the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. I’ve had great luck with all of them in the past, and I love the mix of mismatched (but cohesive) furniture!

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 1:28 am

      I’m all for furniture that will last a long time. We’ve already had to replace our coffee table twice and our bed and dresser once since getting married (all IKEA stuff)! I still love IKEA for the smaller stuff, of course.

      And I agree with you on having mismatched but cohesive furniture… I feel like that’s what gives a house character and makes it a home!

  • Reply Diane April 3, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    I’m right (with Joanna) and wrong (with Johnny)~! I LOVE Ikea style… the simple, modern look~ but I HATE “pieces/parts of fused wood furniture” aka faux wood! We are not in our final house, and I don’t want to spend a ton of money for furniture that might not *fit* our next place.

    We’ve had some of the cheaper Ikea stuff and when it gets stained or damaged we just threw it out. It was cheap enough to be disposable. I TRY to stick with the actual wood furniture they sell, even though it’s not the best quality.

    My compromise would be to buy the better wood items available at Ikea for your immediate needs. Then look around for bargains in good quality used wood items that can be refinished, or buy one nice piece at a time when you find something you really like on sale.

    It’s probably not necessary to buy everything at once, and you can have a mix, which makes things interesting.

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 1:34 am

      That’s one thing that’s nice about the cheap IKEA stuff. Even though it doesn’t last long, it is super cheap, so it’s not too painful when it gets worn out.

      I really like your compromise idea. We have started doing that with our living room (with a coffee table and rug we needed). And I think the rest will be a slow process (since I still have to convince Johnny!).

      Great insights and tips, Diane. Thanks!

  • Reply Emily April 3, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Definitely Joanna on this one! Very doable on a small budget. We have lots of hand me down, used, refinished, etc. furniture that we are loving. Some pieces we save up for and buy new, but anything with particle board sketches me out big time. We have our fair share for the same reasons as anyone else – cheap and you don’t feel bad trashing it, but I will never again buy it new. Google formaldehyde in furniture. That should be the fastest way to win this one Joanna. Anything that the government sticks their nose in to regulate the safety of is questionable at best, in my opinion.

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 1:38 am

      I agree, Emily. The process behind making particle board stuff is pretty sketchy with all those chemicals. I’d love to have a good health reason to get some quality furniture. Johnny can’t say no to that, right? Now we just need to start hitting up the thrift stores and get our DIY on!

  • Reply Ellen April 3, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Have you checked out Young House Love? Their book and blog have great idea’s on how to make IKEA (and Target and thrift store/craigslits) finds one of a kind and more expensive looking.

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 1:39 am

      I’ve never checked their stuff out closely, though I really like their blog. A few other people mentioned them in their comments, so I’ll have to check it out! Thanks, Ellen!

  • Reply Moni April 3, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    If you have a baby – DO NOT buy new furniture. You will be amazed at how hard little people are on furniture, they throw up, they spill, they play on them, they jump on them, eventually kid = pet cat who will likely scratch it.
    I have 3 kids who are now teenagers, been there, done that. Watched them slowly destroy (unintentionally) a lovely sofa thru their baby and pre-school years and then its replacement during their older-child-to-present age. When they leave we are getting a new one but not before.

    Likewise our dining room table – it has been homeworked on, glittered on, glue gunned, ink has soaked thru paper onto the surface, pressed too hard writing and imprinted onto the surface……..get the picture? And all the preventative measures in the world, didn’t always work.

    Be glad you are not of my era of parenting where kids put small toys and food they didn’t like into the video player slot.

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 1:43 am

      We most definitely have a baby. She is already showing that she’s no respecter of objects she’ll spit up on: everything basically! So having little kids for the next few years is something we’ll definitely have to consider!

      And I’m *very* glad we don’t have to deal with VHS players with our kids! Oh the horrors of getting food in those things. It’s a good thing kids are cute because they are trouble!

