Buy it for Life: Best Long-Lasting IKEA Finds

This summer marks 10 years since I moved out of college and into my first grown-up apartment in Atlanta with my boyfriend. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we did have an itch to make our cookie-cutter apartment feel more like a home. So we did what every pair of recent college grads do when they need to furnish an apartment cheap. We went to IKEA. And we made our place into the closest possible approximation of those little fake apartments from the showroom.

In the decade since that summer, I’ve ditched the boyfriend and a lot of the IKEA stuff in favor of new pieces that give my current loft a little less of a “I bought everything in the catalog” look. But. But. I realized as my husband and I (new dude, a lot happens in a decade) sold off a few well-loved IKEA pieces to Craigslisters over the weekend — I have a lot of great IKEA stuff from that first apartment that I still own and love.

So here it is. My seal of approval on these seven persistent pieces that I’ve shuttled by car, truck and moving van to five different apartments in the last 10 years. Some are long retired from IKEA’s collection (RIP SATER sofa, you will be missed), but some are still there on the shelves for you to take them home right now. Make sure you’re ready for the commitment.

A little Then & Now with the EXPEDIT. Look at that giant TV set.

(Image credit: Taryn Williford)

EXPEDIT bookshelf

It’s an IKEA classic for a reason. I think I’ve had three separate EXPEDITs in my life, but the oldest one from that first apartment is the only one I still have: a dark espresso-colored 4 x 2 that first earned its keep as a TV console. (The modern iteration is called KALLAX now, and it has some slightly different lines, but still the same great piece.) Now my EXPEDIT is a console-table-slash-bookshelf that carries books, records and trinkets and holds down our style in the hallway. We added door inserts to make it more of a storage workhorse, with Anthropologie’s Streamline Knobs to turn down the dial on the “IKEA.” But the only places where it’s worse for wear are a few not-too-noticeable scratches and chips from all those moves, and a few stubborn spots of gunk from day one where I used electrical tape as cord control. (Don’t do that — it’s 2018 and we have Command Strips now.)

SATER sofa

I refuse to get rid of this sofa. It’s a modern leather sofa and despite living a big chunk of its life in front of a very bright East-facing window, it is in pristine condition. I currently have no place for it, so it sits as a sort of valet area in my very cramped guest bedroom, but I truly refuse to part with this thing. IKEA stopped making them (why IKEA? why?), but you can sometimes find them creeping around places like the Apartment Therapy Marketplace.

KLAPPSTA armchairs

These things have just stood up to time. The boxy style is just so simple and modern that I can’t ever see myself getting rid of them. The seat cushion has gotten a bit squashed over time, but I know that’ll be an easy fix when I decide its time for a re-stuffing. I thought I was ready to part with this pair of chairs when I got sick of their corduroy-esque ribbed blue slipcovers but then I remembered they’re slipcovers. After a regrettable afternoon with brown fabric dye (user error!), I decided to invest in these chairs with new Bemz slipcovers (Panama Cotton in “A Paler Shade of Gray”) and I love them now more than ever. I think the KLAPPSTA is gone from IKEA, but if you have any old IKEA chairs, I strongly recommend Bemz covers to give them a new life.

MALM bedframe

My husband and I just bought a new king size bed this month. But every night for the last 10 years, give or take a few days out of town, I have been resting my head on the same IKEA MALM queen bed. The mattresses got better in quality as I got better with money, but the frame stayed the same all those years. Some pieces of wood around the frame chipped off in the 10 years I’ve had it, but I was always quick to fill them in with a Sharpie marker. I didn’t ever notice the hack-fixed chips until one night when I got the worst splinter of my life in my shin as I squeezed by it one day. So. My new bed is fabric. The MALM is in our guest bedroom now and I will try to warn our houseguests of the splinters when I give them the wifi password.

A RIBBA picture ledge

For the most part, my RIBBA frames crapped out in a year or two. They’re great, inexpensive basic frames for non-precious artwork, but I found mine to warp and peel like no other. But what has lasted is the RIBBA picture ledge they all used to stand on. Over the years it transitioned from picture ledge to entryway shelf to its home now as a teeny shelf to maximize a bit of space in a utility closet. I think the RIBBA ledge has been replaced with the MOSSLANDA ledge in the modern IKEA canon, but it’s still a great little find if you need to maximize your walls in a small space.

If I were replacing my retired BYGEL rail today, I’d choose this one from the KUNGSFORS line.

(Image credit: IKEA)

BYGEL rail

This also-retired IKEA find lived its life alongside the RIBBA picture ledge. I used them together to form a sort of landing strip in my second apartment, and now it lives in that same utility closet holding and hanging some random gear. The lesson here is that you will always find a second (or third or fourth) use for organizing systems around your home. If I were replacing it with another IKEA rail today, I might choose the KUNGSFORS or FINTORP lines.

LINDVED side table

This thing is the perfect, compact little table. And it’s still only $20. It was a balcony bistro table in that first apartment 10 years ago, then became my dining table and desk when I moved out into my second apartment — a teeny bachelorette studio apartment that couldn’t fit much more than my MALM bed and SATER sofa. Now it’s back to its old life as a patio table. The little shelf below is the perfect place to propagate a tray of succulents.

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