The short answer is yes. The long answer is maybe. IKEA is definitely an easy option when you are moving countries every few years but it takes time, effort and maybe a little talent to furnish your house with IKEA and not have it look like its an IKEA room you chose out of a catalogue. Over the years IKEA has upped its game and now has some offerings that could fool any decor expert but talent comes into play when marring those more stylish IKEA surprises in with the IKEA standards.

 

 

A basic IKEA sofa and coffee table paired with an Egyptian lamp from the Souq Al Waqif.

We recently moved to Europe after spending a long time living in Asia and the Middle East. We were ready for something fresh and modern. We had lived with a lot of lovely but heavy Indian furniture for years and I could see how it might become difficult to work it into the modern (much smaller) European apartment we knew we would be moving into. We sold all of our lovely old furniture and moved with only a few smaller pieces and our nick-nacks.

After spending a few nights in our empty apartment and sussing out the spaces I entered IKEA with a ratty old catalogue in hand that had been thumbed through a hundred times, a very long list and a page of measurements. I had everything I wanted planned in advance of hitting the Swedish design house! I bought every single thing I needed in one go. I really mean all of it from a kitchen cabinet and recycling bins through to sofas and light shades. Don’t get me wrong it was a mission but doable.

A neutral IKEA dining table, rug and sideboards paired with some non IKEA chairs and personal nick-nacks.

 

Here are a few tips if you don’t want your house or apartment to look like an IKEA showroom but want the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of shopping there.

  • Minimalism is the name of the game when it comes to ‘not wanting it to look like IKEA’. Go for simple pieces that are less likely to date and are not too bold.

  • Make sure you have a plan going in. Get a catalogue and spend some time going over it while checking out different ideas online. Pinterest is the perfect tool to help keep your ideas organized. Entering IKEA ready to shop but without a plan is a recipe for disaster.

  • Personal touches obviously help you personalize the space. Try and move with a few items that show your personality and give a sense of where you have come from.

  • Be selective which can be tricky when you are at IKEA. You always seem to come away with a bunch of things you never wanted or needed. A list and eagle-eyed focus helps to keep you from getting sidetracked. Also, stick to your plan. If you have to wait a few weeks for some things to be delivered that’s OK.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t overwhelmed when the massive order arrived! It was a lot of stuff but thankfully it arrived prior to our shipment so we were able to get the bulk of it assembled and in place before our personal effects arrived. Assembling it all kept us all busy while the kids were waiting for school to start. I was amazed at how quickly my 12 going on 13 year old was able to figure out how ‘the IKEA system’ worked. He was easily able to follow the instructions and had the strength and dexterity required to assemble things.

So the answer is definitely yes, you can use only IKEA furniture and still make it feel like home but it takes a lot of thought and planning to ensure a good end result. Make sure you have a catalogue at home that you can go through and use their website to help you flesh out your ideas and make a plan. If you are familiar with IKEA it is probably safe to order everything you want online. If you aren’t so familiar its probably best to go into the store and order everything that way (they will still deliver) but don’t stray from your plan as you can go horribly wrong and end up with a mismatched jumble. Good luck!


Rachel Nelson is a New Zealand expat who has lived and worked in the US, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the UAE, Qatar and Germany.