19 Genius Tips for Shopping Ikea Online and Avoiding the Store Completely
Here's how to buy a stylish Swedish sofa from the comfort of your old sofa.
The convenience of online shopping is one of the best things to come out of the age of the internet, but not every retail experience is built for the 21st century technology. Case in point: furniture shopping. Home décor is all about color, texture, and size. So how are you supposed to properly analyze any of these elements when a computer screen image is all you have to go by?
Sure, it may seem impossible, but when armed with the proper knowledge, you can easily find everything you need for your house without ever having to leave it. Still not convinced? Read on to discover how expert furniture shoppers navigate the website of one of the biggest furniture retailers out there: Ikea. All you’ll miss about going to the store are those Swedish meatballs.
Buy furniture that meshes, not furniture that matches.
“Computers aren’t accurate when displaying fabric and finish colors, so it’s difficult to determine the exact tones in a piece,” explains Lori Wiles, a registered interior designer and founder of Lori Wiles Design. “Combine that with the fact that colors appear different in your settings than in a store and you have a problem.” But, it’s a solvable one.
All you have to do is free yourself of the idea that furniture needs to match perfectly. “Build a palette without relying on close colors,” says Wiles. Mixing and matching pieces in mid-toned and dark shades of neutral colors like black, blue, and beige with bright and bold accent items “allows you to create a coordinated space without exactly matching colors.”
The cheapest item isn’t always the best one.
Don’t buy the cheapest items Ikea offers for the sake of saving money. Though it’s harder to tell through a computer screen, these budget-friendly buys are often poorly made out of materials that don’t hold up. In the long run, you’ll be saving money if you choose quality over cost, since you won’t have to replace your low-grade goods within the month.
Read product reviews.
Since shopping for furniture online takes away your ability to analyze a product in person, it’s important that you read a product’s reviews before purchasing it. And for more expensive buys like tables and beds, don’t be afraid to devote even more time to finding in-depth reviews on sites like Consumer Reports that specialize in rating and reviewing products.
Confirm the final shipping costs.
Though ordering Ikea furniture for curbside delivery is convenient, it also comes at a cost—one that might not ultimately be worth it. Take the king size Malm bed frame, for example. Though the frame itself is $649, shipping it will cost you a staggering $199, nearly 31 percent of what the bed itself costs.
Not all Ikea orders are going to have crazy expensive shipping fees, though. Per Ikea’s website, shipping costs are determined by both the retail value and weight/volume of the order, so make sure to check what your delivery costs will be.
Avoid extra costs buy shopping Ikea via Amazon.
See something you love on Ikea’s website with shipping costs that are through the roof? Well, it’s possible to buy that coveted item online without paying those ludicrous fees—so long as said product is available on Amazon. Though not all of Ikea’s offerings are sold via the online retail giant, those that are available are shipped free of charge (albeit with a slight mark-up). In the end, buying Ikea furniture via Amazon is almost always cheaper than buying it on Ikea’s own site. (The Jokkmokk table set, for instance, is $289 on Amazon versus $328 through Ikea.)
Look up user photos of your potential new pieces.
Ikea’s stock photos are nice, but they’re professionally lit and edited. You want to see what the furniture and accessories you have your eyes on will actually look like in your home, so we suggest going through the photos posted by actual users on Amazon. In these images, you can see how an item’s color and size looks alongside real furnishings and decorations. And if there aren’t enough user-generated photos for the item you’re interested in, then search social media sites like Twitter and Instagram for more helpful visuals.
Use a tape measure.
“One of the most trying things about online shopping is predicting how furniture will actually fit in the space you have,” says Wiles. “Look at the measurements displayed in the description of the furniture—the website should show you the width, depth, and height of every piece. Grab a tape measure to help you begin to visualize what those numbers mean.” Measuring out space for a potential appliance or armoire before you buy it could save you a very inconvenient trip to the UPS store down the road.
