* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where America shops for literary humor and seldom gets a discount. This week we'd like to introduce Summer Block, a young woman whose relationship with IKEA may be just a tad too intimate and meaningful.

Our Bodies, Our Shelves: An Emotional Mapping of IKEA

By: Summer Block

Welcome to IKEA, where sleek modern design is married to cost-cutting ingenuity and presented in the calmly cheerful spirit of Swedish social democracy. Please take the escalator upstairs to begin your harrowing emotional journey.

ENTRYWAY: Bafflement, Optimism

Take a deep breath. Enjoy the bright colors, the smell of lingonberry, and the perplexing but strangely persuasive signage. Give yourself over to the arrows painted on the floor. Grab a tape measure and a big yellow bag — let’s get shopping!

Look for: Golf pencils. Tealights.

Avoid: Weekend crowds.

LIVING ROOM: Seduction, Hesitation

Come on, that’s a great price for a real leather sofa. One that isn’t redolent with your last girlfriend’s perfume. But how will you get it into your car? And who exactly will help you move that thing upstairs? A sofa seems like a big commitment. Maybe another day.

Look for: Futon covers. Fabric cleaner. TV trays. Maybe a POÄNG chair.


STORAGE: Commitment, Resolve

Isn’t it time you had a place to put two and a half years’ worth of Baudrillard? $39.99 is very reasonable. Who ever looks at the back of a bookcase anyway?

Look for: BILLY. OMAR. CD towers.

Avoid: TV units. Custom shelving. LACK tables.

DINING ROOM: Admiration, Self-Doubt

You can’t be serious. You’re practically forty. Will you ever be the kind of person who has a sideboard?

Look for: Drop-leaf tables. Kitchen carts. Cork trivets.


OFFICE: Disbelief, Envy

Slowly circle a standing draftsmen desk with an etched glass top. Imagine a lifestyle where you’d actually use this desk. This office furniture was designed for the kind of jobs people have in Sweden, jobs like coding first-person-shooter video games and designing clever plastic clothes hangers. Buy a clever plastic hanger for your barista apron.

Look for: Magazine racks. Magnets. Mousepads. A bewildering series of brackets.

Avoid: Integrated lighting. VIKA.

BEDROOM: Nostalgia, Remorse

Remember when you had that awesome bunk bed? Whatever happened to that anyway? Remember when you were still buying sheets for two? The chiropractor warned you about that futon.

Look for: Orthopedic pillows. A throw blanket. A shoe cubby.

Avoid: Mirrors. Duvet covers. The PAX system.

KIDS: Indecision, Resentment

If you’re still buying items for yourself, you aren’t ready. You are too old for the ball pit. You won’t change his mind by showing him that adorable rocking horse. He already knows you’re hiding a bag full of bibs in the shoe cubby.

Look for: Puppets. Bed canopies. Finger paint.

Avoid: Lingering.

CAFE: Respite, Estrangement

Take a break and enjoy a coffee in front of a jewel-green mural of a family reindeer farm. Wonder why all the other couples look so happy. How long has that gravlax been sitting out?

Look for: Meatballs.

Avoid: Eye contact.


Okay, maybe it’s too soon to invest in a sofa or floor-to-ceiling CD rack. Maybe you two aren’t ready. Our downstairs Marketplace is filled with small, affordable items that can be easily shipped, sold, traded, or shoved tearfully into a duffel bag.

KITCHENWARES: Celebration, Deflation

Who needs kids? Be happy you’re a single, sophisticated adult! Why not host a dinner party? Invite everyone over for sushi. Do you really need place settings for twelve? Whatever happened to all your old friends?

Look for: Martini shakers. Ashtrays. Things with sharp metal edges.

Avoid: Cookie sheets. Plasticware.

TEXTILES: Comfort, Self-sufficiency

Snuggle up with some new sheets and pillows. No one is going to argue about pillows! A rug, on the other hand, is a big commitment. Maybe you want to buy some fabric by the yard and make your own curtains? Now is the time to embark on new projects. You probably know someone who has a sewing machine — now is the time to read that copy of MAKE you’ve been using as a coaster.

Look for: Floor pillows. Roman blinds. Sheep skins. Throw rugs.

Avoid: Area rugs. FLOKATI. FÅBORG.

BATHROOM: Despair, Renewal

Have a quick cry. Wipe it off on a bath towel. Pick up a new shower curtain — your new life begins today!

Look for: Toothbrush holders. Soap dispensers. Bath mats. Small metal boxes.

Avoid: Soiled bath towels.

LIGHTING: Creativity, Defensiveness

What about track lighting? Nothing says “grown up” like track lighting. Or maybe a touch of whimsy in the form of a glowing plastic orb? A person’s home sends a message, and right now you’d gladly pay $200 for any lamp that says, “Seriously, I’m glad I got that MFA.”

Look for: Compact fluorescent light bulbs. Batteries. Flammable paper lanterns.

Avoid: Novelty lighting. Incandescents.

DECORATION: Exuberance, Self-expression

Today is the day you start anew. How about filling one whole window with tiny prisms? Or a series of red aluminum mobiles? Remember those decorative rattan balls you used to have on the coffee table? What were you thinking?

Look for: Posters of the San Francisco skyline. Very narrow vases. Tealights. Tealight holders.

Avoid: Fake flowers. GESTALTA.

PETS AND PLANTS: Postponement, Failure

Let’s be frank. Why not just get a plant? Can’t be trusted with a plant? Get a plastic one. Or a $70 chaise lounge for your dachsund. What exactly are you saving up for?

Look for: Lint rollers. Bamboo. Squeak toys.

Avoid: Bags of decorative pebbles. Macramé.

STOCK ROOM: Breathlessness, Scapular Dislocation

Six years ago you were on the rugby team and now you can’t lift a disassembled ottoman? What happened to you?

Avoid: Lifting with your back.

Look for: Help.

CASH REGISTERS: Vacillation, Recklessness

I thought you were on a budget. Is that credit card still okay? How did you wind up spending a thousand dollars? What the hell is an EKTORP? Why do you have so many tealights?

Avoid: Collection agency.

Look for: More tealights.

GROCERY: Morbid curiosity, National pride

It’s not all clean water and nationalized health care. Let the grocery aisles remind you exactly why you don’t want to live in Scandinavia.

Look for: Knäckebröd. Herring. Aquavit.

Avoid: All of it.

PARKING LOT: Relief, Exhaustion

Why is a thirty-six-year-old college graduate still driving his mother’s old Volvo? Should you have just gone to law school?

Look for: Allen wrenches. Twine.

Avoid: Crying.