Friday, February 12, 2010

The IKEA Challenge

One of the most popular stories on the New York Times website today is "A Roomy 178 Square Feet," about a New Yorker who has crammed his tiny studio apartment with all kinds of objects on the theory that "the more stuff you put in a room...the bigger it seems." I guess there must be something wrong with my spatial perception, because to me, the room looked tiny, cluttered, and ungepachkit (an incredibly useful Yiddish word meaning "tastelessly overdone--too much of too many things at once"). Not that I'm such a minimalist that I like a room to contain one bed, one chair, one table, and no gewgaws of any kind. No, I like a few accessories to brighten up a space, but I like them to look like they belong in the space. I like it to look like some thought went into the choice of what to put in the room and what to leave out. I like there to be enough furniture to fill a space, but still leave room to walk around. I like to see three or four colors that harmonize together, not twenty different shades fighting with each other.

All of which brings me to an idea I've been meaning to write about for some time: the IKEA challenge.

This idea first popped into my head when the 2010 IKEA catalogue came out (and by the way, yes, it really is spelled in all caps--at least, that's the way they spell it, and I think every person or other entity should have the final say on how to spell his, her, or its own name). As I leafed through it, marveling over the prices I got to thinking, "I wonder if it would be possible to furnish an entire apartment from IKEA for $1000 and still have it look decent?" What I had in mind at the time was a one-bedroom apartment like the one I used to have, with a bedroom, a kitchen, and a living/office area. But seeing this guy's tiny studio (which does, by the way, include an IKEA bed) has inspired me to try a new challenge: furnish a wee 178-foot studio so as to make the best possible use of the space. The pieces must fulfill all the same functions as in my original challenge--a place to sit, a place to eat, a place to work, and a place to sleep--but in one room. The budget is still $1000 ($1500 less than the guy in the article spent to deck out his place, even with all his clever handmade pieces and thrift-store finds).

To do this, it will obviously be necessary to pick out some pieces that do double duty. For example, we'll need a bed that can double as a couch, or provide storage space, or all three. Like, for example, this Hemnes day bed, which can serve as either a couch or a single bed, with drawers for storage underneath--and, with the drawers pulled out, can even turn into a double bed. However, much as I like this piece, I must admit that at $500--not even including the mattress or bed linens--it's too much for our self-imposed budget. No, we're better off with the Beddinge/Lövås sofa bed, only $200 with the most basic cover. We can add the $30 Beddinge storage box to store the bed linens when it's in its sofa form, making the piece even more functional.

So now we have both a bed and a couch. To complete the sleeping area, we'll need a dresser and a nightstand of some kind, and to complete the living area, a couple of chairs and some sort of coffee table. Here, again, it's double duty to the rescue. This eight-block Expedit bookcase, turned on its side, can be stocked with five of these little two-drawer inserts, to serve as a combination dresser and TV stand. A smaller one, stacked on top, can store books and accessories. The whole piece together costs $270. One of these little Lack side tables, available in a rainbow of colors at $8 each, can do double duty as a nightstand, and the matching coffee table ($20) can go in front of the sofa/bed and scoot aside at bedtime.

Chairs will obviously have to do double or triple duty as well--in the sitting area, the eating area, and the office area. So we'll need something light and versatile that's easy to move around, like these stackable Nordmyra chairs at $40 each. The plastic Herman chair would be a lot cheaper, at $15 each, but not as nice-looking, and we can squeeze the nicer ones into the budget if we make the $170 Norden gateleg table, with its folding top and three storage drawers, do double duty as a dining table and a desk.

So far, we've furnished the whole room for only $815 including tax, which leaves plenty of money in the budget for accessories to make this sparsely furnished area look less Spartan. Like a big mirror--say, this 29-by-29-inch Noresund, for $20--to visually increase the size of the small space. A nice Kroby floor lamp will add some light for another $30. We can add what decorators like to call "pops of color" with these Granat cushions, only $4 each, and this Hampen rug, $50, in bright red, and warm the space up with a nice Polarvide throw for $3.50. Throw in some extras--a wastebasket, a couple of potted plants, a few candles for atmosphere, and a handy desk organizer--and the total budget comes in at just over $970. That leaves us an extra $30 for any little odds and ends I may have forgotten. And the finished space looks, in my imagination, a lot more pulled-together than the apartment featured in the Times.
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