How to Make Your 100% IKEA Room Decor Not Look Like It’s a 100% IKEA Room Decor

When IKEA is tossed around in conversation, it’s quite funny that the first thing that comes to mind isn’t necessarily furniture. It could be meatballs, or maybe the image of that funny outline of a man supplementing wordless directions. You know exactly which guy I’m describing, the little dude on the IKEA instructions. Yeah, him.

But, antics aside, IKEA most often stirs up a wave of negative thoughts. IKEA is so cheap. I have to build everything myself? The only rug they have is that silly faux-sheepskin thing the size of a hand towel. While all these thoughts may be valid, I promise you that recently things have changed at the blue-and-yellow warehouse. IKEA heard our critiques and added a few things to the menu that could fool any decor expert.

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And OK, so maybe IKEA has monopolized the world of cheap home furniture production, but that’s a good thing for those of us on a tight budget. Nothin’ wrong with that. We all secretly love a $9 bath mat. That being said, I’m here to tell you that furnishing your home with bigger pieces from IKEA isn’t shameful either. I myself recently moved and practically purchased all of my home decor at the IKEA in Brooklyn. I figured I will probably be moving to Los Angeles or Europe in the next three years, so why invest in an Eames chair or other swanky-but-clunky midcentury-modern pieces just yet?

Photo: Bianca Valle

I showed up to the Swedish design house with no real direction in mind, or measurements even. (I happened to luck out just by eyeballing it, but don’t tell my mother this. She would be highly disappointed that I didn’t break out the tape measure she gave me last summer.) Aside from furniture, I bought all my kitchenware, plants, light fixtures, window coverings, and shelving in one go. I think I even walked out with cooking oil. After performing a task that most would find cringe-worthy—spending a day at IKEA—here are my tips for furnishing your entire home from there with your friends none the wiser:

1. Go minimal

Minimalism is the name of the game when making your selections at IKEA—if you don’t want your items to look like IKEA, that is. IKEA has a very distinct touch when it comes to certain design elements. For example, many of their light fixtures have this flowery-looking shape. Those would be a dead giveaway. On the other hand, if you buy the simplest floor lamp, it could be from anywhere. Light wood pieces resonated with me most as I browsed. I added a wooden desk, two wooden stools, and a wood-framed circular mirror to my cart, alongside a simple white dresser and wardrobe. (My new place didn’t come with a closet, very New York City.) Nothing is too loud or design-forward.

Photo: Bianca Valle

2. Be selective

We all know that one table that’s like $10 bucks. Yeah, don’t get that one unless you want your house to scream IKEA. You can only master the not-from-IKEA look by picking out not-so-mainstream pieces, the ones with higher prices. For instance, I purchased a small, gold tray that some would consider clutter. But when I saw it, I couldn’t live without its gold reflection under my little jewelry bowls. I didn’t budge even though it was about $20.

3. Think outside the box

Get a little creative with how you’ll use things. For example, I bought a desk to act as my dining table. My one-bedroom apartment is spacious, but let’s be real, I can’t afford to misuse a single inch of space. I was attracted to this desk’s lean, long shape. All the other tables were squarish and sure to swallow my tiny living room whole.

Photo: Bianca Valle

4. Add natural accents

Most things at IKEA tend to be made out of plastic or semi-low quality wood. But if you stay calm while you shop, you’ll notice IKEA has added several items on the more natural side. Those things—mostly woven baskets—don’t look so mass-produced, which makes them seem a little more luxurious than your average IKEA item. I purchased a couple that make my home look much more worldly—at least I think they do. Throw down a woven rug, plop an IKEA palm in the corner, and bam, you have an urban sanctuary half the cost of the products from our friends over at the stores on Fifth Avenue. And yes, there are live plants at IKEA! Buying plants is a good investment in your health and happiness (even though personally, all my plants seem to die so fast). It’s money well spent and who can say no to a $3 aloe vera

After hauling the heavy packs of compressed wood home, all that’s left to do is figure out who will replace that little dude on the assembly instructions in real life. It’s definitely not me.

Photo: Bianca Valle


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