Compare measurements to existing items in your home to gauge size.
Sometimes having something at home to compare your Ikea measurements to is quite helpful. For instance, if you tried using a measuring tape and still aren’t quite sure how a 35″ x 80″ sofa is going to look in your living room, simply measure other pieces of furniture in your home and compare those items to the one you’re looking to buy. “I like to have people measure some existing items in their home to understand relative sizes,” explains Wiles.
Outline the size of potential furniture with tape.
“Using painter’s tape to outline the footprint of the piece of furniture you’re considering helps you understand how much actual space it will occupy,” explains Wiles. This taping trick comes in handy especially when you are considering buying multiple pieces of furniture for the same room and need to figure out how—or if—each piece can fit.
Join the Ikea Family program.
It pays to join the free-of-charge Ikea Family rewards program. It grants you access to special discounts, both online and in stores, and provides other unique services. All you have to do is sign up with your email, and dozens of deals will magically unfold before your eyes.
Use the catalog.
Before you even dive into the Ikea website, take some time to peruse through the store’s latest catalog, which is available online. This will help you “get an idea of how versatile and multipurpose most Ikea pieces are,” explains Denise Gianna, an interior designer and owner of Denise Gianna Designs. Plus, looking at stagings in the catalog might just inspire you to buy a piece you never would have otherwise.
Study the materials used to make the product.
Not all materials are created equal. Doing research into what each piece is made out of could be the key to finding long-lasting furniture. As a general rule of thumb, Gianna notes that solid wood and metal items tend to be “sturdy” and reliable, whereas items made of cardboard and thin lauan wood don’t usually last long.
Understand the effect of contrast.
Cloaking a room in furnishings and decorations that contrast is a great way to make a statement. However, when shopping online versus in person, Wiles warns to proceed with caution. “Things that contrast strongly with their surroundings will appear larger,” she says. That can in turn make a room feel more crowded.
Do your research.
This should go without saying, but you should always—always—do your due diligence before purchasing a product as expensive as a bed or dining room table. “Read all product information, content, recommendations, double-check sizes, and revisit consumer reviews to avoid disappointment with your items after waiting for delivery,” says Gianna.
Customize, customize, customize.
Ikea offers unique services that make it possible to create and customize your own desk using various color and material options. And if you aren’t afraid of a little DIY, you can also check out Pinterest before you buy to plan out ways to turn a reasonably priced Ikea item into something one of a kind.
Look into assembly requirements.
It’s important to keep in mind that anything you buy at Ikea is going to have to be assembled—and unless you plan on doling out money to hire someone to build your new furniture, all of that work is going to be your responsibility. Before you buy any big pieces, research the assembly instructions and requirements and make sure that they are something you can manage (or at the least, something you can convince your partner to do while you “help”).
Take longevity and purpose into consideration.
“Consider how long you will use the pieces you are considering buying,” explains Gianna. If you’re in the market for something that you intend to last a lifetime, then obviously it’s important to make sure the product is durable and well built. That said, it’s OK to spend a little bit less on short-term items like dorm décor and kid’s furniture, since they only have to last for a few years.
Check your items for damage as soon as they arrive.
One of the great things about Ikea is their lenient return policy, which gives customers 365 days to return or exchange any item, even if it’s damaged. But you don’t want to keep a damaged, unassembled desk sitting around your house for a full year. So, the very first thing you should do when you receive your Ikea package is check for both damage and missing parts. Should you find that something’s wrong, you can either head to the store or schedule a pick up right at your doorstep.
Recognize the downside of the online shopping experience.
“Shopping via the website is not the optimal Ikea experience,” says Gianna. “Product categories are broad and, unless you know the Swedish names for what you seek, you will have difficulty. I use the Ikea site routinely and still find it frustrating to navigate.”
Though it’s more than possible to shop Ikea online, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s not an easy endeavor. Once you do that, you can address problems before they arise and make the most out of shopping Ikea.com!
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