Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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I have wasted a great deal of time, money, and dignity in an attempt to deny the convenience of IKEA. IKEA is a warehouse with locations south and north of the District, along with about 300 other spots around the world. It is stocked with reasonably priced, modern Scandinavian home furnishings in every conceivable form. It also serves Swedish meatballs.

In order to forsake the red meat and red throw rugs, I have dragged dilapidated, 100-pound cedar dressers from alleys. I have rescued my neighbor’s discarded magnetic poetry for use on my refrigerator. I have even purchased the cheapest twin bed and mattress IKEA offers—from Craigslist. When the foot of the bed sank, I slept on an incline. When the rest of the bed collapsed, I trashed the frame and slept on the mattress. To what extremes will I go to justify spurning IKEA’s affordable, convenient, and delicious wares? I just wrote a charticle about it!

IKEA, 10100 Baltimore Ave., College Park (301) 345-6552 D.C. Van Lines, 4611 Tanglewood Drive, Hyattsville (301) 779-8021 The Flea Market Store, 1626 Lincoln Rd. NE (202) 269-5270 Unique Thrift, 10121 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring (301) 431-7450

Used Coffee Table, $30.

(Photograph by Darrow Montgomery)

D.C. Van Lines markets itself as a furniture moving operation. According to the company’s Web site, it is exclusively devoted to ensuring a safe and reliable trip for your precious stuff. So it’s a little odd that the truck fleet’s corporate warehouse is actually stock-piled with hundreds of used wares that are only priced to move.

The company’s Hyattsville, Md. headquarters is business in the front, parts in the back. The showroom is stocked with dozens of imperfect antique living room sets and vaguely vintage paintings encouraged by their gold leaf frames. If you’re not too interested in appearances, the shop’s floor manager will beckon you to the back room—a dusty area piled with abandoned school portraits, crusty old chests, and unusable electronics. He calls this place “the ghetto.”

No offense to the ghetto—I picked up a lot of 8-track soul albums there—but I chose my coffee table from the right side of the warehouse tracks. I annoyed the owner by refusing to buy the matching end tables to complete the set, but I had no reason to upgrade from my current configuration—a dangerously shaky wooden chair I had been using to prop up my lamp (OK—the lamp is IKEA).

PROS: Replaced my apartment’s previous go-to spot for unpaid bills, used dishes, and cigarettes—the floor in front of the couch where the coffee table wasn’t.

CONS: Forced me to use the word “ghetto” to describe an antique store.

IKEA’s “Lack” Coffee Table, $19.99.

PROS: It’s a coffee table.

CONS: …from IKEA.

Used Bench, $35.

(Photograph by Darrow Montgomery)

You won’t find anything like this at IKEA—a couple of my neighbors didn’t find it fit to grace the side of the road. This carved wooden bench comes equipped with a flowery textile embroidered in shades of green, orange, and mustard. The cover treatment is built into the frame, so the piece’s unexpected hippie-goth aesthetic is a permanent achievement. I found this beauty sitting on a North Capitol Street sidewalk, where furniture is kept out-of-doors through light rain and community protests. Back in 2006, Eckington residents decried the outdoor shop, known as “The Flea Market Store,” as “an eyesore” and petitioned the outfit’s owners in the hopes of “repositioning their business as an antique shop.…to see if they’d be willing to upgrade their image and merchandise.”

Eckington’s e-mail discussion group contingent didn’t mind the shop capitalizing on pedestrian space—as long as it was selling shit they deemed acceptable for their own homes. The shop still regularly schleps a collection of worn armchairs, 1980s-era exercise machines, and Washington Redskins sweat suits out into the public arena.

Also on display: a statue of Frankenstein’s monster, typically wearing a sombrero (not for sale). It looks as if goods have triumphed over evil this time.

PROS: Proceeds of purchase go toward pissing off NIMBYs.

CONS: I own something “hippie-goth.”

IKEA’s ÄpplarÖ bench, $89.99

Boring IKEA thing comes with “body-contoured back for great comfort.”

PROS: Less ugly; suitable for the outdoors.

CONS: The care instructions read, “The furniture has already been treated with oil, but should be re-oiled at regular intervals when in use.” Fuck that.

Used Mirror, $15.

(Photograph by Darrow Montgomery)

Since I can see The Flea Market Store’s eyesores directly from my window, I usually get a first glance at all the new old merchandise I don’t need. About a year ago, I snapped up this wall-mounted mirror surrounded by a wood-carved gothic-style frame. A modest shelf protruding from the base of the mirror comes complete with handy arm-sized hole.

PROS: Makes me feel like I’m in a Dan Brown novel.

CONS: What am I supposed to put in that fucking hole?

IKEA’s “Hemnes” mirror, $49.99.

IKEA tells me that this versatile item “can be hung horizontally or vertically.” These people truly have everything.

PROS: No confusing hole.

CONS: But I could put so many things in that hole!

Used Couch, $20.

(Photograph by Darrow Montgomery)

This six-foot-long orange pleather couch isn’t much to look at. It’s not much to sit on, either. I’m pretty convinced that one of the staples keeping the pleather onto the couch lodged itself into my foot the other day. And if you stay put on the couch for too long, your butt will fall asleep. But the couch’s true power lies deeper than the butt.

I was initially unconvinced that the couch’s $20 asking price was low enough to convince me to cart this bad boy away. And the item’s placement at the front of Silver Spring’s Unique Thrift—where they keep all the expensive cheap furniture—made me suspect that someone was trying to play me. Then I read the sticky note slapped on the back cushion: “sofa y cama.” I fell for it.

PROS: A couch that is also a bed? That’s two things for the price of one!

CONS: I am afraid to open it.

IKEA’S “Beddinge HÅvet” sofa bed in “Laxbro Orange,” $379.

IKEA’s take on the orange fold-out couch comes with some sophisticated, Scandinavian-y extras—like an extra pair of sheets, an extra “E” on “bedding,” and an extra $359 bucks on the price tag.

PROS: It’s a couch that’s also a bed!

CONS: I could buy 19 sofas y camas with that money.

Used Wall Clock, free

(Photograph by Darrow Montgomery)

This one’s a legacy. My boyfriend rescued this guitar-pick shaped clock from a dead lady’s house in the suburbs of Chicago. He insists the freebie wasn’t exactly grave robbery. The clock (which doesn’t work) was one of many items obtained by his employer, a real estate mogul, when he bought the woman’s estate.

PROS: Kind of grave robbery, though.

CONS: Dead lady’s clocks tell no time. Or I’m too lazy to find the right battery.

IKEA’s “Pugg” wall clock, $19.99

PROS: Presumably tells time.

CONS: Doesn’t come with batteries, either.