Object Impermanence

Did you see the October 3rd issue of The New Yorker? It includes an essay by Laura Collins on the undrar (wonder) of Ikea. House Perfect—Is the IKEA ethos comfy or creepy? is a balanced, conflicted look at the home furnishing mega-box that has revolutionized the flat packed design of how we live.

IKEA leads with a minimalist-universalist brand of style that translates across cultures, is broken down into 4 sub-sets by affordability, and almost always requires an allen wrench. The stores are mapped out in an exacting science, the designs are whittled down to include as little air as possible in the flat-boxed packaging, and there is no guarantee that your purchase will last. Strike that. It is guaranteed not to last. In fact, that is all a part of IKEA’s branding.

So when people ask if there really is a difference between this IKEA knob or pull and this cabinet hardware—at double the price—the answer is a resolute yes. The majority of cabinet hardware sold by IKEA is aluminum or zinc plated. These are soft metals. Horton Brasses casts its hardware from ultra-durable brass. Because it is made to last. Because you are not buying a throw away item. You are making an investment in something that will probably outlast your mortgage payments.

I understand that IKEA is a great choice if you move a lot or want to keep reinventing yourself. IKEA understands that too. And the IKEA designers have a lot of ingenious ideas that are totally on trend—even if transcending trend is IKEA’s goal.  Peek inside the well-designed homes of the rich in magazines like Architectural Digest or House Beautiful and surely you will spot an IKEA kitchen, IKEA bookshelves, or some other storage solutions.

Collins writes that “choosing a piece of furniture was once a serious decision, because of the expectation that it was permanent. IKEA has made interiors ephemeral.”

Without much thought, this statement evokes a strong reaction in me. The environmental issues that arise with throw-away furniture, the lowered expectation of quality that we acculturate ourselves into, and furthering the distance between the finished product and the maker of that product.

What about you? Anyone read the full article? IKEA is a serious business and cultural force worldwide. How do you feel about the ease and affordability of big business vs. the craftsmanship and craftsmanship of manufacturers like Horton Brasses and the bevy of fine woodworkers that the Horton Brasses name is associated with?

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3 thoughts on “Object Impermanence

  1. Charlene Austin says:

    Personally…..I’m not a fan of Ikea. I have a few pieces but nothing that is prominent in my design. I much prefer quality over quantity.

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