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Hej, Pinoys. IKEA is now open

By IGAN D'BAYAN, The Philippine Star Published Nov 27, 2021 5:00 am

As evidence that I have turned irreversibly and unabashedly domestic, my recent holy grail is not a cup of nepenthe for forgetting or a chip of ye ole philosopher’s stone for transforming. Nope. My holy grails are as follows: a Kallax, an Aptitlig, a Nävlinge. Sound exotic, yes?

Actually, these are products from Swedish furniture-lifestyle brand IKEA and they are widely used by audiophiles the world over. (Me, I’m just your ordinary audio-fool.)

Kallax is a storage shelving that fits vinyl records to a T; Aptitlig is a butcher’s block that can be used to isolate turntables and minimize micro-vibrations; and Nävlinge is an LED clamp spotlight so you can illuminate your precious MoFi or original-pressed LP (by Bob, Nick or Tom) as it spins, saddens, and then turns your base feelings into something beautiful and golden.

  As the IKEA tenet goes, “Break rules. Be flexible. Mix things up.”

Audio is my alchemy nowadays, and the search continues for–get this–the perfect listening chair.

Now, you don’t need to book a flight to Hong Kong or Singapore to get to an IKEA store, or pester your hardworking relatives abroad to send you an IKEA Lack table for your vintage hi-fi separates, a Billy bookcase for graphic novels and CD boxed sets, or a pair of Aptitligs. (“Huh, sangkalan? Mag-gigisa ka ba?”).

You can just head over to Mall of Asia Complex and enter the world’s largest IKEA store the size of 150 basketball courts which opened last Thursday and hunt down items that will give you domestic nirvana of some sort (whether in terms of audio, visual, or anything homey… whatever turns you on).

  Lånespelare accessories stand — ideal for gaming headphones

IKEA Philippines granted us access to the store five days before the grand opening, and we commenced the search for an IKEA Poäng armchair (designed by Noboru Nakamura) in black-brown bent-birch frame and leather cushion.

The rocking chair variant is it! Classy, contemporary, functional. The perfect size for audio: not too bulky to act as a sound deflector (not like the old rattan escape pod that I currently use), with just the right height (so the listener will be directly in the firing line of the speakers’ tweeters), nothing at all to block the ears or the ambient sound from the backwall diffusers. Hi-fi enthusiasts will understand this bit of “esoteria”; we are like a secret society that way.

  The showroom boasts curated areas with mix-and-match furniture items and artwork to give people an idea how to transform their own living spaces.

Thus, to Pasay City we set forth. IKEA Philippines had not opened officially at that time but there was already an adoring throng waiting to get in.

We Pinoys can get most of the IKEA items at the online store, but getting to the heart of the action is important. (Health and safety protocols are in place for everyone’s peace of mind; the store will only allow a limited number of visitors per day via a slot booking system.)

A prediction: shoppers will see a particular item that they never thought they needed until it stares them in the face. A Lånespelare “helping hand” to hold up your gaming headphones and keep your desk tidy, perhaps? Or what about a shape-shifting Pendant Lamp, inspired by science fiction movies and designed by David Wahl? Those are just two items from IKEA PH's storage facility of infinities. This is absolutely game-changing.

My constant companion and I were allotted three hours to go crazy inside the IKEA store and were reminded of these words from the driving forces behind IKEA PH.

SM Supermalls president Steven Tan remembered going to IKEA stores in Hong Kong and China, and hand-carrying all his purchases on the flight home.

“Now, we can just shop in Manila. IKEA is SM’s biggest tenant ever. As you may know, SM Supermalls strives to be continually relevant, developing malls and hosting brands that build on the aspirations of Filipinos toward a better quality of life. IKEA is a brand that makes every day better for people — and SM identifies with this very strongly.”

  Lights on for IKEA Philippines!
  One of IKEA's attractions is its food offerings.

And as promised by IKEA Southeast Asia development manager Georg Platzer, “Each IKEA store anywhere in the world welcomes its customers with locally relevant home-furnishing solutions. You can expect to see home and room sets with a Filipino touch.”

Each item in the store embodies IKEA’s five design principles: form, function, quality, sustainability and low price. Smarter products, according to the brand ethos, can be equated to better lives.

The showroom boasts modules or curated areas with the mixing and matching of furniture items to give people an idea how to transform their own living spaces into something contemporary and with an element of Scandinavian aesthetics—whether small (like for most of us) or grandiosely huge (like for most of them). Helpful tips abound: the key word is storage: “more space, in the same space.”

Since IKEA loves “food just as much as furniture,” IKEA PH has a restaurant, bistro, café and its Swedish Food Market (for those must-try meatballs).

  Cake decorated with the famous IKEA meatballs.

I did not get to buy a Poäng chair that day. Too many distractions: I was like Willow my Toy Poodle when left alone with a roll of tissue paper she loves destroying. What was important on that trip to the soft opening of IKEA PH was the friendships built along the way.

  We can get most of the IKEA items at the online store, but getting to the heart of the action is important.

You, the extremely helpful staff member who helped us locate a Lånespelare mousepad and some Sandviva pot holders.

You, our cashier who patiently answered all our questions while bravely staring at the line of customers snaking behind us and beyond.

Not you, the shopper whom we informed about how her credit card was about to fall from her back pocket and did not even say thank you.

You, all those who made IKEA Philippines happen. We shall be back to say “hej” (hello) and to scour for more holy grails—whatever they may be.