It was November 18, 1998. My husband and I were still in college and living in our first apartment, in Noblesville. And that Wednesday morning, we giddily—there is no other word for it—drove out to Schaumburg, Illinois, for the grand opening of its Ikea store.
Ikea! We’d heard about the hip (and cheap!) home-goods chain from friends, even flipped through the catalog that you could admire, but not really order from, back then (believe me, we’d tried, and found only hassle as a result). A store was the answer to our decorating dreams. When the Swedish behemoth opens a location in Fishers on Wednesday, it will be the 45th in the United States. Back then? There were a few Ikeas on the coasts. This Chicago-area one would be the biggest in North America—and the first within our grasp.
And so we happily road-tripped to Illinois that morning, clutching our dog-eared catalogue, practically frothing at the mouth to hit those aisles and appoint our humble one-bedroom with (in our minds) the highest of design, at prices we could afford.
Then we did it all over again later that day. Because that pair of sunny yellow Tullsta chairs we fell in love with? Yeah, only one fit into our beat-up, two-door BMW at a time. So, back to Noblesville, then Schaumburg, then Noblesville again!
Ah, the things you do when you’re young, in love, and too broke to shop Crate & Barrel. Today, I can’t imagine voluntarily driving 824 miles in one day for a pair of mass-market tub chairs. At the time, it seemed the tiniest of prices to pay for furniture we actually liked, and could afford as college students.
Over the years, my design tastes have evolved, and while I like Ikea enough, I can’t remember the last time I set foot in a store. But I’ve made plenty of trips to Schaumburg and West Chester, Ohio, over the years and, in this more recent era, ordered online. So I figured I’d pretty much seen it all when it comes to Swedish-modern furniture you put together yourself with an Allen wrench and your own blood, sweat, and tears.
Nope. Here are five things that surprised me, an Ikea vet, at this morning’s media preview at the Fishers store:
- It ain’t all Swedish-modern anymore. Which I kind of knew. But the stuff I saw in the store this morning was even more diverse than I expected. Midnight-blue paint on walls with wainscoting, with matching velvet drapery where a window might be. A gleaming silver hood over a cooktop on a charcoal-gray island that looked straight out of a classic Parisian apartment. Whatever your tastes, there’s something here for you now.
- Even after all these years, Ikea’s capacity to surprise and delight has not waned. I’ve never seen so many people (and yes, I was one of them) get excited over a 99-cent silicone ice-cube tray that turns out cylindrical cubes for dropping into water bottles. What took us, as a society, so long to reach this point? That is so simple yet so brilliant!
- There’s a selfie area. Plop down on the yellow couch near the plants section, make sure you get the little “Ikea” sign in the shot, and Instagram away. You know, if you’re into that kind of thing.
- Pets are getting serious Ikea love now, too. I was jealous enough of the kids who got to enjoy fun Ikea design back when I was at the advanced age of 19. Today, some of the first things you’ll see when you walk into the Fishers store are new four-legged white houses for cats (the boxes also slide into the Kallax shelving units) and 79-cent black and white doggie dishes, among other recent pet-friendly creations.
- They’re already setting up for the holidays. Why does this surprise me? I don’t know. But I was still startled to see, in early October, faux Christmas trees and a cute gift-wrap table with stuff to rival that of The Container Store (my longtime go-to for store-bought wrappings). But did I also spy black and matte-pink dishes that would look amazing on my dinner table? Oh, all right, Ikea. All is forgiven.