An amazing thing happened in June 2008 — an IKEA opened two miles from my home. Oh, and my son was born. Before this a trip to IKEA meant descending into the bowels of Port Authority in Manhattan, boarding a standing room only shuttle bus to a New Jersey IKEA and then deciding whether to spend more money than you spent on purchases to arrange home delivery of your items or to limit yourself to what you could wrangle home on the bus and subway. It was a dark time.
These days a trip to my local IKEA can be spontaneous and quick, but I know there are many, many readers living in IKEA dry zones who probably let out a curse each time we tout their affordable designs. So I challenged myself to find alternatives — similar in design and price — to some of their most popular kids products.
It's worth noting that IKEA has expanded the number of products they sell online, but I've done my best to suss out alternatives. In some cases, the alternative is actually cheaper than the IKEA version. And, you may find you prefer the non-IKEA design.
The Trofast system can be found in the children's section of IKEA although I can think of other parts of the home that could benefit from this versatile bin storage. There are different sizes to choose from and you can mix up the bin sizes to fit your needs. It's become a staple for toy storage in many homes since kids can easily slide out the bins on their own. The 12 Bin Organizer by Whitmore is actually less expensive and shares the same concept — make the bins easy for kids to use and, just maybe, they'll be more inclined to pick up their toys at the end of the day.
The crib can be one of the bigger purchases in a nursery and there are some really sharp, modern designs out there. But budget-minded parents gravitate toward the simple lines and small price tag of the Gulliver. Storkcraft is another widely available budget line of cribs and the Sheffield II has a similar profile to the Gulliver. Both are no-frills design, but sometimes basic is just what you want.
The Antilop is well-loved by parents for the simplicity of the design, the ease of cleaning and, frankly, how cheap it is in a market where designy high chairs can run in the $200 range. The Dottie, which also comes in a rose color, has a similar footprint, but actually converts into a "My Time" chair and a "Right Size Table and Chair" further extending its usefulness in the home. The neutral white color of the Antilop, however, is probably its best selling point.
Low Loft Bed
Low loft beds are idea for small kid's bedrooms because they are low enough not to give parents a heart attack worrying about their kid falling out of and they leave a bit of space beneath for playing. We've seen many, many Kura beds in readers' homes over the years. I even bought one for my son. The Whistler Junior is almost the same height, both are a hair over 45".
Black & White Rug
If you haven't seen the Stockholm rug (a few dozen times) then you probably don't spend much time in the online design space. Based on the number of homes and kids' rooms I've seen this rug in, I feel comfortable calling it the 'rug of the year' (and last year, too). By IKEA standards it's on the expensive side, but it is hand-woven and wool. Striped black and white rugs are pretty easy to find at the moment. A straight-up striped one, affordable too, is the Olin at Crate & Barrel. I like the one above from Urban Outfitters which adds a slight twist to the traditional stripes. Note that the price comparison is not entirely fair here as the UO version is somewhat smaller.
I don't know for sure, but I would be willing to bet that the Expedit is one of IKEA's best sellers. Available in a variety of sizes (2x2, 2x4, 4x4, 5x5) and three finishes, its functionality is only eclipsed by its ubiquity. Instead of wood, Way Basics cubes are made from super strong, paper-based 'zBoard' and can be purchased in sets or as single cubes.
Etsy spawned a market of extremely accessible, affordable art prints, but what's the point if you don't have something economical to put them in. IKEA's Ribba line of frames is the answer for many of us and the price is hard to beat. The best alternative I've found is the Room Essentials line of frames at Target. You can sometimes find them in-store, but you'll have more size options ordering online.
- IKEA: Lilla ($4.99)
- Alternative: L'il Loo by Summer Infant ($9.88)
You could spend $40 dollars on a child's potty, but IKEA's $5 version will do the job just fine which is why it's so popular. When my son was done with his I cleaned it and put it out on our stoop — it was gone in less than ten minutes. The L'il Loo was the second least expensive potty I could find. It's still 50% more expensive than the Lilla, but 10 bucks is still pretty cheap. The L'il Loo also has a removable pot which makes it even easier to clean and may be worth the extra $5.
Sheepskin rugs are warm and fuzzy, hence their popularity in the nursery. I see them frequently in baby's rooms on the floor or draped over a rocker or glider. It's hard to beat IKEA's version in price, but this Safavieh one is still pretty affordable.
Table & Chair Set
We write about the Latt table and chairs a lot on Apartment Therapy and we especially enjoy all the ways parents have customized them to fit their own decor. Finding an affordable alternative to this set was my biggest challenge and I wish I could report more success. The set from Meijer is quite a bit more expensive and is green (or, blue). I found some other nice options in the $100-150 range which, considering how often these are used by children, is still a worthwhile investment, but for sheer economy - you just can't beat the Latt.
(Image composites: Carrie McBride)