  • Reply Newlyweds on a Budget April 3, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    oh Ikea. I have pretty strong feelings about this. My husband–whose mother (aka my MIL) is a brand egomaniac–told me that he would never buy Ikea furniture bc it was so cheap. Of foucrse, he got this mindset from his mother who scoffs at our $150 craigslist couch. I set him on the straight and narrow within the first few months of our marriage, and I told him that if he could find the $2000 in our budget to buy a nice decent l-shaped couch, that we would go for it. Of course that put to the end to that.
    I DO want nice furniture, but we’re not at the “home” stage yet. I feel like we’re still in flux and I’m willing to splurge on other pieces before a nice couch. Especially bc I don’t know where we’ll move to and what if our couch doesn’t fit in that space? We’ll get to “nice couch” phase one day….

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 1:49 am

      IKEA saved our butts and budget during our newlywed days. We couldn’t have afforded anything else. I’m glad you put your foot down about not getting expensive stuff yet. It’s not worth ruining your budget over for sure!

      Getting nice stuff will be a long road for us because we’ll want to find deals (and because I still have to convince Johnny!). So, in the meantime, I’m sure we’ll still be hitting up IKEA.

  • Reply Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies April 3, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    Luckily we live nowhere near an Ikea… We’ve slowly been acquiring decent furniture since we moved to FL after college. Some antique hand-me-downs that belonged to Mr. PoP’s folks, some that I built (not IKEA built – like out of wood with saws and screwdrivers and stain etc), and some that we bought that’s a couple steps up from IKEA, but probably won’t last as long as the first two categories – this is stuff like couches form City Furniture and coffee tables/entertainment console from World Market.

    So I guess we’re right in the middle – not IKEA cheap, but not super high end stuff either. Just comfy stuff that we feel comfortable using and don’t have to stress about keeping impeccable.

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 1:52 am

      It sounds like you’ve found a good middle ground. It’s a hard balance to strike, but it’s great if you and the hubs can be on the same page!

      In a way it’d be nice to not live near IKEA… I swear we will get stuff elsewhere, and then next thing I know, I’m putting together another piece of furniture from there!

  • Reply MomofTwoPreciousGirls April 3, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    For storage & decorative i like some of the ikea stuff.

    But totally believe in quality being factored in to cost. With our last move we were starting with barely any furniture and a small budget we decided to really search for deals at tag sales and consignment shops…we fared very well.

    Hubby has also built the girls some great stuff. A reading tent, a dress up box, storage unit (similar to expedit) bookshelves and art desks. I’m lucky in that way!

    I say wait until you find your new place and shop for what you want…then you save on moving costs which helps toward paying for new stuff and sell the old stuff…does that help your case, Joanna?

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 1:54 am

      Yes, I love that idea! I think we will wait until we’re in our next place for sure. There’s nothing better than starting out at a new place with new stuff as well!

      And how cool that your husband has built all that stuff for your girls. He sounds like quite the handyman. And I’m sure it makes those pieces that much more meaningful!

  • Reply Emily T April 3, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    I prefer a combination of higher end-for couches/chairs & ikea for almost everything else, especially for surface items like desks/dining tables

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 1:56 am

      I like the idea of a combo as well, Emily! I’ve perpetually got my eye on some higher end couches I’d love to snag. If only Johnny were easier to sway! 🙂

  • Reply Becky @ RunFunDone April 4, 2013 at 12:22 am

    Ha! I am so budget conscious that I won’t even pay for Ikea furniture! Everything (other than our bed and our bedroom set) in our 3-bedroom house is from Craigslist…and most of it was FREE!

    • Reply Joanna April 4, 2013 at 1:58 am

      Wow! That’s awesome, Becky! You have us beat big time in that department. You’ve got some major deal-finding skillz to furnish a whole house that way. Kudos!

  • Reply JW_Umbrella Treasury April 4, 2013 at 5:26 am

    Ah, I love this debate. When I was in college, I lived very near to Ikea. When I was super-stressed (finals, etc), I would drive to Ikea and just browse for an hour or so for stress relief. Is that weird?! Since I’m an impulse buyer, I figured that going to Ikea would be safer than the mall. It’s much easier to impulse buy a pair of shoes than a couch.

    When I was in college and grad school, it was Ikea all the way. Once my husband and I got married, he suggested that we slowly start to buy nicer furniture (like, one piece every 3 years or so) that we can have for 30 years. His parents still have furniture that they bought in their early twenties and their home is beautifully furnished.

