A Norwegian woman once told me that I spoke her language as if I were speaking Danish with a German accent. Wasn’t that nice? Saying “hello” in Norwegian made it sound as if I were insulting the citizens of three nations, but that’s all right—I’m an American and not expected to know anything besides English, and that not too well, either.
Armed with rudimentary Nordic phrases, Kirk and I drove down to IKEA from our Winter Park cottage the Saturday after it officially opened. I especially couldn’t wait, because I’d been hearing my mother extol the virtues of the blue and gold Swedish retailer for years; she is a big fan of the Newark branch, a facility I’d only fleetingly seen from the windows of the taxis speeding me merrily to and from the airport. Once when I arrived in Brooklyn for a small vacation, there was a giant box waiting for me, filled with the makings of a sideboard complete with sliding glass doors and slotted drawers. “I got it at IKEA,” Mom said. “You have to put it together though.” I am always very wary of people who end their sentences with “though,” because it usually presages a trip to the emergency room, but this time I was lucky: the glass did not slice off my kneecaps, and I did not choke on any of the unusual looking fasteners, though I did conceal one in the carpet so Mom would have a surprise the next time she vacuumed.
So, you can imagine how ecstatic we were when IKEA came to Orlando. Cultural center? Bosh. Arena? Ho hum. This is Central Florida—people SHOP when they aren’t devising ways to avoid ferrying relatives to Disney, so that’s exactly what we did that fine Saturday (I-4 was JAMMED, but that’s the price you pay).
IKEA was jammed, too! Precisely-designed, the layout sees to it that shoppers are encouraged up the escalators to the showrooms on the second floor where, armed with a map, you are led along a strict path marked with arrows so that you don’t miss any of the cunning wares these Swedes have come up with. (There are marked shortcuts, though, but God help you should you come across a squadron of shoppers headed in the opposite direction!) I mistakenly took the Spanish language map, and became helplessly disoriented because the Spanish I know works only in chat rooms. We eventually got the hang of it and, after a nice in-house lunch of Swedish meatballs and macaroni and cheese, decided to look for a bed.
Spotting someone official and blonde, I went over and peered at her badge: Swedish! Out came my rudimentary Nordic phrases, which elicited laughter and a stream of completely unfamiliar words. I probably said something like “welcome to America, land of the brave and the home of the free! Could you show us your beds as well as your nipples?”
She directed us to the famous BEDDINGE, a daybed which becomes a regular bed that sleeps two tourists comfortably when you lift up the mattress and activate a sinister-looking spring mechanism. (“No fingers or toes were lost in the manufacture of this bed,” stated the label.) We put it together at home later that day, and were pleasantly surprised when the bed did not eject us through the window and into the yard while we were watching Schindler’s List.
And once you have a bed, and lie down on it, you find yourself staring at the ceiling and walls, wondering what ELSE the room needs…
The HOPEN corner wardrobe is something that I never knew I was dreaming of: a wall of closets fronted with tempered glass, aided and abetted by a corner unit with—get this—a wall-mounted seating platform! Well, it might actually be used for stacking boxes, but as soon as I saw it I wanted to sit right down and pull the door shut behind me. It’s the sort of enclosed space that would add significantly to the drama at parties, especially those peopled exclusively by gay men.
In the living room, you might want to install a turquoise HAMRA sofa, which will remind you of what life was like in the ‘fifties: your mother dressed in a black sheath and high heels, perched precariously on the arm of the couch while smoking a cigarette and sipping a martini, regardless of the fact that she is pregnant with you because she desperately wants to emulate Audrey Hepburn.
Now that you’ve got a BEDDINGE and a HOPEN and a HAMRA, it’s time to furnish smaller with the sort of accent pieces exclusive to millions around the world, but which look as if you’re the only owner. The GLANSA LYSA hanging drape lights are eye-catching, as are the NORRSKEN low-voltage wire lamps. I like when something electric is low-voltage, especially if you’re going to suspend it above the lutefisk.
ISIG holiday decorations give a decidedly Nordic twist to your decorating scheme. They are very colorful and, coupled with a viewing of Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, your home will be instantly filled with holiday cheer. (Except for the parts in the movie about the abusive minister husband, but still; I’m just saying.)
After making our selections and noting them properly on forms that the store provides, we went downstairs to easily procure the items from warehouse bins (it’s a lesbian Valhalla). Women well into their seventies were carting around entire living rooms, and we happily joined them as we were herded toward the bank of checkout counters. The shopping was not done, however; we (and tens of thousands of other shoppers) eagerly swooped up packages of TINDRA scented tea lights– and this year’s must-have fashion accessory: the 59-cent IKEA shopping bag!
In toto, IKEA is a paradise for everyone, especially gay men and women—a perfect blend of fussiness, beauty, utility, and DIY sweat. And even though we sat in traffic for an hour simply to eat macaroni and cheese, we’re ready to do it again. And again!