Although it’s been a while since I’ve last updated, I still get a ton of emails inquiring about IKEA products. In the past, I’ve more than extolled the fun, accessible and affordable products sold in IKEA. I was even supremely excited – and checked my mailbox for days – when the 2010 catalogue finally arrived.
It seemed like the promise of a clutter-free, airy and design-savvy home was even closer than before – even if our Billy bookcase is among the most expensive in the world (why why why). Then a chance encounter with this article at Apartment Therapy opened my eyes, or rather raised some very challenging questions about the value of ‘design for all’ – which I know is Target’s slogan but holds the same promise as IKEA: affordable, knock-off but just as inspired, accessible design items.
* [IKEA is] …by some measures the world’s third-largest wood consumer. The company declines to pay a premium to ensure that all timber is legally harvested, citing costs that would be passed along to the consumer.
* IKEA furniture is made of particleboard and pine is not meant to last a lifetime.
* [IKEA] positions outlets far from city centers, where taxes are low and commuting costs high—the average IKEA customer drives 50 miles round-trip.
* Designed but not crafted, IKEA bookcases and chairs, like most cheap objects, resist involvement: when they break or malfunction, we tend not to fix them. Rather, we buy new ones.
The full article, “Buy to Last”, by Ellen Ruppell Shell for The Atlantic, regards the need for quality and value, and their effects on consumption and hence the environment. It’s something we all probably think about daily as we assess how we live and better our homes. Where do we strike a middle ground of affordability and quality that is most sustainable?
In her book, Cheap: The High Quest for Discount Culture, Shell, explores the larger questions that, in the coming year, we may want to investigate within ourselves a bit further. What value do we place on art, trained skill, handicraft and artisanship? What are the consequences for local designers, artists and craftsmen if we rush out to the global, mass produced wharehouse and stock up on disposable items, produced in a developing country’s minimum wage-paid factory employees?
I hope the year ahead will be full of meaning in creativity and process; and significance in hand-made and personal. For me, and Designist Dream, I plan to focus this year on Israeli designers and artists who are investing and dedicating themselves to their work. Hopefully, before you head out to IKEA for that pre-fab bed frame, you’ll reconsider visiting Rishon LeZion’s Furniture Design Center where store owners are also the carpenters and craftsmen who customize everything your home needs to your specifications. It may cost more, but you’re supporting local artisans in Israel and the importance of skill and craft. Shana Tova U’Metukah, Happy New Year to all.