    Our first joint furniture purchase (just a few weeks ago) was a bed. When I asked how much he though we should spend on a bed, he responded with $3k. I was floored, because I had been thinking in the $1,500-range. We ended up compromising in between the two amounts and paid for it with our tax refund. We’re planning to have that bed for ages.

    For many of our other furniture purchases, we found items at thrift stores and/or antique stores. Often, it was much better quality than Ikea AND cheaper. win-win!

    • Reply Johnny April 5, 2013 at 12:03 am

      Joanna probably tries blotting this out of her memory, but when an Ikea was put in 20 minutes away from our college, we would go there for fun on Saturdays to browse. So I totally know where you’re coming from.

      This last move, we actually did finally “invest” in some pretty quality furniture. It’s still no Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel, but it’s stuff that will last us a while. Our bed on the other hand… still one of those cheap $200 or $300 models from IKEA. So enjoy that luxury bed for us until we finally do bite the bullet on that.

  • Reply The Norwegian Girl April 4, 2013 at 7:44 am

    I love IKEA, without I`m not sure how I would have been able to afford furnitures.. I still have some cheap furnitures from IKEA, that`s fine for now, but are definitely not going with us the next time we move. But IKEA has so more than just the low quality. I too, have a solid wood coffee table, and It`s really good quality, but just a lot cheaper than other furniture stores.

    • Reply Johnny April 5, 2013 at 12:06 am

      I think Joanna’s biggest aversion to continuing to go back to IKEA is knowing that it was our go-to cheap furniture place the last few years. But like you said, they’ve got higher end pieces and models, too. If and when we have a bigger house with unnecessary space to fill, I think she’ll realize just how awesome IKEA is for those situations where frugality is key.

  • Reply Meghan April 4, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    I just bought the nicest leather couches that IKEA has and I’m pretty happy with the purchase! I am the type to not keep a couch more than 10 years anyway, and I expect IKEA to last (after all I am a household of one plus dog and cat). On the other hand, I got a cabinet set from Home Decorator’s Collection (Home Depot) and the darn doors won’t close properly! At least IKEA has the pre-drilling down to a science. I’m also about to move cross-country and expect to buy IKEA storage. I had nicer furniture when I had a house but it has gotten so beat up in moves. I have a second bed that was once $1100, but now it needs to be refinished and stored. There’s nothing I hate more than to refinish furniture so I’ll probably only get $100 back. IKEA would have been better! Maybe when I buy my next house, my forever house, I’ll consider expensive furnishings again.

    • Reply Johnny April 5, 2013 at 12:11 am

      The main reason (or in Joanna’s eyes, “excuse”) for not getting nicer furniture the last few years is because we knew that we hadn’t settled still. We knew that in less than a year or two, we’d likely be putting our lives in a moving truck again and subjecting all of our stuff to dings and dents. But now that life is slowing down just a bit and we’re preparing to stay at our next few destinations for a longer haul, Joanna’s got the nice-furniture bug.

      We actually had a leather IKEA couch for three years and loved it. It was really awesome quality. We bought a really nice sectional (from IKEA :)) when we moved here, so we sold it on Craigslist for only a couple hundred less than what we bought it new for. Score.

  • Reply Heidi June 4, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    I know that I am a bit late in commenting on this, but as a grad student I tend to have an IKEA/Craigslist Budget and Pottery Barn taste 🙂 My solution has been to buy IKEA and trim it out- ie I bought Ikea bookcases (the standard ones that everyonnnne has) and painted the back of my white bookcases teal for a pop of color. Adding a few dollars or molding or changing out the knobs makes them look *much* higher end for only a few dollars more. Blogs like Centsational Girl have great examples of this.
    Rustoleum Spray Paint has a ‘painter’s touch’ (the wood/plastic spray paint) line that looks great and is easy to paint. I bought a $20 end table from the thrift store and sanded and spray painted (I’m too impatient to stain or hand paint) and everyone who comes to my house comments on my cute end tables.

