Being stuck at home for a month made me realise I really wanted to revamp my lounge/living room with more matching furniture. The opportunity of having a support person to drive me to Melbourne for a night meant I could plan a trip to the home of flatpack furniture – IKEA.
I, like a lot of autistic individuals, tend to find shopping of any kind overwhelming. Clothes, as well as furniture shopping, are the hardest items for me due to sensory sensitivities, and sometimes, sensory seeking. Sensory seeking is when I actively seek sensory reactions – whether it be holding something in my hands, a soft or more firm pillow, etc. I’m quite particular with colours too, not only with the clothes I wear, but how my home – my safe environment – looks. IKEA is great for colour variant furniture!
Although it may not seem like it if you walk straight into a store, IKEA can be more accessible than most furniture shops… As long as you pre-plan. Their website has tools to help the experience. I’m going to explain how I went about planning my trip and how these features made my trip so much easier.
Firstly, like any shopping trip, I started by working out what furniture I want to replace. My list was:
+ TV Cabinet
+ Coffee table
+ Shelving unit
+ Display cabinet
+ Giant floor lamp
Good thing my support person has a big van!
Armed with measurements of the room, I opened two browser windows: the IKEA website, and home design tool Planner 5D, so I could virtually build the furniture into my room and check it all fit.
Everything on the IKEA website is sorted into different groupings – products, rooms, inspiration, etc., as you can see in the below image.
As the TV cabinet really is the centrepiece of the room I decided to start with that. I find an industrial looking black metal cabinet with a wood top. The same series also has a matching coffee table, and shelving unit – so that’s half my list done!
I add these items to the IKEA shopping list, then find the other pieces of furniture I needed to complete my list. Going into the Planner 5D site, I start to build my living room. I add in the measurements of my room from wall to wall, and include windows or doors. 5D Planner has a selection of furniture that I can use to shape how my room looks. Whilst they are only stock standard images, I can adjust the sizes to make sure everything I get from IKEA will fit in the room. I \ can even paint the furniture in the colour I want, so I change the bookcases to a blue colour I find on the Dulux website. Now I have a good picture of how my room will look with all the new IKEA furniture, and I decide I might want to choose a few more things when I see them in the store.
Below is a look at how the room is shaping together.
My plans of an early morning start and getting to IKEA by lunchtime were foiled when my surgeon rescheduled a post operation surgery from the day before. So it was now going to be a late afternoon/early evening shop but we had booked an Air BnB – more on that a little later.
It’s around 4:30pm by the time we make our way into Richmond and get lost trying to navigate the multi-storey carpark at Victoria Gardens Shopping Centre – IKEA sits on Levels 3-4. Because I was still recovering from foot surgery, I had hired a wheelchair a couple of weeks before, and brought that along so I didn’t have to painfully limp through the IKEA maze.
The first couple of hours was a slow venture through the IKEA displays. Everything was grouped into individual items, or rooms, which made comparing the different sizes, shapes, and looks of the furniture easy.
I think I spent the most amount of time comparing desks. I ended up picking a blue, geometric patterned top, and white metal legs which I’ll spray paint before I assemble it.
After having a rest, and a snack (see above) we head downstairs for the second half of our shopping spree. *Note – each IKEA store has floor maps available on their website*
We eventually found the lighting section, where the giant 189cm tall floor lamps, with a metal shade so big I could fit my head under like a hat, sat. Out of all the furniture, I was most excited for the lamp. Into the trolley goes the lamp!
Finally, we made it to the self-serve warehouse where you have to pick up all the larger items from giant shelves. I had logged into the app on my phone and brought up my list. The items were split into three categories – self-service, contact staff, and home organization.
In the middle of the self-service section, which in a way looks like a Bunnings store with numbered aisles and big shelving to the roof, was a staffed desk. Some larger items required getting an invoice and picking them up from a warehouse off-site a few mins drive from the store. I’m guessing it’s to do with weight and safety, as the bulkier bookcases and display unit were at the other warehouse.
I ordered these items, and then we went down the aisles and found the boxes for the TV cabinet, coffee table, and desk. Each furniture item has two numbers on it to help you find it in the big shelves. One number matches the number of the isle where it is. The other number tells you how far along the isle it will be (it goes in sequence order).
Let’s skip the checkout and $$ I handed over, shall we?
Our last stop was at the marketplace, where I picked up some ginger cookies, chocolate, and a coffee grinder.
We had planned to load the van up, and go to the warehouse to pick up the rest of the items, but a storm had hit so we decided to leave it to the following morning, and headed to Docklands where we had booked an Airbnb. Keep an eye out on my website for the hilarious experience I had with our Airbnb apartment!
+ Organised display floor by furniture sections – bedroom, dining, office, etc.
+ The IKEA website has floor maps for each individual store
+ If you go on their website you can get a catalogue posted to you for free
+ Ability to create a shopping list
+ The list splits each product into location on the selected store’s floor:
+ The glazing paint I wanted was in the “Home Organisation” section of the store
+ The TV cabinet was in the self service shelves, the list provided the aisle and location number on the shelves, making it easy to find
+ The list also synchronises with the store to check stock levels
+ If you don’t want to walk through the store you can choose to Click and Collect – more info on this service here
+ Annual stock up of ginger biscuits, and DAIM chocolate – Orange Limited edition available at the moment!
+ I picked up a sensory tactile geometric table to either use as a computer or LEGO desk (I haven’t decided which yet)
! Getting trapped in the single direction maze – the floors are laid out so you kind of have to walk in one direction through all the different rooms
! It can be very bright and sensory overwhelming
! The Richmond store has a separate warehouse collection point for bigger furniture boxes ( like bookcases) and can be tricky to get to
! The choices and variety can be very overwhelming!