How to Shop at IKEA Like an Apartment Therapy Editor

published May 7, 2018
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When you work at a place like Apartment Therapy, people often ask what you buy for your own homes. A lot of our editors work in different cities, and when we get together we even start quizzing each other—where’s the best place to buy linens? What’s your favorite big box store find? Basically: Where do you buy everything from without spending your entire paycheck?

We recommend products on this site all the time. But now we’re launching a new series to go a little deeper: Sharing some of the shopping secrets to our favorite stores—particularly the ones that can feel a little overwhelming. I’ll take you behind the scenes to show you the tricks to shopping like an Apartment Therapy editor. We’re starting at one of our favorites: IKEA.

I’ve long joked that I have no general sense of direction—but throw me in a store and all of that changes. A sixth sense kicks in and I can figure it out in about 2.6 seconds. You need that in a place like IKEA, which is famous for being confusing, overwhelming and sometimes just downright frustrating. Check out our video above for some of my favorite spots to check out. Here are a few of our editors’ best tips:

1. Sign up for a family membership before you go—you can sometimes even find some of their most popular items (yes, like the BILLY bookcase) on sale. And consider checking out the catalog before you come—it can be easy to miss stuff in the store (since they’re legitimately huge). If you’re on a serious mission, come with a list.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy Video)

2. If you’re just exploring IKEA (as in, not coming for one specific find), I suggest limiting yourself to a few sections so you don’t get overwhelmed. Some of our favorites: the marketplace (check out a few of our favorite finds above), the kids section (not just for kids), the plants section (who knew?) and the as-is and “last chance to buy” sections. Use the shortcuts to navigate in between, unless you enjoy feeling like you’re in a maze. And don’t forget a meatball stop.

3. Skip the paper and pencil—one of my favorite tips from our lifestyle editor Taryn is to take photos of the tags as you go in the showroom, so that once you get to the warehouse, you can quickly ID their locations.

4. If you know exactly what you’re coming for, our news and culture editor, Tara, recommends actually starting in the warehouse so you don’t get swayed by the aisles of tantalizing aisles of stuff you never knew you needed—until you saw them.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy Video)

5. Before you leave, our projects editor Dabney recommends giving that cart one last look: do you really need to take home everything that’s in there? Audit, scrutinize and remove as necessary (though IKEA does have a good return policy—sometimes the wait can be long, but if you have the receipt they’ll take pretty much anything back).

Check out some of my favorite tips—and my personal shopping list—in the video above.

What store do you want us to explore next? Tell us your suggestions in the comments.