Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dream Home Heartache

I just returned from breakfast at IKEA--they have a cheap though basic breakfast cafeteria and all-you-can-drink coffee for just one dollar. From the atrium, in my angular modern plastic chair, I looked out at the panorama of California freeway cloverleaf. A Mexican fellow climbed into the palm trees and chainsawed down the dead fronds.

IKEA is a triumph of consumerism as an aesthetic, rather than as an offering of commodities. The store transports you into a smarter, sleeker Scandinavian universe, never mind the garbage-furnishings that are for sale. It's so easy to get lost in there, with the different levels and the clever traffic patterns. You're supposed to get lost.

Another key to the IKEA mystique is the strange names for each product. A loveseat is known as Klippan, the Swedish word for "cliff." The DVD tower goes by Benno. The naming practice is due to founder Ingvar Kamprad's dyslexia.

Americans have flocked to their IKEA stores and have swallowed the Scandinavian design completely. For centuries French products were taken to be luxurious and desirable, but recently the Swedes have seized the upper hand by slashing prices. H&M and IKEA are two of the most famous European brands. The first Latin American store is due to open before 2010 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

IKEA boasts of their contribution to an eco-friendly lifestyle, which is a joke to anyone who has carried any of their furniture. Razing Brazil and Indonesia for cheap disposable trinkets is only "green" in the sense of "greedy."

In Every Dream Home a Heartache by Roxy Music