American in Spain

IKEA Nesting Instinct

February 25, 2009
Office Shelves

The first time I heard the phrase "IKEA nesting instinct" was in Edward Norton's narration of Fight Club. I'd never heard of IKEA, despite living in Scandinavia at the time. When we bought our house in England, almost all the new furniture we bought was from IKEA. Our first load of new flat pack furniture required the use of a rental van. We went to IKEA once or twice when we first moved to Spain, and we haven't gone back or made any domestic layout changes for years.

So this time I saw IKEA with somewhat fresh eyes. What amazed me the first time, and amazed me again this time, is the sheer efficiency of the whole store. The entire retail is as well designed and consumer-driven as their furniture. Presumably they've made some iterative modifications to The IKEA Process over the lifespan of the company, because they've really perfected the process of maximizing sales of cheap, not-at-all-ugly furniture in bulk. I'm very impressed. My only complaint about the way IKEA is run – and I can't honestly say I'd do this differently if I were in charge – is that the example furniture layouts that they have exhibited in the store don't always match the living spaces of the country the store is in. In England it used to annoy the crap out of me that none of the example living room layouts contained a space for a fireplace. It is damn near impossible to find a house in England that does not have a fireplace in the living room. "It adds character", say all the myriad housing and property investment shows on British television. British houses are still designed as if we are in the 19th century and the central point we organize our furniture around is the fireplace and not the television. The result is that the lovely IKEA layout that uses furniture along all four walls doesn't work in a British house. Ideally IKEA should adapt their designs to match the archetypal house of the country they are selling furniture to. The same applies in Spain, but it's harder to put my finger on exactly why the room layouts are "not Spanish".

Nesting Instinct

We have been living a very minimalist lifestyle. Neither Marga nor I have very strong opinions about how our house should be, so we just live in the space more or less as it was left by the previous owner. We live like we're renting. It took us three years to start hanging pictures on the walls. With the baby on the way, however, all this is changing. Both of us have an instinctual desire to "make the house better for the baby". It's weird. The word "nesting" fits it perfectly.

IKEA purchases

Our haul at IKEA. Less than 500€, which seems amazing for all the stuff we acquired. The most expensive item was a new rug for my office. It really ties the room together. We picked up a very comfortable chair with footrest for only 40€. We also got some shelves for the office, and about a thousand plastic boxes to store things in. We've got a storage room that has been conquered by entropy and we need to fight back.

Here's a video of the shelf installation. Things to watch out for:

  • My black cordless drill died mid-installation and I had to buy a new non-cordless (corded?) green one.
  • I cut out a cardboard outline of my printer to sit between the printer and the desk.
  • Yes, the light bulb is still naked.
  • I build some awesome cardboard IKEA storage boxes that happen to fit perfectly on the shelves.
  • Watch how the afternoon sun perfectly and annoyingly illuminates my monitor.

It sure is annoying how easy 6 hours of hard work looks in a timelapse montage!

Watch in HD on YouTube! Also available on Yahoo, Metacafe, Google, Break, DailyMotion,, Veoh, Imeem, Stupid Videos, Sclipo, Viddler, Howcast and 5min.

Screwdriver Blister

A bad blister on my tender little keyboard-dancing hands I got from the screwdriver. Ouch!

Office Shelves

The final result in the office. Yay!