Posts Tagged ‘IKEA’

The Way Of IKEA

January 10, 2017

Fulfillment center? Well, not exactly, but IKEA does address a lot of the household function concerns of urban dwellers. It does this with a nebulous generic form, a genealogy without pedigree muddled by global marketing and brand identity. IKEA could be identified as design living on a Walmart budget. Inquiries as to the nature of this design are met with hand waving and vague references to European styling or “that Scandinavian look”. Ostensibly one is to believe that IKEA is the successful progeny of a line threading back to the Bauhaus – you know, form and function, yadda, yadda. Contemporaneous with the Bauhaus, architects like Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier designed multi unit urban dwelling spaces, some possibly still in use as such. Word in the back corridors of Art History is that many of the later day residents of these designed living spaces retro fitted them with antique-y or traditional doors, cabinets, furnishings and old kitsch simulacra. Next generation functional household designers of the 1950’s spawned (amongst a plethora of other styles) the European or “Scandinavian” look that IKEA products hearken. Along with this echo of the 50’s, IKEA’s products integrate a nostalgic “hominess” that later residents of Le Corbusier’s and van der Rohe’s designed units preferred. That is to say, there is some L L Bean “cottage,” traditional, and “country” informality mixed in to the pastiche called IKEA design. But it is a ready made household function solution for the style dilemma of city dwellers with no heritage and even less uniformity of fashion/style. You can’t beat the price. Following in the footsteps of ancient Sears Roebuck, J C Penney, or original L L Bean, prices listed on the virtual catalogue are not, do not reflect the actual cost of an item (sort of the obverse of the suggested retail selling price that is actually always sold at a discount). IKEA does, however, have a growing number of brick and mortar, or rather steel span and sheet metal skin, retail outlets/warehouses where the price listed is the cash and carry cost. The marketing of these “stores” (so called as they are also restaurants) is rather unique and informs the attraction the brand has on young urban hipsters. The way of IKEA is only one way, literally. There is a one way path through the stores. Unlike a stroll down memory lane, this is a not-virtual stroll through each and every catalogue item offered, a real time (and space) celebration of stuff. Though an integral part of design within the last 50 years, modular furniture is conspicuously absent along this walk. This crack in the way informs much of the relationship between those who come to walk the way (and consume the offerings of the way) and the brand’s marketing. It also speaks volumes about the current culture of global capitalism. IKEA offers multiple offerings for whatever “desire” those walking the way may have. One doesn’t have to settle, but is able to find a “designer” response to whatever one needs. The gap generated by the lack of modular furniture reveals that as long as it is found along the way, it is a safe and more than acceptable expression of the urban dweller’s discriminatory taste. Modular (the LEGO like linking of small units to form larger or varied compositions, you know the stuff that ultimately results in software compatibility and systems being able to communicate with each other, etc.) invites considerations that may well lead off the IKEA path, something heretical to IKEA marketing. Does all this sound a bit religious? In “The Culture of the New Capitalism” (2006) Richard Sennett defines a contemporary up and coming individual as someone who “would get rich by thinking short term, developing his or her potential, and regretting nothing.” (so why speak of the Bauhaus?) The IKEA way fits right into this as any alternative, off the path consideration implicates some sort of long term thinking (or, gasp, identity), actualizing difference (through a wider and varied array of choice and selection), and referencing the history of objects, design and art (you remember, that Marxist material dialectic thing about ideas only being around because some material thing makes it so. But then, no regrets likewise means no memory). The poets may sing, the philosophers argue, and the teachers inspire that there is unlimited capability in each individual, that opportunities are created and actualized by individuals within any given moment, that all have the capacity to generate a world of multiple dimensions, colors, forms and shapes, yadda, yadda. And yet, for some reason, it is a preferred choice to make selections from a pre-established path, to make variations from selections deemed acceptable there, and to fill out the household with the safe “aura” of decisions made along the way. Is it any wonder that within a secular world defined by global capitalism a religious predisposition still maintains such an enormous presence?