    • Reply Johnny June 6, 2013 at 2:08 am

      We need to get more in touch with our crafty/DIY side and try things like this. Awesome tip and suggestions. Thanks.

  • Reply Eva September 11, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    For another perspective…When we were newlyweds the low cost furniture in the area was This End Up. It’s solid wood and indestructible. We figured it would end up in a family room one day. It survived four moves and moved into the family room this year. Our oldest just started college so no extra $$ for better furniture now (nothing against IKEA we bought his college furniture there as well as the now discontinued IKEA Edland bed – a steal at $199 – for my daughter looks v. PB-ish especially since I splurged on the PB teen linens). Would I love beautiful new REAL furniture in the living room? Yes. But if it’s not in the budget, it’s not in the budget. If the budget is tight agree that replacing furniture is expensive as well. Get the best quality you can afford. Some of the most beautiful pieces we have are from family and thrift sources. Find a vision you both agree on for your home. Each decorating choice and purchase should fit the vision. Eventually you will have the home you want. Johnny could get jobs assembling IKEA furniture. Around here people hire out for that. The extra money could be the decorating budget! 😉

    • Reply Johnny September 17, 2013 at 2:08 am

      Shoot, I’ve never thought about that. They really are grown up LEGOs. But I don’t remember LEGOs ever giving me blisters or forcing me to bite my tongue to resist letting out a string of curse words. 🙂

      Great perspective. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply jeanine December 31, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    I realize I’m very late to this discussion, but I was enjoying your blog and thought I’d comment. I have a love/hate relationship with IKEA – I like the prices but hate the thought of wasting even $30 on a coffee table that will only last a few years. I also hate the smell of particleboard and when a piece of furniture crumbles as I try to assemble it.

    I buy a lot from consignment stores and thrift shops and then upgrade them with polish, paint, or new upholstery. About 10 years ago I bought a sofa for $250. I just steam cleaned it at the time and it was fine for many years. I recently had it reupholstered at the local prison for about $500, this includes the price of purchasing high quality, very durable velvet fabric from the design center. This sofa has, and is still in the process of, being constantly abused by myself, a cat or two, and some very active nieces and nephews and has held up really well – my nieces have a tendency to use it as a trampline. All of this cost less than the price of an IKEA sofa and was done over time as I had money in my budget. I’m an interior designer and I live in Boston {where things are expensive} but I still tend to buy a lot of things used. Recently I found a couple of light fixtures that were used in a movie that is just out this month that had been dropped off at a local thrift shop after production closed. They were $10 each and similar online cost almost $1,000. Plus mine have a story.

    I guess what this long rambling comment is saying is: when frugality is key, if you are patient you can find amazing furniture. Even if it requires refinishing above your skill level, there are ways to have it done that will be equivalent to IKEA prices if you are resourceful. Also, you won’t look like an IKEA showroom…..unless you want to.

    • Reply Johnny January 5, 2014 at 10:51 pm

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

      Lucky (or unlucky) for us, we haven’t really lived in a place with enough sq. ft. to need a whole lot of furniture. But nothing makes me more frustrated than replacing or getting rid of old furniture. For the most part, a lot of our IKEA stuff has held up well OR sold well to Craigslisters. That being said, we’re definitely moving into a stage of life where we’re ready to make investments on furniture that will last a long time. And like you recommended, we’re hopeful we can get a lot of those pieces used and do whatever needs to be done with them to fit our style.

      That’s awesome about those light fixtures. I don’t know if they were used as a staging element or not, but it’d be fun to try and find them in the movie.

  • Reply cheryl September 18, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    I do not have kids and investment pieces aren’t for me since there’s no one to pass it down to anyways. IKEA works for me since it does last forever. I’ve had a couch that’s 10 yrs old, a metal queen size bed that has lasted 10 yrs and 4 moves and still going strong. My king size bed frame was only $100 and have had it for 2 yrs and will probably last a few good years. My MALM dressers are slowly disintegtrating though after 8 yrs and 3 moves. It’d have lasted longer if we didn’t move so much. Our other Ektorp couch is 8 yrs old and the couch itself and the red cover still look as good as day one.

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