I had never experienced IKEA until I was out of college. There wasn’t one anywhere near where I grew up (the closest would be Portland, which, as I keep telling people, is nowhere near my hometown, thank you very much) so I really hadn’t even heard of the concept. The Sig Fig tried to explain it to me and I was all, okay, sure, a large furniture store. Whatever.
And then we went, and I was all, oh, this is actually more like a small nation than a large furniture store.
Aside from the newly-discovered garlic bread, the main thing to know about IKEA is that they sell ridiculously cheap furniture (and basically anything else you could possibly ever need for your home, including meatballs) that you assemble yourself. Shipping isn’t particularly cheap, though, so I highly recommend you bring a vehicle. They also have an arrangment with Zipcar–I think in some locations this might mean discounts or something, but as far as I can tell at the Stoughton location it just means very convenient reserved parking spots.
A lot of things in my apartment were purchased at IKEA. Most notably, all the furniture in my room–my delightful queen-size bed, nightstand, large bookcase, coffee table where my television sits, and small dresser. All of these were assembled in under an hour, and most of them I was able to do by myself. They also sell reasonably priced picture frames, although my recent CLIPS purchases have yielded more than a few pieces of broken glass. (Get what you pay for, I guess.)
Why do I recommend IKEA so strongly over other furniture establishments? Well, aside from the price–which really is dramatically low; my mom called it Bi-Mart prices for higher quality materials–I’d say IKEA is well worth it just for the experience. It’s sort of an adventure in furniture shopping. This goes above and beyond one or two room displays at your standard furniture joint. Here you’ll see the items you want in ever conceivable combination, with clear price displays and customization options.
A word of warning to people who don’t like black licorice (I’m one of these): IKEA sells some licorice. And if, like me, you go to IKEA with your Sig Fig and a friend who are both nutty for licorice, you will drive home feeling really repulsed.